A story about being yourself, art, and all sorts of stuff. Should I continue the story?
|March twenty-sixth, two thousand and five was an important day in my life. It began as all my days of high school did, with me waking up at 6:00 to the braying of an alarm, pressing the snooze button, and burying my head in the snug pillow. I had been up late the previous night doing homework, and had the energy level of a exhausted sloth. Ten minutes later, the clock reminded me of its existence by activating the alarm again. I pushed off the covers, and slowly lifted myself out of the warm bed to the chilly rest of the world.
I took a cold shower, trying to shock my brain into waking up. Instead all it did was make my hairs stand on end. I got dressed, ran downstairs, poured myself a bowl of dry cheerios, wolfed them down, and ran out the door. I checked my watch. It was 6:29. I walked to my stop, knowing that I had a little time to spare. I looked into the three familiar faces at the stop: My girlfriend, Abby, who was filing her nails and fiddling with her hair, a acquaintance-friend of mine named Joey, who stared at the ground, and Dawn, the girl who constantly had her eyes fixated on her drawing pad. Abby was tall for a girl, thin, even for a girl, with bright blond hair, blue eyes that reminded me of sapphire, and a nice, friendly smile, which she always wore around me. She was the kind of girl that other girls would jealously whisper about, and that guys would sneak a look at if they could as she passed by. Of course, most of them had stopped out of courtesy, about four months ago, at least when I was around.
So,” I said to her, “What's up?”
“Nothing,” she said, looking into a tiny mirror and adjusting her makeup with her right hand.
“I'm tired,” I said, feebly attempting to make conversation.
“Like, me too.” She wasn't very talkative. But then again, not many people are at six thirty AM.
The bus came rolling up, grinding to a halt with a screech. We all walked on the bus. I sat next to Abby, and put my hand out, a not so subtle hint that she should hold it. On a normal day, she would have. But this was no normal day. She pulled away her hand, the smile that she always wore vanished, and she looked away from my face. “I think we should break up,” she said, without a hint of emotion in her voice.
I felt a nasty sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, like my heart was getting dissolved by the burning acids within. I was desperately confused, we seemed to be getting along fine. I weakly replied, “Why?”
“I, like, think our relationship is, like, done.” Her tone was a little more stressed now. Her eyes, which had seemed like sapphire moments before, looked as cold as glaciers.
I regained my composure slightly, and replied dryly, “I wasn't aware.”
She was mad now. “You totally irritate me!"
I stuttered, "How? I mean, I can change. I'm sorry."
"Yeah right," she said, as she brushed her hair out of her eyes.
"Well, what's wrong with me then?"
"You're just...weird. You have creepy friends, you spend so much time at home..."
"What's wrong with that?" I became conscious of the fact that my voice was steadily getting louder.
"What's wrong with that! You should know exactly what's wrong with that!”
“What's wrong with that?” I bellowed, moving in closer to her face.
“What's wrong with that, is that your friends scare me, and you're like some stupid nerd, always hanging out with his parents...”
“So what do you want me to do?” I said like a snake, quietly but harshly.
“I want to break up with you, just like I said.”
I moved away from her, across the aisle.
Joey, who was directly behind me, said, “Woah, dude, what was that all about?”
“Abby just broke up with me,” I said in disbelief.
“Oh dude, look.”
“Jamie Johnson,” Joey said, “Is sitting right behind her. The whole school will know about it in an hour.” Joey moved away to talk to other people. I stared out the window, and attempted to hold back tears that were starting to form inside my eyes. It was over for good. She seemed not to care, talking to people around her as if today were a perfectly normal morning, laughing and batting her eyelashes.
I didn't hear anything about Abby until lunch. I was walking toward a table of my friends, with my normal lunch, pasta in a unseasoned tomato sauce that contained a meat-like substance. They were really rowdy and talkative, even more so than normal. “Hey, Leo!” shouted out Grant, in his low, booming voice. “Heard you broke up with Abby.”
I sighed. If anyone didn't know by now, his voice surely had alerted them. “Yes,” I replied. “Yes I did.”
“What did you do?” jabbed in another.
“Shut up, guys. I really don't want to talk about it.” I could feel my face start to get hot, and I looked down at my food, and began to shovel it in quickly.
Another one said, “I heard she dumped you for some black kid.”
“That's nice.” Shut up, be quiet...
“You didn't expect it to last, did you?”
“She dumps guys constantly. It's like her hobby.”
“I can't believe what an idiot I was.” A black wave of regret, embarrassment at my foolishness, and anger washed over me like I was a shell on the beach. The other guys had resumed talking among themselves now, but my ears started to ring, and my hands started to sweat. My friends blurred together, a twisted mass of gelled hair and collared shirts. I felt nausea creeping up in my gut. I needed to get out of here.
I stood up, and walked out of the lunchroom. I needed to head outside. Fresh air would help me clear my head. My face was red with rage and embarrassment, and I walked in large strides, as fast as I could without seeming out of place. I stumbled outside, breathing in the brisk, cleansing air. I looked around quickly for somebody to talk to, who might be supportive about the breakup. I spotted the skateboarder posers, riding around, showing off the fact that they could do a kick flip. Not in a million years. The only other person I spotted was Dawn, her black hair draped over her slender, nimble hands and the drawings nobody ever saw. I went over and sat by her, putting my desperate need to talk to someone about Abby over my overwhelming shyness.
Dawn looked at me in a funny way. There was a little bit of disapproving surprise in it, but it was more curiosity. She went back to drawing, and said, “I heard you broke up with Abby.”
“I don't know... It's just that we've been going out for four months and five days, and I felt like our relationship could last a while.” Dawn listened politely, looking at me and nodding sympathetically, as if I was an urchin describing the story of how he came to live on the street. “And I don't know...I just feel so used.” There was a pause. Dawn lips were sealed. “What should I do?” I asked. There was another long silence.
I had almost given up on Dawn answering when she said, "You shouldn't be sad.”
"How can't I be?” I said angrily.
"Well, I mean, you should. It's only natural. But focus on something else. Notice how the trees have already grown their leaves so early this year?" I didn't, or hadn't. I thought perceiving that as being equal to big problems was foolish, like something a little kid would do.
“Is that how you deal with it?” I asked her.
“Life. I mean, no offense, you don't have many friends, and...I dunno.” Actually, she had exactly zero friends that I knew of. I hid my embarrassment by laughing uncomfortably. Her expression hinted that I shouldn't have asked her that. But I needed something that I could use to towel the black wave off of me.
"Better no friends that lots of fake ones," Dawn said with a bit of irritation on the edge of her voice.
I went red in the face. The words cut me like a knife, and I almost swung back. But instead, I backed down, saying, “Sorry. But how do you deal with it?"
Her expression softened. She said knowingly, “Why do you think I draw all the time?”
That didn't make much sense to me. I asked, “Can I see your drawing?”
“Sure.” She handed me her drawing.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. I was expecting something cutesy, a sun, some unicorns, maybe some cheesily drawn kids frolicking in a park. But what I saw instead was a tragic scene, of a child in her room, crying. The door was open a crack. Outside, you could see a sliver of two parents arguing. The child had a small thought bubble, that showed the two parents happily holding hands on either side of him as they walked along. The shading was amazing as well, and added to the atmosphere of innocence corrupted by despair.
“Wow,” I said. It was like looking in the notebook of DaVinci, perceiving his marvelous sketches in real life.
“I don't like it,” said Dawn
“You don't?” I said in a voice raspy from the shock of Dawn's statement.
"Of course it's basic! It's raw! It's beautiful! God, I wish I could draw art like that.”
“You don't have to draw to be an artist. There are other kinds of art. Music, for example.”
“Are you kidding? I was in a music class a few years ago. If you were in it, you'd know I can't carry a tune.”
“Oh right." She paused for a moment. "What about storytelling? You know, writing.”
“I'd be good at that, I guess. I used to scare my friends with ghost stories when I was little, and I don't think I ever got even as low as an A- on a paper. Plus, my older brother was good at writing.”
“Well, that could be your drawing!” said Dawn with enthusiasm.
“I'll try it!” I said smiling.
“Trust me, it helps. You'll get over Abby in no time.”
The bell rang out. “See you on the bus!” said Dawn. I stood up, and walked to class.
The next two hours passed slowly. I tapped my pencil arrhythmically against the desk, eager to go home, fire up our old Windows 2000, and write something to get my anger and my regret out.
Eventually, the bell rang, and I went out to the bus. I didn't sit by Abby, but that was a given. I instead sat by Dawn. When I sat down, people gave me weird looks. Abby looked genuinely shocked, and scrambled around, whispering to her friends. I smiled. I think I must have made her jealous without even trying.
"Hi," said Dawn.
"Hello," I replied.
"It sure is a nice day outside."
"You seem pretty happy?”
“Because you notice stuff like that.”
"I'm happy sometimes, I guess. But I'm not always happy. I have problems, just like everybody else at the school. I just deal with them through art."
"I wonder what that's like."
"You're going to find out, if you start writing."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Nothing does. It's just a hunch."
Dawn went back to drawing, and I looked around the bus, taking in joy at the still surprised faces.
The bus pulled up to the stop, and Dawn and I walked out. "You gonna write something?" she asked.
“What should I write?”
“Just write what you feel. So will you?”
"Yeah, as soon as I get home."
I attempted to stay true to my word, but when I got home, my mom headed me off. "Hi," she said with a motherly half smile, "How was your day?"
I simply replied, "Good," and began to walk to my room.
My mom called out to me, "Can I get some more detail with these cookies?"
"I dunno mom..." I didn't feel much like talking.
"They're fresh baked."
I didn't want to make her worried, because I never turned down fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. "Ok mom, I'll come."
She set out a plate of several cookies, and poured a glass of milk. I sat down, and ate the cookies like a hyena eating a freshly killed zebra.
"So," said my mom in a poorly veiled curious voice, "how was school today?"
"Go on..." said my mom, leanining on the table.
I might as well come right out and say it. They would find out eventually. "I broke up with Abby."
"Oh, Leo! How awful!"
"Ehh...it's not so bad." My indifference amazed my mom, and, quite frankly, it amazed me as well.
"She broke up with me, we fought a little, that was it."
"Alright. I can understand if you don't want to talk about it."
"I'm gonna go to my room and work on some homework, ok mom?"
"Ok honey. Here, have some more cookies."
I walked up to my room, and booted up the computer, thinking about what I wanted to write about. Nothing came to mind. I pounded my head with my fist. Perspiration started to form on my forehead. There had to be something.
Dawn's words came back to me. “Just write what you feel.” I felt my soaked skin dripping with anger at Abby for being an uncaring bitch; I felt regret for not seeing that, and embarrassment that all my friends had chosen to make fun of me about it. So that's what I wrote, my fingers darting around rapidly, struggling to keep up with the speed of my thoughts. As I wrote, I could feel the towel of art pushing away the black water that had kept me soaked since that morning. When I finished, my fingers ached and my wrists were cramped, but it was finished. I was dry again.
It wasn't Shakespeare, but I thought it was good. I heard the door slam, meaning my mom had come home from picking up Tony, my younger sibling. I went downstairs to see them come in. Tony ran in, zipping around like a ball of light energy. He said, “Hi Leo!”
“Hi Tony!” I replied. I began to walk back upstairs.
“Where you going?” he asked, following me closely.
“Upstairs, to go do homework.”
He leeched himself onto my leg, and I dragged him along, trying to shake him off. I finally grabbed him and yanked him off. He ran away to his room. I said to my mom, “It irritates me like crazy when he does that!”
“He just loves you, honey. You did that to your older brother when you were his age.”
After a few agonizingly slow moving hours, the day finally came to a close. My dad still wasn't home yet, but he rarely got home before ten o'clock. I shut out the light, with my story shoved in my backpack so I could show Dawn.
The next day, I arrived earlier than I normally do at the bus stop, but everybody else was already there anyway. I had brought my story, and I was eager to show it to Dawn. I approached Dawn, ignoring Abby, who looked loathingly at me as I walked by, and greeted her with a shy, “Hello.”
“Good morning. Did you write your story?”
“Yeah, I'll show you on the bus.”
“Why not just show me now?”
“Just cause. You know, I just don't feel like pulling it out.”
The bus pulled up, with the same high pitched screech it made every morning, and I walked on it. Dawn and I sat down. I pulled out my story, and quickly and stealthily passed it off to her, like I was playing hot potato.
She scanned over the papers quickly, yet I could tell she was analyzing each word. I wasn't sure what she thought of it. She looked up from the sheets, smiled, and said, “It's good, for a first draft.”
“What should I do to make it better?”
“Edit. Make sure every word is needed, and is the best word. Like it's a poem. I like the basic premise of the story, but maybe if you add a few anecdotes, or change a few specifics.”
“Ok.” I quickly snatched the paper back and, turning my backpack so nobody could see into it, shoved it back in. “I wish I could write like you draw. You know, get it awesome the first time,” I said jealously.
“It's all a process. You don't get perfection on your first try.”
“I dunno, that sketch you showed me was sweet.”
“You haven't seen the best ones. I keep those at home.”
“Can I see them?” I said, without thinking. When I realized that I had just asked to be invited over to her house, I stuttered, “Well, I mean...just like, you know, bring them here sometime...”
“Just come over and see them after school.”
“Your parents won't mind?”
“They won't notice. Now, will you come over after school?”
“Of c...yeah, I guess.”
That day, when I arrived at school, I got a nasty surprise when I was approached by a few of my friends. “So...” said one, as he jabbed me with his elbow. “Gotten over Abby already?”
“What are you talking about?” How would they know about the writing.
“You've been hanging out with Dawn.”
“Oh, that.” I felt a nervous tingle go throughout my body.
“So, what's with that? She's not that hot or anything.”
“Uhh...I know.” A feeling of loathing for my superficial friends filled my veins.
“Listen man, forget about it. I'm having a party Friday, and I'd like you to be there. My parents won't be home, so it's gonna get wild. What do you say?”
I was silent for a minute, unable to decide or articulate my decision.
“Listen,” said another one of them, “It'll take your mind off Abby.”
I still had misgivings, and stayed silent, my face still slightly red. Finally, I squeaked out, “Yeah, I'll be there.”
“Ok man, see ya there.”
I shuffled away, punching myself in the arm. Why didn't I stand up to them? Why did I go back into must-be-popular mode? I should of defended Dawn, and I didn't even want to go to the party. All of first hour, I was beating myself up over it. But by second hour, I had gotten over it, and was thinking forward to lunch. I was scribbling down add-ons and corrections on my paper until it was practically a solid mass of graphite. Before I knew it, the lunch bell was ringing.
At lunch, I didn't feel very hungry, so I decided to go type on add-ons to my story in the library. The library was quiet, almost completely deserted. The old, crotchety librarian guarded the books like a hydra, so even those who wanted to read or work never came in here. I sat down, and began to type. It was very peaceful here, a good place to do writing without any distractions. I typed for a while, and it felt good, like I was ridding myself of all the problems of the day, and just being me for a little while. All the sudden, one of my friends came walking up. I quickly minimized my paper and turned to face him. “Hey,” he whispered, “where have you been?”
“Just working on some homework.”
“Let me see.”
I helplessly and reluctantly, maximized the paper. My friend peered at it, and laughed, “What is this crap?”
“It's just fiction...for my English class,” I lied quickly.
“Whatever...nerd.” I could feel my face get red with embarrassment. My friend left. I quickly printed out what I had written and shut down the computer. I walked outside to sit next to Dawn. She was drawing. As I walked up and sat down, I said, “So, what are you drawing today?”
“Same thing. Just doing some more shading.”
“How long does it take you to draw those?”
“For a drawing like this, one week from start to finish,” said Dawn, changing the direction of her shading.
“Did you take my suggestions on your writing?”
“And then some. The paper's covered in pencil.”
“Yeah, it's fun. It's hard to believe I didn't even know anything about you or writing this time yesterday.”
“That's high school for you.” She and I both laughed. There was a long pause, the only sound the chirping birds, the scratching of Dawn's sketching, and the distant clatter of skateboards.
“Why did you tolerate me being here?”
She looked up from her drawing at me, and a thoughtful expression passed her face. “Quite honestly, I have no idea. I think I had a little bit of sympathy for you.”
“Are you still feeling bad about Abby?”
“A little. It's hard to have a relationship that goes bad so fast.”
The bell rang. Dawn said, “Awh, I didn't get hardly any drawing done!”
“It's ok. I like having someone to talk to.”
“Can't you talk to your parents?”
“Not really. They don't care much about me.”
My mouth hung open, with no response seeming appropriate. “Bye Dawn,” I squeaked out.
The last couple hours went fairly fast, for a school day. When the clock finally ticked to 2:57, and the bell rang, I picked up my backpack and scrambled out the door, itching to get to the bus. I half walked, half ran to the bus, and sat down. Dawn arrived shortly afterward and sat next to me. “No talking,” she said. “I have to finish this drawing.”
“Ok,” I said, and looked out the window. The bus pulled away, and we quickly moved from suburbia to the pure, hilly countryside. I hadn't taken the time to look recently, but I loved this area. There was a complete absence of trees, and the light green hills were sprinkled with cows and sheep. My friends Carl, James and I always used to roll down the hills until we got too dizzy to walk. It didn't take very long. Then we would walk over to the gas station, the only piece of civilization for two miles, and get pop and candy. And then Carl would make James laugh, and he would shoot soda out his nose. All of a sudden, sadness rippled throughout my body. I bowed me head, fearing that if I looked at the hills any longer, I would begin to cry.
“Dawn,” I said.
“Do you remember Carl? And James?”
“Yeah, I remember them.”
“I used to be best friends with them.”
“I remember that.”
“We were blood brothers. They would always would cheer me up if I was upset...and I would do the same for them.”
“You were inseparable. What happened to them?”
My voice cracked slightly. “James moved to Texas, and I haven't seen him since.”
“What about Carl?”
“Carl...we stopped speaking because of some fight over a girl. He was in love with her, but she was in love with me. I was such an idiot...I should have turned her down. I should have chosen to stay friends with him....” I looked away from Dawn, barely holding back tears that were begging to get out. She reached over and put her hand on my shoulder to comfort me.
There was silence for a long time, until Dawn finally asked, “What triggered this?”
“The hills. We would always come to these hills. I swear I spent more time here when I was young than I did at my house.”
“God, I wish I could remember these forever. They're so beautiful...so perfect.”
“We go by them every day.”
“I haven't noticed them for a while.”
“I don't know.”
Dawn went back to drawing. I gazed out the window. We were entering back into suburbia, and into our neighborhood.
The bus pulled up, and braked with its trademark high-pitched squeal. I got off the bus with Dawn, and said, “We still going to your house?”
I had never been to Dawn's house before, and when we got there, I almost jumped in shock. She had the biggest house in the neighborhood, it was four towering stories, and was built across two plots of land. I gaped at it. “Holy shit, I didn't know you lived here!”
“Yeah, I do,” said Dawn with a bit of remorse.
Ignoring the tone of her voice, I said, “This is one awesome house.”
“It is on the outside.”
“I wish I lived here!”
“Trust me...you don't.”
“It's not so nice on the inside.” Dawn opened the door to let me in.
It wasn't obvious what she was talking about when she opened the door. A beautiful, gold and crystal chandelier hung as the centerpiece to the foyer. The floor sparkled, without a speck of dirt. Beautiful vases and what were obviously expensive works of art adorned the walls and nearby tables. In the next room, a woman, presumably Dawn's mother, was painting her nails.
“I'm home,” said Dawn.
“Hi,” said Dawn's mother, without looking up from her nail painting. Dawn motioned for me to follow her, and I walked up the long flight of stairs to her room. The walls along the stairwell were painted pretty velvet, lined with gold, but as she opened the door to her room, I almost grimaced. The inside of her room was an ugly duckling in a house of swans. The bed was a simple mattress on the floor, and a few posters adorned a white wall. The white paint was even chipped in places, revealing drywall. In lieu of a dresser, there was a pile of clothes on the floor. She reached for the ceiling, and pushed on what was obviously a loose piece of it, which revealed a well lit attic. Dawn pulled down a ladder, and climbed up into the attic. “C'mon,” she said. I followed her up. I was surprised at the lack of stench coming from the attic, as well as the CD player, the fan, and the painting board that it was outfitted with. There were about twenty paintings leaning across the walls, all turned away so that people couldn't see them. “Let me show you some of my favorites,” said Dawn. She went over to the wall, and turned around one of the paintings for me to see. This one was a very pretty drawing of a bright, sunny forest, with rabbits, flowers, and deer everywhere. She walked down two paintings, and was about to turn over another one when I said, “Why don't you just let me see all of them?”
“I'm a little shy about my artwork.,” said Dawn with a nervous smile. “I hope you don't mind.”
I suddenly heard a scratching on the side of the wall. I whipped my head around. Dawn said, “Don't worry...that's just Dexter.”
“And what,” I said, my voice betraying my fright, “is Dexter?”
“Just a cat.”
“Ok,” I said more calmly.
She turned over another painting. This one was clearly more recent, with its colors darker and dimmer. It was a drawing of a child reaching for a door, while behind her, there was a group of jeering children, fighting parents and all sorts of imaginable bad things.
“Do you get it?” asked Dawn.
“No, can you tell me?”
“No, you have to get it. It is what it is.”
I thought it was them chasing her out of the house, but I had a gut feeling that wasn't it. “But I really want to know!”
“You have to feel art. You'll understand.”
“Eventually. You have the heart of an artist inside of you.”
“Really?” I asked excitedly.
“Yes. Now, I have one more painting for you to see.” She walked across the room, past me, and turned over one of the paintings. It was a drawing of the hills that I had seen earlier that day. And running across them were three kids. I peered in closer. It was me, Carl, and James.
“This is for you,” said Dawn. “if the memory truly means that much to you.”
“Wow. I mean...I don't know what to say, Dawn. Its too much. I can't accept that”
“Do you want it?”
“Not that badly,” I lied.
“Alright,” said Dawn, as she returned the painting to its place on the wall, and I felt a sinking feeling in my gut.
“Do you have any others you want to show me?”
“Sorry, but nobody else has ever seen more than those paintings. In fact, the one of the door, I've never shown to anyone except you.”
“Wow,” I said through grinning teeth, “I feel special.”
“I hope I can trust you not to tell anyone about these.”
I wanted to say yes, but it seemed like a sin that these paintings would be up here forever, unseen except by the brown-green eyes of Dawn. I quickly said in a hushed voice, “You haven't even shown your parents?”
“They don't appreciate art.”
“I don't think I do either,” I said with an air of self deprecation. “I couldn't understand any of these.”
“You do. Come on, all you need is a little inspiration.” Dawn walked over to the corner, where she picked up a stereo, and pressed the play button. I heard some peculiar music coming out.
“What's this?” I asked.
Dawn gaped at me. “You don't know?”
“It sounds familiar, but I can't quite put my finger on it.”
“It's the Beatles!”
“What do you usually listen to?”
“Uhh...Fall Out Boy, some Panic at the Disco...”
Dawn grimaced. “Eww, that's just pop music. You need to listen to some real rock. Anyway...” She pointed at the paintings. “Do you understand them now?”
“Well, I think the hills is just a simple drawing. It doesn't really have any meaning behind it.”
Dawn smiled. “That's right. I don't really think it's art.”
“Of course it's art!”
“It needs to have a deeper meaning to be real art.”
“Whatever you say.”
“You'll find out that I'm right soon. But do you understand the other two paintings?”
I squinted at the paintings, trying to comprehend whatever meaning there was. “I'm still not seeing it.”
“Close your eyes.”
“How can I understand the paintings if I can't see them?” I said in an exasperated voice.
“Trust me, Leo. You're trying too hard. It'll help you relax.”
I clamped my eyes shut, trying to trust Dawn, but not believing her.
“Now, what do you think the forest represents?”
“I have no idea.”
“What is there a lot of in a forest?”
“Close. But animals are...”
“The forest represents life!” I said in an excited voice.
“And it's bright and full of light because you were happy when you drew it.”
“Yeah, I drew it when I was eight.”
I looked at the picture with the door. I felt as if I could solve all of life's mysteries now, but this painting still perplexed me. “I don't get that one.”
“I'm not going to help you with that one.”
“You said that earlier.”
There was a brief silence. I attempted to break it by saying, “So do you have any siblings?”
“No way. I was an accident. My parents had something against children. Actually, they still do.”
Her face turned a twinge of red. “I'm sorry. You must think I'm a whiny idiot with all the complaining I do.”
“No, it's fine. You barely ever complain about anything.”
She grinned, flattered by my compliment. “So...What's your family like?”
“My dad's barely ever home. We get along really well, though. My mom takes good care of me. You should stop by sometime, my parents would like you.”
“Do you have any siblings?”
“I have an irritating younger sibling...”
Dawn cut me off, “Aren't they all?” We both chuckled a little, and then I resumed my sentence.
“...and my older brother's in Iraq.”
“In the army?”
“He's an independent journalist. He tries to sell his videos to big stations, but they won't buy them because they're too graphic. I miss him a lot. I haven't seen him in two years, and the only sight of him I get are the posts on his video blog.”
There was a short silence, with the exception of the soothing sound of the Beatles.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” asked Dawn.
When we left the attic, the setting sun made it apparent that it was around six o'clock. “Oh man,” I said, “I need to get home for dinner.”
“I'll walk you home,” Dawn offered.
“That'd be nice,” I said.
We walked outside, back towards my house.
“Do you mind if I call you Leonardo?” Dawn asked.
I laughed. “Why?”
“That's your birth name, isn't it?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“I just think it sounds nice. Like Leonardo DaVinci.”
“Ok, if you want.”
There was a period of quiet. I looked at Dawn, and she looked at me. We both quickly glanced away shyly. There was a longer, awkward silence.
“The trees are really pretty for this time of year,” said Dawn.
“Yes, they are,” I replied.
After Dawn finished walking me home, I had dinner. After that, I sat down to write my story again. I looked at the clock, noticing that it had just reached seven. I put my fingers to the keys and started adding the additions and making the omissions that I had scrawled in pencil. I printed the story, and looked over it again, and again, making more and more corrections every time, replacing weak passages with stronger ones. Suddenly, I heard the rumbling sound of the garage door. My dad was home. I peeked at the clock. It was 9:58. Almost three hours had gone by and I hadn't noticed. My throat was parched, and my bladder stretched to the limit. I quickly went to use the restroom, washed my hands, and went downstairs to see my dad and get a drink of water. My dad gave me a hug, and asked, “Is Mom already asleep?”
“I think so, she seemed tired during dinner. Tony must have been a handful.”
“So how are you? Mom said you broke up with Abby.”
“Yeah, but it's fine.”
My dad looked a bit surprised and a bit skeptical.
“Are you sure?”
“Well, you see, I met this person...”
“Boy or girl?”
“Girl, but we're not going out or anything. Anyway, she's kind of got me into writing stuff, and that helped me get some of my anger out.”
“Good for you!” said my Dad. “That's always what your older brother used to do, whenever he had trouble. That always helped him beat his depression.”
“How is he anyway?”
“I think he's fine,” he said...
My dad and I continued to talk for another hour or so. By that time, I was stumbling around, almost unable to stand because of my exhaustion. I collapsed into bed, and turned out the light. Then it occurred to me I had neglected a bit of Math homework. Oh well. I could finish it tomorrow during Spanish. I clicked off the light, and I fell asleep almost immediately.
I got up the next day, and walked with a fair bit of spring to the shower. I looked into the mirror, and surprised myself by smiling. I was never smiling in the morning.. I quickly ate breakfast. It was only 6:15, so I had some time to edit my paper before I went to school. I pulled out a pencil, and began to scribble down corrections and changes. When I finished, it was 6:27. Crap. I grabbed my backpack and my paper and ran out to the stop. I arrived just as the bus was pulling up, hurried aboard, and sat by Dawn again.
“Good running,” she said.
We made small talk for most of the ride, about nothing of consequence. When I arrived at school, I did my math homework during first hour, and then pulled my paper out again, and edited it nonstop for the next few hours.
Lunch eventually rolled around. I got my food, and walked towards the usual table. About halfway there, I stopped, hesitating for a second. I looked towards the table at my friends, and looked outside, where I knew Dawn would be waiting. After a couple seconds, I began walking again, towards the table, and sat down.
“Hey man,” said one of my friends, “you gonna be at the party tonight?”
The party? I had completely forgotten. “Yes,” I muttered.
“Good, it'll do you good.”
Another one of my friends leaned in close to me, “Hey man...can you bring some beer to the party?”
“No,” I replied flatly.
“I'm trying to cut back,” I lied.
“Oh, yeah. This is what, the tenth time?”
No retort came into my head. I looked away, back at my food. I quickly finished my food, and started to head outside. “Hey!” one of my friends said with a mocking tone, “going outside to see your girlfriend?”
I looked away and began to walk faster. I could hear the guys jeering at me. I quickly moved outside to sit next to Dawn. When I got there, I said, “Hello.”
“Not much. You doing anything after school today?”
“What are you doing?”
I regretfully said, “Going to a friends house.”
She looked at me in an absolutely devastating way, that filled me with regret that I had ever agreed to go the party. “Have fun,” she replied curtly.
I got a ride to the party with one of my friends that night. The house seemed to be literally shaking, and light was flooding out of it. The party had already gotten started when I walked in. There was a mash of people in the center, and I recognized some my friends among the nauseatingly poor dancers, falling over and hitting the ground periodically. A kid I didn't recognize stumbled past us, incoherently mumbling and taking swigs of what looked like scotch. A musty stench mixed with a sharp smell of alcohol and stale smoke of both cigarettes and joints hovered over the party. Vomit soaked the carpet in multiple places. The broken egg of a shattered vase was one of the few places that I could see where people weren't standing. My friends who had driven me over walked off to join the “Festivities.” A guy I vaguely recognized walked up and handed me a Coors.
I found one of the unbroken chairs, and sat down, sipping my beer guiltily. Why was I here? I didn't want to be here. A haze of smoke had settled over the room, and it surprised me that the alarm hadn't gone off yet. Several of my friends walked up to me, and grabbed me off the chair. I tried weakly to stay sitting down, but I was pulled up, spilling the beer as I went.
The smell of smoke was even worse up here. I felt my self pushing against various people as I was forced through the crowd. My friends continued to drag me away, towards another group. “Hey man, we got this awesome thing going on. Put on this mask.”
They handed me a bizarre, African looking mask. I hesitated for a moment, and then put it on. “Now,” said one of them, “Drink through the hole in the mask.” The handed me a huge container of beer with a medium sized hole over the top. There was no way all the beer was going through the hole in the mask, though. I held the container steady for a moment, debating internally about what I should do. I tipped the beer, closer, closer to the tipping point. I tilted my head, about to take a drink. I thought of Dawn for a second, that devastating look she had given me when she learned that I had picked my old friends over her. My face went red with rage, both at myself and my friends. I moved my head into a normal position, and set down the container of beer. “Hey, come on!” said one of them, “ What are you, chicken?”
“No more...I don't want to wear a mask,” I stuttered.
“You have to wear the mask. That's what makes the drinking entertaining.”
“I don't want to drink anymore, either. What am I doing here?” I mumbled. I picked up the container, and hurled it at the opposite wall, and it shattered into pieces. I pulled the mask off my head, and hurled it at the wall, it split evenly down a line.
Another one of my friends shouted at me, “All right, calm down man. What did you drink?”
I didn't even respond to that. Instead, I stormed off, my fingers quivering, my body steaming hot with anger, barely able to see anything except the door. One of my friends shouted after me, “Hey, what was that all about? Come on back, man.”
I stood still for a second. Then, without saying anything, I turned and ran out the door. The cool air blasted my face, transforming my anger into relief. I was ten miles from home, it was cold, starting to get dark, and rainy. I smiled a smile that I'm sure was never matched at a time before or would be matched at any time after in my life. As I walked home, I thought about the story that I had written. Maybe I could have the character walk ten miles in the rain, and have him realize something about himself on the way. I prepared my mind to capture every detail possible, from the cold water that soaked my shirt and my hair and chilled my skin, to the wind that whipped across the roads, to the moon that shone down on me.
It took me almost two hours to half-walk, half jog home. I was shivering, but barely gave a passing thought to it. As I came at the fork that leads to my house, I instead went the other way, towards Dawn's house. I approached the door, stepped under the tiny overhang out front, and rang the doorbell. Dawn's mother answered the door. “What do you want?” she snapped.
“I'm here to see Dawn,” I said.
She turned away, yelling, “Dawn! There's a soaked young man here to see you!”
Dawn came down the stairs quickly, and walked out to the front door. She gaped at me. “What happened?” she asked in astonishment.
“I'll tell you, if you let me in.”
“Yeah sure, come on in. I'll get you a towel.”