"Can't you stop using my water bottle for your flowers, Finna?" I yelled at my aunt, "I buy Poland Spring Water to drink, not to water plants with" I explained angrily.
"shut up, pip squeak," she snapped, "you have no respect for nature, you combusted, toxic, city girl!"
My name is Jasmine, although, as you just witnessed, My aunt Finna prefers to call me other names. I live in an apartment on one hundred and one street in Manhattan, with my mom, my aunt, and my little nephew. My apartment consists of 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a small living room, and a bathroom. The bathroom is the part of the house that causes most fights in my family. Especially after we eat Chickpeas for dinner.
My dad was killed seventeen years ago, while chatting with my mom from his office at the World Trade Center. Mom was devastated when it happened, because she was just telling him that she was pregnant with me, but until today, she isn't sure if he got that message, because he didn't reply.
My aunt is my mom's half sister, and is only four years older than I. She lives in our house almost two years, already. She ran away from her own home in the Bronx, where she claims that everyone is always drunk, and complaining. My mom's father abandoned his family, and moved to Memphis, so my grandmother re-married a drunkard who is a parasite, and so, would never leave her.
My aunt had been neglected, and was swapping boyfriends for bubble-gum. By the time she was sixteen, she became a mother, and at eighteen she decided that she had enough of her parents. One morning, she packed her bags, dressed her baby, and escaped to her older sister's house.
Since she has moved in, our house filled up with plants and flowers. Every corner in the house was occupied with pitchers, spring water bottles, even her son's stacking toy was filled with earth or water, housing every kind of flower or plan that existed.
My grandfather (my dad's dad), who also lived at our house whenever he was in New York, said that this was getting him very nervous, all those flowers all over the house.
"You want flowers? Go to the botanical gardens!" he once told her.
She went. And she came back with a car-full of exotic plants. "This is not what my father-in-law meant!" my mother told her, smiling, when she saw this. My mom is into plants too.
I never cared much for flowers, or anything natural. I hardly ever ate any fruits or vegetables, I was terrified of going upstate, or anywhere that had more green than grey in the scenery. My aunt was not alone in believing that I was totally incapable of appreciating nature. Anyone who knew me could say that I was a city girl through and through. I was born in New York City, and in New York City I Shall die. Or at least this was what I thought, before this story began.
The year was 2018. I was born on June 2002, at Cornish Hospital on sixty eighth street, I attended ps131 on 34th street. The furthest I ever was from my house was when I went to Brooklyn.
I loved my house on the seventh floor. I loved my active neighborhood, the impersonal neighbors in my building. I loved the noise, the light and even the smell.
"Yo, appliance," my aunt alled to me, "your friend Tim called, he is coming at five o'clock."
"Five o'clock?" I said nervously, looking at my watch, "damn, that's in five minutes!"
I ran my fingers through my blue, spiky hair, while running to the hall mirror to check out the rest of me. I was a fairly good looking kid: amber eyes, long lashes, eyebrow earrings (my mom fiercely objected to that and to my tongue ring as well) I had five earrings on my left ear and one on the right.
I blinked my eyes a few times as I applied my blue Mascara, "when did he call," I asked.
"This morning," she said.
"Couldn't you call my cell, to let me know?" I complained, "I might have bought another lip-liner. I was at Macy's today."
"That's precisely why I didn't tell you. You spend more money on these stupid cosmetics than a model does."
"How do I look?" I said, turning to Finna as I finished applying my makeup.
"As terrible as ever," she replied.
"Good, Tim will be happy, then. Unlike you, he finds this look attractive." I smiled to her and went into my room.
My room was one of my most favorite places in the world. It was mostly occupied with my bed, which stood wall to wall on one side. This bed originally had a headboard, but we had to disconnect it because it didn't fit into the room. Across from the bed I have a wall closet, and near my bed I have a little stool, which I use as a night table. I sat on my bed, opened a vitamin bar, and turned on the family laptop.
I started searching the net for info on the history of Japan, I couldn't procrastinate any longer; I had to start the history essay I had for homework Tim might see me struggling with it, and help me with it, I thought, munching on my vitamin bar.
When the bell rang, I was on youtube-dot-com watching an old music video by Snoop Doggy Dog, but I quickly 'x'ed it. I wanted Tim to think I was painfully struggling with the homework.
"Automaton is in her bedroom," I heard Finna tell him.
"Hey Jazz," Tim said coming into my room, "are you busy?"
"I am slaving over this stupid piece of homework," I complained.
"Forget Homework," said Tim, who never took school lightly, "I just received a project idea from our history teacher, and I chose you as my partner for it."
"You're kidding, a project? Does it mean we don't need to write an essay? Just put a few things together, where you'll do most of the work, and I'll get the credit?" I said, getting excited.
"No, actually, you and me are goin' on a field trip!"
"Wow," I said impressed, "It's worth being your friend if just for that! Which museum are we visiting, then?"
"No museum," laughed Tim, "we're going to North Carolina."
"To–" I stopped short. I couldn't believe it.
The color must have left my face because Tim suddenly held onto my elbow, asking, "are you okay, Jasmine?"
"Okay, I'm okay... do you realize how far from home North Carolina is?" I asked, my voice shaking slightly.
"Oh, it's about three, four hours, if you go at a steady speed on the thruway," said Tim, "that's what Robert said. He will be the tour guide on this trip."
"But, Tim," I begged, "what's there to find in North Carlina? What ever we can see there, we can also see it here..."
Not the cave we are going to visit," said Tim, "there is a cave in NC that no one has ever discovered before. It's so new, they don't let anyone near it yet. There are archeologists working on it now, and they let only the best and brightest from each school to see it."
"And we are the best and brightest, are we?"
"Well, I am. But yeah, you are too."
"Tim," I said, after a long pause, "you know how intimidated I am of nature, and caves, and I bet this cave was not found in a city, you know that I am terrified of open air, don't you?"
"But Jasmine, that just doesn't make sense! You love to be alone, don't you?"
"Yeah..." I said.
He was right, I loved to walk the streets by myself, go shopping by myself, and many times I found myself walking on the Brooklyn bridge, watching the sunrise along with the endless stream of early-bird traffic on their way to work. It was a heart-stopping, breath-taking sight, Manhattan. I lived there all my life, and never took that beautiful view for granted.
But although I was alone on these occasions, I wasn't technically alone. There were people, cars, buildings, and machinery all around me. To be alone, really alone, scared the wits out of me. Even if it was together with a bunch of kids from my highschool. Most Horror movies that really scared me were set in a suburb, or a farm. Never in a city.
"What if we stray away from the group?" I asked, "what if we end up alone..."
"You'll have your cell, you can pack your laptop, we'll have the GPS to show us exactly where we are." Tim said, "why not prepare for a week in the wilderness, even though we are going to stay at a town."
"This is not my laptop," I said, poining at the computer on my lap, "it's my mom's. she'll never let me take it."
"She'll let you take anything you like, if I tell her you'll be in a place that's not a city. This . . . phobia you have, is the main reason the teacher let you join in this expedition with me. You'd better get over it now, while you're young."
Tim spent the next three days talking me into going to the trip with him. I agreed in the end, but not without every device I could think of. I packed an elaborate first aid kit, the family laptop, with wireless internet service installed, and five ninety-six hour batteries, my GPS, my cellphone, my iPod, my aunt even gave me her blackberry, with blue-tooth installed. All of that fit neatly into my knapsack, thanks to advancements in technology, where everything is small.
My family were perfectly okay, living without the extra gadgets for a week, as long as their Jasmine would finally breathe the air appropriate for her name.
The Carolina Jasmine