Thursday, February 9, 2012

Edith and Ben - Words, Music, and a Trip to the Nurse in the Middle

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

Edith came up to us and asked, “Whither are you going?”

I tried not to laugh, “Did you just say 'Whither'?”

“Yeah. 'Whence do you come?' 'Where are you? 'Whither are you going?” Motion from is-” she closed her eyes, tensed for a moment, and then said, “Never mind.” After a short pause she asked, “What's up?”

“Apparently I'm not good with blood either.” I was going to leave it at that, but couldn't resist adding, “So I go to yonder nurse's office,” making a gesture in a vague direction.

“Actually...” Edith said.

“It's that way,” Angel said, pointing significantly to the left of where I had gestured. Mind you he was pointing through a building that we'd have to walk around, so I think my lack of knowledge of the true direction was defensible.

I shrugged, “That's why I have a guide,” I pointed to Angel.

Edith said to Angel, “I can take him the rest of the way, if you want to get back to class.”

Angel looked to me for confirmation, “It's fine by me,” I said, and so he headed back, and Edith and I started to walk together.

“So, 'Whither'?” I asked.

“Yes. Whither. 'Whither are you going?' 'Oh, hither and thither.'”

“Thither?” I'd never even heard that word before, and in all honesty I suspected she was making it up.

“Yes!” She seemed frustrated. “This is not that difficult. You've got three beginnings, wh, th, and h. you've got three endings: ence, ere, and ither. Put them together and you get words. Words like there, and hence, and where. If you know Where, here, and there, then you know the beginnings already. So you just need to know that ence means motion from, ere doesn't imply motion, and ither means motion towards.

“I seriously do not get why everyone treats this as if it's some incomprehensible thing. It's very simple and not doing it is just as wrong as refusing to distinguish between 'I' and 'me'. 'Me going to the store.' 'Someone told I.' 'Me is happy.' 'Between you and I'.” She slowed her pace. “This is slippery.”

She held my hand and my upper arm to steady me until we'd moved passed the offending spot.

I picked up the conversation where we left off. “Shakespeare says, 'Between you and I'.”

“Yes, he does. He's wrong.”

That made me smile, and we were silent for a bit. Then she asked, “So what happened in class?” I must have done something because she immediately added, “You don't have to tell me. If you're not comfortable telling me, don't tell me.

“No, I can... I can tell you. I was fine until right up to when it started, then I smelled the blood-”


“Yeah, why?”

“If there was enough blood in a blood-typing lab for you to smell it, that means someone did something very wrong. They should probably be heading to the nurse.”

“Well there was no screaming.” She shrugged, I continued, “I smelled the blood and I sort of … uh … flashed back to the van. And Tricia. And … stuff.” And I started to again.

Edith … not quite put her arm around me, but sort of touched me on my shoulder opposite her. It was reassuring, and she said, “It's alright,” with enough conviction that I actually believed her.

We walked the rest of the way in silence. When we got to the nurses office Edith said, “Be careful because there's a step up here,” which I heard, processed, and tried to take into account, and yet I still managed to trip. Edith caught me before I could fall flat on my face. “I told you to be careful.” The words could have been hurtful, or condescending, or any number of bad things, but the way she said them was light, almost playful, and took some of the edge off of almost meeting the ground face first.

When the nurse asked why I was there I sort of looked at my feet and said, “It's complicated,” and then Edith blurted out, “It's post traumatic stress.” I didn't even realize I was moving my head, but suddenly I was looking at her. “If I've learned nothing else from having a doctor for a mother it's that you should just come out and say what's wrong.” I didn't say anything. “Seriously, it works better that way.”

The nurse said to Edith, “You can go back to class.”

“I actually don't have class right now.” The nurse looked annoyed and Edith held up her hands in a, 'It's not what you think, give me a moment to explain,' gesture. “I only bring that up because in addition to being excused from blood typing I also don't need to be in my next class -it's just there to work on a project I already finished- which means that,” she turned to me, “if you need a ride home I can provide it.” She turned back to the nurse, “That was all I wanted to say. Going now.” And she left.

The basic verdict from the trip to the nurse was that we'd take a wait and see approach. If it was a one time thing then no problem, if not I was to come back and see her immediately. When she asked me if I'd be alright for my next class, which was gym, otherwise known as 'Ben repeatedly gets into fights with the ground, the ground always wins', the look on my face must have been pretty bad because she said, “So, that's a no,” and asked, “Do you need to call for a ride home?”

I told her I didn't and headed out. Edith was waiting. “Did you want a ride?”

“Your car, or my truck?”

“Well, as much as I love your truck, my car has a cd player and your truck predates the 8 track by more than ten years.”

“Your car then?”

“That's what I was thinking.”

When she turned on the car the music that started playing was familiar, and I struggled to figure out where I knew it from. Finally I asked, “Is this Ella Fitzgerald?”

Edith seemed surprised. “Yeah. Do you like her?”

“No. Well, yes. I suppose I do, but it's not the sort of thing I seek out. My tastes tend to be a generation later.”

“Like what?”

“Uh,” I'd never actually been asked that before and so I'd never really had to organize it in my head beyond, 'Music I like.' “The Beatles, CCR, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Young can tag along I suppose but he's useless on his own. The Band.” I noticed that it seemed to be a very male list, and that wasn't right, so I thought of some of the women whose music I liked, “Joni Mitchel, Janice Joplin, Janice Ian, Carly Simon, Carol King,” and Carol King wrote one of my favorite songs of all time, but she didn't sing it, so naturally I thought of the band that did: “Herman's Hermits.”

“You like Herman's Hermits?”

“You've heard of Herman's Hermits?”

“I love Herman's Hermits. There's a CD in the glove compartment.”

Sure enough, there was.

Woke up this mornin' feelin' fine
There's something special on my mind



[Edith and Ben Index]


  1. Really enjoyable rewrite! I love how Edith seems to pay attention and actually give a damn about Ben. It *is* something women are more socialized to do, but I don't see why Edward couldn't do every single one of these things, and I wish he would. I also love the discussion about words. XD

    1. If Edith were male and Ben were female almost nothing would change in how I write them. I'm sure something would change, but I have no idea what that something would be.

      I sometimes think it would have been better if I'd started this with the characters still being "Edward" and "Bella" just so there could be no doubt that it's not about gender, except that I like Edith and Ben as they are and I wouldn't want to give them up.

      Gender is probably the smallest difference between Edith and Edward.

      In short: I don't see why Edward couldn't do these things either, and I too wish that he would.