I trudge slowly down the cracked cement sidewalk, beadsof sweat forming on the bridge of my nose. The late spring sun stabs me with itsrays and the heat makes my journey seem ten times longer. I so wish I could flyright now, just spread my glittery, paper-thin fairy wings and glide lightly,floating on the breeze from passing cars. Too bad I'm not a fairy but a girl, andI still have two miles to go. Damn.
I try to combat the heat by suckingdown a Misty Freeze (with extra ice, the way I like it) at top-speed, no stoppingfor air, just full-on, up-the-straw-and-into-my-mouth consumption action. I knowI'm going to get one of those annoyingly painful brain freezes, but today is justone of those days when I simply do not care, because the drink is so cold and ittastes so good.
I cross West 150th Street.
There's a sprinkler onthe other side of the street, saturating a lawn that appears to have been deadfor a billion years. I am aware that a sophisticated seventh-grader such asmyself ought to step around the spray to avoid being drenched, but I revert tochildhood and dash merrily through the curtain of wetness. I know it must havelooked stupid and juvenile, but no one saw me. Score.
I shift my heavybackpack and think of the coffee-flavored lipgloss that must be melting in mypocket by now. Thinking about dumb stuff like this helps pass the time, and theway I figure it, if I keep my mind busy, I won't feel so tired oralone.
Eventually my tennis-shoed feet crunch over the gravel parking lotof the Rapid Transit station, and a black girl wearing a Catholic school uniformswings the door open and holds it for me. I smile to communicate my appreciation,and remind myself to pass this act of kindness along to someoneelse.
Digging deep into the front pocket of my faded jeans, past thedrippy lipgloss and a note from a girl who's starting to annoy me, I pull out ahandful of quarters. The guy behind the glass starts rapping as I slide my bucktwenty-five through the hole in the window. His rhymes flow smoothly and I admirethe dude because he spends his entire day separated from the world by abulletproof box but doesn't let that get him down. One day, I tell myself as Iglide up the orange escalator, I'm gonna stop and freestyle with that guy(despite the dangerously low levels of funk present in my being).
I stepout onto the platform where the weary regulars are already waiting for the nexteastbound train. The earth rumbles beneath my size 7 Skechers, the doors slideopen and I slip into the emptiest car.
I throw my schoolbag down on themuddy fake leather seat and prop my body against the smudged window. There's ayoung guy behind me with skin the color of hot chocolate reading a really thickbook with dragons and vibrant Asian art on the cover. I try to catch the title soI might also read the book and have something in common with this person I willnever see again, but he's covering the vital information with his thick thumb. SoI turn around again, rest my head on the dirty double-panes and watch the wordsand pictures and discarded couches fly by.
Soon I'munderground and everything is dark except for the glowing lights inside the car.I get off in a hurry as new people get on even faster. I try to stay out ofeveryone's way as I weave through the crowd toward yet another escalator, whichwill take me to the first floor of Tower City.
I stride past the fountainand the food court and all the shoppers and out into the familiar shade ofdowntown Cleveland. I spot the bike messenger with the dreadlocks I think are socool, and maybe someday I will even tell him so. A day when he doesn't seem sorushed.
I perch like a pigeon at the base of a lamppost, keeping mybackpack close because, even though I trust people, my mom says I shouldn't. Ilisten to the Jazz Man playing his glittery gold saxophone, the rich bluesy notesdrifting through the air in the same way I dream of flying, bouncing off thesides of every tall building. My eyes are fixed on Public Square, where the cuteboys with big pants confidently ride their skateboards and do tricks for no onebut themselves.
A scruffy-looking dude wearing a denim jacket swaggersover to my lamppost and kindly offers me a soggy, wilted flower with brown spotson the edges of the leaves. I know he probably scaled the stone wall and stole itfrom the graveyard on East 9th but that's okay with me. I take the stemgraciously between my fingers and sniff the droopy plant, pretending the blossomis fresh and white and full of fragrant life. I do this because I know it's theonly way this fellow knows how to get by. And I don't want to seem unsatisfied,because I like to think his gesture was also meant to make me happy.
I'mpretty sure the man and I share this last thought, because when I place atarnished quarter into his leathery palm, he smiles a big smile, thanks meheartily and pretends that 25 cents is enough to buy him a good meal.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.