The city at least had sunrises that meant something to me. Here I have to wake up by five a.m. when it’s still dark out to be at the bus stop since the school is a trek through what seems to be God’s country. I saw a baby black bear destroying a garbage can yesterday.
I miss the sun painting its blades into the backs of building tops. Everything is so tranquil and annoying here. Jaz jabs me in the side to get my attention but I pretend to ignore her listening instead to the sharp crunches of the potato chips some fat kid must be snacking on in the back of the bus. I shouldn’t be able to do this. I thought I was hallucinating at first. Hoping I had a brain aneurysm, since dying at any moment made me feel free to be a freak or a hero or gay even.
You’re losing it kid. You’re not a hero. You’re not any of that.
The bus juggles us around like bowling pins, up and down. If we were freshman we’d still be in the front seats securely over the adjusted front wheels with shocks that don’t make you want to vomit in your mouth. But, we’re just old enough to be closer to the back. I have to hear the stomach contents of the seniors and juniors roll over and digest. Just another reason mornings here suck.There’s no jarring vibrations of roaring subway stations, or cackling women yelling from fire escapes. Nothing out here sounds interesting at all. The students, too glazed over from pop tarts, sit stone quiet on the bus staring at the forest rushing by. No words, no music, no talking, just unbearable gurgling. When I figure this all out maybe I’ll learn to concentrate my power and amplify it to burst someone’s eardrum for some much needed excitement around here.
“Hey, we’re going to be late,” said Jaz coolly walking past after we filed off the bus.
Tannersville High was one dimensional, huge, white, poorly decorated with dim lighting and the kind of floors that were probably bled on at some point. Exactly how I felt most days.
What’s my name? You won’t name me will you? I heard the sound of Trisha crumpling a wrapper, Mrs. Brune’s heartbeat, and Jaz’s thoughts as she saunters to her locker. She’s wrestling with puberty and that new found crush on you.
Stop talking to me. Why? The entire day droned on in the background of her voice in my head.
“Can you hear me? ” said Jaz crossing her eyes and jostling her purple hair into my face.
See now your not even paying attention to her.
“Shut up, you’re always talking,” I blurted out accidentally.
She turned away, banging ungracefully into the the side of her seat.
“Look, I’m sorry for…” I said, slowly.
“For the bus. And the hallway. And the cafe this morning. And your freak out last week–“
“Alright. I said I was sorry.”
“Come on Etan, what’s eating you?” she said, giggling at her own pun. Damn it if I could love her any less.
“Okay,” I said taking a deep breath, “I think I’m having an identity crisis because the voice in my head is this crazy girl and she has like supersonic hearing into other people’s heads. And she thinks you have a crush on me and I kind of like you.”
“Soo, you like me?” Jaz asked, wrinkling her nose into a smile.
Really, that’s all she heard. You sure about this one, I mean there are plenty of cute–
“She got a name?” she said, clearly amused.
“Maybe. This is serious.”
“Is this how you always ask girls out, by being weird?” she asked, getting up to leave, “Because I like it.”
The tattoo’s eyes bore past me.
Frantically, I banged on the door. When she opened the door again her face had recognizably paled.
“Kyra?” I asked.
“Come,” she said, coldly.
The branches on her neck emanated, as I watched her turn to climb the stairs. She disappeared into the shadow at the top of the stairwell before I decided to step across the threshold.
Her house was hollow, with all the windows closed and the shades drawn. A thin film of dust covered the furniture. As I bent down to survey everything a little closer, the door slammed itself shut.
Or at least I thought it did. There, standing just off to the right was what was left of Mrs. Williams’ body, peering at me. My heart began to race. I slowly crept towards the stairs, hoping not to attract its attention. Mrs. Williams’ shoulders hunched forward like an animal alert of its prey. In between her heaving pants, she crouched, lowering her face to the floor.
I waited. She was a statue, a gargoyle awaiting instructions.
Once I was sure she wouldn’t lunge at me I went to find Kyra. Down the corridor I could see her sitting on the edge of her bed, the door ajar. She was still as I came closer.
“Kyra?” I said.
“You can see us?” she said, her voice a harsh whisper. The cherry tree ink on her neck rippled, glowing a low purple. “How…” The sound this time was husky and sweet, a deeper decimal just below hers speaking along with her.
“I can help you, but you have to leave Kyra and her family alone!” I yelled, not meaning to appear so desperate before the spirit. “Where’s your people?” I said.
She pushed a curl behind her ear trying to wipe the water from Kyra’s eyes.
“Gone,” was her only reply.
She bunched up her skirt into clenched fists, tears falling into her lap. I looked up in time to catch a gathering of shadows down the hall around Mrs.Williams’ body. Apparently, the emotional state of the spirit had awoken its watch dog. The darkness scattered up the walls, frittering like insects, as the body moved towards us. Her leaden footsteps dropped onto the floorboards. I jumped to the other side of the room to throw open the window for a quick escape.
Mrs. Williams reached the sunlight, and somehow she smiled at me as sweetly as the first day we met in church. A little surprised I was in her daughter’s room, she crossed over the carpeting feebly when only moments ago she was sprinting.
Kyra perked up, transforming as if nothing was amiss. After she ushered her mom out, she happily bounced towards me with a mischievous smile on her round face.
The shades snapped shut, and instantly her expression hardened. Fog rose around us as she tiptoed to reach my face. She touched her forehead to my third eye, her warmth spreading as the fog filled the room.
I sit on the steps of God’s house, contemplating the depression eating away at me like the stage 4 cancer failing both of my kidneys. Family’s hugs and weary eyes remind me of my enclosing demise. Can they see me?
I hide melting into the blackness. Alone, understanding and accepting what the future holds. Their stress hurts to watch; though, a confession lightens the soul it burdens the listener. They could not bear to know that their loving gaze makes me feel sicker. I’m beginning to hunger for an escape into the clouds. My sweet chariot to swing low and ascend. Feel the warm kiss of death while she entangles my body and we drift into that ever lasting sleep.
I breathe deep and hold it in as if I’m drowning. Trying to feel the breathlessness of my lungs collapsing when I am no longer moving. I suppose on a grand scale death’s always pending . So it’s not fear that fuels this sense of certainty but knowing that they will miss me. Sitting here. Visualizing my daughter’s pain as her teardrops stain the hollowed shell of my remains. What comfort could my spirit gain knowing that I’m the reason she cries rain every night?
He pushed his hand into night’s pocket, seizing his food of desperation and munched it, the nutrients nestling in the thicket of his bowels; imagining death as his distant lover. He shunned all those who searched for him and moved further into the corner, cold floor, and hard wall his brothers whispering in his ear. Will you go now, right now, gently into her beckoning arms?
His answer may have been yes had it not been for the bucketful of gold rising in the sky, spilling yellow rays onto his cheeks that danced into his eyes. He could see his selfish ways. The courage to live kicked up in his throat as if singing from a serpent’s tongue. It whipped and split the remaining dark. Movitated him to seek out his seekers. Hang onto their hugs. Dry those weary eyes since a minute of their happiness was worth more than a moment of his despair.
With the sun warm on my face I sink deeper into their embrace. I don’t tell them about my relationship with death. She will come knocking on my door, waiting for me to satisfy her; but today, I will not answer.
A hero’s armor is supposed to shine.
Yeah, only the ones who have never dared to save anyone.
Mine is dented, bruised, a quiet dullness beginning to take over. Maybe once, when I was in my prime, I had that rare super hero form. I would ride through the ashes of some recent mayhem; feel the soot stain my face, the debris sting my eyes, and ride faster, growing more determined with each stride of the stallion beneath me. Draw the sword. Smite those belligerent beasts with precision. I was an amazing acrobat and archer. I can hardly recount the times I out ran a dragon’s breath without even breaking a sweat.
Fire, it seems, has lost its luster and I care not for being burned. History books won’t write what heroes lose. Time has whittled my kindness down to a mere dollop wallowing in the cold shadow of paranoia. The thrill of racing into the blaze, sword drawn, for my beloved’s rescue. Now, I can barely lift a pen to parchment to document my brave feats. Try as I might, this word is a hot coal that singed my skin with a fiery love that burns like a thousand blood thirsty torches. I resort to chipping icicles just to numb the pain of not living up to that title.
I haven’t loved anything as much as they loved me.
To think, I have fought the monsters that slip into children’s rooms at night against their will. Pulled away from men’s pleasures. Never once faltering into villainy. Saved men from themselves when their vices began to take hold. I’ve even freed a distressed damsel when others were too cowardly to acknowledge her screams. Strength, pride, beauty, moral fortitude. Those were my claim to fame, but really, it was indifference that allowed me to do those things. I didn’t run into the fire recover the person on the other side. I just could no longer feel the flames scalding my flesh.
Not for honor or justice or nobility. I used to wait, in heat, for life’s cruel, sadistic murmur to throw me another conflict to prevail. Another foe to foil. Yet, I have grown weary opting instead for a nice, silent retreat. Friends and family search for my helping hands through the smoldering wreckage, incessantly calling me to do their bidding; but, I have hung my cloak and put down my sword.
A hero no more.
I will reclaim my time. Maybe rekindle my passion and write until the frost surrounding my heart is shaken off by the feverish beating of content.
With my head on his spotted back and his head on the grass—a little bored with the quiet motion of life and a cluster of mosquitoes making hot black dunes in the air—we slept with the smell of his fur engulfing us. It was as if my dominant functions were gazing and dreaming in a field of semiwild deer. It was as if I could dream what I wanted, and what I wanted was to long for nothing— no facts, no reasons—never to say again, “I want to be like him,” and to lie instead in the hollow deep grass—without esteem or riches— gazing into the big, lacquer black eyes of a deer.
— by Henri Cole [Nara Deer Park]