Her hands cling onto her suitcase, knuckles white, while the wheels rush against the pavement with a low mumble. The sign above the benches light NXT TRAIN 5 MIN and she exhales, walking forward towards the edge of the track. The toes of her shoes kiss just the edge of the yellow line, and the light breeze brushes her hair along her cheeks.
Thumps are heard to the left. Desire and motivation seep through his heavy breaths, and he stops at her side.
“What are you doing here?” She inquires in disbelief.
“You can’t leave.” He throws out with exasperated words between each breath.
“I have to. The train is al-”
“No.” He cuts off.
She stares at him, bewildered and vexed. “What do you mean by no? I have to go back. I have so mu-”
“No. Stop. Stop saying that. You don’t have to go anywhere. Stop making excuses because I know you and-”
“No! You don’t know me and stop pretending that you do.” Her voice becomes raspy, and the light reflects off the iron tracks.
“No, but I do know that you believe soul mates don’t exist, marriage is overrated, and finding love isn’t real because there is no such thing as love. I get that. But hear me out when I tell you that even if that may be true, we won’t know until we try us,okay?”
“But there isn’t an us! And you don’t seem to understand that. Do you hear me? Spending time with you the last few months made me smile like I haven’t been able to in years but-”
“But what?” The aggravation is tensed within his voice. “We’re good together, and we both know it. Just give us a chance to be happy together. It’s human nature to love, and I just so happen to love you.”
His eyes widen in astonishment at the words he spoke. Her breathing halts, and her body is paralyzed. She remains unspoken, but he refuses to let the silence disconnect the bridge them two.
With desperation, and his heart surging through his entire being, he voices,”Please just listen to me.” His voice begins to back out, but he forces the words to choke out. “I will spend all of eternity to mend your heart back together. To hug you every second of every day until all the broken pieces make you whole again, pour every ounce of love back into your soul, and make the world shine colors through your eyes again. Whatever it takes for me to be with you, I’ll do it. But the only thing I ask from you is to not push me away.”
Tears trickle down her cheek, and his face remains flushed scarlet. His heart beats past his chest, trying to reach towards hers. Yet her heart is sunken down deep behind her, burying itself away from anything else.
She shakes her head, tightens her grasp on her suitcase and boards the train.
Crinkled pages lay between my shaking fingers, and I hear Brooke’s mom call my name. The whites in my eyes shine back at her and begin turning into a slight pink. Brook’s father hugs me close, reassuring me. I wipe away the forming tears from my waterline.
With delicacy, her voice floats through the room. “Ava, do you care to say a few words?” She intertwines her fingers of each hand, holds her hands close to her heart, and shifts her lips into a small smile – small enough so only I could see it, but big enough for me to build the courage to walk up.
Pulling my sleeves up just above my wrists, I tighten my grasp on the papers and begin walking. My heart pounds heavier – about to burst through my ribcage – and my long, frantic strides take me to the stage faster than expected.
Standing at the front, I look up to the anticipating audience. Eyes overwhelming me lead me to a slight panic, but then I take a deep breath and remember I’m doing this for her and the people who love her.
“Brooke…” I choke out a little giggle. “She really was something, as most of you would know.” I can hear the audience snicker under their breath – relief: that’s what we need.
I continue, “Always spontaneous, always living in the moment, and always driving you insane.”
“You can say that again!” Brooke’s dad yells from the seats. I look up at him and give him a weak smile. He grins back at me with support and love – what Brooke and her brother were always so lucky to receive. Mrs. Bailey leans into her husband and laces her fingers around his; their warmth touches mine, and I wish Brooke were here to see this image. Talking about her parents’ romantic and childish love brightened her day, giving her something to hold onto.
“Most people saw her as the girl who wasn’t afraid to speak out what’s on her mind; nonetheless, be hesitant on – what she would call – adventures, even though we would go to a drive-thru restaurant at two in the morning. She’s definitely more than the rambunctious girl she was.” I clear my throat and clench the pages a little tighter. “To me, she was a shoulder to cry on, my chauffer whenever I was hungry, and the girl who prevented my from being a social laughing stock.”
I stare at the papers for a little longer than intended, and I fold it in half and keep it to my side.
“If she were here right now, I’d ask her ‘Why?’ But I do know why, unfortunately.” The audience shifts in their seats, lean in intently, and bring up their tissues and handkerchiefs closer to their faces. “Mrs. Bailey let a couple of us go into Brooke’s room a few days ago. She let us grab one item from her room for memory’s sake if we wanted.” I begin thinking about her journal she tucked away between her mattress and headboard of her bed. I walked into her room, knowing where everything was, and immediately went to her journal. I knew that’s what Brooke would’ve wanted. For me to either burn it or to keep it. Nonetheless, she would forbid anyone else to lay a finger on it.
“She was sad. She loved on so many people, but she felt like no one ever loved her back.” I realized how selfish that sounded, but that’s not who she was – not even close.
“She enjoyed making people laugh until they could hardly breathe, or surprising someone whenever she attacks them with a hug. For some reason, almost everything she did was to make someone’s day a little brighter. She never thought twice about it.”
I sigh. “But, I guess, the primary reason was so she could try to feel good about herself too. I remember sitting on her bed after school, and she would continuously ramble about how a random person would thank her later in the day for complimenting him or her earlier. She always perked up whenever something like that happened, but then it would fade.”
More than anything, Brooke strived to put others before her. I look down at my sheets of paper, and my inked scribbles looked like a foreign language to me.
“She loved Michael too. So much that I practically had to compete for Brooke’s love between Michael and I.” I snicker. The chapel coughs out a minuscule laugh.
“She was sad because she wanted little Michael to stop having to come home crying because the other kids bullied him at school. Brooke was always there to run, pick him up, and smother him in hugs and kisses.”
From the corner of my eye, I can see Michael swing his legs inversely underneath the seat, as his feet weren’t able to touch the ground. He’s staring at the ground, clasping on the edge of his chair.
“She loves, and she practically taught me how to do so too. But, for some reason, she couldn’t find a way to love herself.” All those who love her or even hardly knew her shifted in their seats. I watch their faces adjust in bewilderment, unable to comprehend that Brooke, the shining sunflower, wasn’t happy.
“I was there the night that it happened.” My throat begins to tighten up and my words are hardly being choked out. “We just wanted to kick back after a stressful week, and the word of a party popped up on our screens in seconds. I remember eating a burger while she was dipping fries into her milkshake. She was smiling, laughing, and I saw a little twinkle in her eyes that made me believe she was happy again – just like she used to be. I was so convinced…”
I sigh, but I know I have to continue. “We stopped by my house so we could freshen up, and we get to the party and it was far larger than we expected. Like second nature, Brooke dove into the crowd, and I lost her for a few hours. We trusted each other to be responsible and had a system: I’m always the designated driver because I hate alcohol and we socialize while checking up on each other every few hours.”
Retelling the evening feels like reliving it. I couldn’t bear go on, but I understood the lingering curiosity as to why she would ever do it. For the sake of the rest of them, I wanted to give them the few answers I’m able to provide.
“After realizing we haven’t checked in with each other for several hours, I went on a search for her and found that she was far too drunk. At least, more drunk than she usually is.” My face brightens red. “I know I should’ve never let her drink in the first place, but I figured I had to follow the ‘Live while you’re young’ rule, which I immediately realized is some reckless façade.”
I swallow hard, and brace myself for the next couple of minutes. “I catch her stumbling through the house, falling on random strangers’ laps, and I quickly pick her up. I carry her off to an empty bedroom and tell her to wait there until I got back. I left to grab a bottle of water for her to douse down, but by the time I got back…” The words begin choking again, and I battle the tears. “By the time I got back, she wasn’t there.”
“I search around the house, pushing people out of my way, and I run into Dan.” From the audience, he directs eye contact with me and nods in reassurance.
“He noticed I was frantic. ‘Are you okay?’ He asks me. Of course I was. It was Brooke who wasn’t.” I shake my head, trying to rattle off the memories, but it’s engraved into my head.
“I quickly tell him that Brooke didn’t look to well when I left her in the bedroom, and that I couldn’t find her.” The amount of guilt floods me, and my hands begin shaking more rapidly.
I grasp the papers at my side, but I knew what I prepared was useless now. The tears begin to glide down my cheek, and I close my eyes to try to make it stop – make all of it stop. Feeling a hand on my lower back, my eyes shot open and Mrs. Bailey is standing at my side. She whispers, “It’s okay, sweetheart. You can do this.”
I nod, readying myself.
“Dan grabs two of his friends and tells them to keep an eye out for Brooke Bailey while keeping it on the down-low. We continue searching the house, but it wasn’t long until one of Dan’s friends ran up to me.” Hearing the words again tore me.
“He said, ‘Apparently Brooke found a pair of keys on the ground.’ As soon as I heard ‘keys,” I quickly rushed to Dan, grabbed him by his arm, and pushed myself through the crowd while screaming ‘Check if you lost your keys! If you have, head to the driveway!’” Repeating my own words slurred into an ache that made my voice sound raspy and petrified. The entire night felt like a nightmare.
“I explain to Dan what one of his friends told me, and I remember watching him pace back and forth on the grass. I tried calming him down, but I frankly couldn’t even calm myself down.” And I still can’t.
“I heard a voice screaming through the front door and out to the porch. ‘Someone took my keys! Have you found them?’ A blonde girl I hardly recognize pranced towards me, and I had to explain the situation.” The blonde girl sits towards the back corner, and I gaze at her. With her eyes and nose vibrantly scarlet, it’s obvious she has been shedding tears.
“She then told me that she has a yellow bug and the hood of the trunk has a white stripe in the center of it. I forward the information to Dan, and he and his two friends split up to find the vehicle while the blonde girl and I team up. Running up and down the streets, sprinting through trees, and waving flashlights for the next hour only left us with fused worry. It was at that point when I knew something was terribly wrong.”
I tuck my brown hair behind my ear while I glance down at my feet pointed towards each other. You’re like an inverted duck, she would say.
“My phone begins buzzing along with a screeching ringtone I set up, so I can easily recognize it. From the other static end, I can hear Dan gasping for air. His two friends’ voices are heard faintly in the background, and he finally speaks out, ‘Ava, you have to get here…’ Hearing his voice already broke my heart. I knew for sure something was wrong, and I can hear him begin to sob. ‘I already called the cops, but please get here. I’m on Infelix and Vita. Just… Just keep going north and you’ll see,’ is what he said to me. He hung up before I could spit out a word, and I begin sprinting down the streets.”
Images pop into my head. It feels like a dream – I’m sprinting as fast as I can, I can feel my lungs inflating deeply, and my legs are giving out. But all the power I surged into my body seemed to get me nowhere. I feel the pain, but nothing’s there.
“I finally got there after a couple minutes.” The tears weren’t flowing anymore, my heart stopped trying to escape my chest, and my hands swayed with the beat of my breathing. It doesn’t feel real. But it is, she whispers.
“My eyes were fogged with a blanket of grey smoke, and I saw the yellow bug annihilated by the tree. The cops were already there, and they told me that there are no signs of other vehicles, and there was a chance it wasn’t an accident. I didn’t know what else to do other than fall on my knees and scream, wishing Brooke would somehow hear me in Heaven.”
My body shivers as if I felt her brush past me. “She was supposed to graduate with me and go go-cart racing after prom in our ridiculous six-inch heels. She was supposed to go to college and study in Europe for six months. She had everything planned out, but the grim reaper took her too soon.”
Mr. and Mrs. Bailey walk up to each side of me, and rest their arms behind my back. Michael wraps his arms around my legs and the Bailey family filled me with love once again. Except, this time, there’s one less person hugging me.
Mrs. Bailey steps forward. Her voice feels like a fireplace on Christmas morning, “Brooke had so much potential and she was following the path that promised great things. But now, she can’t attain the promises that were set. God was working on her, but the devil got in the way.”
Mr. Bailey finishes the final thoughts, “We love you, Brooke.” Then he lays a golden sunflower on top of her chest. Her golden-brown streaks sit around her face, enhancing her beauty.
I gaze to all the individuals in her life who loved her, took care of her, and wanted to spend another second with her. Closing my eyes, bracing myself and imagining I can hold her once again, tears fall down my cheek and onto the wrinkled pages. I love you, Brooklyn. And you taught me how to do that.
My alarm blared by my ears, and I hit the snooze button. It went off again; I hit the snooze. The continuous battle between time and sleep left me dreading myself for setting such an early time to leave. Frantically getting ready, I receive a text saying he’s here. Already worried about the drive over, I began stressing over awkward silences and overall branching out of my shell to get through an entire day with this person I barely knew. The drive to San Francisco wasn’t as bad as I overthought, and he even explained the current and past circumstances with his ex-girlfriend. From what I knew and what I was hearing, all I was thinking was that he didn’t deserve to be treated in the way she lead on. And the fact that he trusted me with all this showed he’s a passionate person, convincing me that maybe I don’t have to put my walls all the way up around him. We eventually get to the college, and none of it felt real. We ventured around the campus, walking into almost every building, absorbing all that I can and trying to make it a reality that I will be living within these buildings. Excitement enthralled me, as I begin to understand that this is my life, my future, and I can leave everything else back in Fresno. But as far as my new friend who willingly jumped on this experience with me, I knew I’d miss him and a few others. So we eventually leave the college and head to Ghirardelli upon his wishes. Chocolate instantly drove my senses, and it was already a blessing to get a sample. We came across a store selling minuscule love notes that we found overly adorable and amusing at the same time. When he said he wanted to buy one, I thought it was for his ex in all honesty. It’s just the way he talks about her; like he just wants her back. Then I just felt all awkward, not knowing how to deal with comforting people and such. Anyways, we decide to leave, considering the parking meter was just about done, and head to Fisherman’s Wharf. Walking down Pier 39, we come across an area with light-up candles and a mirror maze. Noeah makes fun of me for “running” into one of the mirrors even though I just simply walked into it. We also heard a child’s thud against a mirror, amusing us. With the meter out once again, we drive in circles, trying to find a way to drive or walk the Golden Gate Bridge and end up at a beautiful park just below it. Unable to find a parking slip machine, we leave and head to the Walt Disney museum. We walk out and begin venturing out to the area, arguing about falling leaves and laughing about a missile sculpture that looked like brown crayons. Noeah couldn’t stop laughing, and although the crayons looked a bit strange, I was more laughing about how he found it so hysterical. “This kid is ridiculous,” I thought. He seems happy, and he laughs a lot. I wish it were so with me. We have about an hour left from the parking meter, so we grab our blankets, create a lame “snacknic,” and lay them across the vibrant green grass and play “Cruise, Sleep, or Marry,” a typical game he always seems to love to play. Realizing the time, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to start heading home, and we made a Starbucks stop beforehand. Then I call Scott to see what he’s up to, and meet up with him back at Fisherman’s Wharf. We head towards HardRock café, and there’s a man in front of a store, selling roses. He puts one in front of my face, I kindly say “No, thank you” and continue to walk away, but Noeah suddenly decides to stop, look at the man, then back at me. All I was thinking was, “No. Shit. Stop. No. Gosh dang it,” but then he hands me the rose and I couldn’t help to just be grateful for his sweetness. Finally meeting with Scott, we spend the evening watching performers, eating overly-sated fries, and watching several people try to win a minion from the crane. Time was ticking, the sun disappeared, and the night grew cold. We said our goodbyes and good nights to Scott and head back towards the car. Initially, we thought we were at a different street, as we couldn’t find Wendy. We then start searching every nearby street for the car, and the two-hour parking time was up. We notify our moms about the situation, and while Noeah’s mom was just worried about his well-being, my mom brutally insulted me and practically “took away” Africa and college from me. I felt awful for Noeah, having to listen to me argue with my mom. I wasn’t able to shed some tears, even though I really wanted to. My heart and mind was only thinking about this atrocious night and how my high school work was basically being extirpated, as if it never happened. We figured Wendy may have been towed, and head to the police station. According to them, she hasn’t been reported towed and there may be a chance that we’re just “missing the streets because it’s busy tonight,” as she said. She hands us a map and a complementary SFPD pen, and head back to the Wharf. I continue arguing with my mom while Noeah took care of checking off the map while continuously hitting the panic button in hopes for Wendy’s alarm. My guilt was overrunning me, as this unfortunate event happened to him, but I didn’t know how to show sympathy. It was the last possible street, and we immediately realize there wasn’t a chance that Wendy was there, so we sit on the windowsill outside of a brick building. He calls his manager, and his phone dies a few seconds after. I begin typing a message to Scott, and my phone dies in the middle of it. At that point, I was too upset to eat, but Noeah was hungry and we needed to borrow a phone, so we enter In N Out. Luckily, I wrote down Scott’s and a few others’ phone numbers on my hand, and after social anxiety started to attack me, I eventually just got my desperate ass up and asked a few teenage girls across from us to borrow one of their phones. Of course, Scott doesn’t answer and I just leave a voicemail after the second try. A group of drunk women and their friends sit next to us, and with my exhaustion, they just increased my irritation to the extreme and my need for a bathroom sky-rocketed. Thankfully, we leave and I try to find a bush, but there really wasn’t one in the city. We search for inns and hotels, and I was able to use a restroom, and we figured we could just stay in iHop or walk around until daylight. Throughout the night, he would walk closest to the sidewalk, and I didn’t know he even knew about that specific “gentleman rule”, nonetheless carried it out. “Who is this guy and how did he get raised so perfectly,” were one of the thoughts that was running through my mind. As we continued to walk, a homeless man sitting outside Rainforest Café says something, and I intended to keep walking and ignore the man, but Noeah stops. “What the heck are you doing oh my gosh we’re going to die,” I thought. But the man starts giving Noeah some ludicrous advice about girls or something of that matter then asked for money – sure didn’t see that one coming. I found it awkward yet funny at the same time. The night moved on, and I’m positive my hair smelled like weed or cigarettes at that point. Waiting to cross an intersection, I hear loud thumps sprinting behind me, and for a second, I believed some man was about to kidnap me, but it was Scott and I just hugged him out of happiness. We run back to his car, and although they unfortunately got a ticket, him and his family saved us and let us crash in their hotel room. Sleeping at the edge of the bed, I was near to falling off but every time I turned whenever I lost circulation in an arm, I found Noeah awake and it seemed like he never slept, making me feel awful. I would’ve offered to trade spots with him, but in honesty, I felt like Scott would roll over in his sleep and throw an arm around me or of some sort, which was one of the last things I wanted. Throughout the night, alarms would go off and I would get up and shut them off. The day continued on, and Scott handed me a piece of gum, but Noeah took the wrapper and came back with it folded into a heart, and said “Happy Valentine’s Day.” I then realized he’s a bit cheesy, but that’s okay. We eat breakfast, call up Miguel and ask him to pick us up. After handling paperwork back at the police station, we go to Johnny Rockets because I’ve never been and head home. We grab Starbucks, and Miguel doesn’t leave until he finishes his coffee, and all I needed was to get home. We get back into the car, and Miguel mentions some insane idea about Carly possibly wanting him to kiss her, which I immediately threw my defenses up and told him that information would be incorrect. We get back on the road, Noeah and I accidentally fall asleep, and I wake up needing to use the restroom. Miguel swerved off to the next restroom stop, and he seemed a bit upset, which I didn’t understand until later. We finally get to my house, and Noeah comes in and talks to my mom. I already knew it wasn’t going to go very well because my mom is my mom. He leaves, and I later text him a little thank you, but I would’ve said more. I just didn’t want to seem crazy or overwhelming, but then he responds with a sweet message about what he intended to say my mom. He left me surprised, and almost restored my faith in the male race. I felt awful – still do, actually – at the fact that he was dragged into my mess. It seems like anyone and everyone who even speaks to me gets sucked into a hurricane of my world. But I hope he’s as forgiving as he seems to be. He’s definitely not like many guys I know, and this memory will definitely be one I’ll always remember
Her favorite color isn’t black because it makes her seem tough or different from the rest. She doesn’t like it because she is flashed back disgusted countenances from others or because it makes her eyes look lighter. She likes it because it reminds her of her coffee every morning, warming up her fingertips. It is also the color of her abused boots she wears to all her adventures. Black feels raw slipping off her tongue. Black is the color that seeps from the skin from a deep cut. Black is the color of the font in her favorite book. Its darkness intrigues her, not knowing what it holds and constantly pushing her to explore. It is the color she sees in herself. It is a black hole, filled with everything that was destroyed. Everyone else likes being abstract with a variation of colors like pinks, violets, and blues, looking like a distorted galaxy. Black is a combination of every color on the spectrum. Black is her favorite color because her soul is black.
As my lamp dimly lights my room, I’m shuffling through my bag, recounting everything I’ve already put in it. Three extra t-shirts, two pairs of jeans, a few undergarments, a water bottle, several granola bars, $500 in savings, and my favorite red sweatshirt from Scotland. I’m surprised as to how I managed to fit everything in such a small pack, but it’s managing to stay intact, so I won’t question it.
I’m smoothing out the wrinkles in my bed and aligning the pillows into perfect, equal distances. I walk towards my laptop, rummaging through all my files checking if I left anything. All my photos are deleted from my iPhoto, all homework assignments deleted, all files were put into the recycle bin, my history is wiped out, I shut off my iCloud, and I permanently delete every last bit that could possibly trace my existence.
I take one more moment to sit at the corner of my bed with black and maroon sheets, looking around my room. I stare at my bookshelf I managed to stock with books ever since my freshman year in high school. Four years down the road, and it’s piling with more than what it could carry. Out of everything in this town that I’ll miss, maybe my bookshelf is the only thing.
I’m sitting on the corner as my hands unawarely clench onto the unwrinkled sheets. I have to do this, I think to myself. My heart starts beating faster and faster, and I can hear the blood rushing up to my head.Grasping the last of this, I close my eyes and inhale deeply through my nose.
1… 2… 3…
I exhale out my mouth. I quickly open my eyes, get myself onto my feet from my bed, and grab the strap of my black pack. Swinging it onto my back, I walk towards my window and my shaking fingers unlatch the metal locks and slide the glass upwards. Droplets of water creep onto my window sill and onto my tan carpet. I crawl through the opening while attempting to keep my grip without slipping down the roof.
My sensitive fingers reach inside my window and silently shut it. My body is balancing on an angle several feet above the cement, and water droplets are pounding onto my grey sweater. My unbalanced ankles begin scooting its way down the elevation without entirely losing my grip onto the roof, and I finally reach the edge. Sitting down, I dangle my legs off the side and use my upper body strength to hold the rest of my body from falling off. As I position myself for my hands to let go, I land on my feet with bent knees.
Relieved, I start walking down the street for several blocks. From a distance, I have a clear visual of the three-sided box with two benches inside. After running towards the bus station, I sit down on the dry benches until bright headlights slowly pull up right in front of me. The two slim doors open inward exposing an old white man in a blue collared shirt and a lit cigarette hanging from his mouth. We make eye contact, and my lips form into a minuscule smile. My hands are held onto the straps of my pack on my chest, and I look down at my feet, watching my white converse turn into grey and switch from left to right against the steps.
“Where to, miss?” The blue-collared man asks me, and I notice his name tag – “Jennings.” I watch the cigarette stub bouncing up and down from his lips as he speaks. I turn away from him, avoiding the smell.
Without making any eye contact, I say, “Just drive,” without any detail or tone.
I hear the double doors slide behind me as I’m standing at the front of the bus. In the second row, a white-haired man in a grey t-shirt – that clearly needs to be washed – sits asleep with his head tilted back, and his mouth slightly open as if he knocked out on the bus. On the left, fourth row back, is a middle-aged African American woman staring out the window with her purse on her lap, hands laid one on top of another. She looks peaceful, and her gentle smile as she gazes out to the deep darkness of the night felt comforting. The last person already seated is in the second to last row on the right. His black hoodie is placed on his head, and I can see headphones peeking through his jacket. Nervously, I sit on the left aisle a few rows behind the African American woman, but a few rows in front of the black hoodie.
Throughout the bus, the only sound you can hear is the sound of the brakes whenever the driver slows to a stop and the sound of the engine running its gas. Maybe the occasional position shift in our seats and the little taps of raindrops, but other than that, nothing.
The wheels are turning on the bus, and as the time passes by, we pass several signs on the freeway of little towns I’ve never heard of. I find my fingers tapping on my lap. I honestly have no idea where I’m going or where I intend to land, but if it’s anywhere besides home, I know I’ll be happier.
For the past four years, I’ve been kicked to the curb by people. They claw their problems at you, disregarding the fact that you may have some of your own, and once you tell them that you’re not stable enough to handle two different kinds of issues, they leave you. The only reason why people acted like they cared about me was because I was there with my mouth shut and my ears open. Besides that, I’ve had issues with my dad nicknaming me “Whore” and individuals with higher authority telling me that I’m a “waste of oxygen” and my goals in life “to be happy” is too simplistic and naïve. I’m reminiscing into the four years that have affected me by more people imaginable.
I try to stop myself from thinking about my past life, and begin counting the rain drops hugging my window.
I make my fingers play thumb war with each other until my hands stop shaking. As the numbers begin to fill my head, I doze off into an empty mind and stop thinking about my previous memories or hurts. I’m solely just sitting on this uncomfortable pleather seat counting the the wet droplets as my thumbs aggressively wrestle each other. I wonder if I look as peaceful as the African American woman.
The squeals of the brakes fall into a stop, and I look up from my seat. After three hours of driving, the white-haired man has already left the bus, leaving the African American woman, black hoodie, and I. However, as a weed-infused male walks by me from the back of the bus, I can hear the rock and roll music blaring through his headphones. Black hoodie hands the bus driver some change and walks down the steps. As my eyes leave its focus on him, I look back to his seat in curiosity. Don’t go back there, it looks a bit sketchy, my thoughts tell me. I bite my lip in anticipation, but I know there isn’t anything to be curious for.
It’s four in the morning, and considering I couldn’t necessarily walk downstairs and fix myself up a meal before I left, I figure it’s an excuse to have an early breakfast. I unzip my backpack and reach for a granola bar, but as my hand slides past my stuffed clothes, my eyes catch a red, torn up notebook under the seat across from me. It looks so delicate and some pages are peeking off from the cover as if they’ve been ripped out and placed back inside. I ignore my grumbling stomach and zip up my backpack and shift it back. I slide to the edge of my seat, and lean over to the aisle across from me. Picking up the notebook, a few pages fall out, but I cautiously push them back inside. I sit back on my seat, close to the window, and bring my knees up onto my chest.
The red covers were leather, and at the frayed right-hand corner, gold letters engrave “H.J.” The cream-colored pages inside are scribbled and smudged with black ink with handwriting that is barely readable. My thumb flips through the papers, and I notice the notebook is nearly entirely filled from cover to cover containing diagrams, sketches, dates, but mostly illegible paragraphs.
I open up to the first page.
“We were born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” -Orson Welles
Interestingly enough, the quote seemed applicable but it sure was depressing. My fingers curiously flip to the next page. The top left of the first page in the first line includes the initials “R.D.” My face grimaces at the letters. I continue to go down the page, squinting at the black scribbles that dragged together.
“31 July 1997”
I begin wondering as to what exactly this notebook implies and what its intentions were. It was a simple notebook I found on the bus, but reading through it, it shows more than what I imagined. With my initials and my birthdate written in an obscure, frightening notebook I found on a bus, I can feel my heart beating faster than the wheels turning on the vehicle. Continuing to read down the first few pages, it includes bulleted notes of information. My fingers are beginning to shake in horror as I persistently rummage through the all-knowing pages of my life.
“4 February 2014 – First psychiatrist appointment with Dr. Wilson”
My face shrinks down, trying to understand exactly the situation going on. I’m starting to panic and my throat begins to close up, preventing air to reach to my lungs. I take my eyes off the pages for a few seconds to get myself breathing again.
“6 May 2014 – Goes out with girl friends for dinner and a movie”
I have no idea what’s going on or why I’m reading a documented notebook of my life with minuscule details that shouldn’t matter to anyone – especially a complete stranger.
“18 June 2015 – Her father drags her by her arm as she’s crying and screaming. He throws her to the ground and slaps her because he found out she slept with her boyfriend. She calls CPS. Police around her house at 2:30am.”
My tired eyes begin filling with tears, remembering the horrid memories. Reading them from someone’s disturbing, sinister writings in a notebook is making me lose my consciousness. I can hardly breathe, and my hands cannot stop shaking. I just want to understand what is going on, and all I wanted was to leave my cruel life behind me. But as I’m on this menacing bus, I’m screaming to get out. I can’t do this, I tell myself.
My eyes glimpse back onto the notebook in curiosity.
“8 June 2016 – She’s supposed to graduate.”
Scowling at the words, what does “supposed” mean? Does this wicked man predict my future and claims that I fail high school? Or does he somehow know I wanted to leave my town preventing me from graduating?
I thumb through the sensitive pages once again, and a paper that was originally ripped out but was simply placed back into the book falls out. I pick it up from under my seat and flip it over to discover the scribblings. My eyes grow and my body freezes into paralysis. A sketch – a portrait – of my face. My precise lips, small brown eyes, wavy hair, and the little strands that annoyingly curl upwards. So detailed, and so terrifying.
My damp hands are wrinkling the pages as my tight grasp cling onto the yellow, threatening ink smudges onto my thumbs. Little tears are trailing down my cheeks as the memories flash back and my petrified, trembling body tries to comprehend this portentous, sick joke. Get me out of here, get me out of here. Get. Me. Out!
I… can’t… breathe…
As I start to feel uneasy, and my head begins to sway back and forth uncontrollably and nods off, the brakes squeal once again. The screeching alarms my ears and my head pops up. A large figure stares down at me in the aisle and he’s hovering over my seat, blocking me off from the rest of the bus. All I see is a blue collared man and a newly lit cigarette hanging from his lips. His eyebrows lean in towards the center of his face, and his eyes dagger into my insecure eyes. I try to avoid his dark countenance, so I gaze back onto his collared blue shirt. “Jennings,” I read. I realize the bus driver is towering over me and my seat. My eyes widen, and I sprawl further into my seat as I somehow attempt to step back from him. Aggravated, he snatches the notebook out of my hand and begins to yell.
“Where the hell did you get that?!” He shoves the red notebook into his back pocket and yells for me to run out of the bus. I’m dragged and tossed onto the sidewalk as tears stream down my face. The double slim doors shut, and I see the bus make a U-turn, heading back to my hometown.
Arriving in London at 7am after an eleven hour flight left forty students and four adults beyond exhausted yet there’s a full day ahead of us.
After quickly changing at the airport into clothing much cleaner and comfortable, we go straight to London and pass an upside down purple cow on our way to lunch. Walking the streets of London, it doesn’t feel realistic even though we’re standing thirty feet away from the 300ft London Eye. Our lunch is first served with an appetizer, tomato and creamy mozzarella cheese with a brown sauce drizzled on the top. As nearly every student tried a bite, it didn’t appeal to any of us and I ended up spitting the cheese into a napkin – way to make first impressions.
However, the first-seemed peculiar main dish, salmon pasta, turns out to be delicious. With every obscure course we encountered, we slowly discovered what we did and didn’t like which allowed us to gradually expose ourselves to the new culture we need to adapt ourselves into for the next three weeks.
As the very few and quick two days tick on the Big Ben, we’re rushing around the capital cramming all that we can into our limited time. In lingering queues, we finally get to the end and board the London Eye, capturing the beauty of the entire city from the top, also crossing off number twelve on my bucket list: ride the London Eye. Taking a short boat ride along the river where the Coca-Cola masterpiece lays, the end of the stream leaves us off with the awe-struck, breath-taking Big Ben. I’m gazing at the astonishing clock, imagining Peter Pan flying above the clock and landing on the minute hand. It feels all too real.
I’m in line for the London Eye, about to board, and I’m looking around to the crowd of people gathered around street performers and others trying to get from one destination to another attempting to wind through the blockaded walls of other people. Their “heat wave” with 75 degrees humors my friends and I as we’re watching the locals in tank tops, shorts, and in line for ice cream attempting to “cool down.” To us, this is our winter.
Handing the worker in front of the entrance my ticket, he checks my bag for guns because I, of course, would definitely want to murder all these lovely, hot British boys around me. My friend behind me gets her bag scanned as well; however, his detector begins to beep and claims he found something. He yells our for another worker, eager to take her in, and the other worker glares at my friend. My friend’s stunned, pale white, frightened, until the first worker laughs letting my friend know he was messing around. Offended, she responds, “I don’t understand jokes.” I, at least, thought it was hilarious. The British have a grand sense of humor.
We later visit the Tower of London and venture to its famous Royal Gems which was valued more than my life. It was fascinating seeing how valuable and treasured such material items can be just because of its antique characteristic and the fact that an important human has touched it.
The vast London Bridge also left me in awe as I rode a ferry directly underneath it and sat in a bus that crossed on the bridge as well. Wishing people were capable of walking the top of the bridge, I imagined myself standing at the ledge, half an inch away from falling, but feeling the rush of adrenaline as the cool breeze kiss my cheeks and hugs my waist. I wanted to feel free up there, viewing the city in a full 360. The world is beautiful.
With an impacted schedule (which the British apparently pronounce “shh – eh – duale”) and being completely exhausted by traveling for an entire day, we did much more than our bodies can nearly handle. Walking the Tower of London, visiting Big Ben, riding the London Eye, attending a play, walking on Abbey Street, watching the change of guards, viewing Buckingham Palace from a distance since there were guards everywhere, and visiting nearly every major Harry Potter destination in London. I’m beyond exhausted, but within this trip, I have another sixteen days to go.