these thoughts percolate, a fresh pot of some homebrew, blonde roast sitting, steaming in a chipped cup that’s seen better days. better days before its handle needed mending, before clotted adhesive molted out of the base, glossed over with a poor attempt of camouflage.
Memory a fickle bitch, isn’t it? For those of you not in the know, I have a daily walking regimen. As much as I would like to believe otherwise, it’s purpose exists more for clearing out the daily accumulated mental clutter than for any health benefits I may receive from it. My track has changed in the last few weeks. I took much solace in the emptiness of Sacred Heart Church and Apollo Park, but each day more and more people fill these areas up as kid sports and non-kid weddings are big thing during the summer months. I’ve extended the track to cover places from my childhood. I pass the Fountain Park Boys & Girls Club and Stephen F. Austin Elementary, carved through the sidewalks alongside the housing community, and traveling alongside Lincoln Elementary, one of three alma maters from my childhood.
Taking the path I took when I walked home from school, the surroundings blurred and focus returned to the past. Walking home from Lincoln Elementary everyday with childhood friends, Andrea and Elisa. Passing that prick Ricky’s house. And the memory of his little sister, whose name escapes me. The girl I mercilessly bullied one day.
I am not proud of what I did then. From time to time, I remember her face. I remember her voice. Her screams and tears.
Pushed the thought from my mind, at first. What sort of hypocrite would that make me, though? The person who wants people to own their shit, regardless of how it makes them look to others. So I forced myself to remember the who experience. From befriending her weeks prior. Listening to her stories and jokes. To giving Eliza that look of “back off” when she threaten violence. To the moment of betrayal as Eliza barked, “Get the bitch!” and we broke out in a run toward her.
I followed the path we took to circumvent having to pass their home, but failing to do so. The sound of Ricky’s angry, pre-pubescent voice hollering from across the street. Their mother shouting curses at us, as we briskly walked past the house.
There is no question, I knew what we did was wrong. I had the power to not follow through the plan. I could have warned the poor girl what Eliza was cooking up. I never understood Andrea or Eliza’s hatred for Ricky. Never understood why his little sister acted as his avatar for said hatred.
After fifth grade, I lost contact with Eliza. Searching my memory, I don’t recall seeing her at the sixth grade campus. Whether she flunked or moved away—or, quite possibly, found a home within the fences of a juvenile detention center—is knowledge I’ll never have. I spoke to Andrea from time to time in the halls. Our lockers were near each other. But we lost contact, too, despite living on the same street. And soon, their names were as unfamiliar to me as the girl we chased down the street. And that sucks. Because their names are seared in memory forever, while I can’t remember what hers started with.
In the Season 3, episode 13 of the television series NCIS, there’s a scene with “Probie” Timothy McGee interrogates a schoolyard bully. There’s a line that stuck with me after watching it: When you get older, you’re not going to remember their names, but you know what? They’re always going to remember yours. And I hope to this day she’s forgotten me. Forgotten my face. Forgotten that day. That I am nothing in her autobiography. Not even a footnote on the page.
Nothing feels real in these moments. Staring at the face in the mirror, this familiar stranger whose eyes are bagged and drooping. Wisps of gray hair blending into the dark. It’s one of those dissociative moments. At least something in the hypnagogia realm. And my mouth cracks open. The question on my lips is, “Who are you?” But before any sound comes out, the alarm on my bed blares, shaking me awake. A dream. All of it. A dream.
I am seventeen years old. Outside breeze slips pass the curtain of my window, carrying with it the scent of rain. It’s expected. A drizzle. Something not uncommon in the month of January. The cold front they were expecting must’ve come in early, sometime in the middle of the night. Always prepared, I kept the window open just a crack so the stuffiness of my teenage bedroom didn’t choke me while I slept.
Dragging ass, I make it to the restroom where the day begins. Shower. Brush teeth. Comb hair, poorly. Rub the Avon-brand deodorant under each pit. Get dress. Leave the house. First day back to school after the winter holiday. Better make these last few months of high school last, they say. You’ll look back on these days, relishing in your youth. Remembering all the stupid things you did as fondly as do with whom you did them.
The halls of Edinburg North High School aren’t popping with life. Nobody wants to be here and nothing will change that. From the corner of my eye, I see Teddy lazily looking forward. He survived the break. When he approaches me, just in passing as we were never that close, he gives me that slight head nod. But some ass wad brushes up against him, knocking him into me.
His skin is cold; his hand grasping my bare wrist as he steadies himself. Fragments of a dream, like memories, pour into my head. “Wait,” I say before trailing off due to his interruption.
“Jesus fuck!” he shouts as the dickhead continues down the hall. “Sorry about that,” he turns to me. “See you around,” he says before leaving, mixing into the crowd of adolescents and vanishing from my sight.
And I whisper to myself, “Aren’t you in a coma? Aren’t you dying?”
“I passed Ms. Champion’s class last semester.” I’m speaking more to myself, but Miranda hears me.
“You seem uncertain,” she says.
“Nothing feels real,” I whisper. Either she doesn’t hear me, or she’s doesn’t care. Either way, my statement just floats in the air. For a bit before it fades in to the great unknown. Still, after lunch I walk by a Spanish classroom and take a peek inside. There are a few students already inside, but none of them look too familiar. Just faces in the crowd that sort of thing.
“Can I help you?” the teacher asks.
“No, I’m good, Ms. Ramos,” I say before heading toward my destination.
And once I’m in my seat, I wonder, how the hell did I know her name? I must have heard it after first period. Our classes are right next to each other, after all. In Media Tech, I work on a project Janie and I started before winter break. It keeps my thoughts in line, but even then something I can’t shake the thought that something if off. That all this is wrong, somehow.
After school, I head to my room and pop in the CD to the stereo I got for my birthday last year. Except, the stereo shouldn’t be here. I remember it was stolen in the break in several months ago. And that I wouldn’t get another until after graduation. After graduation?
The phone rings. It’s Kara. She’s at Jessica’s house, and thought she’d call me. Just to hear my voice. And I feign interest in her stories and words. And when she whispers “I love you,” there’s some hesitation on my part.
“It’s ok,” she says. “I already know.”
But she doesn’t know. She will in a few months when I admit my love for Jessica, instead. And she will become resentful towards us no matter how much she swears she’s ok with it.
The question remains, though. How do I know all this will transpire?
It’s easy to become callous after a break up. It’s probably no different when breaking up means a divorce. And, yeah, I know. I just made a post about this not too long ago. But I’ve been doing a lot of “soul” searching these past few months. It’s the price of wanting to put myself back out there. So bear with me, o.k.? Is that cool? Thank you.
Anyway, as I was saying.
It’s easy to become callous—pessimistic, even—after a break up. Probably more so when breaking up means a divorce. Today, a “patron” parked their car in front of another patron’s car. Aware that this might need a visual, I grabbed my phone to snap a picture. Aware that I need a job to live, I realized that snapping a picture would incriminate me, especially if my intent was to post it on my online journal. So putting my phone away, I began making excuses why I didn’t take a picture when the opportunity arose. Instead, let’s use this creative writing training I have to make a visual. Imagine, if you will, a car parked properly in a parking space. You got that? Good. Now imagine another car, parked directly in front of that car in a make-believe parking space. This jack ass boxed in properly parked patron. And while we announced over our intercom (are they still called intercoms?) that jack ass should come and speak to us at the front desk, the jack ass never materialized. This, of course, led to speculation. Speculation led to the conclusion (in my and Crissy’s minds, anyway) that this is a case of a jilted lover.
Now I partook in a lot of callow behavior during break ups. And I fell into the pessimistic trap. I did the woe-is-me routine. I scrawled on my adolescent bedroom’s wall (it’s still there, to this day, people). I wrote angst-filled poetry. There are things I’ve done that I’m not proud of, and some that make me sick to my stomach.
And yet, I’ve come out the other end. I got over it. Sure, there are moments when I sit here and think about the good ol’ days. I think about how things would be if I had tried just a little harder. But no one’s got time to live in the what ifs. Especially if they’ll never come true.
There’s a scene in (500) Days of Summer that comes to mind. No, it’s not that scene. Not that scene either. Yeah, towards the end. The movie’s ending right before its epilogue. Where Summer and Tom have their talk.
As I’ve said in my last post about this, I don’t believe in soul mates. And if I did believe in fate, then each of the people unfortunate enough to love me should be considered soulmates. Because wouldn’t that make sense? Wouldn’t I have encountered all these people in order to prepare myself for that ultimate soul mate?
But what if…What if things were different?