Under The Tree That Gave Us Shade

I can’t help but think about the past. I instinctively raised my hand in response to the sun as I turned towards the clouds. The slow breeze of summer washed over my face, and I could feel its soft embrace as it curled over my exposed neck. Once the breeze died, I walked back into the shade and leaned onto the trunk of the tree, watching as leaves began falling out of season.  The day grew short as my mind began wandering into an old time. I smiled as I began seeing images of her and of the tree that was much younger than it was now. I reveled in being able to see her again. And so I did.

“You’re only here for one more day right?” She said as we began walking up the hill that overlooked the town.  I remembered her as having vibrant hair, almost the color of leaves, but somehow just different enough that I wouldn’t get the two confused. She had a white dress on that swayed in the summer breeze, and her skin was pale against the light of the sky.

“Yeah. Unless something comes up and my sister’s condition gets worse again, I’ll be leaving soon.” I remembered her voice as a light trill in the summer breeze. Her words carried itself in the wind, and danced around my ears. My voice was nothing of her kind.

“Do you think you’ll ever come back? To this town?” As we got to the top of the hill, I saw a tree racing for the sky. It’s shade covered half of the area atop the hill.

“My parents already had a hard time getting us here in the first place.”

“Then the answer is no.” I turned to look at her with a small smile. She smiled back, and in her dark eyes I could see the dying clouds drifting by. We walked over to the shade, and I peered over to see the town.

“This is a really a great place. I understand why my sister decided to move here–” I began to tell her, “My parents were so worried at first. But in reality, they had nothing to worry about. My sister made a place for herself here. A place beyond our parents, a place beyond our own expectations of her. It’s not in my power to intrude on that place.”

“I know,” she said in the dying wind. I had only visited this town in lieu of my sister, but upon my stay I explored to mend my boredom. Meeting her was a consequence of my boredom. However, I don’t regret meeting her. We were too young with too much time, and so we found each other. We both had our problems, but as we talked, out words mended into a sparkling waterfall.

“It’s going to get lonely,” she said as she rolled onto the grass and peered through the branches in the tree.

“I know. I’ll be lonely going back. Staying here for two months, getting to know the people, and then having to leave will be sad. It’ll be lonely without all the company. It’ll be lonely not being able to wake up to the bakery’s kids. It’ll be lonely not being bombarded by the middle-schoolers whenever I walk past the beach. It’ll be lonely without this small town.” My time in that town grew short and fast. But it wasn’t all that bad. Everything happened in an instance of the wind. I was fine with that, but I couldn’t keep her out of my head.

“It’s funny. No one here has ever been able to interest me like you have,” her smiles threatened to send me into another world, but I was far from falling into them.

“Probably because I’m not like anyone here. No offense.” She laughed.

“Right. But don’t you find that strange?”

“What’s strange about it? New things catch your eyes, and you’re interested in new things. So what?” She laughed again.

“Usually new things scare people. And they are only interested in new things so that they can find out how to deal with them.”

“Is that right?”

“I’m sure of it.” The wind blew her hair onto her face. She hesitated, but lifted her hand to block the wind. The shade began expanding. The clouds were racing away from the town, and I knew that things were going to be over.

“Nothing good ever came of this,” she said as she lifted herself from the grass.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, being so–” She tripped on her words, “I mean–” She was having a hard time and began curling into her knees.

“Nothing good ever came of meeting you, is what I mean.” I smiled at her as she lifted her head up and jumped into the sky. She stretched her arms into the town and I felt like if she tried hard enough she would be able to grab it all in her palms.

“Do you really believe that?” She nodded.

“It’ll be better like that,” she said without a smile on her face.

“I guess it would be,” I agreed.  Those were the last words I told her. I never saw her again. My sister told me sometime after her recovery that the girl I met never got better.

The tree now was much larger, its shade still warm. And the view of the town never changed from atop that hill. When I was done reliving that memory, I would smile into the town and listen to the wind. Sometimes in the whistle of the breeze, I would hear her voice again. I would hear her voice dance around my ears, and then I would remember her for just a little more.

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The Mark of Insanity

When I first saw him at my grandmother’s funeral staring into the distance with a wistful disposition, I wondered if he was really human. The crowd had begun to subside and my parents were busy talking to the undertaker. It wasn’t that I was uninterested in my grandmother’s death, no, that would be quite inaccurate, and quite imprudent if I was. Rather, the stilt of the air in the cemetery, the orthodox grey clouds hanging over us, and the cry of the rain someplace beyond us made me want to get away from it all. That was all it was, I convinced myself, just the atmosphere, that foreboding, suffocating, atmosphere. I wanted nothing of it, and yet there was nothing but that strange boy in the distance, staring off into the cemetery with nothing but a white gown. He, in the midst of all the dark tones that surrounded the area, was a strange light, and yet, no one took notice of him.

“Are you here alone?” I asked as I walked towards him, breaking from all my relations. And yet, even they did not seem to notice or care that I had walked away, talking to some strange boy in the middle of a strange place where strange things happened. Truly, a strange world.

“…” I garnered no response, in fact, he hadn’t even looked up from his… Quandary. Yeah, that might have been how I would describe the situation. He wore a white gown, similar to that of hospital wear, and, his hair had been cut short. His eyes were black, unbelievably so, as if there existed nothing but a strange abyss in his gaze. I began to wonder if I really was losing my mind.

“What about you?” He suddenly asked, his voice seeming to lag behind his character. It was as if, the words reached my ears long after the movement of his mouth was made. His voice, that, of a young child, though, somber, and not elastic, not energetic. Well, he wasn’t that young, no, probably around fourteen? Not young at all.

“I’m with them,” I said as I pointed, “my grandmother just passed.” His eyes were unwavering, looking into the distance, somewhere I couldn’t hope to see.

“So you left?” I laughed at his inquiry, though, perhaps, that laughter was directed at myself.

“It wasn’t that I left. No, not at all. I’m just taking a break,” I answered.

“Taking a break?”

“Don’t you find that sometimes? That you just need a little break?”He seemed to honestly wonder my question, though, I couldn’t tell if it came off as such from the way he stared into space.

“…”

“What are you looking at?” I asked to the chagrin of his silence. Then, he turned, seeming to have just acknowledged I was there, a glimmer of what I thought to be surprise washed over him.

“Nothing in particular,” he answered, then, he began to walk off.

“Where are you going now?” I asked. It was strange, I didn’t know why I wanted to pursue him, but, the words came out of my mouth before I could think of it.

“Back to the hospital. Even you can tell, can’t you?” His voice rose near the end, an almost condescending tone. And, as he turned to leave the cemetery, my parents called. Though I was still interested in who he was, and, why he had been staring into space, I couldn’t let myself be too consumed into the abyss. I later asked my parents if they saw the boy I was talking to, but, they simply pegged me to be a jester. I wondered, if I really was going insane.

At least, I didn’t need to stay in that suffocating air for any longer. I was fine going insane if that was what I could avoid.

The next time I saw that strange boy was at the hospital. I had gone to visit my grandfather, who, at the cusp of his time, was about to join my grandmother. It had only been a week since her passing, and, although my family was still somewhere in the fourth stage of grief, they couldn’t let life pass them by for too long. And, even yet, when they were just about ready to see the light of day, something else had happened. So is life, I guess.

“Remember me?” I asked as I walked towards him. He was idling by, sitting on a bench beside a closed door. It wasn’t that I particularly remembered him, but, it was hard to forget. This time, he did look at me, acknowledged me, and then, turned back to looking into the wall opposite. He was a strange person, I concluded, the perfect semblance to my insanity, if I ever saw one. I almost laughed out loud.

“Well, even if you won’t talk, I will,” I continued. After all, I was still seeking someplace else than the stifling air of that hospital room. I wanted nothing of it, nothing of that depressing atmosphere. Not a single bit, no, it wasn’t that I was uninterested in my grandfather’s health. No. Surely not.

“I came here to visit my grandfather. You know, isn’t it strange that these things happen so close together? At least, I think it’s strange.” I chuckled. Maybe, I really was… No, if I keep mentioning it, it’d only get old.

“You’re not much of a talker huh? Not that I don’t respect that. Everyone needs a little bit of themselves every once in a while. Though I guess since I’m here you won’t even get that much, hah!” No comment.

“Seriously, I’m throwing you a bone here. What’s so interesting about the wall anyway?” It really did seem like he would form a hole in the wall if he continued to stare for any longer. His face was completely fixated towards whatever it was he was interested in, and, it didn’t seem like I was looking at a boy at all. He was like a doll. After a while, I felt bored, and so, just as I was about to up and leave, he talked.

“My friend,” he started, “she’s there.” He nudged his head to the closed door. Room twenty four, it was pitch black in there, and I began to reckon why he was sitting solemnly as he did.

“It’s not like I’m trying to ignore you, but, I really don’t feel like talking, okay?” He was still wearing his white gown. He wasn’t just visiting the hospital, he was a patient himself.

“Fair enough,” I answered.

“Besides, why me?”

“Why you?”

“Why did you decide to talk to me? Back then, and even now, what’s your angle?” I laughed, I couldn’t help but to laugh. In the distance, I could hear the sounds of footsteps, trolleys, and beeps. The hospital was lively, ironically.

“No angle,” I started, “no angle at all. Would you believe me?”

“Would I believe you?” There really was nothing to it, and, I made sure to have that show on my face, a relaxed expression, one of no contempt, since, I truly had none. I just wanted to get away from it all, and, if that meant having to indulge in a stranger’s wistful disposition, then so be it.

“You really are strange, miss.”

“September.”

“The month?”

“My name. It’s rude to just say ‘miss’ right?”

“What a strange name.”

“And it’s even ruder to say that.” I laughed, and, in the corner of his face, a smile began to form. It made him seem oddly human.

“What about you?” I asked. I didn’t bother to feel sensitive towards the subject. Maybe I should have.

“Me?”

“You know, why you’re here. Clearly, it’s for a whole different reason than I am.” But, in the end, I learned something from our exchange.

“I see. Well, you are right, I’m not here just to visit,” he started, “that much is obvious.” I smiled.

“In a few days, I’m going to try and save her.” His voice wisped about in the quiet hallway we sat. The noise of the lively hospital from a ways away from where we were began to dim, and, in the air around us, was another stifling atmosphere.

“Try?” I repeated.

“Well, even with the advent of medical technology,” he began to sound haughty, “things don’t always go your way. With one life, goes another.” Without needing him to get into any details, I begun to understand what he was getting at. Perhaps it was the tacit of the living, or the anathema in his face that gave it away.

“She your friend?” He looked, somewhere in the distance again, and, I wondered, if he was going to lose himself in his thoughts, but, he came back, looked me in the eyes, and with a strange conviction said, “Not at all.” A smile formed on his face, and he repeated himself, “She’s not a friend at all.” And, somewhere in his eyes, his dark eyes that seemed to expand upon the infinite abyss, I saw tears well up.

“And yet, you’d still save her?” He seemed bothered by that question, his face scrunching up, and a deep seeded concentration flushed his eyes. I began to understand him a little more, about the way he stared into the distance seeming to lose himself in the world around him. And, somewhere inside of me, some place I didn’t want to visit, knew exactly why he was there at the cemetery.

“Regrets?” I asked shrugging. His face didn’t contort, his will iron, and then everything was washed away when the door beside us opened, and, a girl clad in the same white gown he had stepped out. Her hair was unbelievably gold. She let the door hang behind her, and, it seemed like she was entering this world from another, from a world much too dark, much too empty for any human being. Her skin was fair, unbelievably so, and her expression was gentle. When she spoke, her voice was quiet, and, it seemed like it took everything out of her to even mutter a single word.

“How are you today, Ebb?” Her words, as they came out of her mouth, were like a trickle from a waterfall. The boy beside me, Ebb, nodded his head and smiled, a bright smile seemingly from the depths of his heart and replied, “I’m fine. How are you, Lot?”

“I’m feeling fine, better than ever, in fact.” It pained me to listen to her speak. It seemed as if she wanted to say the world to Ebb, and yet, everything about her prevented her from doing so.

“Who’s this?” She said, as if she had just noticed me.

“I’m September,” I said as I got up to shake her hand. She looked, for a few seconds, wondering what it was my hand was doing in front of her, or at least, that’s what I pegged her state of mind to have been. But, she eventually brought her hand up. I saw how much it struggled her to even do that much, and so, half way up, I simply extended further, shaking her hand, feeling its cold wrap around me and then retract. I couldn’t go any longer watching her push herself to simply lift her hands. That coldness in her palms, permeated to every crevice of my body, insuring that I would never forget how cold her hands were, and how weak her grip was.

“Are you a friend of Ebb?” She said, a faint and yet eloquent smile forming on her face. I looked over to make eye contact. I had no reason to lie to a stranger, nevertheless, someone as bed-ridden as her, and within Ebb’s eyes, was a certain confirmation I was hoping for.

“I am,” I lied.

“I see,” her voice trailed, “well, I’m glad that you’re here then. You must know about me, and… Our operation.” I hadn’t the slightest clue, but, I figured it would have been too mean to pry it out of her, and so, I said, “Right, but, should you really be up now?” She seemed to want to laugh, but, held it in, and instead, smiled.

“I’m fine, thank you,” she answered, “I really am. I feel like I can run a marathon.” She really did seem to want to laugh. And so, I laughed in her place.

“But, maybe I shouldn’t be this fine,” she continued, “after all, I’m still…Waiting.” She looked over to Ebb, who could only respond with a despondent expression of his own.

“You really should be resting,” Ebb suddenly said.

“I’m–”

“Please.” She yielded, a smile on her face, waved with as much strength as she could, and then, entered back into that world of dark. When the door closed, I could feel the energy from Ebb dissipate into the area. Not a single sound was emitted from our walk of the hospital, and, soon enough, the echoes of life came swirling in like a lion in march.

“Not friends, huh?” I poked fun at him.

“Hardly seems that way,” I added. He sighed, to which I responded with a playful smile. Though, the playful disposition only lasted till me, after all, I wanted nothing of that tense atmosphere. It wasn’t that I was uninterested in the matter… Yeah, you understand.

“We met when it was decided that I carry the operation,” he said, “that was, a month ago.”

“And let me guess, you’ve been visiting her every day since?” He looked at me, as if he wanted to dispute that, but then gave in and slouched, even more so somehow.

“What else could I do?”

“Live your life?” He turned his head, almost too quickly.

“Sorry, too soon,” I tried to play it off with a playful smile. Didn’t work, I think.

“You asked me about regrets,” he started, “If I had any.”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

“I don’t think I do. Is that weird?” At his age? Was it weird?

“If you lived a good life,” I started, “then, I think that’s perfectly fine. How about you? You live a good life?” He was what, the start of high school?

“I don’t know. I can’t say, but… I had fun.” No. I couldn’t criticize him. High school. That’s as old as they make you. Then, from there, you’re on your own.

“You had fun?”

“Yeah. I had a lot of fun, with a lot of people.” His voice seemed to waver, a strange cadence, though, for his situation, perhaps, it was well suited.

“Then that’s fine. No regrets. That’s good, right?” I didn’t know what would compel such a person to give their life for another. That thought, that notion, was so alien to me that I really did wonder if my insanity, had all along, been passed onto this fated child. Though, that’s far too arrogant. After all, his insanity, no… His fate, would be what I would consider the fate of the world.        He held onto his world, and now, it sought to crumble, all to save a stranger. It was truly insane.

“But,” he suddenly started, “I wish, I could–”

“Live a little longer? To see them? To hang out with them?” He nodded, seeming to want to go back to his state of interminable reverie. The atmosphere had long forsaken me. I wanted to retire from that, and, my curiosity had been satiated. I got up, walked over to where the hallways converged, and then turned.

“When’s your operation?”

“A week.”

“You think you can do it?”

“I already–”

“No. I mean, everything you ever wanted to do, the things you see. A week, right? Think you can do it?” His eyes were wrought with confusion, and then, a swirling conviction. There was no way that he lived a life with no regrets. Even a child had regrets.

“And if I can’t?” This time I sighed.

“If you can’t. You’ll have regrets. You’ll hate yourself, maybe, your fate. Then, perhaps, if you’re feeling up to it, you’ll hate the girl, Lot, was it?”

“Charlotte.”

“You’ll hate Charlotte. Then, you’ll hate the hospital, the city, the country, and soon enough, you’ll be an adult. You’ll hate the world.”

“There’s no way that I can–”

“Get rid of all your regrets in a week?” I wasn’t planning on doing it either, but, no one could truly say they lived a life without regrets. What I wanted to tell Ebb wasn’t to do absolutely everything, no, instead, without needing to churn my head, I gave him the same advice I was given to me by my grandmother, and, without a stroke of coincidence, my grandfather.

“Then don’t. Don’t get rid of all your regrets.”

“But–”

“Instead, get rid of your best regrets.”

“My best regrets?”

“That’s right. If you have a hundred problems, just get rid of the top three.”

“Isn’t that just being lazy?”

“You said it yourself, right? One week? Most people can barely get out of their beds for a day. You came here every day? I’m sure you can shave off a few regrets in a week. Just the best ones. That’s all it takes.”

“But I’ll still have regrets, doesn’t that go against everything you just said?” Then, just like how my grandmother and my grandfather both answered my inquiry, I laughed, then, with as much swagger I could muster to break the mold in the air along with a smug smile, I said, “You can sit there regretting your entire life, and you’ll never get anything done. You’ll end up hating all the things I said. But, if you get a move on, you’ll take away some of that regret. Not all of it, but, if you get rid of the best regrets, I’m sure you’ll see that the world is just that much better.” Then, I walked away. That was all she said, and all he said. My grandparents left me to ponder upon what they meant. And, I think they’re right. After all, I live in a country that has a hospital, I live in a country that provides me with food upon walking into a huge storage container. I live in a country where I don’t fear bullets or bombs, or tyranny. I live in a country where I can be a person. And, all this country asks for, is a little bit of sense to try and be a decent person to be around. I live in an age where I can talk to a person across the world, where I can move faster than anybody in the past would have ever imagined. I can fly, I can see in the dark, I can capture the world with a finger. All that’s left, is myself, and, well, it’s me and seven billion others, but, not even all of those seven billion has the niceties that I’m provided by simply being born. And, the catch is, those living in poor conditions, are still human. Better yet, I’m still human. We’re the same race, and, inherently, by the pull of a string, by the roll of a die, my life, sad to say, is inherently better than some across the world, even some in my neighborhood. Now that’s the mark of insanity.

 

 

 

 

The Cafe In The Sky

One day without warning there existed a cafe in the sky. It wasn’t as if it had appeared over night, as if an entire cafe had just sprouted into existence between the stars and the moon. It wasn’t anything as spectacular as that, unfortunately. Rather one day without warning it drifted into town, parted the clouds and sat on a piece of pavement. A cafe, just floating on by.

Everyone was up in arms about the cafe in the sky. People screamed heresy, that the aliens had finally come to take their due. Some prayed to the cafe, saying it was some kind of religious symbol. Perhaps God was ascending to the moral realm to– No, it wasn’t any of that. It was run by an old couple, Randal and Marie. Apparently, it was their dream to run a cafe in the sky. They had been operating for over fifty years. Apparently, they hadn’t a single customer until they ran into our town.

The first few days were an uproar for them, they had customers building ladders, a hot air balloon service was made to rocket people up onto their platform, and some even sky dived into the cafe. But business simmered. No one cared anymore. The cafe in the sky still loomed about in our town and its customers were drenched in ennui.

I visited the cafe in the sky on its backend. All the services had long closed shop, and the profits had already been collected and so I contacted the owners to see if they could spring me a ladder from above. Apparently, the old couple lived on the platform, and also managed all their stock from the sky. They didn’t import much goods, but rather had an expansive backyard for all of their ingredients. I never did get the chance to see much of the land though it was something I wasn’t particularly interested in either.

The owners of the cafe happily accepted my request, and on the date we agreed on, sure enough, by the front of my house a ladder was dangling about leading into the cafe in the sky. When I got onto the platform, I was surprised at the lack of any real change in how I perceived the world. I wasn’t light headed from the high altitude, I didn’t feel any sway from the fact that I was essentially standing on a floating rock.

The cafe wasn’t anything special. It would have fared quite well on Earth, where the ground wasn’t floating and business was more stable. It’s bricks were nothing I haven’t seen, it’s windows were of glass, and its door was wood. Nothing of the cafe spoke of its notoriety as the cafe in the sky. A part of me was disappointed in seeing such a plain looking cafe.

Upon opening the door, a chime resounded and while I perked up on the suddenness of the chimes, I neglected the smells that wafted into me. It wasn’t until I had the door closed and a good look inside that I realized I had entered a cafe. It was spaced out in rows with empty tables and chairs. As I took a seat, Marie had come out of a door fixed onto the connecting wall to the kitchen and taken my order. There was no menu. The walls were all too barren, with only the view of the outside sky to accompany the place. If I sat for too long, the smells of coffee and toast would have driven me insane.

In the end, I ordered a coffee. A few moments later, Randal had come out of the door holding a plate with a steaming cup of coffee. He placed it onto my table slowly, then trudged to the window, where his eyes focused onto something in the distance. I took a sip of my coffee. It was unbelievably bitter, and nowhere in sight were any sweeteners. I wondered to ask them. But, I swallowed my request. Instead, I took another sip and as Randal turned with a stale expression over his face, I asked, “How has your day been?” He looked at me with a blank expression. But soon his face was washed over with a smile and he turned back towards the window.

“The same as its been for the past fifty years.” His voice was rough and slow. He spoke each word fully, not missing a single letter. He took a seat near the window, his eyes never leaving the sight of the outside.

“Has it always been this empty?”

“Yes. Yes it has. Though, just a week ago we were brimming with life. Can you imagine that? This place was lively, so full of it.” His voice wrapped around him in a wistful blanket. The way he sat, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was really a statue.

“Would you want more customers?” The words came out of my mouth before I could realize I had spoken.

“What do you think?” He asked in response. I was left dumbfounded, and he laughed.

“Do you have a dream?” He asked.

“A dream?”

“Something you want to do? Something you want to achieve?” In all honesty, that was the first time I’d ever had the chance to wonder. I couldn’t answer him.

“Whatever it is, I’m sure you want to get there someday. And when you do, what do you think will happen?” I couldn’t answer him.

“You’ll be happy, maybe?” He continued without regard to my silence, “That’d be nice, right? To be able to do something that you dreamed for and be happy. That’s what everyone wants to do of course. Who doesn’t.” But, maybe it was because of my silence that he was able to talk.

“This was my dream.” He got up from the window and began to trace his hands over the empty tables and chairs. His rough skin looked like it would scrap itself off at any second.

“I’ve done it. I’ve made a cafe in the sky. That was my dream. I never asked that anyone else be here, so why should I worry? Do you think I’m happy then?” He smiled at me. His smile was unbelievably filled with youth. I couldn’t speak.

“But let me ask you a better question,” he continued, “Do you think it’s okay to be happy?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?” That one, I could answer. He began to walk towards the front door. His eyes rested on the chimes that stood atop.

“I’ve been up here for the past fifty years, but I can guess that life down there hasn’t changed for a single moment.” He then shook his head and turned back towards the kitchen door, his eyes never glancing towards me.

“So why did you come up here today when no one else will?” Without warning, he looked directly into my eyes. The words in my mind ceased to exist. As if his eyes shattered my every being.

“So even after all that you still can’t answer me?” He laughed, “Just like everyone else that comes here.” He then pointed to his head, “The air here might have gotten to you.” He aptly left, leaving me to my own devices, my mind swirling on. I left the cafe in the sky after finishing my coffee. After climbing back down, I took another good look at the platform that floated in the sky with the cafe abound. It had begun moving, and the ladder was now closer to my front door. I figured it was leaving soon, finding its way to another town. I went back to my ordinary life soon after.

 

Starlight

We thought we were immortal. The air surrounded us, winter creeping into our arms. Our steps echoed in the low light of the stairs. Her pulse grew the closer we got. I turned once to see her eyes in a brilliant glean. The air’s ballad mixed with our steps as we stood in front of the rusted door.  Winter slept in the steel platform draining itself into the soles of our feet as our bodies converged in irregular panting. I tightened my grip. She winced, and her pulse lowered. The cracks of the doors exhaled ash and fuel. Everything came together in the sky. I remember how we first met. We were both trying to fly. We thought we were immortal.

Her dress fluttered in the wind. A thousand frills accompanied a thousand sirens as we came to the edge of the roof. It was barren save for our naive steps. Her hair fluttered with the winds that rose through the building. I wasn’t quite sure how we both failed to fly that day. But when I opened my eyes, I was greeted by a world of white and the soft pulse of her hands over mine. The beeping of that world filled my mind as I closed my eyes. In the distance, was the roaring of an airplane.

“Did you really have to wear something like that, June?” I asked as she twirled on the ledge, her foot nearly slipping. She laughed.

“You’re not complaining now are you, July?”  Her voice rasped into my ears with the gusts of the city. They merged like the lull of a crowd of wheels.

“I’m not. But it’s cold out here. I can’t help but be worried.” She smiled back as she paced on the ledge.

“I appreciate your worry. But I’m not the one who should be taking it.” She stopped in front of me, wrapping her arms around my neck. I felt her weight follow her back. We once thought of having a child name August. We were dumb back then. “This isn’t the first time we’ve done this.” Her smell was intoxicating. “But it really doesn’t change no matter how much I’m here. ” She turned her head back, peering into the streets. I shifted my feet in balance. I readied my arms. I stilled my breathing. The pulses that shot into my hands reminded me of the beating of her heart as she laid her head onto my chest. She wouldn’t let go, even after the doctors came. “This is where we belong.” She looked at me with a smile that paid the night. “Do you think they can see us?”

“Would you want them to see us?”

“I’d want them all to see us.”

“I always thought you were the embarrassed type.”  She laughed, her entire body forcing her way off the ledge. I braced harder onto the roof.

“I’d given that all away the first time we tried. Now I’m as free as a bird.”

“If only we could fly.”

“We will. We’re immortal. No matter how long it takes. We’ll fly.”

“No matter how long it takes you’ll still stay with me?” She pressed forward, lifting from the ledge into my embrace. Her warmth held me together until she pulled me towards the ledge. She came under my arm, pressing me forward towards the filled streets. The lights of the city all raced to find my mind.  In another motion she brought me back, the rush of the city all dispersed with the stars. They blinked like hospital screens.

“I’m here with you now, aren’t I?” Her breath barely reached the sky. “If we could only be stars, we’d already have everything we wanted.”

“If we were stars we wouldn’t be together like this.”

“And that’s fine too.” Beyond the stars were the moon that glittered like a watchful clock. Once filled it would espouse a new month. That’s what we did to pass the time. She would flutter my curtains when the doctors leave. Big dipper to Polaris. Polaris to Little Dipper. She would rave on about all the darkened sea. We would do so until the moon became full.

“If we were stars,” she continued, “we’d be able to die together, without fail.” Her voice lulled into my mind. Her arms brought me back to the ledge. We stood arms in tow, letting the brunt of the city remember our every crevice. “Are we the rulers of the world yet?”

“Not yet. Not even close.” I felt her pulse ring softly. My heart began to follow.

“We’re immortal and yet we can’t even rule the world. What more than to plant our mark when we can.” She laughed.

“It’ll take a little more than just that to make our marks.”

“What do you have in mind for two immortals to be remembered?” I shook my head and let the city swallow me for a moment.

“The stars?” She asked with her hand facing the building opposite.

“That’s right. We have to reach the stars. And once we land, we’ll be the rulers of the world.” She let out a breath that lingered in the air until our next words.

“How long would that take?”

“With just the two of us? It’ll take us a million years.”

“Then I’ll wait a million years for us to touch the stars.”

“You won’t get bored?” She shook her head.

“Do you think we’ll always be together like this?” She asked. Her pulse shifted. That happened once in hospital. The monitor jumped when her warmth left me.

“We’re immortal. Of course we’ll be together.” She pressed her foot forward, hanging it on the collected airs of the city.

“They all seem so small. Everything about the city doesn’t seem so scary anymore. It’s like we’ve become the stars. We can die together like this, even if that is the only time we’ll be together.”

“We’re lightless stars.”

“If we’re lightless stars, then no one will ever know we exist.” I shook my head.

“It just means that we’d have died a long time ago. Eventually, even our lights would have reached the Earth. And eventually, even our stories will be told.” Her eyes glistened in empty flashes.

“In that case, we can’t leave each other. Those hundred years will be so lonely otherwise. It’s good that we’re immortal.” Her grip tightened. Her dress fluttered with the city. I closed my eyes and let the air of the roof swirl into my mind.  We thought we were immortal.

This Is My Journal of a Time I Saved Someone From Suicide

December 23, 20–

The idea of keeping a record of my events, or, of my events soon to be, seems like a desperate attempt at trying to abide by some kind of tacit urge to find worth in a world that never asked for my worth. You see, why else would I begin to write a journal when I’ve lived for twenty so odd years on this earth? Why now, of all the twenty years? It would make sense to say that if I were to keep a complete track of all of my days starting from the day I was born that this act of keeping a journal be not one of insidious self praise. No. It would then be habit, a part of my life. But, now I am keeping a record of my events, or, of my events soon to be. You see, to preface–Actually, saying, “You” is quite odd. It is not in the fact that “You” are reading this that I am addressing some kind of “You”. In fact, I’m going to be reading this. So why am I referring to me as “You”? It just somehow comes to be like that, huh? If I were to give myself a psychoanalysis on why I decided to address this to a second person, then here’s my take on that:

            To my patient, Cadence —-, December 23, 20–

            To give a brief analysis on my patient’s psyche, it appears that she suffers from an  overtly enhanced state of worth. In other words, she believes that she truly is the center of  the world, much like those scientists of the past believed that the galaxy revolved around  Earth. Thus, she seems to interpret her life as having much more meaning and much more flagrance than it really does. She chooses not to admit to the fact that out of the seven billion people on Earth, that she to them, is merely a number in that sum. She simply cannot come to terms with the idea that everyone in the world is not following her daily exploits.

            I asked my friend Anna for advice when writing in a diary. She seemed like the type to always keep one, the type to write gossip and her crushes, and how much she hated every girl in her high school clique who isn’t working at a suicide prevention center. She liked to call it a “space.” It’s a space where I’m supposed to be able to write anything that I wanted without worry that someone will see it. I was very familiar with the term “space.” I had to use it all the time when I picked up calls. It was one of the stock advices that we gave most people.

            “Find a safe space,” we would always say. Having a safe space allowed people to think without worry. It allowed them to be the center of the world for just a few moments, and for them to recollect themselves. I’ve always told people this, but, at the same time, I haven’t always been the best at finding a safe space either. Sometimes I wanted to ask them how they did it, how they managed to find a safe space where they didn’t need to kill themselves. You see, the reason why I can’t often find a safe space, is that my safe space, isn’t safe at all. It’s strange, I know. Maybe I’ll write it down here, so that you can see what I mean.

Oh, I just laughed.

You see, it’s funny to me, that I keep writing, “You”. It’s more like “me,” because I’m the one who’s going to read it later. But, the me who’s going to read this, is going to be different than the me who wrote this. So, it might be appropriate to say, “You” after all.

I laughed again.

Just so that I know, so that I can remind myself, I am writing this at 10:34, right before I go to bed. Well, actually I started at 10:00, but I’ve been writing for a while now. I’m going to take a break, so that I can stay focused. There’s something important that I want to write down here, it’s about my day. You’ll see.

Okay, I’m back.

I guess, I’ll start from the beginning of my day. I can skip all the stuff about getting up and heading to work. I already know my routine. Well, maybe it might be important if I lose my memory. I probably won’t, but I might one day. Sometimes I really do feel like I’m losing my memory. Like a certain part of me begins leaving my body, like I’m being extracted on a surgery bed, every part of me being probed by some kind of steel blade. I feel like that sometimes, honestly. They come for me because I’m doing so well for myself. I think they’re jealous. But that’s why I always carry with me my green pills. They keep me warm. And they keep me focused. I haven’t had them in a while now. I’ve been getting better, I think. That’s what my doctor says.

“Hello?” I said as I picked up the call in the center. My work place was dead silent, as silent as the dead. We each had our own rooms, soundproof, so that we could talk in peace, just like the dead. But, we prevent deaths. That’s our jobs. They say it’s very important. But to me, it’s just a job.

“Hi,” they said. Isn’t that strange? Hello and hi both have the same meaning, but there are two words for them. They remind me of them. What I mean by “them” are the people trying to find me and take me away from my body. I don’t like using pronouns, but I really don’t have a name for them. I’ve only called them, “them” for as long as I’ve been seeing them.

Oh.

Why don’t I give “them” a name then?

Actually…

It’s really hard. Thinking of a name. I wonder if this is how parent’s feel. Name’s are a strange thing. They could mean the world, or they could be meaningless. What about my name? Cadence. I wonder what that means.

“How are you?” I asked. I heard breathing on the other side. Not hard breathing. Light breathing, like they were thinking. I always have to imagine who I’m talking to, since I won’t ever get to see them after our call. Sometimes I get repeated calls, where I talk with someone for more than once, but never in person. I imagined this person to be a girl. I think she was a girl, her “hi” was pretty feminine. I think. Let’s see, she probably has long black hair. No lipstick, a girl like her would not wear lipstick. Or maybe she would, to cover up her depression, she uses all kinds of makeup. Okay, so maybe lipstick. Judging from her voice, probably a university or college student. Let’s say she’s tall. And white.

I didn’t know I was racist.

Okay, focus. What she said… What she said… Okay, so after I asked, “How are you?”

She said, “I’m about to kill myself.” Her voice wasn’t shaking, like I thought it would. In fact, she was stern, cold, and focused. But she wasn’t done.

“What the hell do you think I am? How am I? I’m about to go drive a knife through my neck, how do you think I am!?” Then, from her cold demeanor, was a sudden rush of lava, a volcano erupted. My co-workers never told me to retell my stories like that. They said I was being insensitive. I don’t get it. I’m just saying how it is. Sometimes, they would even laugh at me, and give me the suicide prevention talk because they think I’m crazy. I hear their whispers. Only Anna isn’t out to get me. I think. Hopefully she isn’t. She’s the only one I like. Everyone else is always teasing me. I actually haven’t been to anyone else’s rooms. I wonder if they are all white and quiet like mine.

Okay, back to it, I’m sorry.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that,” I said. She sighed before answering.

“I know. Give me some slack. I’ve been thinking about killing myself for the past twenty four hours. I’m irritable as hell right now and my friend just asked me if I was “okay.” No I’m not okay, I’m about to drive this knife through my throat.” Her voice never faltered once, an uncanny resolution.

“Why do you want to do that?” I asked. Usually, it would be for my job. This time, for some reason, I was interested. Not just for my job, but as me, Cadence. Something in me began ringing as I said this. Not the person on the other end of the phone. But in my head. It was the ringing that usually preceded the steel blades to come. I may have developed a fear of knives because of them.

“That’s a good question. And let me answer by asking you a question. Why do you live?” Somehow, I knew her voice was filled with sadness. An indescribable consternation, I imagined, flooded her.

“Why do I live?”

“Right. Why do you get up in the morning? Why do you go to work? Why do you care?” I couldn’t come up with an answer. In fact, the longer I tried to come up with an answer, the more my head began to ring until a loud banging began residing outside the door to my room. I couldn’t make it stop, and the only thing that brought me back was her voice through the phone.

“Just forget about it. I’m wasting my time. Thanks for trying though, I’m going to go ahead and slice my throat now. No hard feelings, you won’t be blamed.”

“Hold on!” My white room was quiet. Eerily quiet. I began shifting my feet under my desk, feeling the soft foam shift under my weight, and I sighed.

“I can’t give you an answer right now,” I began, “but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have one. You can’t just tell me to tell you something so–” I paused. Everything in my white room was quiet and soft. Nothing bounced. Only absorbed.

“Profound. I can’t just give you an answer like that. It’ll take me… At least a day to think about.” She laughed. She laughed into the receiver.

“It’ll take you a day to think about why you want to live, and it took me a day to think about why I want to die. Okay. Then, why don’t I give you a day? Give me an answer that won’t make me shove this knife down my throat.” She hung up. Without a second thought, she was gone. And I guess, the rest is history. That was really the only part I wanted to write down. The rest of my day, much like my job at the suicide prevention center, is just something I go through nonchalantly. And so, it all comes to tonight. Where I’m now writing this journal and recounting everything that I want to write down, everything that I wish to store within this safe space. Tonight’s a lucky night. They haven’t come for me yet.

I guess, a good name for them, would be the Blades. That’s the short form. The Steel Blades, in full. Only because every time I see them, they brandish steel blades and wish to gut me like a fish.

Anyway, I need to spend the remainder of my time in bed pondering about her question again. I had been doing that before, and that led me to start a journal entry. Here we are.

Matchbox Girl

On this day last year I found a matchbox girl. I used to live in this town, but I moved into the city with my parents ever since they found new work. I didn’t want to leave the town that I had grown up with, but I knew that staying wouldn’t have done me any better. I don’t regret leaving when we did last year. I don’t regret having to say goodbye to my friends. I don’t regret meeting a matchbox girl.

I ruffled my way through the snow and pushed past the dead trees as their branches threatened to claw at my face. A twig would break someplace beyond me and I would jump at the sight of a dark-furred creature wandering about. I felt something hostile within the air of the forest. I knew exactly why, but I wasn’t the one that the forest wanted. I only had her scent. I pressed on with memory to get to the spot that she brought me on this day last year. I was happy when I had arrived, and even a bit reluctant to step forward. It was a small clearing with a single shed. It surprised me then and it surprised me now that the shed still remained. It wasn’t particularly large, but the wood seemed as if it had been taken by rot.

On this day last year I found myself in this town’s forest after getting into a fight with the local thugs of the school. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fighter, nor was I any more fit to fight them than my kid sister. However, I had a bone to pick with them. I wasn’t the best son, I wasn’t the best friend nor was I even the best brother. I was a spoiled brat thick and thin, and I wanted to prove some kind of strange masculinity to them. I hated them. I hated the way they ran around like the town belonged to them. I hated how they picked on the weak, and my stubborn attitude sought out to up rule them. I was engrossed in my own bellicose, and what came out of it was a five way beating. I managed to walk out of it with barely a foot on snow, but I didn’t back down either, and I did some damage despite my odds. It was a good day that day. I didn’t have much going for me, I figured I would drop out of school and just find some work at a pier. To finally have some kind of reason for doing, to finally be able to break the apathy in my life made me ebullient.

I was on my way out from their hangout when one of their guys stopped me. He wasn’t a part of their group but he called himself a mediator. I pushed past him, but he shoved a joint in front of me. He told me to take it, and that if I could still manage to see tomorrow than he would tell the thugs to back off. I saw no reason to refuse, and I knew that I couldn’t move about in the town after I had started a war. It seemed reasonable to accept his offer, and with how I was back then I had no one to tell me otherwise that smoking a strange joint wouldn’t be safe. I thought that maybe after doing this I would find another escape, another way for me to be unrestrained. I craved for that in this town. I wanted something to happen, but I didn’t know how to make that a reality. I was a brat who got whatever he wanted, but money can’t cure ignorance.

I wandered into the forest wondering if I could start a flame and let this strange poison take me away. I was a brat, and an idiot. It was the thick of winter, and I was trying to find rocks to start a spark. Maybe I hoped that I wouldn’t find anything, that I would simply say that I had smoked it, lying about the results. Maybe I was just tired of being who I was, but… I was so adamant on finding something. I pushed through the dead branches that day just like I did when I came back. And somewhere in the tree lines, I saw smoke.  It was a very subtle smoke that was emerging, and although I knew that causing mass deforestation was hapless considering the season, I checked it out. That was when I first saw her. She held a matchbox with her left hand, and a lit match in her right. In front of her on the ground was a pile of broken flames.

My steps crunched in the snow, but she stood un-vexed by my presence. She took another match from her box once the one she was holding faded. It was almost like looking at a kid trying to burn an ant in the shade. I laughed at her. Not the arrogant laugh I used to mock people, nor the laugh I used when I was pretentious. She had bright gold hair that was tucked away inside her jacket. Her cheeks were flush red and her teardrop shaped eyes peered up at me.

“You know that it’s the middle of winter right?” I said as she threw away another match.

“What’re you even doing with matches?” She looked at the joint still in my hand, and then snickered as she drew another match.

“You planning to smoke that? I ain’t got matches for you if that’s what you want. ” Her accent was brash, hit me like a piece of hail and then shattered on my feet as I noticed the red liquid dripping from my head. But it was a pleasant pain. She wasn’t like the thugs at school. Somewhere in her voice I heard a strange sweetness. It was like tasting poisoned honey.

“What about you? What do you need to light?” I asked back. She watched as another match drifted in the torrid winds of winter. She sighed and then began walking some place into the forest, but before leaving my sights, turned and said, “You coming?” I followed her. Her figure in front of me was like chasing a dream. She was little less than perfect, and I wondered if I had known she lived in this town if I would have liked to be with her. Everything about her was alluring, and yet I remembered that it was poisoned honey. You don’t get crazier than a girl in the middle of winter trying to burn matches in the forest. At least not in this town.

She stopped in front of her shed, and flung open the door as if it was a repulsive barrier. I couldn’t make much of what was inside but she came out aptly enough to show me. I didn’t know what came first, my terror, or anger. She hung by the feet the corpse of a dead rabbit. It’s white fur was lined with red, and I couldn’t make out how it’s joints or guts had been carved out.  She flung the corpse onto the snow between us, and lit a match. She brought the flame close to her face, and the reflection of it within her eyes made it seem blue. Nonchalantly she brought the flame to the corpse of the rabbit and watched it erupt. It was lined with oil. I could smell it in the air and it wafted from the shed. I wanted to run, scream for help, but I stood there unable to do anything. My body wanted to stay, and somewhere my mind wanted to stay. She smiled as she watched the corpse burn, and then looked up to see my face.

“What’s wrong? Never seen a dead body?”

“You’re a murderer, an animal killer… A psycho,” I had a way with words.

“And what about you? Waving that thing around like it’s a firecracker. The only person in this town that makes those things is–” She had a revelation and kissed her teeth, “Let me see that.” She grabbed the joint from my hands and then unrolled the contents onto the snow in front of the burning rabbit. She sighed and then looked up with pity, “You’re lucky you found me. This stuff would have killed you, you realize that right?” She pushed the contents into the flame and then snuffed it with snow.

“You shouldn’t be playing with your life like that. What’d you do? Lose a bet or something?” I told her what happened. She smiled, shook her head, then told me to come into the shed. I did so, knowing all well that I probably would have been better off losing myself in the clouds.

The inside of the shed was lined with cages, some had live rabbits, and others had been recently mutilated. The smell of oil mixed with the caged corpses. My eyes hadn’t adjusted to the dark yet, and I wished to some god that it didn’t. She took one of the cages, and then brought it outside.

“Look buddy, you ain’t got to pick fights with them. It’s not worth it. Here,” she brought me over to the cage where the fresh corpse of a rabbit peered into my eyes like a sorry toddler. It was already covered in oil. She took a match from her box, and then lit it under her palms.

“If you want to show off that badly, then why don’t you just study or something? Get a job, get a future. Maybe find yourself a nice girl. Don’t throw away your future like that. You ain’t no punk. You squirmed at a dead rabbit, you’re not fit out for that life.” There was  a certain fragility in her voice, like she could barely muster her words. She played them out for me like trying to swim her way through a frigid ocean. It was hard for her to talk to me like that, and yet I thought she was right. What was I doing picking fights, trying to be someone who I wasn’t. Those thoughts lingered in my mind.

“Here,” she handed me the match, and I held it close to my face, watching as it burned under my palm. It was fickle, flickering with each of my breaths, beneath my tamed bellicose, it was entrancing.

“Look buddy, I don’t know you. You sure as hell don’t know me, but I don’t want to see you down that path, okay? Just trust me. Don’t fall for that crap. There’s more to life than that. I’ll tell you right now that if you want to pretend to be tough, you’re just gonna get shot.” Her eyes were wistful, despite being so near me, she was in a place all of her own. She was somewhere far beyond me in a place unreachable, and once I had realized that, her poison became morphine. She looked up, and her eyes glistened with worry and exhaustion.

“If you want a way to get away from the world, just burn it all down. And be the only one who can be in control of that.” I dropped the match onto the rabbit, watching as it blazed into a parasitic bonfire. She smiled at me, her smile reaching from one end of her face to the other.

“Now you’re my accomplice. If you don’t want this to spread, why don’t you go back to being a good kid. You still have a family after all, take care of them. Sure life is boring sometimes, but… Find something to do, burn that boredom away.” I had no words for her. And she took that as my understanding. She got up, threw snow on the corpse, and brought the cage back into her shed. I was going to leave, having heeded her advice, I was going to say my goodbye, but she came out of the shed with a mantra. She lit another match, and grabbed my arm. Her grip wasn’t inviting, and I could see something brittle within her eyes. She brought my sleeve up and then brought the flame to my skin. I struggled, and my heart raced a thousand miles.

“You’re crazy! What’re you doing!?”

“A promise–” she forced the flame onto my arm, and I felt tears roll down my face. She was writing something on my arm.

“A promise that you’ll keep, between you and me, that you’ll be a better person than I ever could be, that you’ll live on to be the greatest pyromaniac in the world, that you’ll live your own life.” She branded an “E” on my arm, to which I desperately poured snow to snuff out the pain and bleeding. She was panting, when she was done, and just as abruptly as she branded my arm she stroke another match and said as she brought the flame to her open arm, “What’s your name?”

“A–”

“Good enough.” She brought the flame and branded an “A” on her arm without a single wince. I watched as the blood dripped onto the snow like hail striking her face, shattering at her feet. She then pressed her arm onto mine, causing me to fall back onto the snow. She laughed, her voice stifling pain and tear, “We’re bound by blood now.” Her smile was unwavering, beautiful even.

“It’s like we’re married. Till death do us part.” She looked at her own arm and closed her eyes. She was much stronger than I ever could be. But within that strength, was fragile glass. I saw that within her eyes.  A glass that could be shattered with just the tiniest crack.

“Sorry I was rough, but… I want that to be the epitome of pain in your life. If you think your life is rough, just think back to this day when a matchbox girl burned your arm.” Her smile was addicting, and it lingered in my mind, and on my arm. I never saw her again.

I opened the rotting shed door, wondering if her cages were still there. They weren’t. The shed was relatively clean. No blood or guts, or oil. I wondered where she was, if she was still burning bodies. And I couldn’t help but smile when I noticed what was on the shed floor. I leaned over to grab it, and then left the shed. I didn’t bother closing the door. I opened the box, there was only a single match left. I pressed it against the flap, and then drew my hand back watching as the flame came to life.

 

 

Starbound

When you look up into the night sky you think about seeing stars, when I look up into the night sky I see everything that I’ve become. My childhood was filled with nauseating amounts of candy and chocolate, endless birthday cakes and even a few black eyes. My childhood was filled with innocent disposition, a love for life, an alacrity for living. My childhood was simple, a dreamful childhood, a folly of what was to come. But despite all this, my childhood was filled with stars. No matter where you are in the world, if you look up into the night sky, you’ll see small shining dots beckoning you into a world far beyond anyone’s imagination. You begin to lose grasp of your ties to what is, and begin drifting off into a space of what was. Then before you know it, you’re stuck in a space of magnificence, you become a part of the ether. As a child, I was daftly interested in the shining light bulbs that dotted the sky above. I used to think that if I had a long enough ladder that I would be able to grab one for myself, that when I reached my hands into the night sky that I had some chance of taking a piece of this outer universe to see. Now that I’m older, I laugh at that, but now that I’m older, that notion has become grounded in reality.

Being a child meant days of innocence and ignorance. It meant being able to not know anything about the world and not get a diatribe with every idiotic decision you make. It meant having an excuse for when you touched the stove. It was still stupid, but you’re a “kid.” It’s always fine if you’re a “kid.” And when I looked up into the night sky as a kid I always saw the stars. No matter where I was or what time in the night it was, I could always rely on seeing those stars shining brightly as the cold winds grazed my face and ruffled the fields around me. I grew up as a farmer’s child, being raised in a barn and always climbing up onto the roof to watch the small wheel in front of my home spin and count the endless amount of stars that littered the night sky. At some point, I began associating the night sky with a strange smell of grass and manure, that meant that whenever the topic arose in class I always used to scrunch in my seat. I’m grateful for that association now, because now whenever I look up into the night sky, I see a canvas of nothing. I see a black sheet staring back at me, and if I stare too long, I begin to think that it really does stare back at me. It begins to envelope my mind, cause it to turn in on itself, and cause me to want to drift off into a space far beyond my current living. It takes me back to my childhood.

“What are those lights?” Was the first question I asked my father when I climbed up onto the roof and did my first session of star watching. He looked at me with the kind of smile you get when you’re able to teach someone something. The kind of smile that made you feel smart.

“They’re stars,” he said as he ruffled my hair. I looked at him in even more curiosity, “What are stars?” He used both his hands for effect and made a large motion to indicate size, “Huge bodies in space kind of like Earth that emit light. Our Sun is a star too.”

“And the moon?”

“Not the moon. The moon isn’t a star.”

“Why is that?” I remember my dad pausing for this question. Perhaps he was trying to explain it as scientifically accurate as possible, or perhaps he figured that that would only lead to more questions. But he settled on an answer that had little to do with the science of it anyway.

“Think of it this way. The stars, like our sun are very bright, right?” I nodded.

“Now, when you see the moon, what do you see?” I looked up towards the sky and traced my eyes until I saw the lightly glowing blue giant that pervaded the night sky like a sentry.

“It looks like a plate with dirt.” That inane image of the moon that I had created when I was a child was still something I held true even when I was growing up. To me the moon was nothing more than a plate on a dinner table, whilst all the stars were small particles of milk that splayed the area. Sometimes, the stars became bits of candy, and sometimes it became pieces of bread. I acculturated everything of the night sky to be like a dinner table, and because of that association, looking up at the vast horizon of the night sky wasn’t scary. But that imagery was frail, and soon enough I understood that the night sky wasn’t a dinner table, that it brought nothing but more questions. Eventually that all spilled into a sheet filled with black.

“But it doesn’t look as bright as the sun or stars right?” My dad asked. I nodded.

“The moon is just as important as the sun, and they may seem like the same thing, but the moon is more like a silent knight, watching over his people in the dark, and the sun is the king, giving his presence known to his people in the day. The stars, are smaller kings, all governing smaller kingdoms far away, but still making their presence known to us, telling us that one day we may be able to reach them, that we may be able to use them. And the knight, the moon, is with the other far away kings because the knight will one day bring us to them. That’s why even though he’s silently watching over us, he still glows, to make sure we know he’s there.” Looking back on that now, his analogy made sense. It made too much sense, and back then, when he told me all of that, I placed every bit of it within the fairy tales I knew. That much made me stop asking questions, but I knew that my father was just using euphemism to make me quiet.  It was probably what made me think I could someday reach up and grab them, reach up into the night sky, into the country and grab a king, take it for my own, and tell him to bring me to a faraway kingdom. Though, growing up, that suddenly became a grounded reality.

I left the country side to move into the city. That was for university. The biggest transition for me wasn’t the fact that I now had to live away from my parents, that I had to sustain a life all for myself. The biggest transition for me was not being able to see the stars anymore. When I had moved into my room in the university, the very first thing I did was walk off onto my roof and look up into the sky. Below me were people walking to and fro from the dorms, some had large bags, and others were just enjoying a quiet night smoke. But when I looked up into the night sky, I couldn’t see the stars. They were missing, and the night sky was empty. It was almost as if someone had reached their hands up and took each star away from the country known as the night sky. It was almost as if they had never existed in the first place, like the stars were just painted on as a fabrication of an expansive universe. I looked for as long as I could, trying to find a star, any star. It wasn’t until I got off campus and found a relatively remote area near the university filled with trees and moss that I was finally able to see the stars. The city was too much for me, too different from what I was used to. For the entirety of that part of my life, I always cursed the city for hiding the stars. In my mind, they were still kingdoms, still kings waiting for us to find them and to reach up to them. In my mind, I chose to refuse everything of this world, and I wanted to reject the world for what it was. I wanted everything to be just as it was in my fairy tales, just as it was in a society devoid of capitalism and misanthropy. But, after living the latter half of my life in the city, I began to realize that apathy became a drug that the people were buying. The night sky then became a blank canvas that threatened to send me into an egregious craze. And what brought me back, was thinking back to my days of being a child.

But I never returned to the country. I kept pushing forward, trying to exact some kind of pseudo sense of pride and justice that a person like myself had. I wanted to be more than what anyone would think I could become. I wanted a ladder large enough to reach out and grab a part of the universe with. I wanted to take a piece of the world for myself, and in doing so, I became like the blank night sky. My father used to tell me that those who bit off more than they could chew would inevitably choke. I thought it was an absurd didactic expression. But now, I’ve come to know what he really meant. And even so, it’s already too late for me to go back on chewing too much than I could handle. I’ve already watched as all my attempts of trying to reach for the stars, of reaching for things millions of miles and much too large for me to handle fail. Now that I’m here, watching the night sky somewhere in the city, living in my decrepit apartment as I handle a pint of liquor and a smoke in my left, I can see that the night sky is empty. I can see with great certainty that the path I decided to choose led me to a sky filled with nothingness. I can never reach for things out of my grasp, and no matter how long I build my ladder, if it doesn’t have any meaning, any passion or any base, I won’t be able to grab anything. No matter how hard I try to be ostentatious to a group of uncaring people, it will only just be that, a sad display. And so I say with great certainty, that the night sky now is a perfect replication of who I have become. Nothing.