morning, A wakes up in a different body and a different life. The novel EveryDay
starts on Day 5994 of A’s life. For this story, I wanted to go back to a
day in A’s life before Every Day. Think of this as A recounting a few
passing moments from his past.
As a child, I am baffled by
inconsistency. Not my own inconsistency—I am used to waking up in a different
body and a different life every morning. This makes sense to me. It is everyone
else’s inconsistency that throws me.
It is a Saturday morning, and I am seven years old. I
know it’s a Saturday from the quiet of the morning, from the fact that it’s
nine in the morning and nobody is rushing me off to school or to church. I like
Saturday mornings because that is when I am allowed to watch cartoons. Even in
houses that don’t have all the channels, I can still find cartoons.
I stumble from room to room, looking for the TV. At this age, I don’t
bother to access any memories of the house. I am happy to discover everything
by wandering through. My mother is in the kitchen, talking on the phone. My
father might be outside, or still asleep. The TV is in the den, which has a
shaggy rug and wood walls. I am late for my nine o’clock show, but I can watch
the end and then see the whole nine-thirty show. This is what I did last week,
and the week before. I was in different houses, but once the TV was on, it was
almost like they were the same place. Last week I had brothers and sisters, but
this week I don’t think I do.
I switch on the TV and it’s too loud. I find the volume control and turn
it down. It’s a commercial. I don’t really care about commercials, because even
if I get things, I don’t have them for very long.
I sit on the shaggy rug and lean against the couch. This show has
talking animals, and when it comes back on, the moose is arguing with the
aardvark about the price of a ferry ride. The parrot keeps repeating the things
they’re saying in a really funny voice, and I laugh.
“What are you doing?”
I have only been watching for five minutes, but already I’m so absorbed
in what’s happening that I don’t hear her at first. Then she grabs my arm and
pulls me up, and I know right away I am in trouble, big trouble, and I don’t
know what for. Was I laughing too loud? Was I not supposed to sit on the
Now that I’m up, she lets go and slaps the TV off. The room is suddenly
silent, and there’s nowhere to hide in that silence.
“How many times have I told you not to touch that? Did I even say you
could leave your room? You are not allowed
to watch such garbage.”
I have so few words at age seven. I don’t know stern or enraged
All I know is mad. My mother is mad at me. Her face is mad. Her posture
is mad. The sound of her words is mad.
“Go back to your room.”
I don’t hesitate. I don’t want to be in the presence of her anger one
moment longer. I go back to my room and sit on the bed, waiting for her to come
by, to tell me what my punishment is. But all she does is come by and shut the
door. There is enough light coming in through the window to make everything in
the room seeable, but the air still seems tinged in shadow.
I sit there and sit there. Time feels horizonless.
Feeling someone else’s anger is bad; being left alone is worse.
At first I am too afraid to move. But eventually I have to. There are
very few books in my room, and all of them are for little kids. So I pick up the
dictionary, because it is the longest book in the room, and I know it’s going
to be a long day.
I learn a few words. I would rather be outside the
room, using them.
There’s no reprieve until lunchtime. When my mother
opens the door, she eyes the dictionary in my lap with suspicion. I’ve had time
to close it, but not the time to put it on the shelf. At the very least, I
don’t look comfortable.
“Have you learned your lesson?” she asks.
“Well,” she says, “we’ll see about that.”
I don’t know where my father is. His things are all
around the house, so I know he has to be somewhere. He’s just not here right
I don’t feel I can ask where he is.
She gives me a chicken sandwich—leftovers from dinner last night, put
between bread. I know to eat it all, and not to ask for more. Not because I
access the thoughts of the life I’m in, but because my mother is so easy to
We don’t talk. We stare at other parts of the kitchen. I try to find
things to read. Buttons on the microwave. The brand of the refrigerator.
I rarely feel like I’m a prisoner in a body, but I have felt like a
prisoner in a house. I definitely feel like I’m a prisoner here. And I am a
prisoner because, as my mother’s expression makes clear, she feels she is a
prisoner to me, too.
I am not allowed television. I am not allowed to go
outside. I am not given conversation. Eventually I am given dinner, but that is
silent, too. My father never comes home.
The only thing I am allowed, the only thing I am given, is myself. It is
enough, but only barely.
Some days are like this. And the only way to get through them is to
remember that they are only one day, and that every day ends.
Text © 2012 by David Levithan.
YOU CAN MEET DAVID ON OCTOBER 12th, ALONG WITH MAGGIE STIEFVATER and ELLEN HOPKINS at BOOKS INC. OPERA PLAZA! This event will be in conjunction with TEEN QUAKE, SF's Favorite Literary Festival!