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A Closer Distance

By , Jericho, NY
I can’t relive the past. I know that. My aunt knows that I know that yet she continues to shout that I’m going to be the next Gatsby or the next Willy Loman. It’s annoying to live with an eleventh grade A.P composition teacher. It’s even more annoying because a. she’s single and has no one else to distract her, and, b. I’m a senior and do not need prep on last years work.
Currently, I’m sitting on my bed, staring at college applications and wondering whether I should just give up. Community college is just a few miles away; why not just settle for that?
My aunt’s answer to my rhetorical question: because I’m smarter than that and can easily get into a good university if I just put some effort in completing my applications. Right.
I don’t have any talents that I could show off. My g.p.a is in an okay range, 3.7, 3.8. I’ve taken about three A.P courses, (compared to my friends who had about ten), I am particularly strong in English, (again, I live with an English teacher), and I’ve been in a few clubs. Community service…does one year of service look good? Don’t colleges understand the adversities of a student? (Okay, fine, the truth is, I’m indolent. But, hey, Maritza said she would sign off three years for me anyway.)
I am pathetic. There is no other adjective that could clearly describe me, though I’m sure my aunt could think of a few. Sighing, I put aside my applications and hop down the stairs. (No I don’t literally hop, but it’s good to use verbs other than “walk” sometimes.)
“You’re going to sound like Whitney Houston if you keep on shouting,” I mention to my aunt, shutting her up briefly.
She smirks, and responds, “Wiseass. I’m going to pretend you mean how she sounded before her voice cracked.”
I shake my head, grinning. Slipping on my boot heels, I unlock the front door. “I’m going out for an hour or two.”
Before I can escape, though, Aunt J decides to become authoritarian. “You better not be going to your boyfriend’s house,” she hisses, snaking down from the den towards me.
I groan. “How many times do I have to tell you that I do not have a boyfriend?” Seriously. It’s obvious enough just looking at me that no one would even bother to ask me out.
“Well, Babe, I find that hard to believe. I mean, you’re already eighteen and you expect me to believe that you are not hooking up with the male species? That’s what you teens call it right?”
Great. My aunt has accomplished the task of crushing the last few ounces of backbone I had perpetuated. Just a quick glance at her is enough for me to wither away; she shouldn’t be allowed to speak.
She should; however, have my name, for she actually appears to be a babe. Her light hair curls over her smooth caramel face as she blinks her almond blue eyes at me almost seductively without even trying. In contrast, I look like a terrifying giant who is unfortunately always misunderstood and doesn’t want to eat people but be friends with them.
“I’m leaving!” I roar, slamming the door behind me. I huff as I march across the lawn towards my old beetle car. I slam the door after sliding into the drivers seat, start the car and streak out the neighborhood, miles past the geese, and a half n hour into a building populated area.
I don’t like calling this place “the city.” It reminds me of the half starved, short, princesses who step upon even giants like me. I’m not a slut with straight hair and I don’t have interests in everything from Justin Bieber to Coach; therefore, I’m not deemed good enough to be at the top of the high school chain. Well, whatever. Even though I have displayed my low self esteem in many instances, I still know that I’m an okay looking person. I have nice long curls of hair and pretty black eyelashes that made up for my dull brown eyes. I am tall, (five feet nine), and thin, but not in the starving type of way. My dad used to tell me to be a model when he was still alive, but I’m not exactly the graceful type.
I probably do have more worthy qualities about me that I am not aware about. Right now, however, I have a strange yearning to be Alice in Wonderland. This is definitely off topic, but I’m not exactly in the right state of mind. I’m tired, irritated, and I’ve just realized that I’m wearing heels.
I need help. I need a psychiatrist. I used to be graced with my dad’s love; now I’m living with my crazy aunt. I used to be stable; now I’m plain miserable. I used to have a best friend; now I’m surrounded by friends I hardly know. I’m fake, a phony; Holden Caulfield would figure me out in seconds. This is why my aunt had been shouting at me; I can’t get rid of the past. It nags me to the point that I feel tortured, to the point that I have to leave my home, a place that is supposed to protect me, and drive miles away into a city of scandal. At least, it was a city of scandal in The Great Gatsby.
I’m strolling down the streets. My car’s parked in front of Barnes and Nobles; I’m surrounded my dainty shops and bakeries. Now that I think about it, none of the girls at my high school would deem Queens to be a part of the city. To me; however, these streets are the city. It’s like a village in the cities of England, layered in ancient buildings fashioned with quintessential shops.
I breathe in the cold air and release a cloud as I breathe out again. I fade in and out of stores, my hands tucked in my coat pockets as I try to reach normalcy. Suddenly, guilt slaps me in the face; I shouldn’t be here, without my aunt’s consent nor knowledge, (she probably thinks I’m at a friend house). Quickly, I turn around and hurry down the blocks, trying to avoid bumping into people.
I almost suffer from a stroke when I see a young man in a uniform standing under the Barnes and Nobles entrance in front of my car, but I realize he’s probably taking a break and has just come out of the crowded book store. I know this because he has a book in his hand. Is he waiting for someone? Is he like me, lost in his own world? As I inch closer, I realize he’s not in a police uniform; rather, he’s in a military uniform. (I really should have worn my glasses).
I continue to stare at him, which causes me to collide into a woman who, unharmed, rushes past me. On the other hand, I’m not so fortunate. I choke with embarrassment as I find myself on the cold, cement, ground, my hands scraped and stung. A kind stranger helps me up; it’s the military man.
“Thank you,” I say cordially. He nods his shaven head, offering me a shy smile. He seems to be only twenty, yet he’s already part of the larger world, serving our country. I realize why he’s here; recently the soldiers have been allowed to come home.
“You’ve just returned from the war?” I blurt out, and then turn red at my rudeness.
He doesn’t seem to find my outburst silly; instead, he smiles and responds in a penetrating yet juvenile voice, “Yes. I took a taxi here straight from the airport, to surprise my girlfriend who works here.”
“That’s…that’s really sweet.” I say, finding this man to be remarkable by the minute.
I’m about to end our conversation, but suddenly, he tells me, “She isn’t here. That’s why I bought a book. I called her, and now she’s going to pick me up. I look like a loser right? Wearing my uniform and waiting for my girlfriend to drive me home.” His friendly cover has disintegrated; he’s exactly like me: bitter, worn, angry.
We’re strangers to each other; it’s his uniform that allows me to speak to him with curiosity. I can’t offer him comfort by patting his shoulder or hugging him or offering him caring words. So I offer him a smile, despite the fact that we’re both feeling this way, and I say, “You don’t look like a loser. You might feel like one, but in reality, you are respectable and lucky to be wearing a uniform and to have a girlfriend who is going to take you home.”
It’s quiet between us, especially since I’ve just awkwardly tried to make him feel better. A moment passes, and he breaks into a smile again, his honey eyes considerably less bleak than it was a few minutes ago. “Thank you,” he says, and we are now on equal standings.
I nod, and moments later, I’m driving down a wide, nearly vacant highway. It’s dark now, with only the pale flesh of the moon lighting my path home. I sit up straight against my faded seat and start humming a tune. I’m not Alice in Wonderland. I’m Babe in New York, with eighteen years of my life seemingly more palpable to me than before.
Maybe I would join the army.





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