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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Steps Of The Rain

Preface: Part of a collection of short stories revolving around a port town and a lighthouse, http://wp.me/p6oCGV-q2

I met a lonely boy who appeared from the rain one day. I was sitting by the edge of my home, waiting for the last bus to arrive in hopes that I would be able to leave this slowly changing port town at last. I didn’t feel right taking any other bus. Taking the morning or afternoon bus meant that there was still a chance I could turn back. The last bus of the night gave me no such compensation. I was ready to let my life disappear from the changing port town, and find myself in another place devoid of all the metal sounds and giants being erected.

That was when I met a lonely boy who appeared from the rain. I was staring at the bus stop that lay no more than a few feet away from my home, when a boy sprouted out from the rain. His face and his arms were dripping, and he was wearing nothing more than a rain coat that made itself to be his second skin. He looked at me, and I looked back, unable to unlock my eyes from his conception. He then took a step towards me, away from the bus stop, and onto my property. His every step formed puddles in its wake, and he seemed to grow shorter as he sunk into the dirt in front of me. However, the pounding rain above would circumvent that, and his size remained unchanging. No doubt, he was still just a rain boy.

When he opened his mouth, I could see through and make a blurry image of the street behind him. He had no tongue, and so when he opened his mouth, it was as if words tumbled out like the rain that tumbled down my roof.

“Do you know how to play?” He asked me, his voice sounding like the pounding of rain on top of my roof, or the pounding of rain on top of an umbrella, or the pounding of rain onto sheets of metal. His eyes were devoid of any shape of color, but I determined that there had to be eyes on his formless head. Thinking that he could swallow me, suffocate me with his rain body, made me unable to answer his question.

“If you don’t, I could teach you. Do you want to play, miss?” He continued despite my uneasiness. The cold draft of the rain suddenly came over me, giving my entire body the kiss of winter.

“What are we playing?” I managed to ask, my voice shivering, and my words barely reaching the tumult of the voice the boy had.

“We can play my favorite game!” Although his voice was louder, in time with the excitement he tried to show, there was no emotion in the wisp of his breath. The pounding rain could never sound different, no matter the surface, no matter how much things may change, it always remains stagnant. Rain fall will always consistent of just that, rain.

“Okay. Let’s play your favorite game then,” I decided to indulge in the rain boy’s whims, thinking that the bus would not arrive soon in lieu with the rain. And to also make one last memory, no matter how absurd.

“Okay, miss. This game is called, rock skipping!” I almost laughed.

“Rock skipping?”

“Yeah!”

“But there are no lakes here. Only the ocean by the lighthouse.” The rain boy shook his head, and then pressed his hand over mine. His blue hands melded into me, seeming to wrap itself, locking itself with my own body, and no matter how much pressure I tried to rip my hand away, I only saw his own dissolving. I couldn’t imagine having my own hand melt and break away and so I flinched and decided to remain with the rain boy. I got up and then followed his eager steps, forming and un-forming into the dirt he was treading on. I didn’t care about the rain from the grey clouds above that now threatened to sweep me, the only thing I could focus on was the blue hands that were now mine.

“Here!” The boy said as he began retracting his hand. I saw every frame of it, as his hand disappeared from mine, leaving it in a state of hanging blue flesh. It seemed as if his hand had been crushed by girders, his flesh spilling into the turning winter air, and then it reformed back into what could be called the hand of a lonely rain boy.

I looked ahead to see a small lake form in a pothole on the middle of the street with red pylons surrounding the perimeter. The boy picked up a rock from near the pothole, and then stepped back a few feet. He winded his hand back, tilted it to the side and then with two fingers, threw the rock into the hole. It bounced once on the surface, than another as its arc allowed it enough momentum to press on, and then as its energy whittled, the rock sank into the pothole. The rain never stopped, and it pounded the surface of the pothole along with the rock, appearing as if it was pushing its descent.

“Now it’s your turn miss!” The boy said with a bright grin as he stuck out a rock towards me. I opened my palms, and caught the rock as the boy released it from his hands, a cold feeling washed over my fingers as I traced its surface. It felt oddly like the surface of the ocean, the saltiness sticking to its pores and I imagined it to be the same rock placed at the base of the lighthouse to keep it planted. I threw the rock into the hole, the same way the boy did, and watched as it sunk upon impact. The boy laughed.

“You’re not very good at that huh?”

“I guess I’m not.” The boy picked up another rock and placed it onto my hand. He began guiding me as his body began melding with me, his motion allowing my fingers to relax as I winded the rock.

“You have to throw it with your wrist or else it won’t go anywhere.” He mimicked the motion with his free hand.

“Try to throw it really softly too. If you do it too hard, it’ll just go down.”

“Are you ready?” I nodded. He began letting go of my hand, and I watched as his blue flesh deformed and formed again. I then threw the rock into the hole, watching as it bounced once, then retained its momentum and bounced another time before sinking. A jolt of elation washed over me and I looked to my side with a beaming smile, “Did you see that?” The boy was gone. There was nothing in his place, not even a puddle to show where he might have entered the ground or had been crushed under another girder. The pounding rain became more irritating, and I turned back towards my home. Each step was accentuated as I began retracing my path with the boy, and soon enough, the only thing I could hear, were the steps of the rain.

 

 

 

Shattered Sidewalk

I found something that day, something to keep me moving forward, something to alleviate what I was feeling when I had found out both my parents had died. I was on my way to the bus stop to enact one final ride along the city. I wished to ingrain everything I knew into my being before throwing myself into a body of water, or to let the winds carry me to an interminable solitude. It was late winter when I was arriving at the bus stop. I listened to each step as they sunk into the snow of the side walk, and watched as the cloud of my breath formed and died. The sky above was grey, and in the distance as I crawled closer to that bus stop was a grey pole covered in red, and a white bus shelter with a single guest.

I stepped in front of the pole, and peered above to see a road devoid of life. I was about to reach into my pocket, to have one last indulgence into the world above the clouds when I heard a voice from the shelter behind me. My hands were stopped into the body of the needle, and I remained gripping when I turned my head slightly to see if that voice was for me.

She had a white dress on, and her hair was flowing almost endlessly down her neck, covered in what seemed to be silver. Her cheeks were flushed red, but her lips were only a tinge of rose. Her eyes were black and empty, but seemed to have some kind of semblance to seeds.

I tried to listen again, for I didn’t hear her quite clearly the first time. Her words were an inaudible whisper in the slow winter winds. I saw her mouth move, but only heard her words a few seconds in advance.

“Are you waiting for the bus?”

It was unnerving at first, but I spoke back, expecting something similar, but getting nowhere near the same result.

“Yes. I am. I don’t see why you wouldn’t be?” She looked down, her small hands kept in her lap, and she seemed to be looking at something beyond my eyes. There was nothing on that shelter floor, but her focus told me otherwise. She was staring so intently that I almost thought she had passed away right there in the middle of the dead snow.

I looked away, barely able to judge her in my own abated breath before she drew me back. I listened more intently as she did so, finding her voice to be like the whistling trees of the dead winter. There was an even stranger dichotomy when the actual trees surrounding the area began whistling back. Her voice wasn’t stinging, nor did it feel as hollow.

“You must not meet many people then.” I tried to turn to face her before speaking, but she spoke out in almost a yell, “Don’t. Don’t turn. You can’t look at me.” I turned facing the street again, shrugging, and walked into the glass of the shelter, such that I could pull my weight and stand effortlessly.

“You come to bus stops to meet people?” As my back was turned, I couldn’t tell whether she was taking her time thinking, or if it was the lull in her voice. That silence in-between was far more deafening than I would have ever expected.

“It’s the best place to catch people without their guards.”

“Without their guards?”

“I’m just a stranger, and so are you. Most people won’t care for a simple exchange of words. How about you?”

“I guess after this bus ride I won’t ever see you, so it wouldn’t hurt.” I could feel her nod. The silence blew across the snow, and I wondered if this meant that she wanted me to continue, or if it was just a pause in her again. Soon enough, she coughed, and then she began speaking again. Her voice was trailing this time, wistfully into a world I couldn’t see.

“Where are you going then?” She asked.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“I’m riding somewhere, if that counts for anything. But I don’t know where that ride will bring me. Strange I know.” I could feel her shake her head.

“I’d say it’s far stranger to be at a bus stop not expecting to go anywhere. At least you have some vague image of a place, right?”

“I guess I do?” I tried to imagine something, a concrete image of where I would end up killing myself at the end of my ride around the city. Although fuzzy, I could barely make it out. I had an astute image of my silhouette falling into a puddle of water. I shook my head.

“What about you? What kind of people do you expect to find at the bus stop?”

“Sometimes I think I’d like to talk to a busy desk worker. Sometimes I think I’d like to talk to a student busy with examinations.” She stopped. The snow piling on the roof of a house across the street fell, then she began again.

“And sometimes, I think I’d like to talk to a person who doesn’t know where he’s taking the bus to.”

“Which of those three do you have the most fun with?”

“Fun?” I laid my head onto the glass of the shelter, letting the frost envelop the back of my head as I watched my breath materialize and disappear.

“I mean, why else would you be doing this, if you didn’t like it right?”

“That’s a matter of semantics. Most people would die if they could do something they loved without consequence. But that’s not how the world works.”

“In that case, why are you talking to people at a bus stop?”

“Why not? Just like you have nowhere you want to go, I have no one I want to talk to. And so I’ll sit here, waiting, talking to anyone.” I lowered my head, and summoned a breath onto my hands. The streets harbored no cars, no signs of the bus, nor any watchful eyes from across the street. Only the slow winter winds, and the falling piles of roof-snow accompanied us. I couldn’t even see her face.

“Sure sounds lonely.” I was respectful to that notion of loneliness, though my feelings were wrapped in hard snow. The type of snow you wouldn’t like getting thrown at your face, the type of snow with a rock nestled inside ready to blow your brains out.

“Lonely?”

“You sit around waiting for people to come to a bus stop. Chances are, most will ignore you, and even then, they’ll eventually leave you right? Sitting here all by yourself is something–” I ate my words before I could finish them. I swallowed, and then began again.

“Well it’s something I guess I could do as well. But it’s still quite lonesome.”

“Lonely…” She repeated those words in a whisper, barely able to attune them with my ears. Her words were drowned by the winds, and the more I had to wait in that silence, the more I wanted to turn and see her.

“Are you lonely?” She asked me.

“Me?” I turned those words around in my head, wondering if I would say I was lonely. Surely there was a sense of loneliness adorned by the death of my parents. I ran those words in my head, imagining them as cars crossing the streets on this dead winter day. I thought about the reasons I wanted to end my own life. It wasn’t because of the loneliness I concluded, it was because of the fact that they were no longer human. They had become beings far beyond my comprehension.  I watched as the snow across the street began piling up in front of the door.

“I don’t think I’m lonely. No, I don’t think it’s right to say that I’m lonely,” I answered.

“I see. I thought you were lonely.”

“Why’s that?” I looked at the painted red across the grey pole that stood beside the bus shelter. It was a beacon, an indication of a landmark, and at the same time, the only color that existed on this day. I took another breath, watching as it lingered just a few seconds longer than my other breaths. For a second, I had wished it would stay with me forever.

“Because, I thought that anyone wanting to ride a bus without a destination was running away.”

“Running away?”

“I thought you were going to ride and keep on riding until you eventually dropped dead. Otherwise, why go on a bus if you don’t know where you’ll be going, right? I thought maybe you were lonely because you didn’t like where you were.”

“It’s nothing of the sort, I can tell you that. But that’s a strange way to see things. Why can’t a person just want to ride a bus? See where it takes you, right?”

“Something like, riding the wave of life?” I smiled.

“Yeah. Probably something like that.”

“In that case, why not decide to live.” There was a stiffening silence as I waited for her to continue.  When she didn’t speak, and when I noticed that the bus had finally arrived at the end of the street, I turned. She was gone. I walked into the shelter, and took a seat beside where she would have been. I closed my eyes, and then listened for the bus riding into the stop. It’s wheels crunched on the snow with every revolution, and I played her last words over my head. The shelter was warm that day. The bus passed me by, and I opened my eyes only to see that it was half way down the street, far from my arm’s reach. The snow on the bus shelter’s roof fell beside me as I stepped out. I took another breath and watched as it formed in front of me. I didn’t know why, but I felt compelled to answer her last words with action. From that day on, I kept visiting the bus stop, waiting to see her again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Half A Dollar

There was a time in my youth where I was given half a dollar. The sun was shining on my face, beating against my skin, melting it like ice. I could feel every fabric of my being waiting to be washed away in the heat. And so, I decided, with my youthful discretion, to make my way to the coldest place in the town, the ice cream store. However, just being in the mere presence of the cold air that sifted in that building would not suffice my youthful nature. I had to buy something. But I didn’t have allowance, and carried with me only a single dollar. I wasn’t so far off that I needed to start a charity, but the cheapest thing I could buy was a popsicle at a dollar fifty. I wasn’t one to be frugal, but I just didn’t have money. I’m convinced now that being poor was a novelty of youth.

And so.

I asked my grandmother if I could have fifty cents. I held out my hands with the largest smile I could muster, and my grandmother complied.

“Here you go,” she said as she placed the coin in my open hand. It wasn’t until I was half way down the street that I realized what she gave me.

“Half a dollar,” I said to myself in the scorching heat. She had given me half a dollar. In what I could only imagine as my brain melting from heat, I pinched myself, and looked in my hand again. There it was. Half a dollar coin. She had given me half a loonie. Quite literally, when I had asked her for fifty cents, she had complied in the strangest of ways. Half a loonie would amount to fifty cents, after all, that was what half a dollar meant, half its value, fifty cents. But, I wasn’t too sure, even as a kid, if giving the counter a full dollar and half a dollar coin would work. Surely only a child would think up that arcane logic, and surely only a child would attempt it. However, I was already half way down the street towards the ice cream store, and I surmised it would take more out of me to walk up the hill then just continue down towards an already cold building. My home suffered, for lack of better word, a curse that didn’t allow it to be cooled under the summer heat. Or so that was what I convinced myself.

It was a work of marvel, that half-loonie. It was nothing I had ever seen, and still nothing I have ever seen. It was half a coin so finely cut in the middle that I would beg to wonder if that meant its value was also cut in half. I wondered if that half a dollar was actually a work of a time long past the one I lived in. My childish demeanor traveled to all sorts of leaps of fancy as I began envisioning a place where half coins existed all over the world. Where if a man needed two dollars and fifty cents, he would produce a five dollar bill cut perfectly in half.

I began to live in that old timey world, a world I knew nothing about, still know nothing about, but dote at the idea of. This is a story of a time I received half a dollar.

The streets began to lose its luster. I imagined the world a generation past, to be a world of rust. And so, as I was half way down the street towards the ice cream store, the streets became ragged. Cracks and unfilled cement began pouring out of the ground. The trees began to wilt, and the grass was a muddy brown. I had some sense in me to know that the past, in all of its history books and pictures, weren’t a place devoid of color.

When I looked up into the sky, the azure that covered the planet became grey to match the dirty walkway. Eventually, the cars that passed me by turned into the old cars I saw in pictures. Carriages. They turned into carriages with horses drawing them. I imagined the wheels turning on the street, and the engines turned into the top of factories. The streets became my own paradise of half a dollar.

I imagined the bustle of newspaper boys yelling into the heart of the street, of a group of shoe shiners by the barber and of the peddlers with long coats. Even as the townsfolk began pouring out to watch their lawns or bask in the heat of the sun, I imagined them to have frilly dresses and suits and I answered them in a strange accent that I can only recall in retrospect to be absolutely horrid.

“ello ol’chap,” I would say to the man who lived in 23. He would laugh and pat my head, “Let me guess. Today, you’re in old time London.” Back then, I was fixated with the accents of Britain. Though, being a kid, I didn’t know whether I was accurate or not. At least, people didn’t seem to mind, since I was a kid.

“G’day to you mate!” I would say to the man who lived in 34. He wasn’t much of a talker, and so he just waved. I’m sure everyone in the street was in on my antics from a mile away. I was just that kind of kid. Or maybe, that was the kind of insurance everyone understood. I was just a kid.

“Hey what’re you doing Aid?” I hated that nickname. Or at least, I hate it now. Though, I guess for childish nicknames, it was a valiant effort. I wonder how I would have shortened Adrian.

“I’m makin my way to the parlor, care to join me mate?” His confused look was well granted. He didn’t end up coming, he had plans with the other kids that day.

When I had finally gotten to the ice cream store and opened the door, signaling the chimes to resound, I was taken aback to the present. Everything gained its color. I lost my accent. And I clutched my dollar and half, wondering if it was going to work. The lady at the counter smiled when I looked up, barely being able to stretch my arms to the counter. I asked her for a popsicle. Strawberry. She got one from the freezer, and when she handed it to me, I took a deep breath and placed the two coins onto the counter. I closed my eyes, as if that would hide my presence and likewise, the fact that I had given her half a coin. Closing my eyes was a novelty.

When she said nothing and simply smiled at me, I was astounded. I had given the counter a dollar and a half, half a coin, half a loonie. My childish demeanor became like a light bulb and I stormed out of the store with the popsicle in hand, washing away the heat with my energy as I bolted up towards my home.

I was half way back home, with half my popsicle finished, when I began to wonder about why the half dollar coin was decommissioned. I began formulating all kinds of whimsical situations and questions for my grandmother. My world began shaping, into a time long past, in a time when the half dollar began to fade out, when people wanted currency uncut. This was a story of a time my grandmother gave me half a dollar.