A curious appraisal

August 19, 2011
By Lydia Grace Campbell BRONZE, Olympia, Washington
Lydia Grace Campbell BRONZE, Olympia, Washington
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

When I remember my childhood, I remember elementary school. And, simply because of who I am, I must also recall intense loneliness more than anything else. I remember hiding in the corner and hoping no one would ever notice me. And watching. There's a lot of power in watching. It was the only power I had and I lorded it over everyone.
I would watch the other boys play, tumbling around like lunatics. I would watch the leaves fall from the trees as children would pull down the branches. I would watch a girl who also sat alone. And I would think that maybe she, too, hoped that no one would notice her. Her name was Alivia. All through recess and all through class she would draw, and I cannot burn the images of her drawing from my mind. While all of the faces of my other classmates fall away into that chasm of memory from which they are never recalled, I still remember her sitting there and drawing.

When she bent over her sketchbook, little wings of curls fell over her jaw and obscured her features. It was like a little rain of chestnut feathers, weightless and fluttering into her face. Her hands grasped her charcoal tightly and skittered across the page like insects, sullying it with black streaks and bringing it to life with in a flurry of smudges. I never knew what was on the page, but when I was bored and lonely, my imagination was limitless.

Sometimes I would fancy she drew monsters, twisting like the depths of her mind, sometimes pretty girls and floating birds, graceful wings spread to alight on balletic fingers. Once I almost believed that the page reflected her own image back at herself; that, after staring up at her brimming opaline eyes for a lifetime the clean white paper had soaked her up. I almost believed that she was like me, that she moved so frantically with her tainted charcoal because she wanted to change what she saw captured in that image, change everything she hated within herself, fix it, erase the black smear on the paper that was her.

Of course, most of the time I figured that her life was easy and she knew she was different. I saw her as floating gracefully above the insecurities that infested my mind.
I rarely socialized with her, simply because my first attempt to speak to her went poorly.

"Hello?" I was a little shy, and I wasn't even sure she could hear my timid stutter.

"Indeed." She looked up at me coolly. "In what state may I find you?"

"I'm—I'm good. Thanks. And you?"

"Quite." She smiles a little, and that tiny half-smile seems to light up the air. I feel so trite for saying that, and I wish there was another to describe the warm feeling her smile gave me. But I can't.

"What're you doing?"

"I appear to be drawing, don't I?"

"Yes, you do." It is then that she starts to smirk, and I suddenly feel a surge of anger at that goddamn smirk. "What, are you to good to have a polite polite conversation? You appear to be drawing. You're drawing. Don't be so freaking pretentious."

"Appearances can be deceiving."

"Really? Because I think you're doing exactly what it looks like you're doing and really you're just being a b****." Every word that tumbles out of my mouth shocks me a little bit. I'm not brave. I didn't even know what was saying.

Upon hearing my insult, she perked up quite a bit, grinning up at me and extending her hand. "I'm Alivia."

A little wary but inexplicably pleased with her smile, I place my hand in her's. But she did not shake.
"And I'm Jonathan-- OW." Seamlessly, she pulled me head-first into the wall behind her.

"Why would you do that?" I felt like—what's the saying?—a wet hen, with my feathers ruffled and clucking in anger.

"Why wouldn't I?"

"It's just cruel! Christ, I didn't know you'd do something just to be a bully."

"Of course I wouldn't." She flashes me a look with her eyes widened by a hair and an eyebrow gently curled up. There was a perfect logic behind her actions, and I was supposed to ask her about it. She was used to being more intelligent and it was my place to ask her questions.

And I sure as hell wasn't going to play he role she wanted me to.

"Yeah, well good bye." I flipped her off as I left. Her look had a touch of confusion and those ridiculous eyes widened even more.

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to hurt you... I'm sorry"

And so I paused for a moment. "The hell did you mean to do?"

"I just am not--not feeling good and I don't mean to be mean I just didn't want to talk and--well, I had a point. You think that everything is what it looks like. It isn't. It's—it's—well, you assume that a handshake means everything's all right and really you need to look a little bit harder—I'm sorry. I can be horrible sometimes and I don't mean to be, really..."
I don't care to decipher her apologetic stutter, but her sheepish look is universal. And then I have a choice. I could accept the apology of this lovely girl and she would try to be nicer to me. We could get along. She has already taught me something about people, and I had--inadvertently-- made her reconsider her actions. We could become friends; I'd make her a little kinder and she'd make me a little braver.

Or I could give her a contemptuous look and leave, just to bruise her a little bit.

I look at her stupid, watchful eyes. They were the kind of eyes that always strike you as being somewhat familiar.

I raise an eyebrow and strut angrily inside.

Now that I'm an adult, I look back at the schoolyard full of laughing children with a jaded eye. This is what I would like to think: To fit in you need to be strong and brave and funny, and we all had wide, insecure eyes resting above our smiles. When we got into high school, people's masks got braver and braver, their charade more and more realistic, but back then, we were just trying to figure anything out. We were still young enough to believe that adults had the answers and that the world that the world worked--but old enough to have doubts.

But that is not correct. I have to re-remember childhood. Sometimes happy children just are happy children. The younger you are, the less you worry. For some this lasts until adulthood crashes down on them at whatever age, and for others, the effect takes hold for a lifetime. There is a world of happiness all around me, I know. I have to believe in someone who enjoys a life with very little and fear and knows everything will be all right.
Sometimes I can't. But I remind myself, anyway, that the children of my youth were not bitter existentialists, that they were not thinking about the futility of life while they merrily plowed over each other on the soccer field. Just because I was an awkward child who was afraid of life in general (and also probably a bit unwanted and somewhat stupid) does not mean that I lived in a world of awkward children.

And this is the thing about awkward children: they don't join up. If they did, they would be the children of a social circle, and, upon finding that they have comrades, cease to be lonely and sad children. But take me: I was too insecure to be a leader, too thoughtful to be a follower, too moronic to be the intelligent loner, too artless to be talented, to naive to be aloof and to gawky to be some one's friend. I had all the charisma of the dirt upon which I trod.

So I usually sat on the edge of the field, slightly behind the trees. I cannot honestly claim that there was any philosophical or intellectual merit to my musings, but while I sat, I would let my mind run in circles, creating alternate realities in which I was perfect. Or I would try to draw, but I always failed. Or I would try to find the sleep I had lost last night and pretend to disappear. Or I would watch Alivia, the graceful way she held herself, the way her long, flowing fingers never stopped moving. She was always there on the sidelines, under a tree, drawing. Sometimes I would wonder what those fingers would be like rubbing across my skin, and would look away and hope no one could guess what I was thinking.

Does this sound creepy? I am sorry, but I am a creepy person. The kind of person you avoid when you have to walk down town alone. You may have done it yourself, carefully avoiding my eyes. I am the kind of person who plays that loud music keeping you up at night to drown out the loneliness and, possibly, to drown out the voices. It isn't that I'm crazy, because the voices in my head are just my thoughts running around where I cannot stop them. I have my own thinking with me always, but everywhere I go, I am alone inside my head. Whatever I do, whoever I'm with, I'm still alone inside my head. And when I dream, all I can dream of is eyes that stare into my soul. See? After night after night of hellish inspection under such an eye, how can someone not be creepy?

Still, I am a good primate. I love being around people. I still love socializing as much as ever. There I am, tall and skinny, poorly shaved and dressed mostly in black, trying to be friendly. Awkward. But I still go to class reunions, can you believe it? It's easy to meet people from your past when you hide from your past in the city nearest to the place where you born. So we mill around, drinking out of paper cups, not quite looking into the same eyes we didn't quite look into years and many years ago. Even the fairly successful ones never, in my opinion, amounted to anything. Yes, I'm the pessimist and I myself have never been anything more than a waste of space, and yes, it is human nature to assume of others what you see in yourself. So, try to look beyond my dull and dreary narration. Surely there's someone among my old classmates who has risen to great heights. The fact is, however, that I was blind to the possibility in my youth and therefor have become blind to it as I aged. Of course, I had always assumed Alivia would grow up to be a successful person, but then, I was wrong.
Hers was a simple death. Her mother had already died and her father was, while a well-intentioned man, tired and overworked. So Alivia was put to the task of caring for 3 younger brothers. The day of her demise, she was coming home a little late with her brothers to her old grey house-- she lived in a sad, falling down area-- when it began to rain. Truly rain, soaking everyone and everything within minutes. The quarters ringing in her back pack were enough to put 3 whiny siblings on the bus, but she herself apparently preferred solitude so she walked home alone with the rain blocking out the sky and leaving huge fat drops that hit you in the cheek hard as hail when the wind blew.

She didn't have much farther to walk when she stopped to speak to a cold old woman asking for change. The woman told the police that the girl had seemed clever and kind and that the two had conversed quite briefly and Alivia had given the women the last of her money. It was because my father worked at the paper on lowly second-class deaths that I got the details. I found her dead repose seen from 5 angles among my father's papers, forgotten.

Alivia's body was found with her arms crossed over her chest, her tense thumbs resting on her neck and head thrown sideways, a polite indication of death. She had a blank gaze and gleefully creepy smile, but in the pictures I saw she looked a little bit sad. Perhaps the fear I saw clinging to her eyes was imagined. The way her tongue poked out at the corner of her mouth was deliberately cartoonish, but the slack face and eyes pointing away left me feeling cold inside.

Regardless, she looked like she was pretending to be inanimate and she would spring to life the second before her head hit the ground. But it had hit the ground, and lay in a modest pool of blood. I wondered if I would die like that, gazing up at the bright leaves of the only tree on the out-of-way street with its identical, foreclosed upon houses as drops off rain rolled off the leaves an onto my eyelids. A tree branch lay across her chest to make sure she didn't try to escape.
The way I imagine it, she was walking along when she heard a crack and she looked up and saw a branch coming at her. She had to choose whether or not to run or to prepare her face for death in that second. On the spur of the moment, she chose to die.

I don't know how long I sat and looked at the photos on my father's desk. The article was as brief as it could be, and the "She'll be very missed" tacked onto the end seemed cold and unintentionally ironic. He only needed one photo for the article. I slipped the other 4 off his desk as a reminder. I'm not quite sure what of, but I haven't forgotten it yet.

But enough of my elementary school memories and enough of this girl who is dead.

I doubt that if my parents were to see me now they would be proud. As for me, my pride in myself waxes and wanes with the regularity of a shining satellite moon trying to break through the clouds of my twisted subconscious and illuminate the murky night. I write, you see, and this brings me some pleasure. I have, in fact, been known to try my hand at many of the arts, and never with quite the level of failure I had expected. And there are times when this is enough. Times when a cleverly turned phrase or a decent charcoal likeness is enough to flood the brain with sufficient dopamine to create an almost positive feeling. Actually, I can be quite a functional person. I do have friends, while somewhat distant ones, and I would liek to point out that I do occasionally get laid. But this is not my society's idea of success, nor is it my parent's.
But the thing is, they raised their children and moved on with their life. They didn't want kids, really; my parents had never lusted after a life of cleaning up spittle and fawning over crayon scribbles. That they would breed and produce a couple of fully-functioning mini-humans was but a social obligation that they fulfilled with minimum griping. Thus, their term as parents was very clean in the beginning and end, from the appearance of an unpretentiously dependent animal that they agreed to love to the sober departure to a college paid in full, they were logical and calm.

My sister and I were raised in a normal family, with parents who, while loving, seemed to love each other more than either of us. My sibling—Violet— was older and thus meaner; I tried on a few occasions to use her for comfort or a playmate or a source of advice about girls, but she made it very clear that she did not give a s***. A bright but vindictive girl, she lived up to our parent's suburban standards in every way and became a pretty, somewhat social creature who got nothing but A's and went on to a good a college and an average life. She attained a single chemistry degree that fed her quest to become an uptight divorcee who turned her two bland children into carbon copies of herself almost to spite their father. My father was a reporter for a small local paper who mostly covered deaths and the petty crimes of a small town, while my mother was mostly a house-wife, with a part time secretarial job at the college with which she was never satisfied.
I would like to think that when my mother found out that she was pregnant with my sister she worried a bit about whether or not she'd be a good mother, that she and my father would stay up talking about their child-to-be and he'd have to comfort her and tell her it would all be okay. And I'd like to think that when my father heard that he was to have a son, he wondered if he'd be able to teach his offspring what he knew, if he could raise a good son. And I hope that when we were born my mother and father would hold their babies and examine their precious toes and fingers and oo and aa over how much more beautiful their babies were than anyone else's. And more than that I hope that when my mother tucked me into bed at night she would linger for a moment after she turned off the light and think that she was proud of her son. These are the kind of things that, when you are born into a family that shuns weaknesses such as intense emotion, you end up hoping with all of your heart. And I believe, really, that despite all appearences these things really did happen and my mother and father loved and maybe even still love their children more than anything else.

But our family was, if nothing else, functional, and had no time for a small boy who was, to be taciturn, 'sensitive'. The less tactful might say that at such a young age I was a whiny and somewhat effeminate piece of s***, and I would have to agree. (It's possible that not much has changed--though I'd like to think that I am slightly for masculine now, thank you.) My mother was not a patient woman, though, and so there may have been a lack of solid emotional support. Having children was very much a strain upon my parent's marriage, and it ended in nightly screaming and a frustrated divorce.
My most vivid memory of this time is sitting behind the door while my mother screamed at my sister that her life was her life, and Violet had no business in her business and no right to judge her. Violet replied calmly that she had thought that her parents' lives affected her own pretty significantly, and, as a person, she should her have a say in her life falling apart. She went on to point out that her little brother needed more attention and that all this was hurting him and it was his mother's responsibility to love him. Then there was a resounding smack and my sister came out of the room whimpering bravely and holding the reddening finger marks on her cheek with a damp hand. She kicked me as hard as she could as she left, slapping me when I cried out and calling me a coward. I sat there all night with a bright blue bruise on my shin and a hand print identical to my sister's on my cheek.

Years later, when we were long gone, my parents hooked up again at a bar, apparently forgetting any emotional damage they had done to each other in years previous. They were vacationing together in France the next week. My mother had quit her job at the college for one in the library that she loved and my father had been recently promoted. Both happier people, they re-pursued domestic felicity with nothing more to care for than two angry cats.

Me, I went to college with the same troubled fear that I have used to approach all of life. After accepting my degree in the arts, I promptly failed to stumble upon a brilliant career as an artist. I obtained a job in a city library—which makes me feel embarrassingly like my mother—as mere assistant, shelving books for minimum wage. It isn't a bad job. I have a small apartment that contains no surface that isn't black. I currently have no girlfriend, but I have a cat, which, frankly, is less work. Her name is Sebastian, and I have a slightly disturbing habit of sharing with her my thoughts. She, like everything I own, is black, but she is no possession of mine. With her lovely green eyes and long sharp claws and is as free as any creature could be. She brings to mind Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess, and because Sebastian is a cumbersome name, I like to shorten it after the goddess-protector. I sit and read by the light of a candle and the warmth of a small wood stove and my cat curls up in my lap and watches the flame. We are two animals enamored with the fire.

The idea that so much of my life—light, warmth—can be powered by a blaze makes me feel good. Fire is a dangerous thing and we may think it has been harnessed, but it never has. It blazes with its pure energy and is owned by no one but itself. That I could throw myself into a fire and be a part of such a bright, brilliant energy comforts me a little. At the age of 38, I still don't have a career, every relationship I've tried has failed, I can't imagine what would ever make me leave this awful city. For god's sakes, most I have to live for is a cat. But the option of wadding up all of life into a ball and throwing it for all I'm worth into the brilliance seems to make it all better. It's not an option I intend to choose, mind you, but I'm not entirely sure what keeps me back. Clearly, no deep-rooted need to live and pass on my genes. Perhaps some sort of hope that my life will be worth something? It would be a silly hope. And would we ever be anything without it? It is always there, isn't it, along with all the chimeras and things I'll never accomplish. I've only ever known two people who had lost all hope.

I didn't know them for long.

Or, maybe, I just like the idea of being alive.

I reminisce about hope to no avail. There's still something wrong with me that will never be right. I pace my little loft like a cage and I call in sick to work too much. Or I used to, when I still paid my phone bill. What's wrong with me? Where's the initiative the rest of the world feels? When I talk, I want someone other than Bast to talk back. I want magically to really do something. To live. To be worthwhile.

I suddenly find myself recalling the day before Alivia died. She was sitting in the school's broom closet during class and crying. I had had a rough night with my parents and my sister screaming and my dreams and I felt like getting away from it all. So I slipped away to find someplace to hide, and there she was. Hiding in the darkness and being alone with the quiet was sacred. Only I did it and I did it because it made me feel safe. That someone else would use this ritual for themselves unnerved me.

But what could I do? I tried to comfort her. I told her I would listen, which was of course what she needed, right? Everyone wishes someone would listen.

She said she was afraid because she tried so hard at everything and still it was never hard enough. She said she was afraid because she would never grow into anything.

She was very sure about that.

Remembering that makes me hurt a little bit. I still feel so young, and I can't believe that I'm not that scared little boy that just wished he could hide alone. Being alone was safe and wonderful and it washed away everything else, but here was this girl and she felt the same way I did. I'm so tired thinking about it, I just need to sleep, no matter how I put it off.

Perhaps sleep would be more pleasant if I dreamed more. And I do dream. I dream of a huge wet eye, and it stares at me. It stares at me because of everything I've done wrong in this life. It stares at me because it is reproachful of everything. Because it can see straight through me, into my churning insides, into every lie I've ever told. I thrash and turn all night, trying to escape the glare. I don't remember when it started. Maybe I just see the eye for a few minutes, but I forget any other dreams? I have read that all humans have about 5 dreams a night when the hippocampus (responsible for memory) is not active and you don't remember anything. Arthur Schopenhauer one said that"A dream is a short-lasting psychosis, and a psychosis is a long-lasting dream." However, if you don't dream, you can go crazy, and possibly not be able to wake up. So for about 8 hours each night you are unconscious and having little many psychotic episodes in your head, of which you will remember very little or nothing in the morning-- and this is vital to your sanity.
Usually, the hippocampus is only active directly before you wake, so however long a dream feels, you only remember about 10 minutes of it.

So I've done my research. But that doesn't change what happens in my head.

Each night, it's the same vision: I dream I'm still awake, sitting and reading by candle light in a cozy white room and trying not to sleep because the eye will come from the back of my head and haunt me. After a few minutes of reading—always a different thick, english-class book but they all simply read "Let us go then, you and I,when the evening is spread out against the sky, like a patient etherised upon a table; let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, the muttering retreats" (which I may or may not have read somewhere)--I mark my page and look around lazily. It happens every night and every night it bring a cold shiver to my spine: I realize I'm in a padded cell. Then I know I must be sleeping, because that can't be right, and that the eye will be right there any minute. I try to wake up, but always as soon as I've realized that the eye will come, it slips through the door and grows wider and wider until I've been swallowed by its glower. I can't stop the dream, so I just sit like a terrified rabbit and never see past my fear of being watched and judged and studied.

It's 1 o'clock now. The city bustles with life, even this late. And I don't want to sleep. I don't want to dream, mostly. And in some way, I want to live. So I push myself out into the night to do... something. I don't know what, I just feel dizzy and weak and I can't recall the last time I ate. I've felt lethargic and depressed for so long, calling in sick everyday and letting food rot in my fridge, that my burst of energy is forced and painful. What was the last thing I've talked to other than Bast? I can't quite recall, but I'm sure Bast has been talking back. I just need to walk. After pacing past the dirty streets and shady looking loiterers—I don't know that the people hanging on the of the sidewalk with their cigarettes and cutting glares are bad people, but they put me on edge none the less—I notice some sort of greenery, like a fairytale, a passage somewhere else. But no. It's just a park.

I've been in it before, dirty and inhabited only by a motley gang made up of a swing-set, a gazebo, several park benches and some scattered trees. I walk over and sit down in the grass, finding it enchantingly cool, and, almost as if drugged, my head falls back into the dewy wet green and the few stars visible over the city spin about my head. Cars whir by across the city, headlights spraying long shafts of lights spinning into the sky like beacons up into the void. I'm reminded of the Nietzsche quote "if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you." I'm not entirely sure what came before that bit. Something like"Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster...." was it Nietzsche who originally said that? Staring straight into an empty heaven, I recall more and more of everything I have learned in school and in books with a strange sense of bewilderment. And gazing into the distant heavens brinsg to mind something else Nietzsche said,"In heaven all the interesting people are missing." And I decide that I disagree. I don't believe in heaven or hell, but if there are really people among the stars, they would be the interesting ones and the ones that lived their lives to the fullest. I've never believed in God, either, but i decide that if something like god was out there, they'd be okay with making mistakes.

The horizon spreads out infinitely and I realize how long it has been since I've star-gazed. I recall doing this once as I child and being shocked to see the sky still so huge and bright even after the sun set. When you can fully look at the void, is seems even larger and more impressive then it seems by day. I was so happy then, and I'm happy now, lying in the grass like a fool. And, as if I have had some sort of strange epiphany, I know not only that I am miserable because I feel trapped in this world and this city but also that I am not trapped, not under a sky like that, this city can't even compare to they sky and the roads lead out....
when I close my eyes, I can feel the Earth's rotation spinning me around on that beautiful, beautiful grass and the stars remain imprinted on my eyelids, leaving my mind totally free from nightmares...

I blink awake to a grey world, not knowing that I'd fallen asleep. The fog obscures the sky and all of the clarity I saw last night is replaced by a sort of damp haziness, leaving me alone and dewy and cold as a corpse. My thoughts are sluggish and I'm not sure if I should be confused and bewildered about my surroundings or angry at myself for spending the night sleeping in a park or thank god no one stabbed me. After a while it occurs to me that I don't want to go home. My brief and uninspiring reverie is interrupted by a chilling voice a few feet from my ear.

"You've been sleeping there a while. Are you hungry? Have the rest of this sandwich. There's too much for me." There's a girl smoking on the bench next to me, the early morning fog and the last tendrils of night swirling around her feet and obscuring her features. She passes over something wrapped in cellophane, remarking that "this really is the best time of day" and proceeds to ignore me, engrossed in her book.

My first reaction is to try to stammer out a conversation. "Wha—what are you reading?"

"A book of philosophy." She smiles at me, takes a long draw, and surveys the blurry park. It pull my knees to my chest and watch her, still trying to shake off my feeling of unease.
After some time of unusually merry reading, punctuated by smirks and outright laughter, she takes out a cigarette lighter from her pocket and holds it up to her eye for careful consideration. There's something very carefree about her close examination of everything that unnerves me.
The fluttering flame that arises as she flicks the fire into fulfillment illuminates a strange but not unpleasant face. She has very fair skin framed by long curls of incredibly black hair. Her eyes are even darker still and much to big for her face, gentle and fawn like with beautifully long lashes. Familiar eyes, and I'm not sure whether or not I want them looking at me.

Gently she smiles, a seraphic smile that would be shockingly lovely if it weren't so crazy. With a single careful movement she lowers the lighter to her book and sets a page on fire, entranced by its descent into ashes. She raises a graceful eyebrow somewhat speculatively, in such a manner as to make me draw my knees tightly to my chest and resolve not to eat her sandwich. When the page has been eaten up, she holds the last specks of grey on her finger and blows gently, sending them twirling into the breeze as if she was making a wish on a dandelion.

As the girl raises the other arm to brush a forlorn strand of hair from her face, I realize that she has only one hand. She's very precise in her movement and her stump preforms the task with all of the delicacy of ten fingers, but it suddenly makes me sad to watch as folds the place where her hand once was back into her lap. She catches me staring and looks down at me a bit patronizingly.

"I lost it in an accident when I was young."

"I.... see, sorry. I didn't mean to stare."

"It's not so bad. I have ghost fingers, you see."
As she lifted her stump and appeared to waggle her nonexistent fingers at me, I began to be seriously concerned for the sanity of both of us.

"Oh. Yes."

"I like this time of day best, don't you? There's so much potential for new things to happen. It's like if you watch the day come in you can claim it, you know?"

"Sure." I look around and blink and make a slightly unpleasant face.

"When I told that to my mother, she said it's God's day to claim, not mine. F*** that."

"Um. Do you believe in God?"

"I believe in me, and the bench I'm sitting on, and the fog. God? He's too far away."

That makes me raise my eyebrows a bit. It seems like a nuts thing to say, to me. But still she seems like a genuinely pleasant person. Cynicism and optimism make for a happy marriage.

The girl rises from her bench, stretches, and bends to pick up her purse. I suddenly find myself marveling at how short her skirt really is.
"Well, if you keep coming here and passing out in the grass, I'm sure I'll see you round." She smiles beautifully and raises her stump. I'm pretty sure she meant to flutter her ghost fingers in a wave good bye.

I raise my hand back. "Sounds good."

Tired and slightly dazed, I realize I need to be much calmer and slightly higher. Luckily I can still afford the occasional cigarette. I swear it isn't an addiction so much as a mindless nervous habit.
I fumble with the package with inept fingers, cursing, until I realize that I don't have a light any more than I have functional digits. I'm lucky I still have digits at all after an all-night stay here. Wishing very hard that I was taking a long draw right now, I realize that it is so cold and I can feel the threadbare patches of my coat as I draw it closer about my shoulders.
Jesus, this place is so small and grubby, I can't imagine how I fell asleep and survived. Whatever happy things I saw last night must have been some sort of delusion from sleep deprivation or—Christ, I need to go to work for once. And food. I shall find an IHOP.

As I walk down the corner to a happy haven of reasonably priced and thoroughly subpar pancakes, rain begins to fall in bright little droplets that make me incredibly happy as they roll down my eye lashes and my coat. I shove my hands in my pockets and smile inwardly.

My tongue rolls lightly out of my mouth, as if of it's own accord, and catches the rain drops. It seems a childish thing to do, but I love the rain so much.

An old woman sits on the corner wrapped in dirty blankets and begging for change. I don't think before giving her every coin in my pocket and she gives me a decidedly odd smile in return. It makes me feel warm and in control.

I feel as I've woken up to a world I can grow fond off.

Strolling along, humming, I wonder that I felt that I cannot be worthwhile in such a world, that I am not powerful enough to make someone remember me. I step into the street across from the pancake place gleefully, and halfway through, I steal a glance at my lovely rainy sky. I would much rather jay walk than wait for the light.

I am powerful.

I only saw the bus for a moment as it plummeted along the wet street, and I was feeling so wondrous it didn't occur to me to move. I was powerful and the world was a beautiful thing.
Still, I'm sure the bus would have disagreed.

The author's comments:
A man named Joshua relating the story of his life, recently cut rather short. It isn't a sad story.

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