Posted on May 21, 2012 by Hobart Fowlkes
I’m Dorothy. My surname is of no consequence, but its Davis. In fact, Dorothy Davis is now officially dead. In my town, the one where I grew up in Arkansas, everyone is named Lisa, Amy, Britney or Tiffany. I never knew those girls. I never cared to. I just watched in fascination from the bus stop as they each screeched off shrieking from the passenger seats of the TransAm or Camaro belonging to some random Kevin, Brad, Brian or Kyle. I was invisible to them, but at least my name had character. My mother had named me after Dorothy Parker whose literary prowess, sharp tongue and stinging sense of irony she admired. My mother loved to read. When I was young, we’d sit in the backyard while I dug holes and tunnels in the dirt while she reclined on a blanket deeply immersed in some important looking volume. “Someday Dorothy,” she used to say to me, ” you are going to do something important and everyone will know you! I can feel it in my bones. You’ll leave this pathetic town, and you’ll be someone.”
Every night Mother and I would read together for about an hour until my eyelids grew heavy. I was gifted, and because of my mother’s persistence I was capable of reading elementary texts unassisted at the age of 4. We lived an extremely modest existence in a small house on the outskirts of a tiny town. I barely ever saw my father since he was usually on the road selling Encyclopedias. Who knew that in just a few years time along would come the big old World Wide Web, and in the course of just six short months Encyclopedias would become obsolete. Everything changed when I was 8. My mother became pregnant and was sick almost constantly. I hated leaving her alone to go off to second grade, but to her my skipping school was not an option. As her belly grew larger and larger, and she neared the final terms of her pregnancy, she seemed slower and very little like her usual self. I’ll never forget the day my brother was born. My father emerged from the delivery room with a doctor. They informed me that I had a new baby brother. After a brief pause the doctor explained to me that my mother had died of complications during childbirth. As the doctor spoke my father gazed from the waiting room window as he absent-mindedly let his fingers rustle the pages of the Guideposts Magazines that had been stacked neatly on the coffee table before him. My brother, it turned out, was born with a severe case of Downs Syndrome and they kept him in the hospital for months. My father had to take a leave of absence from his sales job and collect unemployment while we made hospital visits daily. Once he was living at home, my brother required a lot of attention, and between the two of us, dad and I managed. I never did, however, develop any kind of relationship with my father. I didn’t know him well before, but I think that once my mother was gone, something inside him had died as well. So there we were, the three of us living on the fringe of what you could barely call “society” in our crappy-ass, no place municipality in the middle of rural Arkansas. When I was 15 my brother needed to be institutionalized. My father resumed his job as a traveling salesman, this time selling Cutco Knives. I think he just preferred the transitory life of always being on the road. He would come back every month or so but only stay for about 24 hours, but he never forgot to send me a check every week. Over time, however, his visits became fewer and further between. That is when Dorothy Davis truly embraced her independence. I was a free woman living alone. I felt nothing but pity for the Britney’s and the Tiffany’s because they would each have babies at age 16, become obese, their husbands would leave them and the highlight of their lives would be shopping for Twinkies at WalMart with their foodstamps, using cash to buy the cases of beer they would consume each night in order to forget about living their pathetic, miserable, ugly existences. Not only was I fiercely independent, but I was the only student in the whole school to have ever received straight A+’s all the way through high school. There would only ever be one A which in my mind will always represent a bitter dispute I had with a biology teacher whom I know gave me the mere “A” without the “+” purely out of her intimidation by my superior intellect.The day after graduation, I stuffed as much as I could into one of my father’s old military duffle bags and caught the first bus to New York City. The first month was tough, but I eventually found a job temping and an apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens with 4 other girls. The moment Dorothy Davis boarded that Greyhound Bus, that name died an instant death. The name had been given to me by the only person in my life who had loved me truly and unconditionally. However, Dorothy Davis was evidence of a life that had suddenly ceased to exist. I had the twelve-hour bus journey to decide who I would be when my feet touched the grimy asphalt of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Celeste Smith-Baldwin arrived at the Port Authority early the following morning. I, Celeste, had grown up in a small town in the northeast corner of Connecticut on a rural estate with beautiful rolling hills. We summered in Newport. From a my early teens I had attended a little-known (but real) boarding school for the arts far off in California where I excelled in drama and creative writing. New York is awesome! No one has ever doubted a single fact that Celeste has recounted about her past. I’ve only been here a little less than one year, but I’ve had short pieces published in some fringe literary magazines and I have had two walk-on speaking rolls on The Young and the Restless, and right now I am actually on my way to a studio in lower Manhattan where I will be filming an ad for carpet shampoo. Dorothy is dead, but Celeste is alive and making it in the big city. I wrote a letter to my dad a few months ago explaining my whereabouts. I figured it was the least I could do. I received a reply, but thankfully I intercepted it before my roommates threw it out since it was addressed to Dorothy Davis. I was shocked for almost a total of 60 seconds to learn that for all of those years that Dad had been driving around selling Encyclopedias and Cutco Knives, he actually had had a completely separate family in Akron, Ohio, and I had 4 half siblings!
“FUCK HIM!” my brain screamed within those 60 seconds of shock, followed by a gradual realization that double-lives might be in our DNA and deception and complete personal reinvention might be carried on the Y Chromosome. I guess Dad and I have a lot more in common than I thought. Dorothy is dead, and Celeste totally rocks! I have nothing but the future before me and that future is full of magic opportunities. I’m just afraid that Planet Earth might not be ready for all of this totally amazing awesomeness. Oh, excuse me, this is my stop, I’ve got to get off. I gotta Carpet Shampoo ad to film! Shit! What was my line again?? Oh yeah: “And it gets rid of musty pet odors and leaves my house smelling like a Springtime Rain Shower.”
Phew! Got it.
Gotta scoot now!
Hasta la vista!