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The sculptor of chasms
The sun is at that obnoxious angle where it gets in your eyes no matter what direction you turn, and I don’t mind. I’m at some party, I don’t know what the occasion is, or who is supposed to be here, it’s just a party I heard about and showed up at. I’m talking to someone I know. He just said something really funny, and I’m laughing, nodding my head and trying to get out a response.
Somebody I don’t know walks over and says that the guest of honor is here, and from inside the house I can here people yelling, “surprise!” My friend gets all upset that we missed his arrival, but I don’t even know who it is and I just nod my head. He keeps on talking, but it feels muted. I am no longer paying attention, just staring at the grass. He’s still talking.
Then I hear him say, “there he is.” and I look up and see this guy walking over towards me. He has this smile on his face that I recognize, and I can tell that it amuses him when I get the look of recognition on my own face. He grabs the only empty lawn chair, the creaky one that nobody wanted, and pulls it over towards me.
“Been a long time” He says.
“Yeah. Good to see you” As soon as I respond with this I regret it. It seems too obvious a thing to say.
“Good to see you to. It’s been how long? Wow, since sixth grade I think.” I can’t think of anything to say back. The silence is so deep and abyssal that I don’t think anything I can say from now on can fill it. He is still looking at me. My other friend gets up and walks off, remembers his drink, comes back for it, walks off again. I finally think of something to say.
“Where did you go again? Burleson?”
“Yep. Nice school there.” I sort of feel angry at him for saying that. It’s not much to work with. Oh well, time to change the subject.
“So this is your party huh? How old are you?”
“Whose party would it be?” He gets a strange look on his face. He doesn’t bother to answer my other question.
“I don’t know” Why did I say that? That was such a stupid thing to say! He looks down. Back up at me. Those eyes. I hate them so much. The way the look at me I just-
“Well anyways, it’s great to see you. My parents really had me going with their story. My mom said that she was going to have some of her friends over and they where going to have a “girl party”. My dad said he had to go to a friends house and offered to get me away from our house for a day.” He says. I begin to wonder whose house this is.
“That is a great ruse. How could you not pass him up on that offer?” He laughs. We keep talking, but at the conversations core, beneath all of those words, it feels fake, airbrushed. We are constantly talking, not because we actually have something to say, but just because we are afraid of silence. He has changed. When some girl walks up and starts talking to him, and I see how natural their conversation is, I feel my eye flinch.
Eventually he gets up and walks off with her. I just sit there and sip the drink I am holding. I don’t know what I am drinking, and I don’t remember where I got it. It is tasteless as water, but when I look at it I realize that it is soda. I dump the drink into the grass and go find somebody else to talk to.
It’s much later and the sun has gone down. The weather has decided to get very cold and I am the only person still outside. I have my arms folded over the railing of the deck, and I’m staring out into the dark pool of a back yard.
No matter how hard I try not to, I keep re-playing that conversation with him over and over inside my head. The way he kept pausing bugs me. I unfold my arms and rest on my elbows, running my hands through my hair. It was like he was waiting for something. Waiting for me.
Suddenly I remember all the way back to the sixth grade. Every time I saw him I would always be the first to talk. I remember how talkative I used to be back then. I realize how reserved and contained I have become and I start to feel a sort of soul-shaking despair. The old me…the way I used to be. He’s gone. He will never live again. I stop combing through my hair with my hands and let them hang over the rails.
I’m the one who’s changed.