All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
I always felt his presence there. He always had a presence. Even if he sat in the corner, on the side, even if you couldn't see him, you could always tell when he was around. He demanded reverence, but never would have asked for it. His long, black, matted hair rested on his bony shoulders, his dark beige skin, sharp features, glowing eyes glazed with traces of scarlet and pink, the lingering smell of smoke clinging to his clothes, these were all part of his calm and reposing demeanor. His raggedy clothes fit him better than an Armani ever could. His shirt sagged and showed the top of his chest from which sprouted a patch of thin black hair. His black jeans were shedding denim, his feet rested comfortably in brown mid-length boots that bore traces of bad weather and many years. His humility and fervor for living elevated him, he was my God, yet he was my friend.
We always used to go up on the roof. The floor was eroded by past rain and snow; there were always random beer bottles and cigarette butts lying around; the walls were dirty, opaque black smoke emanated from the top of a pyramid-like structure. There were no protective rails since no one was supposed to be there, but the presence of danger, the fear of falling, only intrigued us and added to our motivation to break the rules and make our way to the top of the city.
Or at least for me it was that way; that's why I used to take the risk, sneak into the stairwell, go where I shouldn't, that is, where the elevator wouldn't.
That's how I knew we were breaking the rules, that's why I liked it. But as I said, that was what drove me, but Makkonen was different; he didn't seem to care for danger; not that it bothered him, he just didn't seem to care for it. He didn't have any superficial tendencies, or if he did, I sure couldn't see them. He just wanted to go, to see the stars, to feel the breeze, just being there made him happy. He had a carelessness about him that I could not impose upon myself no matter how hard I tried. His stoic acceptance of all things around him, his cryptic remarks that seemed to signify so much, his confidence in silence, he always fascinated me. But it was silences, the comfortable silences that one rarely finds; it was those that I enjoyed the most.
We sat there one night, engulfed in silence, surrounded by the sparkling stars, the misty air that always resonated after a storm, the swift, yet comfortable breeze. It was a normal night to this point, Makkonen pressing his lips up to a diminishing butt, his eyes directed toward the sky searching for Orion. Yet something was different, our immutable nightly routine was lacking something. I dropped my cigarette off the edge and watched it smack the street as I had always done, and then I looked at him. I tried to find Orion in the sky to provide a common ground for conversation. I always liked Orion, he seemed to embody my spirit, the hunter, the urban gorilla I so longed to be. Of course Makkonen never saw him that way, he always tried to preach of the peace this warrior had found in the sky, how his violent existence had been salvaged in the stars. I liked the way he could find peace in a warrior; his irony always humored me even though I could never subscribe to such a theory.
"Do you see it?" he said.
"Oh, oh yah, I see it," I said, having been caught in my profound analysis, the words stumbled off my tongue. But those were to be words spoken that night. He withdrew into solitude; and I went back to look over the edge. Maybe I had missed something. I always liked to see the bikers whiz by like a swarm of killer bees with the blue and white patrol cars hot on their tail. Anyway, I would remember that night because something had changed. It wasn't the words we had spoken, it was the bottomless silence. It was uncomfortable, we were out of sync and I had begun to lose respect for his peaceful fanaticism.
The next day was hectic. I had had words with my English teacher as to the criteria of his grading system. He seemed to think my papers lacked content, but, of course, he was wrong because they were each ten pages. Regardless, the stress I found at school made me long for Makkonen's company and the peace of mind that came with it. I waited until it was dark and made my way up the stairs, opened the door while smirking condescendingly at the "DO NOT ENTER" sign which I loved to disobey. There he was, firmly placed in his usual spot, matches by his side. He stared into space, darned if I knew what he was dreaming about. He gave no inkling as to the nature of his thoughts. I stepped to the edge and remembered the anger that I had felt toward that sorry old man who was trying to educate me. What a joke! I wanted my anger validated from a source other than my emotion so I took it up with a beer bottle that I valiantly tossed off the roof. It shattered and must have startled Makkonen, for he turned toward me.
"The sky is beautiful tonight," he said without an ounce of recognition for my obvious attempt at demonstrating my anger.
"What?" I said, frustrated by his ingenuous comment.
"The sky, it's beautiful," he repeated. How could he sit there and look at the stars when I had such a grave problem. He was my friend, he was supposed to help me.
"Come on, Mak," I said knowing he was not partial to nicknames, "Come on, you wouldn't want to feel responsible if I were to do something rash," I said in a futile attempt to imply that I might jump. "Forget you then, I don't need you anyway, all you do is sit there. Don't you ever leave?" And then I realized he was gone. I vaguely heard his footsteps in the stairwell, but it was too late to catch him. He had never left before me but I didn't care. Good riddance, I thought, yah that's what I thought, but I shouldn't have. So I made my way downstairs, took shelter beneath the woolen covers on my bed, and went to sleep with my anger gradually subsiding.
I awoke around midnight, my room was pitch black, my throat was dry and thoughts were flying through my head. Was I right? Was my anger valid? Should he have been the recipient of my anger? A sudden feeling of remorse dawned on me, shrouding me like the grim reaper's cape. I had done something tremendously uncalled for. I had acted in haste and I would not sleep until I had reconciled with the victim of my actions. I sprung out of bed, stumbling toward the light switch. Panic overcame me. How could I have done this. I threw on a sweatshirt and blue jeans and rushed out of the house. Frantically I made my way up the ashy-grey stairwell and flew out onto the roof. I ran around the roof tossing beer bottles, searching for my friend, but he was nowhere to be found. He was gone and for some reason I knew he would not return.
I sat where he used to sit, my eyes tearing. I had crossed the line and I could not redeem myself. But then I saw it: the stars, sparkling, shining on every creature, glistening in the moonlit darkness. I saw them and I could feel the peace, the calm that Makonnen had so implicitly strived for. I saw Orion resting in the sky, free from all entanglements, extricated from the web of humanity. It was then that I began to see Makkonen's world: he had not come here for the adventure. He hadn't strived for rebellion as I had; he simply came for peace, for religion. Maybe it wasn't a conventional religion, or maybe it was one of those they practice in the hills somewhere in Africa, one of the ones you hear about from some wanna-be philosopher who smokes too much. It didn't matter though, it was what he believed in. It gave him peace of mind and this peace is what I admired about him. I had always thought of us as companions, a team with mutual goals, but we were different I realized now. I sat there with a sense of guilty fulfillment, maybe it was good that he had left. It might have been the only way I could truly appreciate him. And maybe, just maybe, he was better as an idol than a friend. 1