Immortal

Preface: Two people talking, normal font, italics.

Isn’t it strange that the two of us are here, at this exact moment in time, at this exact spot in the world?

Not at all.

You don’t think so? I mean, I could have been born halfway across the world. We could have been two generations apart, and I could have been serving in a military with two bullets up my ass. But I’m not. And you’re not. In fact, we’re living the most carefree lives of our short youths.

First. You couldn’t have been born halfway across the world because your parents live here. Second. Even if we were born two generations apart, you’d probably still be drawing. Or working a coffee shop. I can’t imagine any version of you being in the military. And yes. We’re the biggest idiots in the world.

Carefree. Not idiots.

Same thing.

Well. I think it’s got to be that. You know, fate. When two people meet, and when two people become friends, it’s got to be that.

It can’t just be coincidence?

Don’t you find that a little too plain?

Is that necessarily a bad thing?

Hmm…

I don’t think so at all. Simple and clean is best. There’s no need to add such complexities in life is there?

Simple and clean may be best, but simple and clean won’t make life interesting. If every meeting were to happen  by chance, then everything would be boring. There wouldn’t be flair. There wouldn’t be the hardships or trials, or chasing fate. It would all just be mundane.

And if my philosophy were to be true, don’t you think yours would also be true? If our meeting was just by mere chance, as I would have it be, and we, as being so different in philosophy still nourished our friendship as such, your complexities still exist. Our meeting can be both mundane and interesting, don’t you agree?

Friendship…

Yes. That is what I said. Is there a problem with that? Or would you rather not be my friend? If that’s the case, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. I was under the impression

No. It’s fine. It’s nothing. Ignore the dejection in my face and voice. Just… Ignore it, for my sake. It is of no small trifle that the young maiden heart I carry with me is–

I’m sorry. But I am the maiden in this situation. You are but a young peasant boy. It’s like that one story. The one with the geisha, the one you like so much.

The portrait of an old.

Precisely. Though, you really aren’t too versed in the classics. You just picked it up on a whim.

My life is interesting because it is filled with spontaneity.

And stupidity.

One might even say they’re the same thing.

Do you sometimes wonder whether these days will last?

Not in the slightest, after all, we will grow old, maybe even, grow apart.

Come on. Don’t say it like that. Even if it is the truth, it still hurts you know. It still hurts.

I know.

You’ll still say it even if it hurts?

I’ll say it because it hurts.

Don’t you sometimes wonder whether these days can last? It doesn’t have to change, right?

Maybe not. But, if there is one truth in life, then it may as well be change. Everybody will change someday. Everybody will grow old, and everybody will die. Even us.

I know. But even so. Some things don’t need to change, right?

Do you mean to say, that it’s a work of that?

Exactly. That. Fate.

Then, I leave it in the hands of fate to decide whether we will change or not. Though if I had to count its track record, we will change.

You’re quite stringent on that. Do you really not want this to last?

You know, it doesn’t have to be any different, in the future. Even if you leave, even if I leave. Even when we meet different people. Can’t it still stay the same? Nothing has to change.

Do you really believe that?

Even if fate won’t allow it, I’ll still try.

Why?

Why do you think?

Perhaps, you love me?

But even so, you won’t give me an answer, nor will you say it back to me. No matter how much that hurts, I have to do it anyway, I’ll still try anyway, you know why?

Because you’ll do it in spite of the pain?

And no matter what, no matter what happens, I’ll always feel like this. It’s a strange feeling, like I want to always be there for you, an everlasting love. But not a love that needs to be satiated by anything, you know, it’s kind of like–

The love you have for your friends. The kind of love you show because you care for your friends greatly. That kind of love?

Something like that.

And yet, for me, it’s different?

Somehow. One way or the other. Between a rock and a hard place.

And even though I cause you so much pain, you’ll still love me?

I hate to say it, but I will.

Thank  you.

I’m not good for you, you know that? Even I realize it. I’m a rotten person to the core. I’ll use you without realizing it, and once I realize how you feel, I’ll crush it, turn it into a wave of indignation and–

And what?

And I’ll be too afraid to do anything about it. That’s how I’ve always been. Every single time. But–

Not this time.

No matter what happens, you’ll still waste your youthful energy on me. On us.

We are young after all. What more can I do?

What more will you do?

Grow up with you.

Grow old and die.

And I’ll be happy all the same.

Even if I hate you?

It hurts to think about, but I hope you don’t hate me.

Even if I find someone else?

It hurts to think about, but I hope you consider me first.

Even if I don’t want to ever see your creepy face?

Hey, don’t call my face creepy. I’m a perfectly normal person. And. It hurts to think about, but please don’t tell me that’s the truth.

You’ll grovel for me?

I’m not groveling for anyone.

Then I guess you won’t do.

You want someone to grovel for you!?

Haha

 

I’m sorry.

For what?

For not realizing sooner.

For not realizing what?

For not realizing… Do you have to make me say it again?

For not realizing what?

That you love me.

And?

And?

For not realizing that you love me too?

That’s only as a friend and you know that!

Then, why don’t we spend a little more time together so I can prove you wrong.

If you can prove me wrong.

When I prove you wrong.

How long will that take?

I can wait.

Ten years?

I’ll wait.

Twenty?

I’ll wait.

Fifty?

How long are you going to make me wait!?

 

I’m grateful.

For?

This.

Me too.

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Shoeless Seagulls

Preface: Part of a collection of short stories revolving around a port town and a lighthouse. If you haven’t read the last one: http://wp.me/p6oCGV-pI

The small of my neck was exposed to the salty ocean breeze when I woke up. I was lying face first into the concrete wall that surrounded the perimeter of the island. I tasted my spit and winced at the taste of creation.

I pushed forward and propped myself to sit. My bare legs were beginning to burn in the morning sun, and as I traced my hand down towards my bare feet I looked into the ocean to my side. It’s surface shone in the glow of the sun, creating schools of tiny light boats. I stared into those schools, trying to find some kind of semblance towards humanity, but the harder I looked the more the oceans ebbed and the more the breeze began lulling me into another sleep.

I waved my hands across to my sides to find my shoes. My skirt was dirtied, and the t-shirt I was wearing wasn’t tight at all. I could feel my hair prick my back, and I felt blood drip from my lips. I was practically naked. I wiped the blood from my mouth, and got up holding my shoes.

I turned my gaze from the ocean to the lighthouse that stood at one end of the island, staring into the ocean like a sentry. The lighthouse looked as if it was crumbling, as if the bricks that held it together wanted desperately to fall apart, to find its way back to its maker. I tried to look into the top of the lighthouse, to see the lantern, but my eyes couldn’t discern anything from its top. The lighthouse keeper’s house laid to the side, but the keeper himself didn’t seem to be around.

I began walking along the concrete wall, looking into the island town covered by fields of green, watched by the white of the clouds. As I trotted along waving my shoes I began noticing the ocean to my side, swaying in tune to my steps. I smiled and I laughed and I couldn’t help but tumble some words out of my mouth, “It’s not me though. You’re not the one who’s following me. It’s quite the opposite.”

I began imagining the ocean’s waves crashing onto the concrete wall to be the ocean’s voice. I imagined the breeze to be the ocean’s touch, and the world around us to be a room to ourselves. There wasn’t a single person out on that morning, and even the sun above us was nothing more than a quiet guardian. The lighthouse was far from our world, and I began talking to the ocean.

“I’m the one who’s following you, right?”

“I wouldn’t say that,” the ocean answered. I imagined the ocean’s voice to be as clear as the morning dew, a voice that could bellow out to the entire world and land only on me. When I looked into the ocean, I only saw a meek image of myself, a version of myself that I wished to dispel with the ocean.

“Then what would you say? What I’m doing right now, how would you see it?”

“You’ve been visiting me every day, always watching me until sunset, and then falling asleep by my side. You’re not really following me, but simply keeping me company.” My hair swayed behind me as the ocean winds began trashing around me. My feet was starting to warm on the concrete wall’s surface, and I could feel the small of my neck transfixing into a warm effigy.

“Do you want my company?” The ocean paused. And so did I. Once the waves began flowing, I began walking again.

“I can’t say if I do, or if I don’t. In the end, you can do whatever you want,” the ocean answered.

“Even if I might bother you?”

“Even if you might bother me. I can’t stop you. And I don’t want to force you to stop.”

“That… Makes it sound like I’m the most selfish person in the world.” That thought was a transient worry. After all, the world that we inhibited retained only myself and the ocean.

“And you’re allowed to be the most selfish person in the world.” The ocean’s winds began wrapping itself around my body, trying to bring me into its embrace. Although I felt comfortable with the ocean’s winds and the sun’s warmth, something in me wanted to fight that embrace. My hair began wrapping itself around my back, and my chest felt like it was being constrained by steel pipes.

“You won’t hate me?” I answered the ocean, trying to free myself from its grasp.

“I don’t think I’m capable of that.” I smiled. I walked to the end of the concrete wall, and plopped my shoes off onto the dirt road. I then sat with my feet hanging onto the slope of the wall, and began kicking like a child on a swing as I forced my back onto the ocean.

“If I could, would you let me be with you forever?” I asked. The ocean’s waves crashed hard onto the concrete wall. It then settled, and for a few minutes, never began again. I smiled at this as well. I jumped down onto the grass next to the dirt road, landing like a frog about to burst, and dusted myself off while picking up my shoes. I pressed my bare feet onto the dirt road, and as I began heading back into the island town filled with steel, I heard the calls of seagulls above me. I turned into the sun, raised my hand to protect my eyes, and saw a flock of seagulls slicing the empty skies, tracing circles with the clouds above. They then settled onto the concrete wall, staring into the ocean, with their bare feet leaving an implant on the surface of the wall.

Junkyard Doctor

Toxic fumes began emanating from the home of the Junkyard Doctor as he replaced a heart of flesh with a heart of scrap. He detached two fingers on his patient’s left hand, and replaced them with two metal augers. He detached two toes from his patient’s right hand, and replaced them with two iron nails. He funneled out the rotten blood from his patients leg, and replaced it with oil befitting the iron leg he already wore.

The patient aptly woke, noticed his new attachments and thanked the Junkyard Doctor. There was no exchange in commodity, as the Junkyard Doctor only wanted the heart he took from the patient. He kept the heart in a jar of bodily liquids and stored it in a room far secluded from his operating station. That room held  two hands, one foot, half a lung, and now, a heart. Every night before going to sleep, the Junkyard Doctor would go into the room and make sure that none of his gathered organic mechanisms rotted away.

Often, the Junkyard Doctor would wake up in the middle of night, with vivid images of explosions and orange gas and blood smeared across his hands as he dragged the limp body of his wife and child. Those images would stay with him for the rest of the day, and when he went outside of his home and work station to the junkyard he set up shop in, he would see them lying on ruble. He would gather the necessary parts for operation, the necessary steel and iron that people wanted to be a part of them, and he would see his wife and child lying with their stomachs spilled.  The Junkyard Doctor was never known to associate with the living. Those who came to him had already accepted that they’ve died, and that they were ready for rebirth.

Children were often told not to visit the junkyard. Not because they had a distaste for scrapped iron or because they were worried that infectious viruses remained on scrapped iron. They knew far from the fact that anything bad could happen from scrapped iron. To them, it was a godsend that creations of iron and steel, augments of gold and silver, and blackened oxygen gave them the life they now lived. Rather, it was the Junkyard Doctor they were scared of. They heard the rumors that he had kept living humans in the back of his home. They were scared of having their children be turned into living experiments, ripped apart and shredded. But the Junkyard Doctor would do no such thing. He was not a murderer. But because he worked with the dead, mended the dead, and recast relics to be living ghosts, they feared him.

It was hard for the Junkyard Doctor to go into the city. People knew him from his strange attire and what made it worse was that he had no particular specialty when it came to keeping up with the era he lived in. He had no cell-phone, no computer, he hadn’t the slightest what commercial medicine was doing for treating cancer or aids. Those who went to the Junkyard Doctor were given the same stigma. They were eye sores and sources of pollution within what the greater populace saw as a perfect sanctuary.

The Junkyard Doctor only had one reason to go into the city, so his ventures would not last long. He would only have to endure the scornful stares for a brief moment. He would make his way to the city register, which was found within the Population Center. The Population Center was situated between a school and a hospital, and the Junkyard Doctor knew he had to hurry with his business before many people would see him. When he went inside, the lady at the front desk would instinctually nod and give him the register for people who were injured or sick beyond regular medicine.

He would then memorize the names of those who would possibly visit him and then prepare for what materials he needed from the junkyard. Before leaving the Population Center, he would ask for recent mortalities. The only ones on the list was that of his wife and child.

Sometimes the Junkyard Doctor would get news about what’s happening from the city as he worked on patients. They would not feel pain or pleasure from the detachment of their limbs or the incisions made to their body since they had already felt far greater pain to force them to the Junkyard Doctor. Some would tell him about the plans to make new buildings inside the radiation zone to retake the land that was lost in the last fallout. He would answer with a small nod.

Some would tell him about the rise in water prices due to the shortage of availability. They would preface by saying a new consumer product would replace the shortage of water, and the people wouldn’t notice that they were slowly going to rapture. The Junkyard Doctor would answer with a small nod.

Some would tell him that the governmental benefits for those still making their way back from No-Man’s Land were being sent off to barracks at the perimeter of the city. They would tell them to stay there so that they could send them anti-radiation pills and make sure they didn’t bring back foreign diseases. But those who came to the Junkyard Doctor snuck into the city with half their limbs. They told him that they hunted  men at the barracks to keep them quiet. They didn’t want rumors to spread as to what was happening on the outside. They didn’t want their scarred faces and charred bodies to make headlines. So they shot them quietly and buried the dead. The Junkyard Doctor would answer with a small nod.

Despite hearing about all of these atrocities, the Junkyard Doctor never told any of it to anyone. He never recorded what they said, and many of them thought he was uninterested, and found him to be a great source of therapy. Among those who didn’t care for the Junkyard Doctor’s reputation, he was deemed a hero. The only complaint was that some had trouble navigating the junkyard.

Eventually, government officials would find their way into the office of the Junkyard Doctor, but they were not there to be operated. Some would offer him grants to set up a new office in the city. Some would offer him a place to retire, such that they could convert the junkyard into a new shopping center. Some simply came to make sure he wasn’t eating children or supporting Red Flag ideas. The Junkyard Doctor had nothing to hide. He was simply a doctor, but he did fear that they may take away the parts he stored at the back of his home. The Junkyard Doctor was ready to kill anyone who would dare infringe on the flesh he harvested. Those were  the only things keeping the Junkyard Doctor from tearing himself limb from limb.

When the month ended, the Junkyard Doctor would stare out of his office, and into the grey sky. Every month, the government would burn red flags on top of the city and embers would rain across the streets. Every month, the Junkyard Doctor would watch as the flames engulfing the flags turned into the flames that engulfed his family. He would stare long into the flames of the sky with a glass of hard water mixed with whatever he could mingle in from the army’s last remaining reserves. He would dHe would drink and it would send him back into the days he used to end lives and mend the dirt with blood and inequality.

After the flames in the sky ended, the Junkyard Doctor would go to the back of his home where he stored his harvested flesh. He would make sure that all their liquids were changed, that the room’s temperature was enough to keep them from rotting, and he would add another patch to the teddy bear hanging from the door. That was how he kept time. He would add a red patch to the front of the bear, then light a candle and walk over to the shelves of organs. He grabbed a glass case labeled, “Camille”, set it to a table tucked to the side of the room, and placed his candle next to the case. He let the light bleed into the fluid, illuminating what was contained. He studied every feature of the face suspended in motion, and he traced one finger over the surface of the glass, imagining the fairness of her skin on his tips. He would end the month by sleeping next to her on the table, imagining the life that he led before the world had gone to sunder, before he became a Junkyard Doctor.

Night Sky

When I was a kid, I dreamt that I would one day touch the clouds. I dreamt that I would be among the stars, floating in a sea of air, and wrapping myself in the atmosphere, lost in a world I could hardly imagine. When I was a kid, that was all that mattered, the stars, the skies, the clouds, everything up above that was impossible to reach from the ground. When I was a kid, I firmly believed that adults could do anything, that, if they just tried hard enough, even a kid like me could have been up there with the clouds.

I don’t know what it was about the sky that made me so engrossed. I don’t know what it was about the clouds, or the stars, that made me want to reach for them. They shimmered in the night, they stood floating aimlessly in the day, and, somewhere among that, was where I wanted to be. It’s a childish distinction, isn’t it? The hallmark of youth, to dream. The sky looked vast, un-traversable to my glassy eyes, and even now, looking up into the sky, it still looks like the limit.

If I had told myself twenty years ago that I would one day be among the clouds, I think I would have jumped for the moon. Although it wasn’t exactly the same thing, I peeled over the cover of the window, and peeked through the darkened glass, looking into the clouds below, and closing my eyes as I drifted in the sky, travelling to another world.

The moon light sifted in, and I heard shuffling from beside me. Her eyes peered open for a second, and I smiled.

“Did I wake you?” She shook her head slowly in her seat. Her breath was slow, and I could see from the dying rose on her lips that she was still tired. Her hair fluttered in her face, and I smiled and reached over to brush it off.

“Thank you,” she muttered as she slowly opened her eyes. Despite the dark of the cabin, I could still see myself reflected in her eyes, my long hair draping over me and blending with the moonlight.

“Can’t sleep?” She asked. I shook my head, and turned towards the window, beckoning her to look as well.

“We’re in the sky,” I began, “somewhere in the clouds, just floating. Isn’t that amazing?” She looked at me like I was on something, but smiled and giggled.

“You’re talking about that right?” I nodded and watched as the clouds slowly drifted out of my view, and new clouds took their place. I smiled as the moonlight and starlight beamed into the night sky. I smiled as I had still yet to be among the stars. I smiled knowing that I could never truly satisfy my childish cravings.

“Rightly so. Isn’t it amazing?” I answered.

“Do you think it’s amazing?” Her voice was like a low hum in the darkness, followed by the hum of the engines and the cutting of wind.

“I do. Humans were never meant to fly, we were never meant to soar in the sky and be able to stay like this for as long as we want.”

“We were never meant to do a lot of things. And yet, flying has always been your thing. You’d pester me about it all the time. Wanting to be in the sky.”

“Even now, I can hardly believe it. We’re in the sky, with the clouds, doing it effortlessly. Adults really can do everything, can’t they?” She smiled and gave me a questioning look.

“You make it sound as if you’re not an adult.” I laughed at that.

“I may very well be. We may very well be. But in the end, we’d always be children, right?” She nodded, “We’d be the biggest children in the entire world.”

“The biggest children floating in the sky.”

“The biggest children shooting for the stars.”

“Do you think we’ll ever get there?” She paused.

“You’re still dreaming, aren’t you?” She asked. I looked from the window to the seat in front of me, the darkness slowly enveloping all sight. I stretched my hands in front of me, wondering if I stretched hard enough whether I could go from the sky to the stars.

“My childish dreams will always just be that. Isn’t that for the better?” I answered. I felt her warmth beside me. She enclosed her hands with mine.

“You’re cold.”

“I didn’t think my hands would be–”

“You’re cold.” I smiled and looked at the seat in front of us as she gave me a worrying look.

“You’re still dreaming, aren’t you?” She asked again. I sighed. The night sky beside me, the clouds below me, and the stars above me. It was unbelievable. I could reach out and touch the clouds if I wanted, I could fall into the Earth, float in the atmosphere without a care in the world. But if I jumped, I wouldn’t ever be able to jump high enough to touch the stars. And even if I did, I would be lost in space, swallowed up by a darkness I couldn’t understand.

“I guess I still am.”

“Are you?” Her eyes locked onto mine, unchanging, unable to let go. I hated this about her, and at the same time, I was glad she was like that. She always strung me along, and even in the chance that I brought her up into the air with me, to see the atmosphere and to breath in the clouds, she would always be like that. I was in her debt.

“I am.” Her hand’s warmth became familiar in a matter of seconds, and I could see her eyes calm.

“That’s good then,” but her eyes wouldn’t leave mine, “keep dreaming. And never stop. Okay?”

“Even if I may not be able to reach the stars?”

“Even if you won’t, it’s still nice, isn’t it? To have a dream like that. An unobtainable dream, but a dream that’s just a childish wish. Isn’t that nice?” Even in the darkness, I could still see myself reflected in her eyes.

“Is it nice?”

“I think so.”

“Why’s that?” She hummed in silence before answering.

“Probably the same reason why you think it’s amazing to fly.”

“Isn’t that just sad?”

“Why do you think so?” Even in the darkness, I could still make out her hand, and I could still make out the strands of hair that instinctively fell to her face.

“Isn’t it that only you think it’s sad?” She said, her voice filling in the darkness around us. I reached over to brush off the strands of hair picking at her face, and she giggled and thanked me, leaning over to my shoulder.

“Maybe,” I said in passing, “maybe you’re right.” She looked over, reached her hand, and brushed off strands of my hair. I hadn’t even noticed.

“Can you see better now?”

“Yeah.”

“It isn’t that bad to have a dream. Even if you think it’s sad. Even if it does end up being sad. It’s not bad. Most people can’t. So, if you can, keep it, and hold onto it.” I looked over at her. Her eyes were resting. I smiled, and let one hand over her head, silently patting her.

“The night sky is full tonight.”

“What might it be full with?”

“The sounds of sirens, the sounds of wheels, and the sound of a million hearts in silent beat. But maybe, it might just be the sound of this plane.” I smiled and closed my eyes to sleep.

The Train Station Painter

I would often hear rumors about a lady who painted on the way going to line two. In fact, those rumors were true. I would rush my way down the corridor, heading towards the train when I would see her and her canvas propped up on a wooden support. She scented her work area such that the paints would not be a cause for concern. Tiny little vials of mixture surrounded her, forming a semi circle with her back towards the wall of the tunnel. She always brought a set of empty canvas’ with her. I never managed to pay much attention to her, but she was there. I often wondered what she was painting, and the chance never really happened upon me to ask. However, one day, while late going to work as usual, sprinting down the tunnel heading towards the train, I decided to stop.

I was an hour late that day. I was already expecting the worst, and I didn’t feel like getting the full brunt of it in person. I knew they were going to chew me out and fire me flat, but I still had some fight in me not to go into work. Instead, as I ran down that tunnel, focusing my attention on the lady who was painting, I stopped. The world around me walked by, some paying attention to the lady who was painting, some paying attention to the man who was panting his lungs out. The lady didn’t pay any attention to anything but her painting. Her skin was pale, and she wore a white dress. Her hair was a deep crimson, and her hands as she painted looked delicate. She would retract her brush, stare at what she made for a few seconds, nod, dip her brush gently onto the palette she wore on her free hand, and continue. I stepped to the side of her canvas, slightly behind the semi circle of scented vials she had. I couldn’t get a good glimpse of what she was painting, but it looked somewhat like a train.

“I’m not asking for donations,” she said. Her voice was low, almost like she had only spoken to me as if on a reflex, mindless. Her eyes were fixated on the canvas in front of her, and her mind was stuck somewhere between that world and the physical.

“Unfortunately I’m not all too altruistic myself, nor do I have something to donate even if I was.” The truth of the matter was, I was the one who was looking for altruism in my life. That’s what I needed, a seed of humanity.

“I see,” she responded coldly. Just like that, the ball was back in my court. She had no intention of speaking to anyone, and even if someone did speak to her, she was defensive.

“What are you working on?” I threw her a bone.

Her eyes were unchanging, her focus ironclad.

“It’s obvious isn’t it?” She finally said.

“A train, right?” She didn’t answer. It was a train. It was a white train, and instead of the underground tunnel or tracks in the city, the train was running across an empty plain. Somewhere in the distance was a tree, but other than that, the train was simply running off to a place neither I nor her could see. It was a beautiful train, a beautiful painting.

“Where do you think it’s going?” She suddenly asked. Her brush was off the canvas, her hands stopped, her entire body seemed frozen in time. Her eyes were transfixed onto the edge of the train. I wondered that as well. If I had to guess, it was probably going, “towards a place far from here.”

She smiled.

“Perhaps so.”

Then.

“You run by here often.” I was surprised she noticed.

“And here I thought you were too busy painting to notice anything around you.”

“That can’t be further from the truth. In fact, sitting here painting by myself, it’s inevitable that I’ll notice busybodies like you.”

“I guess you’re right.” I smiled.

“But, that doesn’t mean that those busybodies should be bothering me either.” She unhinged her canvas, set it behind her, and grabbed another one. A completely blank world stood in front of her. She set her brush into a pale below her and took a few breaths.

“So, why are you bothering me?”

“Should I not?”

“Not that you should, but, if you don’t have a reason, then you should not,” she smiled, “If you don’t have one, then I’ll give you one.” She brought her brush to the canvas and continued, “How about it? A model.”

“Why not,” I said as I stood a little ways away from the canvas. She shifted her work station such that she could face me and still draw. Though, I couldn’t see what exactly she was drawing, I had faith that it would somewhat resemble me.

“Why here?” I began. I figured I had the time, all the time in the world. I turned off my phone.

“You might as well ask that question to everybody in the world. You’d like to know that answer wouldn’t you?”

“You know what I mean.” She stopped, traced a few strokes on her canvas, and then spoke.

“Why do you think painters go to parks?”

“They do?” She cleared her throat.

“Some do. Some don’t. Some have a studio, some are homeless. But, you can paint anywhere, so why here? That’s the question, right? Why here. Let me ask you the same question, why here?” She didn’t break focus for a single minute. Her hands, her body, was all invested in creating that painting, while her mind, her words, were just answering the noise that came to her. All the while, the odd person walking on by scuttled away at the strange scene at the tunnel by line two. One part of my mind began wondering what I was going to do about a job.

“It’s on the way to work,” I answered.

“You’re not going to work,” she bounced back.

“You were here, you caught my eye,” I tried to give her a run for her money.

“Television catches your eyes. The billboards plastered on top of skyscrapers catches your eyes,” she wasn’t having it.

“Okay. I could be anywhere right about now. I get it. But that’s  just dodging the question. You’re a painter right? There must be something special about here.”

“As much as I want there to be a reason, there really isn’t. It just happened like this.”

“Really?”

“Really.” That made me a little mad. Talent, was the word they used to describe people like her. I refused to believe that any old painter could concentrate, make something at the level she was in the middle of a tunnel. That wasn’t how the world worked, not for me, it never has. To see it work for her, made me mad. But, maybe I was more mad at myself. I wondered what I was going to write for my next resume.

“Any special reason why you paint?” It’d be inane to say I got fired because a painter in a train station caught my eye. Though, maybe it wouldn’t.

“Any special reason why you get up in the morning?” Maybe they would find her and skin her for being so cold. She was the reason, my poison, I thought menacingly. I dropped it with a shake of my head.

“You know what I mean.”

“So do you.” She smiled. I sighed. Her smile somehow made it all the less irritating. Her smile somehow made our mindless exchanges worth something more than a few popped veins. It still didn’t make up for what I was doing. I never really did like that job.

“Okay…I get up every morning so that I can go to work.”

“Except for today,” she corrected.

“Except for today.” It’s no excuse, but I’d tell anyone. I hated my job. It really wasn’t worth much salt to just say it, but to skip out on work was another deal. Now that was true hatred. Didn’t really help me in the end, but I have the gall of a million idiots sitting in me. A million tired idiots.

“Instead, I got up this morning so that I could confront the painter in the train station.”

“And how’d that go for you?”

“Swell.”

I couldn’t tell her progress, but she was making progress, I hoped.

“As for me. I get up every morning so that I can see the bright sun,” she started, almost in a singsong manner, almost childlike, “and the blue sky, and feel the wind on my face.”

“And let me guess the answer to my actual question: just because?”

“Ding, ding, ding,” she made a motion with her hand like she was about to point at me, but she restrained herself, “You got it.” Her tone shifted, “What other reason do I need?” If I stopped to hear my breath, I could hear our voices slightly echo in the tunnel, and I could hear my anger slightly boil up. It wasn’t her fault, I told myself. It was the world.

“Sounds empty if you put it like that though.” But even then, that was just an excuse. I wondered what I did for twenty four years of my life. I wondered what anyone did. Twenty four. Twenty five. Twenty six. I’d still be doing the same thing, I used to tell myself. I didn’t have the courage to kill myself, who does?

“Is that how you see it?” She stopped her brush. Her focus was incredible. If a bullet whizzed by, she was sure to remain painting. I wondered what kept her going. But if I asked, she would answer me plainly.

“Is your life empty?” She asked. The painting was drying, her world was set, but she wasn’t done. I thought about her question, all the while, she sat frozen in her seat.

“Why don’t you answer first?” Her brush moved again. Her mind back in automatic.

“It’s not empty at all. You can only be further from the truth if you think my painting, or my life is empty. No. Every day is filled with color. So is yours. No matter how bleak you are, your life is full of color.”

“And how can you say that?”

“Well, you’re still alive, right?” She smiled. If that really was the only reason people needed, there wouldn’t be suicides, homicides, or pesticides. We wouldn’t need to engineer ways to kill or be killed. We would all be a bunch of happy idiots in a happy world where nothing bad ever happens. Just because I’m alive doesn’t facilitate I have a life worth living. But I couldn’t muster the words out of my mouth. I only had the inside of my mind to vent. That was my world. The world where I was a hero, where I skipped out on work with my head held high. The world where my jobless disposition wasn’t jacked up on anti-depressants.

“If you really need a reason to live,” she started, “find one. Anyone. Anything. Just like painting, better to do it then mope around, right?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t hurt to try.” The tunnel was more than empty now. Just us two, and a canvas. That was all that mattered. That was all that made up of our world then. That was all that she had effort for.

“Do you like to paint?” I asked.

“Love it.” Without missing a beat, she answered.  We were silent for the remainder of her painting. The entire world seemed to pass me by someplace beyond me. But I shook that notion out. It was idiotic. The world didn’t pass me by. No. I stood there in silence, listening to my own breath, listening to her strokes, and listening to the sound of the train echoing in the tunnel. I was just still enough to watch as the world walked in front of me, waiting for me to go back. The world was waiting. I was the one passing the world by, on my own terms.

“I’m done,” she said after a long while. She unhinged her canvas, and held it towards me, peering from the side, watching my reaction with a silent smile. In front of me was a train. A train that was situated in the middle of nowhere, with a single tree somewhere in the distance. The train was moving on by to a place neither I nor her could see. But in that train, was a man. The man was in the train, observing the world around him. He was smiling as the train moved on by. I didn’t need her to ask before I answered myself, “towards a place far from here.”

Island of Windmills

We could hardly believe our eyes when we stumbled upon the Island of Windmills. Growing up in the country, the Island of Windmills was a place of great myth and wonder for our childish intuitions. It was a common tale among us school children, and a common ghost story for our parents to use to scare us to sleep. But amongst all of those fanciful depictions of an open area somewhere in this country side filled to the brim with tall standing windmills blowing in the wind, was somehow a sense that it may actually be true. It wasn’t that the Island of Windmills was anything scary. Windmills aren’t scary. And I’ve read and heard all about how useful they can be. We even grew up with some windmills in our town, powering up what little electrical appliances we had. But, in the city, in the heart of the country, I’ve heard that windmills aren’t so popular. I wondered why, and I wondered if an Island of Windmills felt more like a horror story to them than to us.

It was a weekend of ennui with my childhood friend Claris. We were sitting by the porch, listening to the wind chimes sway in the slow winds of summer. The sun above seemed to want to melt the road, and the slightest exposure to our skin felt like the top of a stove. None of us made a single sound as we sat drenched in sweat, just listening to the songs of birds and the laughter of children running by the road. I wondered how they could ignore the heat, or if the neighbor children somehow had an immunity to the sun. Perhaps it was some kind of hormone in their body that made them impervious to the sun’s misanthropic rays. Claris and I weren’t all that much older than them. We were well on our way to high school, and then from there, either stuck in the country, or become like everyone else, a city girl. But if either of us went to the city, if either of us decided to leave the place where we’ve grown, our place of origin, I didn’t think we’d ever forget about that day we found the Island of Windmills. I convinced myself of that.

It was a small draft of wind, among the slow winds of summer that had jolted me awake. It was a strange wind, a wind that I hadn’t felt before. And I wondered if it was just in my state of reverie that the world felt larger and more stimulating, but something in me wanted to follow that draft of wind. It wasn’t so much that it felt any different than the winds playing the chimes, but it was a wind that lingered on my skin, and stilted itself onto the nape of my neck. I looked over to Claris who was half asleep in the shade. I was sure that doing anything other than sitting around at my front porch would have been better for her. And even though I wasn’t sure if she would buy ye excuse of following some strange wind, I jokingly thought of bringing in that old legend to coax her.

“Claris? Wake up, Claris!” I began shaking her arm. Her exposed skin felt somehow cool.

“What is it Alice?” She begrudgingly groaned. Her eyes were half open when she finally got up from her seat. I had to stop myself from laughing.

“What if I told you that I have a lead on the Island of Windmills?” I tried to sound as convincing and haughty as possible. Claris was still rubbing her eyes and thinking.

“You what now?” She responded.

“The Island of Windmills…You know, the one people keep talking about.” I tried really hard to put energy into my performance. Though, it would be unfair to call it a performance. There was still some method to my madness. Or so I told myself.

“You mean that old ghost story? People all around here just love that stuff huh?” She was awake now, her hair gliding in the small winds of summer. She was lucky, I thought, that her hair covered at least up to the nape of her neck. I wore mine in twin tails. It felt easier to manager than letting it down my back. But having weird winds grasp around my neck was still unpleasant.

“Well, it may not actually be a ghost story. I think I can find it.”

“Yeah? Since when did you become Miss Ghost Hunter?”

“I’m just curious.”

“You know what they say about the cat.”

“No one says that anymore.” We laughed. Claris looked out into the clouds, into the sky filled with the slow moving rein of the world. Her eyes were wistful, the first time I’d honestly seen her so sincere and profound. But, it wasn’t any surprise to me. Claris had always been the quieter one. Or at least…Was I the quieter one?

“I don’t know what you’re up to Alice, but I never do–” She smiled, a bright smile that would have drove any boy our age up in arms, “But show me what you got.” I remember now. I was probably the quieter one. She was popular.

“Outside of the town huh?” I was following the wind, somehow. My body was moving on its own, not dragging its feet towards some vague wind, but actually knowing where it wanted to go. I could still feel the strange wind on the nape of my neck, and each time I focused, it would blow again. My body was in a trance, I was out of it, but my mind was still there. We eventually began walking towards the farm area outside of town. I knew most of the country side by now. But there were still some places I’d never visited. Some places where Claris and I had never visited. Some places where Claris had never visited. And some places where I only wanted us to visit.

“What do you plan to do after high school Alice?” She asked as we were walking. I was ahead of her, but she still somehow felt larger, and her voice boomed in front of me. I could feel her skip along the dirt road, and she was humming something in the wind. The sun was dragging its rays across our bodies, but we felt nothing of it. Despite the scorching sun we observed in the shadow, as we made our way to the Island of Windmills, not a single thing bothered us.

“I haven’t decided. What about you?” No matter what, we would always be friends. Claris and I. We grew up together after all, we’re the best of friends. At least, that’s how it worked in books.

“I might leave, actually.” Her voice was low, much lower than she would normally speak. Much lower than when we were at school. Much lower than when we were playing. I could feel Claris being completely genuine, completely stoic. But the truth was, I knew she was leaving. I knew all along that she was the last one to like the country. I’ve been friends with her ever since we were little. I at least knew that much.

“Will you be lonely?” Claris asked me. The wind on my neck suddenly felt much stronger. Like it was dragging me into the Island of Windmills. Somehow, I felt as if my lie was becoming true. That I really was heading to the Island of Windmills.

“Thing’s definitely will be quieter. But I don’t know if I’ll be lonely. It’ll be a shame if you aren’t here. I’d miss you.” I didn’t want to admit to her that I would be lonely. That spending so much time with her has made my life so reliant on her. That everyone always associated me with her, and her with me. She was the popular one. I was the meek one. We were like two ends of a magnet. But we were always the best of friends. The wind was raging.

“I’ll miss you too Alice. But you shouldn’t lie like that. I hate it when you’re like that. You’re always like that.” And at the end of the day, I could never beat her. She was always so ahead of me. In every way, I admired Claris. But she never made me feel left out. She didn’t treat me like some ordinary country nobody. Fact was, she was from the country too. But more than that, she didn’t care about all of that. The city was going to get just a little louder.

“I’ll be lonely.”

“I know.”

Just a little louder.

The wind eventually stopped. The world began to spin slowly, and the clouds began parting. In front of us was an empty plain of grass leading all the way to the ocean, and a valley of tall standing windmills that looked like they were about to pierce the sky.

We stood without words, in fact, the windmills probably blew away any words that came out of our mouths. We had found it. The Island of Windmills. The horror of the city.

“So it really is true. The Island of Windmills,” Claris said in disbelief.

“It’s… Pretty.” She smiled.

“It’s amazing.”

“They don’t have these out in the city. That much I know.” She turned to look at me, her hand in her hair, and I could tell in her eyes that she was just a little bit sad. I wouldn’t blame her. I wouldn’t have wanted her to be sad.

“You should tell me all about the city when you go. I’m sure it’s nothing like the country.” She smiled, a smile that would make all the boys be up in arms, a smile that told me she was sorry.

“Make sure you visit,” I said.

“I will.”

“Things really will be different without you.  I’ll probably just stay here and work for my parents or something. It’s the country after all.” I didn’t feel the wind.

“Yeah.”

“You’ve always read about the city after all. It’s no surprise really.” The wind was gone.

“Alice–”

“The city without windmills. I bet the air there is different. The sky will still be the same. Hopefully the people are too. It’s a small world, right?” But my eyes were welling up.

“…”

“Summer has never felt cooler then here.” The Island of Windmills was incredibly cool. The summer heat had never felt so insignificant before.

“No wonder it’s the Island of Windmills. Maybe we can start spreading a new rumor around. That’ll have all the children in a fit,” she said with a playful smile. Somewhere beyond the Island of Windmills was the ocean’s waves crashing onto the valley. We never went anywhere near the windmills, nor did we decide to leave anything to prove that we had stumbled upon this rumor. Instead, we promised to never forget that we had been there. That we’d always remember the sight we saw that day. I hoped that the city wouldn’t at least swallow that up.