By Debbie, age 16, New Zealand
And there she sat, Amy, with her gouache paints and charcoal stained fingers. Blue droplets of blood spell out the dripping tears, like so many scars she had never known. The rivulets of her paintbrush creating a sort of poetry of the words and barely contained feelings in her palette. The hushed critiques, always a bubbling praise, hummed in a chorus of alternating gazes of amazement and bewilderment. The French plait of her golden sunset hair reflected onto her clothing, a mermaid's tail, a mermaid's tale. The grace highlighting her face as she painted mysteriously, purposefully. The thoughts of her swam harmoniously, not only wanting to decipher her masterpiece but also wanting to know her. Her knowing sapphire eye lit with a purple flame as she carried on, oblivious to the chaos wrapped around her in a labyrinth of the people she would never see again. Thumping, rhythmic in my head, painfully ignited my willingness for retribution. The doors swung open and my purple and silver headphones blared angry in-your-face music; I limped in my torn mask of memories and a dress I can barely remember. It was the color of tornadoes.
I felt a nervousness in the air, the sense of the irreversible, and maybe this is when I should have run. It was here, this exact moment of decision. That was when I saw her. I saw her gouache paints and halo of watercolor and secrets. The trio of praises echoed in my mind, searing my mind. The ambition in hallway mirrors, finally gathering to haunt me. I wish I were you. Glinting in the moonlight like a wild Cheshire cat, I gestured, I shouted, I told the strangers around us about the opening tomorrow beside that marble fountain, lost as a hunted animal in new lands. The fountain winked at me. The hordes of girls who wore fairy wings made their way past with twinkling hellos and bemused faces, promising they'd be there. The anticipated gleams dwelled in the eyes of silly boys who lay there in crowds and handfuls, talking about nothing in particular and not doing anything in particular but always ending in arm wrestling competitions, betting all or nothing, pulling off crazy stunts.
Manically suppressing the swell and ebb and flow of the tides in my chest, I stood hollow and awakened as if from a flamenco dream into a nightmare. Wordlessly, I was left there, alone in a sea of desolate faces, or faces I merely imagined desolate. The heat dazed me; I smiled and confusion came in a flood of charmed lives.
I don't remember much of what had happened next. Here are some thoughts as I wavered and flickered, a light of deluge. So this is what the cold had become. Not a mystery, just alone and was I breathing and more alive in my sleep, or more cutting when I was awake? Accusations are sharpened and thrown with the practiced skill of the condemned. Listening is for the unguarded and those too weak to fend off themselves. Was I breathing now and had forgotten it? This tolerating of my weaknesses, how long would I endure? The answer: every day I flip a coin and it lands heads. I keep walking, keep breathing, thorns in my mind, alive. Someday it will turn to tails. It will morph and I will not scream because I never have. I will not mourn. Feral and fifteen years. When you're lying in bed looking at the constellations on your ceiling, do you recall the sensation of falling and not falling into a whirlwind and wondering if you were dreaming all at the same time? It's walking the line between here and there. If I had all I wanted, would it have made a difference? The answer: No. I had departed covered in cuts of stars long ago, so long ago that if you did break the code, smashed it between your clenched fists, battering the fibers that used to knit the thread of my existence into being, I would be farther than ever. I would have run. Finding my own way out by oleander and starlight straight on 'till morning. Time would not rewind, not even for you. I choked on the air in which nothing would grow in my relentless, tired pursuit of the outside world.
The outside world remained a fragile cocoon as my prison house reflected their world in my eyes. I tap-tap-tapped on the glass between their world and mine, hoping to find the Morse code that would teach me the way to smash it apart. Golden and silky and feelings of nostalgia and intoxication for what I would never know haunted me. Shifting, my world lay in pieces of a broken kaleidoscope, shifting as I stood there in a garden of promise amongst the pieces, not knowing what to do. Not knowing what to say. The thirst to be still enveloped my being, to be able to see again in black and white, not the shades in between, forming rainbows and deciding to confuse me in every possible way. In your world, I needed not agonize about lies and pain, scrutinize about the uncertainty of you and me. Too many questions have been asked and none of them are the correct questions to ask, but then I never expected more than this. That is what I am trying to tell myself, try not to run, not yet, telling myself a story, wishing that I could see Amy instead reflected in this mirror carved from the animal bones lying on the dusty, stained ground.
I needed something to be real but fell away instead, so I invented maybes in my own head, my own world. It is a lonely freedom for others. The irrepressible comfort of maybes made me shudder. To depend on something so impulsive is painful. The truth about this was a demoniac lion and not one I intended to try and save only to lose you. I will never hold those butterflies in, the wind will never be a love song rushing into my cold, red ears; how could I be afraid of what is not real? We will never talk of this; we will never talk of love. Love in the time of Vienna. What will remain of my birthday wish, my dream catcher, and the spell I could not break? The spell I had woven myself, the threads of translucent veins in coating of the most precious diamond lying where no one else would ever find it. Love wasn't. It could not exist simply because it cannot exist, and of this I am certain. The sick, imagined reason for passionate deaths, that wish, flowers that burned in the hollow chest of mine. It was more than an illusion; it was the human error. We can never know people the way we want to love them. We are all strangers, adrift and wanting. You and I, we are two more. Here's to you, here's to you whom I will never admit aloud. Hopefully I will forget about you tomorrow but I don't want to. Let it hypnotize me, a brutal muse, the melody born in the lines on my palm escaping by these prickled veins, the ones you will never know. Because maybe I am, maybe that is the fear and the coldness of my world, pure and deadly and a deep curse of snow. You wrote a love letter once and I walked away because that is what I knew how to do. Hello, hello the words in my head drown in its own blood.
The dreariness of places I have lived is fading. I look forward and backwards all the time, chronos or the ouroboros. Lying before me is a vast gap and behind me a dangerous breath. But everywhere I look I see people in places they'd rather not be. I see people in the way they have tried to avoid being seen. I read them because they give too much away that I cannot help it. Their smallest gestures, the scruffiness of his ancient jumper, her licking lips because she is about to say what she cannot take back. The analysis of every handshake, every emotion in their eyes, I scan and know they are a young married couple, he is about to cry and she is going to leave after seven years that have damaged them both. The scruffy one, his eyes are slightly puffy as if he cried himself to sleep the night before, if he even slept at all, which he hasn't been able to since they started living together and he lost everything. The usually elegant female, Japanese and kind, saunters away almost timidly because she learned to be stronger and cruel when she had to be. He never learned that he couldn't learn this. They walked in like light on water but they walk away two freaks in separate directions. The queue is as boring as the people in it, I am a dinosaur in Los Angeles, a pirate in Italy, a Turkish cowboy. All I hear from people are the hate, but places emit reflected sounds, not unlike the inside of a seashell. Look at these buildings, where they formed and how. The stories of places unveil before you like a magician pulling statues out of nothing. Sometimes places are less complicated than the map of the human thought. You don't need to say anything, let alone the Right Thing. Places bring safety or thrill. Maps remind me of the scale of the world and we are always smaller than we believe. Peaceful skies, nature will never demand everything from you. Places and people, places can save you but people sometimes cannot.