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.

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.

Immortal

Preface: Two people talking, normal font, italics.

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

Not at all.

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

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

Carefree. Not idiots.

Same thing.

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

It can’t just be coincidence?

Don’t you find that a little too plain?

Is that necessarily a bad thing?

Hmm…

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

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

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

Friendship…

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

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

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

The portrait of an old.

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

My life is interesting because it is filled with spontaneity.

And stupidity.

One might even say they’re the same thing.

Do you sometimes wonder whether these days will last?

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

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

I know.

You’ll still say it even if it hurts?

I’ll say it because it hurts.

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

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

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

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

Exactly. That. Fate.

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

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

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

Do you really believe that?

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

Why?

Why do you think?

Perhaps, you love me?

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

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

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

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

Something like that.

And yet, for me, it’s different?

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

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

I hate to say it, but I will.

Thank  you.

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

And what?

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

Not this time.

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

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

What more will you do?

Grow up with you.

Grow old and die.

And I’ll be happy all the same.

Even if I hate you?

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

Even if I find someone else?

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

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

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

You’ll grovel for me?

I’m not groveling for anyone.

Then I guess you won’t do.

You want someone to grovel for you!?

Haha

 

I’m sorry.

For what?

For not realizing sooner.

For not realizing what?

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

For not realizing what?

That you love me.

And?

And?

For not realizing that you love me too?

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

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

If you can prove me wrong.

When I prove you wrong.

How long will that take?

I can wait.

Ten years?

I’ll wait.

Twenty?

I’ll wait.

Fifty?

How long are you going to make me wait!?

 

I’m grateful.

For?

This.

Me too.