You Lied to Me

November 22, 2011
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Is a hemp necklace too much? But I’m only wearing recycled rubber shoes. Maybe I should take with my recycled rice bag umbrella, it looks like it’s going to rain.
I’m over-thinking things as I look into the mirror, mirrored blue eyes boring into my own blue eyes. I blink, twice, clearing my head. The hemp necklace is fine, and it’s not going to rain.
I stoop to tie my brown recycled rubber walking shoes, they are brand new, I’m cautious not to tug the laces too hard, for fear they will break. They aren’t as sturdy as the mass produced laces, but they are nicer just the same. My soft wooden floor, so ancient and so stepped upon, creaks under my weight.
I straighten, looking at myself once more in the mirror. I’m set. This is good. I look good. I am good.
***
My name is Henry Aldo Nelson, I just turned 18. I’m in the middle of finishing my senior year at Brownings High, it’s mid-march, school just started again from spring break. This last quarter I have my environmental science project to present, a bio AP test to study for, and my ecology club has a huge local stream clean up planned three weeks from now. Oh yeah, I also volunteer with about a dozen organizations regularly, mostly the Humane Society and the Community Trash Pick-Up Group. I’m busy, to say the least.
***
I’m walking out the door now, breathing in the sent of my all-organic herb and flower garden that sprawls over my entire front yard. I turn the key in the lock and I’m off, so nervous. Maybe it will rain after all.
It’s cool, and I’m thankful for my long-sleeved Greenpeace shirt that I got when I volunteered last summer. That was one of the best times of my life. I’m ditsy now, so nervous my mind is rattling to itself. What happens if it rains, or--? I can’t even think the next thought that springS so unbidden to my mind.
***
I walk the entire way there, futzing with my wooden ring that I carved myself. It lays heavy on my middle finger, a reminder that I can do things I never thought I could. I made the ring the same time I volunteered for Greenpeace, my friend David Pinchot taught me how to whittle, how to start a fire out of nothing but two sticks, how to tell if a berry bush is trying to kill you. Again, my mind rattles with memories, now of David, telling me maybe I should go back. David would have laughed if I told him were I was going, what I was about to do.
I don’t turn back. I have to do this, I know that in my heart. A wind picks up, flapping my shirt tight across my chest. I breath in and for the first time, catch a whiff of popcorn and cotton candy. A sound accompanies the smells--children laughing. I’m nearly there.
I’m about half a block away now. My hemp necklace bumping my chest as I walk, I make sure to note the time on my Heifer International watch I got when I donated over a thousand dollars in just one year. The time reads 8:06 PM. I have four minutes to find the ferris wheel.
***
Her name is Julia Carson. I’ve been in love with her for three years, the instant I saw her, I knew her soul to be like mine. I was taking my little sister Rachel to the carnival, and at the ferris wheel, I saw her. Her big brown eyes were like the all-natural chocolate that I had in my pocket--I gave it to her and introduced myself.
“Hey, I’m Henry. I like making a difference and saving things. Want to be friends?”
I was fifteen and she was eighteen, and we became the closest of confidants. I was right about the kindred souls part. She was a carnival traveler, but Julia also worked at Goodwill when she wasn’t traveling, she had formed her own recycling and compost group for her home town, and she was vegan, just like me. It was a beautiful friendship for three weeks until she had to move again. I went to the carnival every day and talked to her for hours. We decided that the year after that when she came back, we’d start a community animal rights group. Until then, we’d send snail mail because she didn’t like using fossil fuels for the internet.
The next year, Julia was different. She dyed her hair with henna and wore makeup. All natural, she said, but I was nervous. Was Julia becoming just like all the rest of the girls? But we forged ahead, making that animal rights group. I fell deeper in love with her by the day.
***
“One adult ticket please.”
The man at the gate gives me one in exchange for three dollars. I walk on in, breathing in the scent of calorie- and grease-laden foods. I know the route to the ferris wheel by heart, they never change the carnival plans.
I finger the hemp necklace on my chest as I pass shoot-the-groundhog stands and overly pricey taco stands. People are bustling everywhere, like a school of fish they move nearly in sync. I am thinking now of that time I took my ecology club to the ocean for a weekend, we swam and scuba dived and saw the fish swimming in patches. My mind is rattling the best memories of my life, forcing me to believe that this night will join their ranks. It’s not going to rain after all, and I love Julia. This is all going to be okay.
***
I see her, over a crowd of people laughing and eating cotton candy, I see her. I finger my wooden ring, then slip my hands into the pockets of my organic cotton Fair Trade jeans. I stop walking, waiting for the people clear. Julia is giving tickets to a line of kids, they look so excited that I’m excited for them. But nervous now for myself.
They clear, I walk, her back is turned to me, but she turns when the last kid goes through impromptu gate.
“Julia.” I say her name with so--what?
Her bangs are bright blue, her eyes are rimmed with black liner, there is a silver hoop in her left eyebrow, and a spidery-patterned tattoo creeps around her neck. Julia isn’t the Julia I know.
“Henry, hey.” Her voice too is darker, smokier--has she been smoking? I wonder and suddenly I want to run away. Is this her?
“I almost didn’t recognize you, you dyed your hair.” I’m trying to remain calm while I’m remembering Julia as she was, the activist and shaker-upper that I fell in love with. But, I decide, appearance doesn’t mean her mind has changed.
“I know. I’ve changed. You look good by the way, I like the shirt.” She smiles broadly and I see a tongue piercing clicking against her front teeth.
Julia turns then to give more kids tickets, smiling at them as they giggle. I stand awkwardly two feet behind her, waiting without knowing what to say. When Julia is done I ask her if she gets a break tonight.
“I do actually,” She pulls out a cell from her tight black skinny jeans, checks the time, “Now, actually. Jared is coming. There he is.” She cranes her neck to look behind me, “I get an hour.”
We walk, our hands each in our own pockets, silent because neither one of us knows what to say.
***
“So what happened to your compost and recycling group?”
“I think it’s still going, I don’t go to meetings or lead it anymore. I lost touch some months ago.”
“Oh. My ecology club is still going strong, we have a local stream clean up project planned in a few weeks. I’m excited, we are going to build turtle hibernaculum and snake sunning spots.”
She yawns, “Hey I don’t mean to be a downer, but I don’t really care.” And half turns away from me, looking at a cotton candy stand. Julia ducks under the awning and says to the man behind the glass, “One pinkcotton candy please,” and hands him the money.
I am astounded. “You eat cotton candy, you know that isn’t all-natural, right?”
“Yeah I stopped caring about that kind of food stuffs ages ago.”
I wish I could back away, straight to last year, when henna-dyed hair was the most main-stream thing about Julia and she cared about everything. It wasn’t just her tattooed neck or her piercings, but it was the fact that she didn’t care.
***
We are sitting at an foldable picnic table under an oak tree, away from the main carnival center. I fiddle with my ring and lean back, trying to get comfortable. The air between us is tense, awkward. We haven’t spoken for minutes, she is finishing the cotton candy, also, not saying anything nor looking in my direction.
“Look,” I begin, “Julia, I really care about you. I really do. I, I love you. And I want to make sure that you still care about me, that you haven’t changed so much like your appearance suggests.”
She licks her fingers, “I need to get a hot dog. You want one?”
“Julia that’s meat. You are vegan.”
“No I’m not. God, Henry, do I have to be just like you? I eat meat, I don’t care if things are all natural, I wear makeup and clothes that aren’t natural and I love a hot dog. Do you understand?” She freezes, yet seems to be just ready to stalk away from me.
“You aren’t Julia. You lied to me. You aren’t vegan, you aren’t a changer and a saver of things. You lied to me!”
“It was a phase, a phase of two years. And I’m glad we met and overlapped in interests but that is behind me now. I don’t care, and I honestly can’t stand being around you right now.” She turns away from me, hands in pockets, shoulders hunched.
“What do you mean, I just said that I loved you. I want to be with you forever. How can you just not care about anything anymore?”
She whips around, throws her hands up in the air “I just don’t care! Okay? Get off my back about this.”
“Julia I think we should talk about this at another time. Right now we’re both tired and tense, and this is just us arguing.”
“Yeah. We can talk later. I have your number from your last letter. I should go. My break ends in a few.”
“Yeah, bye.”
She walks away from me. I’m stunned. Did that just happen? It starts to drizzle, with each second it rains harder. I wish my recycled rice bag umbrella was in my hand as I get up from the picnic table and walk out from under the oak tree. I’m soaked within seconds, I slip my hands into my pockets and begin the trudge home. I don’t want to see Julia again, she lied to me.
***
I lay on my bed, the re-used and re-threaded blankets soft on my bare back. I’m shirtless, in dry pants, staring at the ceiling with my fingers entwined on my stomach. I’m done crying now, Julia was the only girl I was ever interested in and that just isn’t going to work. Heartbroken, I stare at all my group posters. Greenpeace, Heifer International, the local Humane Society, Brownings High Ecology Club, Brownsville Animal Rights Group, the Lake Water Watch, and so many more. They cover my walls and are shouting at me, “She doesn’t care, she doesn’t care.” I jump up from my bed and tear them all down, raging, screaming at them. “She cares, she cares, she didn’t lie to me, she didn’t!”
***
I stand in the center of my room. The clock reads 12:04 PM. The walls are bare, off-white and lonely. Scraps of posters litter the floor and I stand among the wreckage knowing nothing. Nothing is for certain, I can’t bare to ever define myself as just the kid with posters, just the kid with the all-natural chocolate and the Fair Trade jeans, just the kid with the groups and the volunteer hours. I want, need, to be more than that.
I will start it over tomorrow.





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