States of Life

By
The rain poured down onto the house, like the sounds of giants thrashing on top of me. He was gone. With that, the darkness devoured me, like a black sun slowing creeping upon the warmth and brilliancy of a fire. He had walked out of my life. The thunder and lightning was cautiously annihilating me; if you were brave enough to look outside, you could see the acacia tree withering away underneath the blackness.
Blackness. Darkness. It consumed us all. There was no other way to accept the truth, than to see the fact that all good really does come to an end.

Everybody had told us we couldn’t last. It was high school romance. There was no such thing, except in the movies. They were all wrong. The bond I found between us was completely different from everything else in the world. He was mine. He was Jonathan Lithers and he was a junior at my high school. I had recently moved to a gloomy city in New York, also known as Ithaca. Yes, it was the same Ithaca as the place where Cornell University was located. It was full of culture, knowledge, and sadness. I was 16 years old, moving with my parents, just because they wanted a change.

I ended up attending a small high school located there, with a population of about 400 students in all. Compared to my old school, this was miniscule. The moment I walked onto the campus, I realized everything was different. It was a lot gloomier than Los Angeles, where I originally grew up. The entrance to the school had an arch leading to a large dome, the center of the school. The students were especially different. They dressed warmly, fur coats and expensive design boots and jeans as they walked towards the building from their expensive cars. I drove an old Camry and there was nothing special about it.

Even though I was a junior, I was taking vigorous classes. I was taking all the APs available, and I felt as though I stood out like a sore thumb. Everybody looked at me, but never bothered to help me or ask me if I needed help on my way to class or to my locker. It had nothing to do with my look or personality. I wasn’t a goth, and I wasn’t a prep. I wasn’t hideous looking either. I was nice to everybody, I didn’t have any weird piercings or tattoos sticking out somewhere on my body, and I wasn’t selfish. But here, I was a totally different ordeal. The students here looked as though they belonged on a runway. They were full of makeup and designer clothes that hugged their bodies perfectly. They wore expensive handbags that were made in France and Italy. You could tell the girls had daily blowouts on their hair, the guys always holding the newest in technology cell phones. I still couldn’t make any friends, no matter how nice I was to everybody. At lunch time, I sat alone at a table fit for six. My lunch wasn’t exactly satisfying either. Even though the school was full of rich kids, the food was probably good enough to match what you got served in jail. Not that I would know. I’ve never been to jail.

Often, my lunches would start off the same. Stand in line in the large warm area that was covered from the outside world. Actually, I didn’t mind the outside world. At least in the outside world, people that didn’t have money were accepted and people that were filled with gratitude and kindness were actually considered the norm.

On this particular day, I was waiting in line behind about ten other students with my red tray in hand gliding across the stainless steeled counter. Most kids didn’t buy lunch. Instead, they had their personal chef make food for them and they would bring it here. My family honestly didn’t have that much money. My father used to be a manager of a local trade shop, but now he was the manager at a local 76 gas station. My mother, who never passed high school, was working at the grocery store down the street from the school. We lived on a simple income in a dirty and grungy apartment. But I was thankful for everything I had and I lived with what I could live. I bought clothes from the thrift shops and would go home and do my homework every day, and I would never complain when it came to chores. I pretty much accepted that the life I had here was totally different from the life I had back then. In Los Angeles, I lived in a poorer community, where other students understood me and we lived through the same ordeals. But here, everyone was pretty much the same.

What annoyed me most was not the fact that I looked like a dirty rat living in the streets compared to their glamorous clothes and fashionable lifestyles. What made me furious was that none of them ever cared. None of them ever truly bothered to ask me how I was doing, or even if I had any similarities to them. The girls with the blow outs would always stare at my blunt hair cut that I got for $5 and the boys never bothered asking me out to a dance. It was so strange that in a community bursting with culture and history, these kids never tried to look outside the typical societal norm and open their minds to new people. They never tried drifting away from the standard deviation of understanding who I am or what kind of person I was. All they cared about what who was wearing the newest clothes and who had the greatest gadget that was featured in Time Magazine.

This was what made it so strange when the one person I befriended was the mean to the school population. He looked like your typical jock. Short brown hair with piercing blue eyes and the build of an athlete. To me, somehow, he looked familiar. He looked like the childhood crush you would have as a small child. He looked like the kind of boy that could win millions of awards and recognitions and honestly never cared about them. He reminded me of home. The one day he came up to me, I was shocked.
I was sitting in the cafeteria eating my lunch alone when a shadow emerged in front of me and blocked out whatever light I was able to consume in Ithaca. “Jonathan Lithers,” he said slowly smiling. I looked back at him in awe.
“Jen Anderson,” I told him taking his hand slowly shaking it. We exchanged some witty banter as we spoke back and forth about each other. He was captain of the lacrosse and soccer team here, a junior and current valedictorian of his class. I was impressed. I told him about my slow and dull life, thinking that he would turn around at any moment, say “I made a mistake” and walk away. But Jon didn’t. He stayed. He showed me the rest of my classes for the day, and at the end of school, walked past my class and said goodbye before he headed out for practice. I smiled at him.
I never understood the attraction I had for him until later. It was as though I had met him, in another life maybe, but even then it seemed that I was undeserving of this gratitude.

The same routine would happen every day. He would meet me at the front of the school every morning, take my books and walk me to my first class. On the weekends, we’d go to this place. I called it the safe Haven. Two miles past the high school was a small park. If you walked into the hole through the old picket fence and past a couple of small trees, there was one big oak tree in the middle of a small grassy area. John had hung a rope with a tire attached at the end. Like a little kid, I would put my legs through the middle and he would push me. We would talk about our futures. He was worried about college and life beyond it. He would tell me about his parents and how they want him to go to Cornell, when he really wanted to go somewhere in the West. I told him about my aspirations, my dreams. It was only here, in this little sanctuary that I would be at peace.

Under this little tree were we able to truly tell each other’s secrete. Even in the rain, I felt safe, protected, by not only the large tree that would protect us from the rain, but also Jon, knowing he could always be here to defend me, if anything would happen. It would only be here, in this refuge that I would truly feel as though I belong. It was as though he was the little piece of Ithaca that was worth getting to know. He embodied the person I wanted to be, and the kind of people I wanted in the world. Little did I know that what I loved most would fall into darkness.

Jon and I were under the tree when it all began. He smiled at me as he took out an elongated jewelry box. Inside it was a necklace. In the middle was a single gold charm of an oak tree. He told me he had to play at a game today across the city, but h would be back at around eight to pick me up and we could go eat. If I had known it would be the last time I saw him, I think I would’ve said more than “drive carefully” as he gave me a tight hug and walked away.

He never showed up. That night, Jon had gotten into a car accident. Another car with a drunk driver crashed into his car and it went off the bridge he was driving across. I got the call at 8:15 from the police.

At first, I couldn’t believe it. How could Jon go when I was still here? How could he leave my life when he just walked into it? I couldn’t help it. I cried. The rain was pounding outside my house when I had gotten the call. I needed to get out, but as I continued to walk down the street I felt the coldness that was slowly devouring me. The warmth of my body faded with each step I took as I thought about him. My heart sunk like an anchor at each roar of thunder that came down. Before I knew it, the tree was in sight. I ran even faster, clung to the tire as it swung back and forth like a hypnotist, trying to calm me down. I was rocking back and forth in the same place, but it didn’t feel right. It felt like a hole had been poked into my chest and it couldn’t heal.

I had only known him for about four months. The summer was almost here, but not in Ithaca. No matter what season it was, it still rained here and the sky would still be downcast and dreary. I nervously touched my necklace that was given to me just a couple of hours before. The gold charm was warm from the heat of my neck. I let it go and continued to stare at the floor. I stayed in the tire all night, slowly drifting into sleep while it was still swinging. I knew that my parents were worried for me, but at that moment in time, I did not care. When I woke up, I felt a distant tinge of familiarity. It was subtle enough to make me confused, but strong enough to make me open my eyes. It was the sun. I had not felt it in about half a year, but it felt like centuries. I felt the coldness that embodied me slowly warming up as the sun gradually moved up my body: from the bottom of my feet to my wind-swept disheveled hair.

I watched as the birds that I never knew existed in Ithaca began to chirp. A bluebird stood on a limb of the tall tree and began to sing a joyful song. I stared at it. It stopped singing and looked directly at me. It gave off a small chirp and flew away. I watched it as it soared high into the sky and off into the West. I got off my tire and began walking towards home. The small little bluebird gave me an inspiration. Like the bird, Jon had affected my life. Although he had been here for only a small amount of time, he left one of the greatest impacts within me. Because of him, I was a stronger person and I was now ready to face the world. I realized that you don’t need to have known someone forever to realize what kind of a person they are.
It only took me ten minutes to meet Jon, an hour to get to know him, and an eternity to forget him. After all, you never forget the people that you loved.





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