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I was never surprised, not lately. At birthdays, on Christmas; I didn't look at anything the same as I used to. When people approached me, I felt I knew exactly what they would say or do. I could see through them, sift through their tiny minds and find the very simplicity I expected. It came, naturally, from being a piece of the background. After high school began, I started blending into the gray of life, and I was of as little importance to anybody else as they were to me. In the way of friends, I came up empty. I preferred to think the cause lay in the extreme depth of my thoughts. But before you assume I stayed that way, let me tell you my story.
My dad once told me that I looked so plain, you could stare right at me and not see a thing. He said if you saw my face, two minutes later you would forget it. Tragic, that my own father couldn't see further. I was stuck with him, unfortunately. Anyway, I believed him. Instead of crying about it, like most people would, I used it to my advantage. I became a listener and an observer. I could hear anything and nobody would know. I treasured my newfound skill until I realized that nothing I heard could be of any use to me. Just then, my world started to dull more quickly than the sun sets. My mind was plagued and clouded with the realization that there was nothing for me, that my life had become pointless. I compared it all to a big white canvas where an artist painted some magnificent, melancholy painting; several years later, however, the paint simply started to peal and chip away. It was the prime metaphor of myself. Despite my fading conscience, There was something, a catalyst of sorts, to keep me going after all.
In around March of my sophomore year, a new girl appeared from some wondrous abyss. I had never considered girls as I ought to, so I had begun to question my sexuality. Or maybe everything to me was just that tasteless, that I couldn't be aroused... but I digress. The new girl. It was as if she was waiting for me, sitting in my third period English class for my entertainment alone. She sat directly on my right, and when I walked in the room I was almost surprised to see her there. Not completely, as always. She wore a white dress, which was so lucent it was the first thing I saw. Her skin was fair as well, contrasting her sea colored eyes. Her hair was long and colorless, or almost so. Her oval face matched her lithe form perfectly. I had frankly never seen anything like her.
She spoke to me. Her first words were to me only, and I realized that it was not even her outward appearance that made her glow as she did. It was her self, her soul alone. A hand small enough to hide itself in my own was thrust in my direction...
“Alan Barns. I know, it's creepy that I know your name, but I'm actually not a sexual predator. As for me, I'm Lady Travis. Lady is my actual name, so call me L.; it's horrible and I know it, so don't say anything about it.” I took her hand and shook it, perhaps too roughly, with extreme befuddlement. Her smile, though: her beautiful, beautiful smile...
“I'm, well you know. Nice to meet you, L.,” I replied. I couldn't have started any more bold than she, but her shine would always eclipse me.
From that day forth, Lady and I wove together. How one person could turn me so upside down! My vision became more colorful, and I listened with pleasure. She left me breathless every encounter, so I tried to prepare myself, but always failed. However, as I looked closer to her other surroundings, I saw that nobody took to her like I did. In fact, they saw her less than they saw me... I decided that this was because she was so radiant, so light that everybody had to shield their eyes to keep from being blinded. She was beautiful, she was kind, clever, unpredictable, happy, and there was no space she couldn't fill. I envied her, and I knew that eventually I loved her. One day I asked her a question, hoping in my vain heart that she would give me the right answer.
“L., could you pick me out of a crowd?”
“Of course,” she said without any hesitation. She threw me her private expression, where even her eyes smiled, and continued.
“You're wonderful. I bet you'll be some kind of detective, the way you are. You know, I wonder if detectives ever actually wear those trench coats? The ones they seem to think are inconspicuous, but they're really obvious.”
Every time I helplessly looked upon her, my heart seemed to grow. I suspected my chance at fulfillment. A chance to be happy. When I wasn't with her, I tried to conjure her image. I tried to watch the others in my school to take my mind off her, but it always looped back upon itself. I looked at them as lower beings, because they didn't have what I did. All those kids, who acted alike and thought alike and marched in lockstep. I was mentally ecstatic.
As April came to a close, I noticed something changing in her. Not in the same way I was changing; I was being repainted, she was being unpainted. Her energy seemed to slow, her endless flow of words faltered, and her eyes stared off thoughtfully instead of smiling and plunging ahead. I didn't let this phase me anyhow, because she was as ever-changing as the sea itself, and I knew I could accept her no matter what she turned to. She continued to puzzle me. Lady once said;
“How would you describe me, Al?” This was a question I could have billions of answers for, but I decided to keep it simple.
“You're the greatest person I've ever met. I wish I could get inside your mind for a while, sometimes. You just seem so much happier than anybody else.” Her look was one I couldn't decipher, but then it transformed into a gracious, grateful smile.
“Thanks, Al! You helped me make up my mind about something. So, don't forget! Meet me at three o'clock sharp tomorrow. On the school roof. There's something I have to tell you.” I internally celebrated. This had to be it, my moment where I crossed over to something...else. If she had something to say, perhaps it was what I had always hoped... Maybe this was the cause of her change in demeanor, because she was simply trying to figure out if I was worth having. I must have passed.
The wait till Thursday morning was positively excruciating. I did my work vigorously, trying to distract myself. Instead, I wrote things that didn't make sense on all my assignments, things that were probably mixtures of the thoughts I was having. As the last bell rang, I was practically a live wire. Students weren't allowed on the roof, but if she told me to meet her there she must have made it accessible. I had no doubt that she could. The ladder descended in an art room that was not used and always locked, so I doubted I would run into any trouble. I slung my backpack over my shoulder, and crossed the short hallway. I tested the door, I found it unlocked. In fact, the damage on the door knob probably made it impossible to lock it ever again. I pulled open the defaced knob, half wondering how she expected to deal with the consequences of it, half too anxious to take a breath.
Since class ended at two fifty five, I knew I would be on time as I nervously scaled the ladder. It was windy outside as I pushed up a slightly heavy hatch, and I struggled to get through and climb onto the roof without falling. I finally heaved the hatch to the side, letting it clang on to the concrete, and pulled myself up. There she was, standing in the middle of the roof with her yellow dress swirling elegantly around her. Her titanium hair flew free, floating about with the wind. I stopped to observe her wild beauty for a moment, and then stepped forward. She held something behind her back with one hand.
“I wanted to show you something that my dear mother gave me. She told me to 'use' it. But before I do, I wanted you to understand it. You're such a good observer, you'll probably figure it out in time. Since you failed to understand me, I decided I would have to do this no matter what.” I felt horror and disappointment mix, because she wasn't confessing her love to me after all. I did want to see the thing; I motioned for her to proceed. How I wish I hadn't.
The gun was shiny and new, as if it had been bought specifically for this moment. She put it swiftly to her head, without hesitating. She had been planning this all along, apparently. I never, never would have thought it. She repeated: her mother gave her the gun, told her to put it to her own head as she had done. Internally, I began to squeeze. I never even asked her what her home life was like. I could have helped her through, saved her life. It was all far, far too late now, an idea that died long before it was born. She gave me her smile. Her eyes did too, with that last bright, dazzling, haunting smile.
My heart shattered with the sound in the air; as I fell to the ground with her, I understood. I saw again the look she had given me yesterday, and I knew. It was acceptance. She had tried to find a savior, someone exceptional. I had failed her; I was her last hope in the world, and I had thrown her away without even knowing it. She was everything on the outside, but on the inside she was broken. She was a cracked mirror; her pieces had fallen out, one by one.
As June began, I attempted to pick up my own pieces but couldn't put them together right. I cut myself with them, but couldn't grasp them. There had been momentary excitement about the school after the suicide, but it dissipated all too fast. It hadn't left me, perhaps was actually magnified, and I bathed in the pain. I had nothing once again. Each time I felt it, I experienced an incredible selfishness. It seemed like I wasn't sorry for her death, but for the absence of what she gave me.
I sat in math, not hearing a thing. I looked to my right. A small mousy haired girl sat there, seemingly wearing the exact expression of my own feelings. Had she always been there? What was her name? Shouldn't I have known? She stared at the board like the others, but she didn't see it. What was she really thinking of? An unrequited love? A terrible brother? She had something to her that I might never completely catch.
Maybe it was me, the shallow one. I couldn't look past their skin and bones into their inner lives at all. I had never considered that perhaps the world didn't revolve around me. I was the brick wall, inside and outside. But I didn't cry about it, I let it change me in a subtle way. Lady helped me without knowing it, because I realized that everyone held something. I had just never dug deep enough. They all had their own story, and in order to be a detective, I had to try to see a little deeper.