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Break the Stillness

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My neighbor. Jesse. His eyes were the ocean and he always held a coffee stirrer between his teeth


I think I miss him. We always sat on the dock behind the 7-Eleven, cutting school. Me, because my parents were up yelling all night; him, who knows? He was always pretty quiet. We had that casual kind of friendship, one where silence wasn’t awkward and we were cool with just being together. We would sit quietly, a comfortable few feet apart from each other, toes dangling in the murky water below, his dark eyelashes closed, locking out the rest of the world. My eyes would train on him, watching. I would breathe in the fresh, prickly air that made my lungs sting. He really was quite beautiful in a shadow-like kind of way.


This was all back when I still loved to swim, far, far out to where the water turned black and all I could see and all I could feel was the ocean. My life would disappear then, as I floated on my back, my hair trailing through the water, sharp with cold. I would spread my chattering lips into a smile because I was so free and so far away from my life and my family and there was no sound that could break the stillness except for the sound of the sea. Rocking me to sleep like I was a baby again. Innocent and watching the sunset that was red and gold, and watching for that one flash of green when the sun disappeared behind the horizon; that one moment that I always strained my eyes to catch a glimpse of, but always seemed to miss.

I dreamed of becoming a deep-sea diver then, uncovering all the beauty under water, all the lines and angles and mysteries that hide there. Now just looking at the ocean makes my world shake, turning in circles until I’m sure I’m going to throw up, making me crazy and dizzy. I see his eyes, wide open and dark, but still so, so beautiful. I see the green flash cast his skinny body in shadow, and I see his teeth that always used to hold a coffee stirrer between them clench. I see myself swimming faster than I ever had before, but then reality returns, and I remember it’s too late. Nothing has changed. Jesse is still dead and even though I’d like to blame God for it, I know that it is still all my fault.


The day he died I skipped church for the first time. Wearing my Sunday clothes and shiny shoes, my hair straight and brushed, I had run, no destination in mind, angry at my mother and my father for their yelling and their violence and their stupidity and their carelessness that lead them to have me in the first place.


The sky was bright and the streets empty, all the tourists gone home for the winter and all the bakers and businessmen and shop owners still asleep in their beds. I could hear the blue, blue waves of the ocean breaking on the shore, and I could see the rambling silhouette of a boy sitting on the edge of the dock. Jesse. I still see his shadow everywhere.


I remember walking over and sitting down beside him on the soggy boards of the dock, closer than I ever had before. The waves ate at my shoes again and again, carrying discarded Wendy’s cups and old Snickers wrappers with them, the water soaking through to my feet so that I could feel the cold and the wet and the pure all the way down to my toenails. Jesse had smiled then, I remember, his wide eyes glinting and his teeth clenched around a coffee stirrer like always.


“Hey, Cat” he said, in that soft, twinkle-toed voice of his. “You ever wonder what it’d be like to escape? You ever wonder what it’d be like to swim way out there, way over where the world just seems to end?” Jesse had a way with words like that. His eyelashes closed at the thought and I just smiled at him and slid into the water with barely a splash, still wearing my Sunday dress but barely even noticing because I was ready to escape this town and ready to escape this world and ready to travel out to where the world just ends. And I think that Jesse was too.


His fingers caught with mine, and there we were, standing just below the dock, waist deep in the water, my dress catching and billowing with every wave that passed us by. I felt close to him, with our hands locked together, looking out at the painted ocean surrounding us, just eons and eons of ocean. At that moment all I wanted was to get away, and although I don’t know about him, I know I wanted to come back someday.


It made my heart race when that wave separated us, feeling for his hand again only to realize that my ocean, my peaceful ocean with all of its mysteries, had blown him away. The water was dark and thick and it hurt my arms to move through it. I was sinking. I was waiting.


I wanted to find him. I needed to. Suddenly the ocean was alive and roaring, foam filling up my eyes and ears. Everything was black except that white shadow that was Jesse. My throat caught, and then I was swimming towards him in a rush of madness, waves toppling over my head and creeping inside of it. I was screaming at him, screaming at him to do something, to not just sit there and let the ocean eat him away.


He got his escape, and he was gone when I reached him. Pale hands and bloodshot eyes and shadowy. Beautiful but gone. I can’t remember whether he still held the coffee stirrer clenched between his teeth.



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guitargirl516 said...
Jul. 6, 2010 at 5:20 pm:

oh, thats so sad!

is this a true story?

 
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