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Interpretation of What Doesn't Exist
Darkness descended until the neon lights reflected elusive colors into the slick shadows of the wet street. Rain slid down my gaunt features, and I grinned wryly as I played with the strings of my acoustic guitar rhythmically. I tilted my face towards the polluted skies, and leaned the contours of my thin body against the brick wall. The city, empty and barren, shunned my existence.
Faint silhouettes, clad in coats meant for the brittle cold, skirted past my hollow guitar case without a sympathetic glance. Figures beneath umbrellas hastened past without revealing their faces. I closed my eyes and wondered vaguely if people without hearts lacked faces.
"I need change," I whispered brokenly.
The kind of change that would unmask the facade that people portrayed. The kind of change that would uncover the delusions people harbored. The kind of change that would grant actual change for food, shelter, warmth - without contempt.
My senses had become peculiarly aware since my wandering. I heard the resounding arrival of an enemy common to the nomad. I sighed, and fought the demonic urge to carve a wicked, ironic grin across my face.
My dark indigo irises mirrored sorrow in an attempt to please the outraged police officer.
"Punk, get off my streets!" He shouted, a pitiful vision of what is known as authority.
He snatched the traditional cardboard sign of the vagrant from the sidewalk, and ripped it until it represented nothing. Scrawled in unattractive black, my words had been, "Just because you look away doesn't mean I'm not here."
"Don't you come back, boy."
"Yes, sir." I snapped a salute, and knit my eyebrows sternly.
He reached for his gun, I suppose, to frighten me.
"I better not see you around here anymore. You got that, you dirty bum?"
"Of course, sir."
My rebellious nature flickered dangerously, and the sense of anarchy burned into my veins greedily. I turned away from the fuming man, and gathered all I had in the world: a ruined guitar case, a guitar, and three dollars.
"Hey!" He yelled as I was sauntering away,"Hey, scum. How old are you, lowlife?"
I straightened, and lifted my chin. I suppose that my ragged clothes, the dark circles beneath my eyes, the alabaster skin ravaged by the elements, the black hair plastered to my skull by the rain, and the lean state of my body implied that I could not possibly be human.
I growled, and he stumbled back as I hissed defiantly, "I'm seventeen."
He smiled, and leaned back like I had given him a reason to breathe. In a voice like the sewer dripping, he lolled, "That makes you a runaway, boy."
I smiled, my lips curling in a devious way.
"Yes, I suppose it does."
And I ran.
I ripped and I skidded through the streets without rhythm or pattern; an aimless, unfamiliar dance that the organized, predictable public would have scorned.
The city is the closest thing to H*** that I can imagine. Unnatural silhouettes of metal buildings ripped the midnight skies like sharded glass, cold and demeaning. The corner of my mouth twitched as I thought wryly of the word skyscrapers. Dark clouds of miasma sickened the concrete streets with its blackness, a cancer and a plague.
A wave of unrestrained paranoia swept through me.
Despite the hazy lights, and the rain that I embraced for its true presence, I felt as if a death sentence was upon me, the way the city choked the air out of my lungs.
I pushed my legs harder, my worn converse shoes taking the familiar beating the way an undamaged heart would have.
I inhaled deeply, breathing in the rain, but pollution, smoke and acid burned in my throat as well.
Gripping my guitar the way a religious man would grip his cross, I pivoted around a corner, where I halted abruptly. My body crashed against the rough walls of the darkened alley, and I threw my head back and laughed. The kind of laugh that moves through you, shaking your entire frame. It was the closest thing to my kind of tremor.
I wasn't worried about that d*** police officer. I have yet to witness a figure of authority in the kind of shape to inflict authority.
Staccato laughter tore its way past my prisoned lips - broken, uneven lyrics, and I closed my dark irises. I lifted my hand, the tips of my fingers carved with lined indentations from the act of holding down my guitar strings so often, and covered my eyes with it. My body shook uncontrollably, with emotion very different from laughter. I felt that if I hid my eyes, the awful vision of what we call our world would be hidden away, too.
"I need change," I whispered brokenly, my sobs distorting the plea.
I acknowledged the dreamlike concept as a caress, something that touched my skin with a hesitancy and softness that touched me. Something that I found to be beautiful, an uplifting thing that I could hold onto to when everything else turned chaotic and violent. I suppose that's why I had decided to wander the streets of the shrouded city without an umbrella in the falling rain, but I hadn't thought that it would cause such an interest to the vague passing public that I tuned out.
I mean, it rains quite often in this tired, soulless city. People become accustomed to the oddities and habits that it sparks in locals.
I couldn't conceal my renewed irritation and confusion as yet another passerby stared at me with widened eyes.
As soon as I looked into somebody's panicked expression, they would avert their eyes in desperation, as if pretending that they hadn't witnessed something they didn't want to see, something they wanted to pretend didn't exist, as if I were a ghost or a lost spirit.
I gazed at the concrete beneath me, but its unwelcoming grayness vanished as I lost myself in a reverie, my eyebrows furrowed.
I was snatched away from my contemplation by the jagged sound of somebody running behind me, heavy breathing and hard footfalls echoing. I pivoted, braced myself for the worst, and yet, with the unexplainable hope that the worst would happen.
A police officer had skidded to a halt, and had his hands braced on his knees for support, his breathing uncomfortably loud. It was as if soft music had been playing in the background, and suddenly, it disappeared, and everything felt harsher, clearer.
Ice scalded its way through my veins, and I felt paralyzed into place, like an innocent deer caught in the headlights. Uneven breaths strangled their way past my lips.
The straightened cop hadn't noticed my panic, for he was swiveling his purple-tainted face around wildly, demanding,"Did ya see 'im? Did ya see what direction that a**hole went?"
I managed a frantic shake of my head, the blond hair whipping my face, and the officer cursed unattractively beneath his breath.
"D*** drifter," he muttered, and I didn't like the venom that glassed his bulging eyes.
And then he looked at me.
Startled, I watched as his posture straightened, and as his eyes widened. His face became a mask, severe and businesslike.
"Miss," he began tentatively,"are you in trouble?"
All I could do was stare at him, baffled.
He released a breath through his nostrils, and took a step closer. Wired as a reflux reaction, I stumbled back. He held up his hands immediately, as if surrendering.
"I'm not going to hurt you," the officer said in what I knew he believed to be a soothing voice.
"Do you need help?" He inquired, sounding frustrated at my silence.
The nerves in my muscles wired themselves into a vice coil, and I pulled the sleeves of my jacket down, covering the evidence. My brain had started to understand, and I shook my head mechanically.
"What happened to your face?" The officer demanded.
I had forgotten that it was ravaged with ugly cuts and bruises - from his fists, his empty glass bottles. The ache of it all was too familiar to me. The image in the mirror had become the girl that I was. Stupidly, I understood the public's wavering attention too late. A jolt of shock ripped through my torso as I realized what they had seen, and at their cold silence and revulsion.
I noticed that the police officer was reaching for his radio at his hip, his eyes trained on me. A broken whimper escaped my lips, and I backed away. If this officer reported this - if he found out, if I was returned to that dreadful abode - my face would appear beautiful in its current state.
I hair pinned, and I ran. I ran to save my life.
I could hear the officer yelling, but that "d*** drifter" must have killed his energy, because I didn't hear his pursuit.
My tears became part of the rain. I ran blindly, and a stitch opened in my side. I gasped, and held my waist. The bruises reacted painfully, and I stumbled into a narrow alley. My frail body slumped against the bricks, and to my horror, I wasn't alone.