"Alright, everyone, meet back at the town square in an hour!"
She watched as everybody rushed off in their respective small groups. She wasn’t particularly looking to spend the next sixty minutes with any of her friends.
She noticed that he was alone. She rushed towards him. “Mind if I join you?”
"Of course not." He paused. "Where to?"
He started off, and she followed obediently at his side. The crowd was metastasizing by the minute on the cobblestone bridge over the river. Artisans had their completed works displayed for curious and interested tourists, meanwhile passerbys were having their portraits brought to life by talented visual artists.
She was cautious in staying close to him; she knew that she could get into deep trouble if one of the tour guides found her alone. Occasionally, she would fall behind, but ever the gentleman, he would stop and wait until she caught up.
His eyes were hidden by his brimless sunglasses. She couldn’t tell how he felt with her in such intimate proximity. Was she imposing herself too much on him?
"I hope you don’t mind my company. I mean, I love my friends to bits, but I would rather walk across this bridge half a dozen times than shop until there’s a hole in my wallet."
He laughed. “Nah, I don’t. I would have been alone, anyway, and I enjoy having to talk with. Besides,” he looked at her as he said this, “I would let you know if you were being a thorn in my side.”
They walked by a set of statues.
"A lot of people like to rub their toes for good luck. See how they’re so shiny? Why don’t you go over? I’ll wait for you."
"I don’t believe in luck," she replied truthfully.
"Oh? What do you believe in then?"
"Fate." Her own glasses were tinted, but she hoped that her eyes sent the message across and that he had read it correctly.
"I don’t either, if it’s any consolation."
She continued beside him. Their hands would brush against each other once in a while, and each time that it happened, her breath would get caught in her throat. She wondered if he noticed.
Once off the bridge, the mobs of people were much less prevalent. There was finally breathing room.
But for some reason, they stuck together as closely as they had making their way across the bridge, despite all of the additional leg room.
"I’m going to miss this, when we go back."
"Ditto. Thanks for taking me across."
"Anytime. Thanks for joining me."
"I won’t ever leave you alone." She immediately regretted these words, and she increased the distance between them.
To her dismay, he came back beside her. He lifted her chin with his forefinger. “I know.”
She was terrified. Though he was still in his shades, she could see the fire burning deeply in his eyes. She couldn’t breathe. “I can’t.” We can’t do this.
"I know. But don’t think that you don’t mean anything." To me.
"You deserve better." Somebody better than I am.
"It doesn’t matter." Because she won’t be you.
"I…let’s go back. We’ll be late."
"You’re awfully quiet today."
"Huh? Oh, I’m just tired is all."
"Oh, if that’s the case, let’s just go to bed then."
At that, her roommate switched off the lamp on the nightstand. Both girls said their respective ‘goodnights.’
However, as her roommate drifted off to another world, she waited until all was silent. Once she was reassured that her friend had indeed fallen sound asleep, she untangled herself from the sheets and reached for her slippers. The key card to their hotel room lay right where she had purposely left it, and she quickly grabbed it. Silent as a ghost, she slipped out of the room.
Thankfully, the hall was empty, devoid of life. She made a beeline for the room down the carpeted corridor.
Three knocks - it was all it took. The door quietly slid open for her.
She finally allowed her eyes to glaze upwards. They trailed from his own slippers, to striped pajama pants, to a wrinkly shirt, to disheveled hair. A smile flourished across her face. Arms reached out for her, but she, suddenly energized, avoided capture.
She made herself at home, settling herself into bed and kicking off her slippers.
"Are you tired?"
"No, how about you?"
"Not anymore. Join me." She patted the empty space beside her.
He obliged, settling himself naturally. That was her cue to mold into him. She fit into his side perfectly.
"I missed you today."
"I know. I could sense your eyes boring into the back of my head all the way here."
"It’s not my fault that you look as good as you do regardless of back or front. I…I’m going to miss this, when things go back to normal."
"Will they ever go back to normal?"
He snorted. “Define normal.”
She chuckled. “Definitely not me.”
A hearty laugh erupted from him. “Well, obviously.”
"That’s why I found you, isn’t it?"
"And I you." He paused. "But really. What happens then?"
Grim graveness filled her entity. Silence ensued until she replied, “I don’t know. I only know that I won’t ever forget these moments between us. Whatever happens when we go back, I’m still, and you’re still you. We’ll live as when we did before coming here.”
"It’ll be hard."
"I hid it before, and I can hide it again."
"I don’t want to lose you."
"You won’t be getting rid of me easily." Breath was hard to come by. "Besides…I’m sure that you’ll find someone else just perfect for you."
"But what if I don’t want to?"
They were looking intently into each other now. Her lips parted, and she swallowed nervously. She reached for his wrist. Elevated pulse, dilated pupils, quicker breathing.
"We’ll wait and see. You have your entire life ahead of you, as do I."
She shifted her gaze to the clock behind. “I have to go now.”
"I know." A moment later, "Sleep well."
She had gotten up and had made her way towards the door. She looked back and said, “I will now.”
She tiptoed her way back into her own room and quickly settled herself. She heard her friend stir. “Where did you go?”
"I needed some air."
With that, both girls fell asleep until the crack of dawn.
She was up first, freshening herself up in a dash. She took the stairs down to eat breakfast. As usual, he was the only one up this early and already eating.
She took a seat across from him. “Good morning.”
"Hey. Sleep well?"
"Yeah, thanks to someone."
He allowed a momentary flush, something he never offers. But of course, she is the exception.
"I’ll see you tonight?"
"I’ll always return."
Don’t get me wrong: I like being happy, and I hate feeling down.
Just like any other human being on the planet.
When I feel down, I feel down, as if I’ve fallen into the ninth circle of Hell, as if the universe is plotting my demise, as if everyone is working against me.
Yet, whenever I feel happy, it’s so temporary: it never lasts long, it’s essentially a phase.
The negative seems to creep in ever so sneakily right afterwards.
Surprisingly, I am content with that.
In my mind, life isn’t always about coming out on top, winning all of your battles 24/7, feeling invincible.
So what about being number one? It gets lonely atop a mountain. So what about being the victor constantly? Do expect people to come at you with knives, poison, and any other creative methods of annihilating you. So what about feeling invincible? Humans are mortal, and therefore, we are supposed to succumb to pain, loss, and suffering.
Yes, I go into terribly cynical, black moods when I am at my worst. I lose faith in myself, I am unproductive for days, and I worry the people who care about me.
Yet, I realize that I cannot torture myself like that in the long run. Thus, I motivate myself to regain in self-trust, I work even harder to make up for days spent sulking and wallowing in self-pity, and I express my gratitude to the people who offer me words of comfort and hope for a brighter future.
Nothing lasts forever, be it positive or negative.
Life is like a sine function (I can’t believe I just made that analogy, but hey, I’ll work with it): it starts with nothing at first, it goes up, it goes down, it ends with nothing after the good has been balanced out with the bad, and it repeats in this cyclical structure.
I worked by busy-bottom off to perform well on my math final last semester, and it paid off: that one exam boosted my final term mark by nearly two per cent.
I’m aiming for acceptance into military college to which I know many people of my school - or any school in my school board or even the province, for the matter - will not even think of applying. I am aware of what foods I put into my body and of the strenuous exercise through which I put it for the sake of most effectively meeting the physical requirements.
I feel so lonely at times within a group of my own age. I don’t even know what it is about me that makes me feel so isolated. But at least I know that I am of some help to my friends who tell me that I always say the right thing at the right time.
I am not happy with life nor am I sad with it.
After all, life is about savouring the good times and persevering through the bad times.
She was never one for shutting her eyes. Out of fear of missing out, of you being in her sight one moment and gone the next; she doesn’t know.
It’s a long bus ride. Not that she minds. You could use the time to catch up on some well-deserved shut-eye, too. And so, you take out your music device, insert the buds into your ears, pick a song, and drift off.
She, however, is awake for the entire trip. Her eyes drift outside the window. Sometimes, it is rolling hills that she sees. Other times, it is small, rustic village.
And just sometimes, she turns to you. The rise and fall of your chest comforts her. The peaceful expression across your features awakens the butterflies in the pit of her stomach. The occasional shifts in your position reminds her that you’re only sleep - nothing more, nothing less.
A couple of times, upon changing your bodily orientation, your head falls upon her right shoulder. Your dark brown hair tickles her neck. Because no-one is watching, she dares to edge ever more closely and breathe you in - because she knows she may never be able to do so again sans scrutiny.
She can’t quite put a finger on your unique scent. Definitely masculine. Safe. Home.
It takes her all the self-control she can muster so as to not fall comfortably asleep on you.
She examines your hands. Those calloused fingers have strum an instrument once too many times, yet they are one of the things that she admires the most about you the most. They twitch in your sleep, and at times, even inch towards her own. Again, miraculously, she doesn’t reach out to hold onto them.
The length of your eyelashes rivals that of her own. She shuts her eyes for one moment to think of the diversity of your eyes, ranging from child-like wonder to unreadable stoic. They are the reason why you are her enigma. At that thought, as if a thunderbolt passes through her, she opens her eyes.
Oh, cruel Fate! Perfect place, perfect person, horrible timing…
She looks down at him again. If only her conscience would allow her to pursue him. If only it didn’t feel so good but be so wrong. If only he thought of her as often as she thought of him.
She sighs. Fate is objective. It spins its web with no individual or side in favour. Humans, unfortunately, suffer for its lack of subjectivity.
Reluctantly, she worms herself gently out from under him. She raises her hand to his face, and just before she makes contact, she shoos away her innate sin and draws away. She turns her focus back outside the window. City buildings, pedestrians, and other vehicles dot her vision.
The rest of the bus begins to stir awake. She releases a sigh of relief. Nobody had seen her play with fire.
She brings her hand to his cheek, and this time, initiates contact. Immediately, she draws her hand away, as if having touched a hot stove.
"Wake up, we’ve arrived."
I admit: I’m a pathological complainer.
But hey, I have my moments. Let this be one of them.
Thank you, Mom, for breathing life into me. You’ve sheltered me every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every year. For disciplining me when I deserved it. For teaching me life lessons and some school ones, too. For putting up with me when I wasn’t the most pleasant of human beings. For encouraging me to get up when I fell.
Thank you, Dad, for putting everything into giving me a good life. I know that, for a time, we spent years apart. I’m so glad that we’ve gotten close over the last few years. For telling me stories and the occasional conspiracy theory. For reassuring me that everything’s going to be alright.
Thank You, God, for sacrificing Your Son for humanity. I know that we don’t deserve Your unconditional love and compassion. For Your justice. For Your sovereignty. For Your holiness.
Thank you, Jesus, for the reconnecting me with Your Father. I am far from worthy. For being the Voice that I hear above all others.
Thank you, body, for being in relatively good health. For two strong legs that take me down unexplored trails. For ten fingers that dance their way across black and white keys. For two eyes that breathe in the beauty of the Earth. For two ears that delight in the serenade of sweet music.
Thank you, nature, for your sheer beauty. For the early-bird chirping. For oxygen-providing trees. For being an escapade, a safe haven. I will do all in my power to make sure you stay this way.
Thank you, school, for giving me a two-for-one package of pain and pleasure, tied up with a bow. For giving my life purpose. For giving me a future to which to look forward. For providing an environment that promotes curiosity, inquisitiveness, and constant learning, questioning, and pondering.
Thank you, teachers present and past. For being mentors. For challenging me. For making me think. For encouraging me. For reprimanding me. For comforting me after poor performance. For acknowledging me after good performance. For making me laugh. For believing in me.
Thank you, music. For understanding in ways another human being never will. For putting words into my mouth when my mind failed. For exalting my happiness, my sadness, my anger, my jealously, my love, my hate, and everything in between.
Thank you, Auschwitz, for showing me the lowest of the lowest points of humanity. For bringing tears to my eyes, coldness to my entire being, disbelief to my mind. For making me feel as I’ve never felt before. For reminding me to do the moral, just thing. For exposing all of the vulnerabilities of a people who endured infinite pain and suffering. For reminding us why you ought to never happen again.
I had never, ever felt so low for a non school-related reason.
I went to Europe back in late-October with my school. Of course, I had the best time of my life (it’s Europe, for crying out loud!) but there were definitely parts of that trip that I wish I could erase.
He is everything I could ever want. His love of music. His call to adventure. His velvety baritone. His lit-up eyes when we were astounded by the timeless beauty and culture of Europe.
The bounce in his step as we uncovered new ground. The way his eyes rolled back into his head from tasting foreign ice cream. The way he kept a conversation going when words escaped me. His excitement when he heard Chinese tourists conversing in Mandarin, encouraging me to initiate conversation with them (eyeroll.)
I’ll never forget that night.
My friend and I had a falling out over him. Not because we both liked him or anything like that. Because I liked him.
She said that I should give him some space. Well, I wasn’t attached to his hip 24/7. She said that I’d have kept him from going where he wanted to go. Well, when our tour guides gave us free time to explore, he would always ask me, “which way?” to which I would reply, “You decide”; horribly cliched, but I would follow where he lead me. She said that I was keeping him from his other friends. Well, he always went off alone, anyway, being the lone wolf that he is.
I admit, I don’t get mad as easily as I did when I was younger. Whatever she said to me didn’t give me the right to lose my temper the way I did. But, all was said and done, I did lose my temper, in tears, and ran out of the hotel room, leaving some of my other friends in the dust, too.
I ran down the hotel hallway, down a staircase, into the hotel lobby. It wasn’t horribly late, but the only people present were the concierge and one of my tour guides on the hotel computer. Bless her soul, she left me alone.
I bawled on a red couch. I was in my pajamas, at probably 11 or even midnight, and I was in my nightclothes, sprawled over an unfamiliar couch, crying my little heart out.
Then I heard the footsteps.
"Oh, Lord," I thought, "Please don’t let it be him.”
The Lord answered my desperate prayer.
It was another teacher - female. I had her for history last school year in Grade 10.
She sat down beside me, asked me what was wrong. Still in tears, I violently shook my head; I could not bear the embarrassment and shame of revealing what had happened, who I liked.
She gently told me to take deep breaths and turn off the waterworks. Surprisingly, I did as she said. (When I start crying, it is nearly impossible to get me to stop.)
Ever the curious child that I am, I asked her, “How did you find me?”
"I heard sobbing down the hallway."
Oh. That means that he probably heard me, too, unless all my of school’s hotel rooms had been split up to cover two floors. Ah, well…
Again, she asked me what was wrong, and somehow, I spilled everything.
To my dismay, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Not only that, but she was completely understanding and sympathetic. “You don’t control who you fall for,” she said simply.
She offered me a hug, which I wholeheartedly accepted, and trudged my way back to my room to catch some sleep.
The next morning, I got ready quietly and slipped out the room before my roommate had awoken. I made my way down to the breakfast area.
I grabbed a mug of coffee and some fruit and took my seat, alone.
Before I knew it, I heard his “good morning” as he sat down across from me, along with some of my friends from the previous night - obviously, not including the girl from whom I had cowardly escaped.
I didn’t know what to do. I could feel the tears rising to my eyes again, that sinking, gnawing demon at the pit of my stomach, tearing my heart and head apart.
Ever the stupid fool, I looked up from my java. I met his eyes. His concern flashed before my vision. Then I ran, again.
I ran to the ladies’ restroom, which, thankfully, was a short distance away. My hands gripped the counter until my knuckles went a ghostly white. The European lady who was admiring her reflection in the mirror dashed away.
I gave myself a couple of minutes, let the tears flow. Then, I turned on the tap, wet a paper towel, and wiped my eyes - to no avail, they were still evidently red.
I walked out of the restroom into another female teacher, this time, my civics teacher from summer school.
She let me cry on her shoulder. We talked things out. She was not at all dumbfounded by my confession. “Come on, hun, I was a sociology major.”
At that, I had the wind knocked out of me, “Is it really that obvious?” Her silence and pointed look sufficed a response.
For the next couple of days, I gave him the cold shoulder. I was trying to deal with my internal struggle.
However, my guilt got the best of me; it wasn’t his fault for all that had transpired between my friend and me.
"I’m sorry," I said dumbly.
For some reason, I can’t remember what he had said in response to that - or, his lack of response. I really can’t.
To this day, I wonder if he understood my implications to those two words.
You probably wonder, as do I, if I still like him.
Well, after returning from Europe, I seemed to had lost interest for him. My ears no longer perked up from hearing his name. The butterflies in my stomach disappeared at the sheer glimpse of him.
However, he’s currently overseas, and I find myself missing him all over again.
Fortunately, or tragically, I’ll be graduating not this school year but the next.
I’ll be headed off in a completely new direction. Like everything that had once captured my soul, he will be a mere, distant memory.
Why must forbidden fruit taste the sweetest?