[[Winner of the 2016 Hub City Teen Writers Contest]]
The burning boy had been on the news for years now. Every morning, right after I grab a banana from our sorry excuse for a fruit basket and right before I slip into my ratty sneakers to walk four and a half blocks to school, I make sure to glance at the TV. My grandmother always sits on the left end of the love seat facing the rickety old television set, walker set out before her and shoes placed inches away, right off the rug. God bless her soul, should she ever decide to move and allow me to see the whole TV from the door without blocking the bottom right corner. But, I’m never too worried about her. For the past four years, all of America has only been worried about the burning boy.
This morning, Anderson Cooper straightened his papers and takes a shuddering breath as he looks into the camera. Everyone always gets a little nervous when they talk about the burning boy. “Four years ago, second grader Wallace Trevor was burned alive in a car accident that killed both of his parents and his younger brother.”
My fingers tighten around the banana. An old, familiar chill, one that was born four years ago, the night Wallace’s burnt body was on the news for the first time, crawls up my back and houses itself into my neck.
“With third degree burns on 75% of his body, Wallace shouldn’t have made it alive through the accident, according to Dr. Courtier,” Anderson continued. “Miraculously, however, he was able to survive Hundreds of operations and countless hours of excruciating pain later, here we are, on January 16th, 2017, witnessing Wallace step foot out of the hospital for the first time in four years.”
Like that, I forget all about school. I forget that if I’m late one more time, I’ll be cited for detention. I forget that I have a surprise birthday party for a teacher that I have to attend. I forget it all as I step around the couch to sit beside my grandmother and my eyes fixate on Wallace on the TV screen.
I like his shirt, is the first thing that comes to mind, as my eyes glaze over his Avengers shirt and shift to the rest of him. He stands on the front steps of the children’s hospital, holding the hand of his 22-year-old sister, the only family he has left. And they look so happy. His sister has tears in her eyes. She’s a round women, wearing a matching shirt and a long, black skirt with frills that should’ve been left in the last decade but at the moment, no one cares. We’re all happy for her, happy for her and her brother. Wallace Trevor, the burning boy.
He’s 11 years old now. His arms are wiry and the small patch of black hair he has is matted with sweat as he stands in the Orleans heat. For four years, the stories of all his operations were everywhere and now, everyone can see their results. To say he looks good would be putting it nicely. Grafts had to be taken from any salvageable parts of his body to create and plaster the skin over his burns. Doctors flew in from all over the world to give this boy at least a semblance of the handsome face he once had. But that’s all it really is, a semblance, and not the best one. Tight, shiny skin is stretched over his face and his arms, the only naked parts of his body to the cameras at the moment. Over the years, some people could barely stand the sight of him because in full honesty, it was alien, to look like that. “If this is a price for his life,” his sister said defensively into the cameras one day two years ago when the rest of America was asking if she was happy with how her brother was looking after all the surgeries, “then, I will pay it over and over and over again.”
Rectangular glasses are perches on Wallace’s’ nose. With one hand tight in his sister’s, he smiles, stretching the new skin on his face, and shies behind her frilly skirt. And like that, tears spring up in my eyes. My trembling hand finds my mouth and I press down to keep from sobbing. Four years we were all rooting for this boy to live. Four years we only saw blurry pictures of the operating room. Four years we lived off of a photography of him on his sixth birthday to pass the time. And here we all are, watching our alien hero standing on the steps of an Orleans hospital, shy and wiry and eleven years old with a brand new set of skin. And I promise you, cross my heart and hope to die, that right now, he’s the most beautiful boy on the face of the planet.
So what if I might have to pass on the opportunity of going to college to take care of my grandmother? So what if my father lives in the Hamptons now and left us in this old townhouse in Baltimore after the divorce? So what if I can barely keep a C in Calculus? So what? So what? So what?
Right now, I’m looking at Wallace Trevor, a boy I don’t know, a boy whose story is reverberating through the chests of everyone in the world, a boy I’ve been stealing fleeting glances at on the TV for four years, and I’m seeing him smile and hid behind his sister and looking absolutely alien, and right now, I’m the happiest person in the world.
[[First Runner-Up in the 2016 Hub City Teen Writers Contest]]
Lungs ache. Eyes squeeze shut. From the fourth bedroom on the right, a fit of coughing erupts, echoing down the hall and across the ears of the orphanage. Beneath her sleepy tangle of sheets, a young Julianne stirs at the sharpness of the noise. She is only two rooms away, and miraculously, the only girl of nine woken. She suspects that the boys in the next room over have not been woken either, despite their greater proximity to the sound. Maybe the others have simply gotten used to the constant buzz of hacking and groaning, or maybe they’re just too tired to care. She yearns for the day that she too can sleep through the bitter breach of silence.
Suddenly, a new noise arises. A commotion of sorts. Muffled voices, shuffling feet. The floorboards moan throughout the building. She waits for the all too familiar sound, and soon enough, it comes. A rhythmic rapping against splintered wood. The metallic click of an unlocked door. Heavy steps into the house. Julianne quietly shakes off the linens that hold her to the bed, and sneaks toward her bedroom door. It is poorly fitted to the frame, and allows her a small opening, out which she can peer into the hall. Lining her eye up with the luminescent gap, she spies the source of the footsteps. Lead by Miss Marie, the makeshift mother of all the children, a large man is marching up the hall. She recognizes him as the hospital man. Miss Marie says that he takes the children to the hospital when they get too sick to stay at the orphanage. Julianne decided long ago that if she ever had to go to the hospital, she’d request that a less-scary man take her, preferably one that wasn’t at least twice her height. As Miss Marie and the hospital man make it to the last room on the right, the thought strikes Julianne that one of her friends is about to leave the orphanage. The children who go to the hospital never seem to return. Miss Marie had once explained that they go to a new home once they’re all better again. She was happy to hear this at the time, but now, the permanence of her friends departure seems to finally sink in. She simply must go and say goodbye.
Slipping down the carpeted hall undetected, Julianne heads to the room that the hospital man has just entered. The door reads infirmary. She sighs, wondering why adults must use such terribly large words for such easily phrased things. It is simply a sick-people room. Easy as that. Pressing against the door, Julianne walks confidently into the room. But perhaps a bit too confidently, as she walks straight into none other than the gigantic hospital man himself.
“This ain’t no place for a child miss.” His gravelly voice declares through his nest of a beard. Julianne springs back in shock.
“I… I sure am sorry sir,” she replies, voice shaking, “I only wanted to say goodbye, if you could just show me where…” But suddenly, she sees him. The child departing to the hospital, asleep in the hospital man’s arms. A freckled little boy by the name of Henry. He’s only been in the orphanage for a little while, but Julianne can’t help but feel as if she’s known him all her life. “Sir…” she continues, “do you think you could wake him just long enough for a goodbye?” He says nothing, simply glancing back as Miss Marie, who has been standing silently behind him for the entire ordeal.
“Go to bed, Julianne.” Miss Marie says, voice faltering as she speaks.
“But Miss Marie, I just-”
“I said go to bed Julianne! Now!” Miss Marie has never raised her voice like that, at least not at Julianne. But despite the sheer volume of the command, Julianne can’t help but feel that the underlying tone was something other than anger. She doesn’t dare look deeper.
“Yes ma’am. Goodbye Sir, Goodbye Henry.” The hospital man nods solemnly in response, and Miss Marie simply turns away.
As Julianne walks back to her room, a whisper catches her attention. The voice is calling her name. It’s coming from the boy’s room. Turning back to be sure Miss Marie isn’t watching, she follows the calls into the bedroom. As she enters, she finds fifteen pairs of wide eyes staring back at her.
“Julie!” someone calls.
“Did you anger Miss Marie?” asks another.
“Shh! She’s right down the hall,” Julianne whispers, “keep it down or she’ll really get angry.” The boys all nod in compliance. Julianne smiles at their willingness to obey, despite the fact that she seems to be the youngest in the room.
“So,” she begins, “ it all started when I saw Miss Marie and the hospital man walking down the hall to the sick-kids room, and-”
“Who on earth is the hospital man?” a voice interrupts, much to Julianne’s disapproval.
“The man who takes all the sick kids to the hospital, obviously.”
“You think Miss Marie can afford to send us to a hospital?” another voice laughs grimly. “She can barely afford to put food on the table!”
“That’s enough, Thomas,” one of the oldest boys interjects, placing a hand on the younger boy’s shoulder. Thomas shrugs it off.
“Are you all just going to stand here and let her believe the fairytales Miss Marie has shoved into her head?” continues Thomas. “How come Julianne doesn’t have to face the truth like the rest of us?”
“She’s young,” the older boy replies, “it’s simply the innocence of a child’s mind.” Julianne’s face drops.
“I’m old enough to know!” she exclaims, drawing a silence from the room. The older boy shakes his head, but Thomas flashes a devious grin.
“If you insist,” he whispers. And before anyone can stop him, he’s at Julianne’s side, hands cupped to whisper into her ear. “There is no hospital, Julianne. That man’s taking them to the morgue.”
[[Second Runner-Up in the 2016 Hub City Teen Writers Contest]]
Honestly, the fantasies in my head are far more interesting than real life. Though to be fair, I spend more of my time in them than I do the real world. Like right now, even as I sit in the orthodontist waiting room, I am also in another land with Sir Connor, my best friend and constant companion. Quite possibly my only friend.
My mother interrupts my musing. “Are you nervous?” I can hear the tension in her voice. “Not really,” I say. As I’ve never seen braces before, I’m not entirely sure what they are. And it’s rather difficult to fear something when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be afraid of. “Are you sure?” she insists, and Connor and I both laugh.
“I’m sure, Mom. Trust me, I’ll be fine.” I was more nervous during my first appointment, when I wasn’t entirely sure how the orthodontist would react to my vision impairment. When I was afraid he would treat me like the last one, who had acted as though I was less than human. I fiddle with my cane as Mom continues rambling. “I know it’ll be uncomfortable at first, but you’ll grow used to them. And it’s only for a few years at most.” “You sound more nervous that I am.”
“It’s a mother’s job to worry,” she says. Feeling rather bad, I hold my hand out. She takes it and gives it a squeeze. “But I’m sure it will be fine. Most people have to get braces.” “I’m sure it will be too,” I say. We sit in silence for a few minutes, and I let myself draw into Connor’s world. I hear whispers and feel my mother bristle, but I ignore it all. I’m used to it. They follow my everywhere. After all, a blind blue-haired fourteen-year-old girl is bound to seem out-of-place. But I have grown accustomed to it, and so I pay no attention until I feel a tap on my shoulder. “Why is your hair blue if you can’t see it?” The voice is a young one, maybe five years old. Though it takes me out of Connor’s world, I am not irritated. I enjoy making up silly reasons for children. So I lean toward her and lower my voice. “It’s because that ridiculous dragon made it so.” “What? How could a dragon turn your hair blue?” She sounds confused. “It’s a really long story,” I sigh. I lean back I my chair. “I’m not sure you’d want to hear it.” “Oh, yes I do!” Without any warning, I feel her crawl onto my lap. Mom’s grip on my hand tightens. “Larina…”she says quietly. But I pull away to hold the young girl.
“If you insist,” I say. “Last year I was battling a dragon with my good friend Sir Connor the knight. The nasty thing had stolen all of the chocolate chip cookies in the town, which of course made everyone very upset. So we got on the back of Connor’s horse and rode to the dragon’s castle.” “The dragon lived in a castle?” she asks.
“Why, of course it did! I laugh. “Where else would a dragon live? Anyway, we rode to his castle and knocked on the door. The dragon itself didn’t answer, it was much too busy for that. But a little girl, maybe five years old, answered instead. Her voice was soft and sweet like a light breeze, and I instantly took a liking to her. As did Sir Connor, of course. She asked what we were there for and I told her of our problem. She seemed greatly troubled, saying the dragon was a good master and he would never dream of doing such a thing without reason. So she led us inside and we found ourselves in an audience with a dragon.”
“Wow!” she says in awe, and Connor squeezes my hand. I squeeze his back and continue weaving my tale.
“The dragon’s voice was loud and booming, and Sir Connor informed me he took up half the room. At first we tried being diplomatic, and carefully explained exactly what the problem was. The dragon did not seem troubled one bit, claiming the cookies were now rightfully his. We tried again, but he could not be moved. I felt Connor stiffen at my side, and before I could react, he was challenging the dragon to a duel! They went at it for a minute until I realized the room was beginning to grow very hot. I jumped on Connor, avoiding his sword, and saved him from the scorch of the dragon’s flame. I began to grow angry, and would you like to know what that means?” There’s a pause, and I feel her nod. I lower my voice to a whisper. “It activates my magic. All blind people have it, you know.”
“Yep,” I say. “But unfortunately it comes with dreadful side effects. Being angry, I did not fully think through my actions. And so I cast a spell that would make the beast the size of a kitten. But it also turned my hair blue.”
Before I can tell her what happened next, we are interrupted. “Helen, Dr. Yoon is ready to see you.” “Well, that’s my sister. I better go,” the girl says, and she wiggles off my lap. She pauses. “Did that really happen?”
“Sort of,” I admit. “Sir Connor is real to me, but maybe not anyone else. And I dyed my hair blue so people would stop asking about my blindness.”
“Oh.” She considers it. “You should write a book.”
“A book?” I repeat. “Why?”
“Because you’d be good at it,” she says. “I know some of my friends would want to hear stories about what it’s like to be blind.” And she walks away, leaving Mom squeezing one hand and Connor the other. I am alone with my thoughts once again, and I think maybe not everyone is all that bad.
I groan as I walk home and look down at my nails. The black paint is already chipping off even though I just painted them the other day. I angrily adjust the pack on my back as I continue walking down the sidewalk, my boots crunching the fallen leaves that litter the path. I look up from my nails and notice a crowd of about twenty people gathered outside a house in my neighborhood. I hear them talking before I see what they’re discussing.
“What’s going on?” says some man in the crowd.
“Why’s he up there?” asks a young girl.
I walk up the path and to my horror, I see a boy standing on the rooftop of one of the homes. I know that house, it’s one of the few brick houses I pass on my way to and from school. I can’t tell who the boy is, but he’s standing on the ledge of the roof. My stomach drops, fearing the worst. I join the crowd hoping to get some information about what’s going on.
“Just some guy on the roof. Maybe suicidal,” explains a big bald guy. Thirty seconds later, at least ten more people join to watch. A few call 9-1-1, but most are just talking about the boy and asking question. Glancing at the crowd, I make my way to the back of the house. No one pays attention to me as I leave the group and enter the home. I climb up to the attic and find an open window. Assuming this is how the boy got to the roof, I squeeze through the small square space.
“Luke!” I exclaim, recognizing the boy. “What are you doing up here?” We’re both seniors in high school, and we’re in the same civics class. I would never have guessed he would be doing this. He’s on the football team, girls seem to like him, and our civic teacher can’t stand him because he talks all class period. I mean, I’m the weird girl who wears dark clothes that sits in the back of the class. I’m the one who doesn’t seem to pay attention. If you looked at us both, you would guess I would be the one on the ledge of a roof.
“Tiffany?” He looks a bit puzzled. When I try to walk to him, he warns,
“Don’t come any closer,” The crisp autumn air turns heavy as my fears become reality.
“Okay, Luke. I won’t, but talk to me. What’s wrong?”
He’s not facing me, but he must have been crying because his voice comes out scratchy. “Everything,” he mutters.
“Like what?” I asked, edging my way closer to him.
“Everything! My mom passed away from cancer, dad’s depressed, I don’t have any real friends. I barely feel anything anymore…except the pain.”
“I know how that feels, Luke. The pain. When life’s too real. I get that,” I say to him. I work my way closer until I’m a few feet away from him.
“Stop Tiffany! I’ll jump!” He shouts at me and glares back angrily, but in his eyes I see nothing but depression and desperation. I freeze.
“Luke, I get it, but I know that it gets better. It really does. You just have to push through this. I could help you!”
From down below, I hear the same man from earlier yell, “Jump already!”
Sickened, I beg, “No, Luke, please don’t!” I cry, “This doesn’t have to be the end!”
“No, he’s right,” Luke whispers. My eyes widen as I realize what he’s about to do. My heart aches as he chokes out, “It’s too late,” He leans forward, accepting his fate. Tears stream down my face and before I can even think, I run up, reach out, and rip him back from the ledge by his shirt. With a loud thump we both crash back on the rooftop. I look at his face; He’s not angry… he’s scared. He opens his eyes, looks at me, and sobs deeply. I move to my knees and hug him. He wraps his arms around me and continues to cry on my shoulder.
“It’s going to be okay. I’ll help you,”
“That’s all we say, and we just sit there.”
Eventually, he looks to me, signaling he’s ready to go. I stand up and reach out for his hand. The person in front of me is a young man preparing for adulthood, but all I see is a scared little boy. He reaches out and grabs hold of my hand. Our hands lock together, his rough and shaking, with mine small and soft. For that moment, I think, Luke isn’t the type of guy you think would end up on the roof contemplating ending it all, and I’m not the type of girl you think might end up doing anything important with her life, but I realized people aren’t who they seem to be. I’m not just some girl, I’m… a hero?
I pull him to his feet. Hand in hand, we walk from the roof to the attic door. As we make our way out of the building, the crowd applauds us. The police try to take Luke away, but I don’t let him leave my side. It’s not until I give Luke my number and tell him to call me whenever he needs help, and the police assure me they’re going to get him help that I let go of his hand. As I turn to leave, he grasps my hand again.
“Why?” he asks.
“Why what?” I respond, confused.
“Why did you run up there? Why did you save me?”
“Because…” My eyebrows furrow together. Why did I? I didn’t have to, but I never second guessed myself. It was natural. “Because it’s who I am,” I answer softly.
He nods, and with one final glance, I walk away.
I awoke screaming. Slowly, I calmed down as well I could before starting to cry into my pillow. I had no one. After glancing down at my wrists and the scars and scabs there I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep.
I awoke the next morning and changed out of my pajamas and into my usual black outfit, shoving an equally black jacket on over it. Then I went downstairs.
My father, a banker, glanced at me and pursed his lips, but chose not to say anything. My mother took one look at me and did the opposite.
“It’s been two months, Rosie,” she said, sitting across from me at the table. “You can come out of mourning.” I fiddled with my cereal and didn’t say anything. “I know you miss him,” she muttered. “We all do. But we need to move on.”
“I’m going to school,” I said abruptly, grabbing my bag and walking out the door. I didn’t look back at the massive house I’d exited, know mom would be watching. Instead I chose to look to the manicured lawn and the end of the driveway. Just as I arrived, the bus pulled up and the doors opened, allowing me to board.
Everyone greeted me with “Goth Girl!” I ignored it and kept walking to the back of the bus to sit, alone.
We stopped in front of the school a few taunting jeers later and I made my way to the locker I’d previously shared with my twin.
As I opened it I was hit with the realization I would have millions of times over every day: he was dead. I’d left it just the same for that reason. His things sat at the upper half of the locker, as if he was waiting impatiently for me to finish.
I filled my bag with everything I’d need for the day and closed the door.
My classes went by at a snail’s pace, frequented by the voices of those who I used to consider my friends making jabs at me.
My life was changed at lunch.
I sat in the back corner of the cafeteria, at my own table, under the flickering florescent lighting. Just like every other day, I imagined Alex sitting across from me, laughing. I unpacked my lunch. As I took a bite of my apple someone sat down across from me.
“Hello,” said a cheerful voice. “I’m Janet. Who are you?” For a moment I was stunned.
“Rosie,” I stammered. She smiled and began to eat her lunch as if there was nothing wrong. As I looked at her my eyes hurt. Even in the dim light her outfit practically glowed bright pink and green.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I said suddenly. She grinned.
“It’s nice to meet you. I’m new here,” she said, answering the question I never asked. “I only just moved from Windor.” I nodded and felt that it was my turn to make some polite conversation.
“What class do you have next?” I asked carefully.
“English with Mr. Hawthorne, I think.” I nodded, neglecting to mention I was in her class.
A week later she had grown on me. She had no idea that I like to take a razorblade to my wrists yet, and I hoped to keep it that way. Despite myself, I didn’t want to lose her.
“Why do they call you Goth Girl?” she asked one day. “Is it because you wear so many dark colors?”
I nodded. She moved on, talking at fifty miles an hour.
That night I made my way to the cemetery at the end of our street. I found Alex’s grave and sat down beside it.
“Hey,” I said. “I brought you something.” I laid a bluebird’s feather on the grave. “I know you couldn’t find one for your collection.
“I have a friend at school,” I continued, making myself more comfortable.
“Janet. I told you about her yesterday, remember? I want to tell her about- you know. I don’t know how, though. What do you think?”
“Rosie?” I started and turned. Janet stood behind me.
“What are you doing here?” we asked at the same time.
“This is where my mother’s buried,” she said, pointing to a plot a few rows down. “Cancer. Just before I moved here. Now it’s your turn, Rosie. Who’s this?” She pointed at my brother’s headstone.
“This is Alex,” I said. “He was my twin.”
“Hey, Alex,” she said softly. “I’m Rosie. It’s wonderful to meet you.”
“How’d he die?”
“There was an accident. A-A drunk driver came down the road as I was crossing…. Alex was waiting on the other side and saw him. He pushed me out of the way.”
“Oh….. Oh, no. Rosie, I’m so sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too, about your mom.” She shrugged.
“We knew it was going to happen. It still hurt, but we got to say goodbye, at least.” We were both quiet for a moment.
“Jan, I need to tell you something.”
“What is it?”
“They- They don’t call me Goth Girl because I wear dark clothes. I-I’m suicidal.”
“You do?” I gasped and she nodded.
“I have since the first day I was here.”
“And you- you still came to sit with me?” She nodded again.
I grabbed her in a tight hug. She grinned and hugged me back.
I couldn’t help but think that, somewhere, Alex was smiling down on me.
From then on I left the jacket in my closet.
The dripping of ice
is enough to drive me mad–
a wet cave floor slick
with memories is
nothing to swear by. He does
laugh sometimes, but can
not grin. I dream of
the world outside our stone walls,
built right underneath
purple mountains with
misty air or perhaps a
filled to the brim with
busy insects. My growing
mind is filled with things
I am not sure are
real. All I know are reaching
water streams and the
way his eyes perceive
my figure. I am sure more
coves hold other bits
of me, but he will
never let go of my sun-
lust hands. Some days I
do not know which of
us is guilty of capture.
I always try to
hold him an arm’s length
away, to pretend to find
meaning without him.
We are the sinners who are born with sin
And our very first sin is the act of being born itself
We come out of the womb
Already cloaked in the smell of dingy bars
Our flesh already bearing a sinners mark
Psalms 58:3 says
“The wicked are estranged from the womb;
These who speak lies go astray from birth.”
Be we never even had a path to stray from
We are born knowing that no one has paved the way for us
And we must tear through this world making our own sidewalks
Sidewalks that lead us cloudy rooms
A haze covering forgetful touches
Because the people touching forget we’re people too
And we forget we’re people
We’d rather be that lamp,
Anything is easier than being human
But out sinning tongues are never quite silent
We never quite accept our defeat
We gather as a family
So we can read bad poetry
And listen to sad stories
And drink way too much coffee
Because out circadian cycles have never been quite right
Together we share the same bruises that the earth has given us
It has always been our birthright to bear them
We are an honorable group of misfits
Toasting our victories with coffee cups full of liquor
And mourning our losses in exactly the same way
We take society’s silver spoons
And heat them for an escape
Then morph them into swords to use
When fighting the war against war
Because we have tasted the bitterness of injustice,
Taken a bite of the forbidden fruit
And we see that there’s more to living than a heartbeat
And so we spend the rest of our lives chasing life
Chasing a life that a sinner was never supposed to have
But what these sinners are choosing to want
And we as a group with nothing to lose
Can take the world in our shaking hands
You can barely contain your excitement; you’re finally seeing your best friend in person, face to face, close enough to touch, for the first time in a year. You guys talk every day, but it’s different when you can actually hug her, draw her in close, and breathe in the scent of her shampoo, hoping she hasn’t changed it in the 393 days that you two have been apart.
She’s supposed to be at your house by ten in the morning, and you know she won’t be late. Taking a cold shower, you sigh in relief when you’ve finally got a break from the summer heat.
You pretend like you don’t take too long picking out your outfit before settling on athletic shorts and a crop top. There’s a minute after you put your hair in a ponytail where you look at all of the perfumes on your vanity, putting careful consideration as to which one you should wear, if any, but then the doorbell rings.
That’s the first thing that alerts you to the change in your relationship.
She tackles you in a hug as soon as you open the door, something you’re grateful for, and her hair smells just like it did when you hugged her goodbye last summer.
“You smell just like you did the last time I saw you!” she exclaims, and there is no way for you to express how happy it makes you that she remembered the shampoo she once called weird. “You’re right, that damn smell has grown on me, or maybe I just miss you so much I can’t even complain.” She punches your arm, only a mere couple of inches from your breast, and your heart stops.
She pulls her hand away quickly, rather than running it down your arm like she used to, and that’s the second thing that alerts you to the change in your relationship.
The first thing you grab before you head upstairs is food, an essential to a reunion sleepover. You two practically raid the pantry, carrying armfuls of junk up the stairs and into your room, plopping the chips, dip, cookies, and many other snacks onto your bed.
As soon as all of the snacks are laid down, she tackles you into the bed in a much warmer hug than the one you got by the door. She’s breathing in your ear, and you can hear the little hitches in her breath, a tell-tale sign of her giggle that you so adore.
You push her off, pretending to huff and puff as you feign anger, but she only gives you that smirk, the one that knows all of your tells when you’re acting, and you just know that there’s no way you’ll ever get away with the secret that you’re coming to terms with.
“Just for that, you don’t get to pick the first movie!”
“Whatever, you weren’t gonna let me pick anyway.”
You move your hand over your heart, acting flattered, “you know me so well; how did I ever survive without you for over a year?” The batted eyelashes are only added for dramatic flair.
“I don’t know dude, I am pretty damn awesome,” she responds without missing a beat, batting her eyelashes back at you, and you have to wonder if she’s also doing it to get the tears out of her eyes.
There’s a moment of silence where you’re remembering all the times that you wished she was there, and a small, selfish part hopes that she’s doing the same.
“Enough of all this sappy shit!” she proclaims, rolling off of you, careful of the snacks, and getting into her relaxing position on her, self-designated, side of the bed. “So are we knocking out five movies or two seasons?” She asks, tapping her unpainted nails against the bed in excitement.
“I’m offended that you doubt our binge-watching skills! We could definitely get in more than two seasons! The question is: do we want nitty gritty plot or a light comedic show?” You ask, going over the shows you’ve seen that fit either of those categories, but none of them stand out.
“Hmmm, I’m in the mood for one of those shitty romantic dramas,” she says, stroking her chin and looking off into the distance as though she’s saying something philosophical.
For as long as you can remember, she has been this way: hot and then cold, always changing her mind but sounding as though she had always thought that way.
You suppose it fits perfectly that you’re pretty set in your morals but not confident in them at all.
The choice of the night ends up being an ongoing TV drama, from one of those channels that are only geared towards teenagers, about this boy and girl that have been best friends ever since elementary school and once they get to high school they have to face the fact that they date other people while avoiding rumors of them sleeping together. It’s basically like every other show of its kind, but the obvious romantic tension between the friends hits a little too close to home for you.
Things would be a hell of a lot easier if your best friend were a boy though.
By the time dinner is ready, you guys are halfway through the second season, and after that, there’s only one more season you have to watch until you’re forced to suffer through a month or two of waiting for the new one.
Dinner is spent with your parents getting caught up with her, and you notice how integrated she is into the life of everyone in the house. You don’t think your parents would mind going to a house you share with her, your kids running around in circles, for a birthday party, or Christmas, or just to come over for a visit. They wouldn’t mind at all.
The both of you head to your room, racing up the stairs, and ultimately, she wins, just like always. You’re both panting, honest to god hands-on-knees panting.
“We’re fat,” she laughs, still short of breath.
“I vote we blame it on the adrenaline.”
You’re knocked out by midnight, curled into the fetal position, facing her, with a light blanket covering your ankles. When you wake up, it’s only two, and you don’t want to have to deal with the loud volume of the TV. You settle for watching her, trying not to feel like too much of a creep, as she breathes, in and out, in and out. In a matter of five seconds, she’s inhaling part of the pillow case. It covers her open mouth, stopping her from breathing, and just before you can pull it away, her eyes open, looking into yours.
“Weirdo,” she yawns.
“Hypocrite,” you yawn back.
“You look cute when you yawn.” She’s said this before but not like this, not five inches from your face, not looking deep into your eyes, not sounding 100% serious.
“You look cute always.”
She smiles, and it’s two in the morning, you’re both half asleep, so you take a chance.
As soon as you press your lips to hers, she yawns, and you pull away, forcing out a laugh. She frowns at you and your heart stops. “That sure as hell wasn’t an invitation to pull away.” Your mind has yet to fully grasp her words and your heart has yet to start to beat again.
She moves so that there’s only one inch between you two, but before long, she closes it.
You hold her hand as you walk down the stairs the next morning. Your heart is racing, but the pulse in her thumb is steady. It’s a comforting thought that she’s not nervous at all, that she’s 100% sure in the choices that you both made.
Your parents see your hands, and for a second they look confused, their minds running over everything they’ve seen from you in the past years.
“Do we have to sleep in different rooms when I come over now?” She asks, making light of the situation and taking the attention off of you like she always does. You love it.
“So long as you promise not to get her pregnant,” your parents say at the same time, and all of you laugh; that’s exactly how the two of you are together, best friends with the possibility of something more.
You’ve spent the whole last year without her thinking of the way her smile got your heart racing, how something that even remotely reminded you of her brought a smile to your face, and how at night, after you two had hung up, you’d cry and cross off one more day on your calendar, sad that she was so far away but happy that you were one day closer to seeing her.
As you sit down, laughing at the next joke that she cracks, you notice how her smile is contagious, and you know that she’ll never let yours leave.
1863 The Emancipation Proclamation
1955 I will not change my seat
1963 Thousands marching for what they believe
1920 Harlem screams “We have a new beat”
2008 Welcome President Obama
1954 Separate is not equal
1963 I have a dream
History is not linear.
And without diversity, there is no true history
Because history is a tangle of events
That go in and out of existence
Becoming current when in the consciousness of someone’s mind
And going extinct when the world stops thinking about them.
This begs the questions,
Is history part of yesterday, or today?
Diversity is key to unraveling history.
Because like Philomela,
Those who’ve lost their tongue to speak
Are left with the duty of weaving the past
The world tries to hide.
And if we hide our past,
Our victories lose significance.
This victory is that it is 2016
The world is not colorblind!
We see the shades and flaws and beauty of humans,
As diverse and interconnected as the shades of a sunset.
No, we are not colorblind,
But we are learning to embrace the palette of humanity with open arms.
Like Martin Luther King Jr said,
“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
And we are learning.