The colors are almost too vibrant. They seem fake. The blue sky is almost too blue, like some sort of crayola marker. The contrast between it and the green leaves of the trees that line the field is uncharacteristic. It’s too real, it’s too fake. Every detail on the blades of grass are exemplified in the summer light. Everything is too clear. I’m not used to being able to distinguish between individual leaves on which i can see the veins, sun spots, and patches of decay. There are shadows underneath the trees, but even in the absence of light the focus is clear.
Click. He leaves the office building with briefcase in hand and cellphone up to his ear. His eyes are straining in the harsh sunlight now greeting him. Click. He weaves his way in and out of the crowd, desperate to hail a cab. Click. His stress and anxiety are visible on his angled face, even from her safe distance of 200 meters back. Click. Butterflies are dancing in time with the arrival of Herr Drosselmeyer. She lowers her camera and observes as a woman cloaked in rags walks up to him, her wrinkled hands stretched out in help. Her assumptions are confirmed as she watches him smile, reach into his back pocket and fish a few bills from his wallet. The woman has tears in her eyes, thanking him profusely. Click. The smile remains on his face even after the woman has left. Click. A cab finally surges forward through the traffic and he gets in. Click.
Her camera is tossed gently to the passenger seat and her fingers find the key, engine roaring to life. She finds herself humming along as she merges into the flow of the traffic. There’s no rush for she knows exactly where he’s going, just as she’s known for the past three weeks. He is predictable and she loves it.
I am a whirlpool of conflicting emotions, a sea of complete confusion. I feel nothing and everything at once. I am angry; I am livid; I am furious. Never in my all my years have I felt such a fiery passion this strong coursing through every inch of my body. I am sad; I am hopeless; I am desperate. I feel as if my walls are about to finally come crumbling down. I feel as if there is no reason to go on any more. I am scared; I am nervous; I am terrified. My breath is uneven as I feebly attempt to calm myself down. Panic is all I know, the future is lurking over my shoulder, slowly beginning to crowd my mind. I am happy; I am joyful; I am thankful. For once in my pathetic life things are finally working out. The sun is shining down on my pale skin as I laugh and take it all in; you’re only young once. The feelings are overwhelming and unbearable. How have I managed to survive this long? It’s a battle inside my mind, a power struggle in my heart. There are too many feelings and no time or energy to give. They continue waging their war, leaving me the hopeless victim. I just want it all to end. I just want to find peace in the midst of the storm.
It’s hot; unbearable, sweat inducing, want to pull off my skin so my insides can finally breath type of heat. It’s a heat wave, a national travesty. We should all be cooped up inside our identical suburban houses where our overpriced air conditioner units whir furiously away. We should be isolated from the deadly rays of light. The thick humid air is acting as a magnifying glass, each individual pore the cruel subject of pain. I am an ant and this is where my time will end. I feel as if I might actually die. Shade is futile and useless in every sense of the word. Refreshments are a laughingstock. There is no escape and there will be no escape. We are eternally damned in the sun’s rays.
When his alarm went off at 4:34 in the morning, the cheerful voices of morning radio announcers blaring in his ear, Louis thought he was literally going to punch a hole in his wall. He pulled a pillow over his head and screamed. I hate everything, he told himself, and everything hates me back. His agent was about to drop him on the ultimatum that he find a serious project worthy of their firm within three months, his girlfriend of almost two years had just decided that she needed something more serious- what could be more serious than moving halfway across the world just so they could be together- and left him, and he was somehow still working the same job that he landed when he first moved out to LA. His apartment was shit. He hadn’t seen his family since he moved out to the good ol’ USA. And to top it all off, some cheery asshole named Brittany was yelling in his ear about the traffic congestion on some highway that Louis really didn’t give a fuck about.
He breathed easier as he lifted the pillow from his face and blinked, his eyes still heavy. Some upbeat pop song that had been on replay for the past few weeks replaced Brittany’s voice and Louis felt his bad mood slip away into oblivion. Yes, music. Music was something Louis could handle, even if it had been drilled into his head by every radio station in the area. Music was the one place Louis could find solitude, comfort. Music was the one thing that never seemed to let him down. It took three songs for him to work up the strength to sit up, and another two for him to actually get out of bed, his fingers massaging his lower back as he made his way through the bedroom and out into the kitchen. Lights illuminated the room, bouncing off the stainless steel and chrome appliances. Louis bypassed it all and plugs in the kettle. Mug, tea, and sugar were located by the time it finished and soon he was holding liquid warmth in his hands. Humming to himself, Louis strode back to his bedroom. The tea was beginning to set in, the blood in his veins flowing smoother and quicker, waking him up from the inside out.
it was easier than I had expected, falling back into the rhythm of our friendship. The laughter and playful jabs at one another; it was all coming back far too quickly. It was comfortable being in her company, unlike the past few visits where I wanted to throw myself out of the window to avoid awkward small talk and smiles that spoke of a past that never happened. Just because it was comfortable didn’t mean that I didn’t lie to her; no, I did plenty of lying. Almost every anecdote and clever quip that passed through my lips was lie; but how was she supposed to know? There was a part of me that was still clinging to the way I used to be able to confide in me, but the new and improved me (hardened by years of being left without a confidant of any kind) was wary to reveal anything that could potential tie her closer to me. I wove the lies loosely in between the few threads of truth. I didn’t owe her anything. She didn’t deserve the truth.
I know immediately as I pull into the McDonald’s parking lot that this was a mistake; I should continue looping around the lot and just go straight home. I shouldn’t have agreed to come in the first place, but I did out of politeness and so here I am. I twist the key and the engine’s hum dies away. I glance at my reflection in the rearview mirror before getting my bag and heading out the door. I can taste the panic beginning to rise in my stomach. My body is in turmoil; I hate this, I hate this, I hate this. I pull the door open and see a sea of people I know, none of whom actually acknowledge my presence. There is a line in front of the counter and workers rushing haphazardly behind. Laughter fills the air and the strong stench of french fries adds to the overall adrenaline. It’s almost midnight, and the restaurant is packed.
I wait my turn, messing about on my phone to distract myself from the fact that I am painstakingly alone in a sea of my peers. Every once in a while I will glance up and catch the eye of someone I laughed and joked with only an hour before; they say nothing and I follow suit. The disproportionate group of girls and boys finally finishes giving their order and as they step to the side I move up and smile to the cashier. Quickly she takes my order and I pay, dropping the change into the tip jar rather than embarrassing myself with slipping it into my wallet. I step to the side and fold my ticket into various sizes of triangles while I wait for my number to be called. About ten minutes has passed since I walked in and the mass of people have separated into three distinct groups around the room. They call my number and I thank the worker politely as I accept the bag. Now, the moment I have been dreading- where to sit. Each of the groups seem full, enwrapped in themselves, in their own little worlds. I bite my lip and decide to prolong the decision by going to fill my drink up. I set my things down and pull on the ice dispenser; it comes too fast, just like the diet coke does. Sighing to myself I slip a lid onto my large cup and rip open a straw using my teeth. It feels as if my insides are about to revolt, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to eat anything that I ordered.
I walk over to the group in the middle of the restaurant and smile at the girl. She smiles back. I still feel like I’m going to throw up as I set my stuff down and walk to go pull up a chair. They welcome me to the table and I laugh as they make fun of the people sitting in the booth next to them. I take a sip of my drink; I’m sweating and I pray no one can tell.
"Do you want to drive, or do you want me to pick you up?"
she paused for a moment and thought before she lifted the phone back up to her ear. She liked driving, more so than everyone thought she would. She liked the freedom it gave her. Her car symbolized so much, even though she didn’t use it as often as she should. She liked the taste of the road underneath her tires that had seen more life than her own eyes. Whether it was a winding country road or highway filled with bumper to bumper traffic, a thrill filled her veins as she pressed the gas pedal down. Driving was living, and she needed to do some more living.
"No, I can drive myself. Should we take one car or two?"
I smell like a mixture of sweat and dirt. The sun is beating down against my sensitive pale skin but the sunscreen is a few feet out of reach. I stretch out my arm, feign an actual attempt at trying to reach it and give up, my arm collapsing back to my side. I return my attention back to the conversation the girls are having besides me. A few moments is all I need to realize that it’s the same mindless chatter that people everywhere at this party are having and close my ears to the gossip.
It’s truly a beautiful day for the party. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the fresh crab is overflowing. A huge tent is situated at the base of the back yard, tables crowded underneath, all filled with friends and family chattering away, their fingers messy with the remnants of crabs. The pond is filled with canoes and dogs chasing after tennis balls tossed in after much pleading on the dogs’ part. The pool is where all the little kids and teenagers who are too cool for the whole thing are hanging out, the former having the times of their lives in the water while the latter are trying to cover up how much fun they are actually having. Lawn games are out and queued around. Country music and drunken laughter fight for attention as they drift through the air.
I roll over on my towel to lie on my stomach and grab my phone. My sunglasses do little to reduce the dreadful glare on the screen, but I manage as I scroll through the update of the awards show. If anyone asked, I would say I was having fun; there were people for me to talk to, food for me to eat, and a nice bit of sun for me to get. And yet I continued to scroll through my phone, checking up on what I was missing. I wished to get out of the sun and get a glass of ice water, maybe even take a little nap. One of the dogs came up to me, soaking wet, with a muddy tennis ball in her mouth. I took it and tossed it into the pond.
He couldn’t believe he had found it. After years of missing it and aimlessly searching through antique shops, he had finally found it; the couch. It wasn’t any couch. This was the couch he grew up on, the couch on which his grandmother read him a story each and every night before bed. This couch had meant the world to him. He had been devastated beyond belief when his grandmother was moved to the nursing home, his uncle had taken it upon himself to “clear out the clutter” in her house, and the couch was the first to go.
The couch was beautiful, elegant. It’s plush velvet cushions were a deep red making it seem like it should have belonged in some high end opera theatre box rather than in a victorian household. It’s woodwork was detailed to a tee, the clawed feet scratching the wood floors whenever it was pushed across the room to make the creation of a blanket fort that much easier. It was a couch built for two, and maybe a friend, a love-seat with a little extra space. The two ends rose as the back of a couch should, but then both sloped to meet in a dip in the middle of the back. It looked like a soft rounded m, his favorite letter. The couch seemed to hold all of the sophistication in the world to the little boy.
He had been playing the role of a dutiful boyfriend soon to be fiance when he agreed to go antiquing with her. He had really wanted to stay home and sleep off the regret from the week’s mishaps at work, but at 8:30 sharp they were out the door and on the road. The first few shops had all been duds and after they ate lunch they were already arguing the point of continuing on to the last one she had mapped out. As usual in their arguments, she won and took the wheel to drive to their final destination. The couch had been something she had overlooked, zeroing in on the throw pillows adorning it instead. She had called him into the room, lifting one of the patterned ones into her arms to give it a good squeeze. He had come in tired and defeated, only to focus on the holy piece of furniture she seemed to care so little about. He couldn’t describe his excitement to her as he shoved the pillows off and plopped down on the cushions just like he had when he was a child. He was still a child while sitting on the couch. No matter what his girlfriend said about clashing with the apartment, or too expensive, he was buying this couch. It was his couch. He had found it at last.