All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Speak Us Beautiful
It was a chilly morning for September. New York City was on the brink of opening its eyes. But until the sun properly rose, it stirred and laid lazily in it’s bed half asleep, half awake, until the hot summer heat forced it to begin it’s day.
Saturday willed itself to wake others up at 5 am and bring them to the Bridge to stare at the water underneath, imagine falling off as if it were horseplay. That’s what the bridge did, captured your fantasies and twisted them into its own. Saturdays and Bridges were manipulative. They brought me here all the time. But today was a special visit, the first after a series of none. The first after disaster had struck, a moment had occurred. A few moments actually.
I stood now at the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. Joggers and bikers of all sorts whizzed past me in a rush of adrenaline. I planted my hands on the freezing metal and lifted myself slightly over the bar, looking down at the choppy water. I fixed my eyes on the slight waves, an overwhelming mass of blue that could swallow me up as soon as I allowed it to. I had become infatuated with the river for a while now. It seemed impossible that something so dangerous could be so alluring. But in a way that needed to be possible. I needed the water. It was the closest thing I had to experience.
By now the sun cast a light orange glow across the water, bouncing off of the untouchable surface and landing on my hands, my arms, my face. The river sparkled with white light so blinding that it was lusted for. I felt the sparkles in my hand; so bursting with energy they melted in my palm as if waiting to be treated, to be sang to.
Lids closed as the sun peeked up over the buildings that scraped the sky, the towers that rose above them all, gleamed and struck my eyes through my flesh. A first honk was heard from all the way downtown, interrupting my thoughts of their fantasies.
I leaned forward again, my toes tippy-touching the ground, my waist pressing in to the solid cold of metal, my arms outstretched as far as they could reach, I hung suspended over the water. Grabbing onto the real of the thin air. My mind gulping in the energy of the morning’s start, I pressed harder up against the bar. Raised my chest.
Hands pressed against my own, turning them over and over, cupping them in circular shapes, it could have been the wind. It was being alive, so close there. So much of it, there. With me, in front of me. Inside of me. Holding my hands and at my ears whispering,
“Let light in and let life out.”
Eyes opened. The hands disappeared. The water grabbed me, forced my head down and drowned me in its embrace. Reflections swarmed in front of my eyes like bloodthirsty savages.
I reached out to the water. Touched it, cool in my palms, ice to my soul. I wanted to feel the water. I needed to feel the water. I needed to be overwhelmed. I needed to fall from this high perch.
And so I did.
Whispers were what broke me. A fatal hush of the breath could snap my instincts, dismember my being. Lips parted to provoke were moving. A slurred sentence of infinite distinction, deadly. It was the not knowing. And the anxious known. A torturous concoction of both drew me to my end.
I couldn’t bear the way it felt to see it happen. A knowing giggle, two heads clashed in secrecy, a superior hand cups the mouth, flitting eyes, a mouth pursed in sworn song. Standing from a distance, a whisper could seem like a shout.
“How are you doing today?”
Like a river, his words tossed and turned around the origin, tripping over each other like they couldn’t hold their liquor. His lips, hollow and slightly open, muffled his thoughts. I could only distinguish by now, the few words he repeated numerous times. Words that made me want to crawl around him and cuddle up against the soft of his t-shirt. I reached over and stroked the fabric. Extremely soft and worn cotton. Light gray color, granulated feel.
I looked back up at my speaker. Cal fumbled with his sentence and foolishly shut his eyes as if he couldn’t handle the weight of it. Deep creases ran along the sides of his lids, he held them shut until they started to quiver. They looked lost and foreign, his eyes. I pressed my thumb lightly against it, hoping to smooth out the wrinkles. His eyes shot open. I laughed. He told me,
“You’re terrible, you know that?”
My hands decided to travel where they wanted to. They reached his eyebrows, an intimate spot of imperfection. The light hairs twisted in complex ways. They took on a shape of arched half moons that were bent in irregular places. I tried to spread the hairs apart and uncurl them. They didn’t move.
Cal leaned his head back against the couch and closed his eyes again, this time lightly. I said,
“I want to smooth you out.”
He turned his head towards me, opened his eyes and held a fierce gaze.
“Thank goodness someone does.”
In the sheltered arena that was our home, I watched as my parents looked past me and fought to the death for financial success. The couch grew tired of finding Mom sprawled across it in the early morning, too lazy or busy to make me a mug of whatever was cupped into her fragile hands. The huge glass windows that overlooked the city were addictive to stare at. Sitting and gazing out at the world around you was a time costly excuse for why I had to make my own breakfast in the mornings, or rush out the door because someone forgot to wake me up. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Mom thought I was actually there. There was nothing for her to be distracted by. No death of husband, no earth-shattering financial crisis. The windows were my best bet.
Fathers were meant to be busy. They worked all day and night, and if they actually wanted to speak with you, then they would ask what you’re day was like, because it was almost a voluntary question. Dad lay in his small study, observing his stock and catching up on business as if it were an itch he needed to scratch at every little moment. Wrinkles were set in his middle-aged forehead from all of the squinting needed to read the text on the chunky computers. If Dad said anything, it was about computers. The only problem was that those words hurt my ears. Soothing ones did better. But it seemed that “I love you” wasn’t part of his vocabulary. And so it was, that all I had at home was the windows.
Words were never my strong suit. Imagery was. Words were too easy to get caught up in. Too large of a proportion to handle. They slipped away from you as quickly as you found them. Slithered through your tongue like a thickening silence, too full of noise to hear your thoughts.
I wrote what I knew. I didn’t know much.
But I wrote what I could, and what I did do was good. Or so they would tell me. Such as,
“So interesting and creative.” An adult speaking of course. Or Cal,
“Beautiful.” But everything was beautiful when it rolled off his tongue. Like the husky breath, the lull of his sighs, the melody of a laugh. Beautiful.
I leaned against the grainy wall of dew packed up against the soft green grass that grew from the grounds of turmoil. Lifted my hands to fit along the hard edges of the twig and soil. Dug my nails into the earth. The earth that kept me bound. I leaned in deeper. Harder. Harder than ever before. I drilled my head into the wet and moist. I was one with the earth now. Stable. I was one with the force that caused my worries. My breath unstable, my throat tight.
This was where Cal found me.
Early it seemed, though the sky hadn’t turned blue yet. The grass was empty, with all but me at its feet, begging for forgiveness and answers. It was an odd place to be in the park. Dug in the dirt and grass, molded to the center of all wholeness. But he saw me, and sat down. Right there, on the rock beside me. It was a mischievous action. I couldn’t have determined if he saw me or not. Or whether he cared.
He looked significantly older, a bit of stubble blooming on his pale face. A rosebud mouth, eyes stretched thin. A forehead that appeared to be permanently dented, due to too much reading, too much writing, too much thinking. He was a professor maybe, or just a student. In college, no doubt. College, then, was threatening. He sat down as if I wasn’t there. Just a part of the grass and grime, I suppose by then I was. He squinted his eyes, so that they were almost enslaved by his large proportions. He spoke to me.
“What you afraid of, kid?” His voice was silken. With a slight southern drawl. I answered,
He got up off the rock and walked up to me. Then he lay down right there, so close. He dug his fingers into the ground, drilled his head into the soil. Clung to the core with all his might. We lay there, silent. Clinging, hoping. We clung and hoped as strangers, but even so, together. We looked at the graying sky. We held on.
Central Park, an overarching land plot of treasures, had served as our hideout for years. It started as a place of giddy pleasure and sneaky games, a secret garden to all things epidemic in comparison. As we grew, Cyril, Kira and I, it transformed into a betting lounge. An elegant secret we shared that held us apart from the rest of our peers, who frequently seemed to wish that they were as interesting as we were. And now, young adults at best, the sprawling park with its ethereal scenery and stance of pride, offered it’s most prestigious use. A shelter from the loud and soft-spoken beehive that was the outside world. We sat in the back of the mountainous rock that overlooked the ice-skating rink, now a puddle of green water inhabitants and forgotten metal blades. A carnival of some sort paraded on behind it. The sun shone on the rock, causing tons of people to sunbathe in their running gear, gulping down large thermoses of water and Gatorade. Women in slouchy shorts walked their dogs and unknowingly tread through the leftovers that toddlers had spilled onto the stone esplanade earlier in the day. We sat where the trees hit, right below the edge of the rock in the soft grass, a coveted place that kept us chilled from the August heat. The joggers took moments of their time to glimpse at us, mere kids lounging in the perfect cool of the almost-September breeze, while they baked in the heat and slick of their own sweat. But we just smiled and kicked up our legs. We couldn’t help it.
We were privileged.
Cyril lit, yet another cigarette, the fourth of that day. His hand held the lighter as if it were a petite girl that could slip through his fingers. The cig wobbled between his thumb and forefinger and met the tip of the flame softly. Then Cy, as collected as he seemed, leaned back and cleared his throat.
The funny thing about the smoke was that it was almost as a part of me as it was to Cyril. He had started when he was 15, hacked up quite a lot of phlegm that day, but he persisted to do it for the next three years, molding the tobacco to both Kira and my throats. Smelling the smoke offered a sort of comfort. It made me feel more intimate with Cyril, like it was something that we shared internally. Something that ran through our systems. It shadowed the pressure of the outside and let me relax. Let me feel safe, let me feel my best friends. I had never thought that such a poison would have been my savior. And still, I could never actually put a cigarette to my mouth first hand.
Kira, the effortless socialite, laid her head against the bumpy space where Cyril’s legs met in prayer, bumping her delicate skull whenever Cy’s knees got tired. Her once dark chocolate laden locks, but now honey golden, splayed out around her head like a lion’s mane, crowning her queen of the self-conscience and lovely.
She gazed up at the field grass green of the leaves above her, somehow infatuated with something so simple. Hours could go by with Kira gazing at objects, just staring just looking. As if there was actually something in nature to live for. Intrigued with the grass, she plucked a few blades and studied their green pigment. The wind blew a blade out of her fingers and onto the ground beside her.
“Don’t go away, little grass blade!” she whimpered.
“You do realize,” I laughed, “That if we hadn’t grown up together, we wouldn’t be friends.”
Cyril blew out. He said,
“Well, we’re not opposites.”
“Of course we are,” said Kira. She ripped the grass and let it fall into Cyril’s dark strands. “At least you are.”
“I’m not.” I said.
“I don’t know,” Kira swiped the air. “You’re pretty…weird.”
“I am not weird!”
Cyril moved his legs out from under Kira’s head. He stretched.
“Yeah, you kind of are.”
“You’re just…quiet,” said Kira.
“And strangely scared of everything.” That was Cyril.
“Gee, thanks.” That was me.
There was an awkward silence in between their comments and my processing it.
The wind filled the emptiness with it’s willowy shrills. I lay down in the grass, put a hand on my forehead to stop the pounding. This was when my body started to react. When I started to sweat, to feel a nostalgic weight tugging on my always-legible heart. Although, it seemed to me that at these moments my insides were at war, forged by my inability to understand myself. Quite far from legibility.
This was when I was getting dug down.
“Ha!” Kira laughed.
“Gosh, we were joking,” said Cyril.
“You take things so seriously.”
“Hey,” said Kira. She gestured to Cyril’s cig. He handed it over to her hesitantly. She grabbed it.
The pale stick fought to stay in her mouth as she inhaled a huge gulp of smoke and poison. She shut her eyes, trying to fight the itch to cough. She let the cig out of her mouth, a thin trail of toxin poured out through her lips hot on its trail. She passed the stick back to Cyril. And coughed.
“I have no idea how you guys do that,” I said. Kira laughed and lay back in the grass. Flung her skinny legs in the air.
“It’s simple,” she said. “You just have to be open.”
I arrived in the cold, huddled under a thick vintage jacket from the bottom of my mother’s closet. The night had crept up on the city. Lights bounced around the dark sky, filled up the buildings with an effortless glow. But I arrived on the front doorstep quivering and anything other than enlightened. The door opened to let me in, offered me a drink, a seat, a hug.
I took the hug.
Warm embraces made me melt then. His arms circled tight around my growing waist. I sniffled, held back a tear. And another. Until he forced me to cry. He always did this, never told me why. Didn’t really have to time to before I left. We hugged some more. And more. We hugged in the doorway, and in the kitchen, and in the living room numerous times. Nothing more, just hugs. Hugs made the world go ‘round.
He sat me down on the big couch, a sprawling few feet of soft dark leather. He took my vintage coat from my grip. He smoothed my hair back. He wiped the dripping makeup from my eyes. But my tears were untouched.
And he held me again. And did what my parents never could. He rocked me in the dim light of the few bulbs hanging from the apartment ceiling. And carried me into the night, where I told him for the first time. The first time I had told anyone. I told him. I said it.
“Cal,” I said.
And the way he held my fingers made the tears come back. His cheek nudged the flesh of my neck so softly, I could have quaked. His mouth moved to the rhythm of my heartbeat.
“No. No no. No, you can’t. No,” he murmured and mumbled and fumbled his mouth’s way through the ticking of the clocks and my heartbeat and the songs of the cars rolling by. Nonsense, it became. But it soothed the soul even so. We rolled along the music of the horns and the lights through the windows guided us. Until the silence was there, as piercing as ever before. It punctured. And the murmurs evolved into movements and tongue-ties. Until they made out a name. An A, an F. Like lifelines they appeared. Reeled me in, broke our silence. His one word breathed on my shoulder and stayed there. Kept me warm. His lips formed the name, on my neck they repeated. Until it was audible. Until it closed my eyes.
The hardest part was the wrongdoing. The constant feeling of defeat, of failure. The weight that came with the responsibility. It was the whispers, the laughing, the giggling. The smallest details that no one ever saw. The details that molded to my eyes the way a star burns the navy sky. They played.
Kira’s lips moving at the way I moved, her perfect mouth shaped around taunts, her perfection faltered by her innocence. A word or two Cal said, a backdrop to what I loved. There was always a counterpart; Cal’s words were it. And they stayed there, part of the tape I had made myself. The one I played in my head countless times. Useless. Wrongdoing.
A girl, a few girls. Tilted heads that craned inwards for a rush of hated adrenaline. Eyes that popped open to shout whatever needed to be said. But the clicking of the gum, the pursing of the lips, stayed with me. Track number three.
A father, vaguely tall with a twisted mind run by a system of carelessness. He sat by me, looked at his papers, mumbled insanities. Flicked through his creations, but one. One that sat alone, untouched, unknown. It whispered its way to its breaking point. At a certain time, it just disappeared.
A confusion that settled right beneath my rib cage, in the hollows of my stomach, a feeling awaited me. Feelings had learned not to come in my path. Or rather, I had blocked them myself. This one wasn’t familiar with my wrath. It took over. It twisted its dirty hands through my abdomen, squeezed it tight, so that it ached. It shrunk my stomach until there was no room for food. It closed my eyes whenever I asked it not to. I slept through importance, awoke in silence. Eventually it reached the precious delicacy of my mind. Hacked at it, so it broke. The breaking point had reached its capacity.
This track was on repeat. Deleting the footage was no longer an option. And so I let it play.
The 10th of September, a wicked black shaded the sky woeful. The ones who were witnesses or victims of the knowing ache stayed locked up with shades pulled. Tomorrow would be a silent day. I could feel it. But tonight was far from silent. It was a confession. The wind echoed across the trees, chilling the summer warmth. From inside, the howling was a reminder to us all. “You are spared.” Spared was an overstatement.
I forced myself inside the maroon walls, the low lighting, the cushioned couch. He waited for me there. Vulnerable and distant, but still in existence.
“How will you manage?” I slipped myself between him, back settled, head propped. My fingers slid themselves in his, worked their way through our conflictions. I held our intertwined fingers up to the light. They seemed murderous.
“I’ll take all of the money from the safe, of course,” I said. I cocked my head back against his neck. “And I’ll bring you with me.”
The air grew thick with breath, the light, dimmed as my eyes blocked out the blaze. Noises were faint against our screaming fear. The wind stopped in its tracks to feel our torment. I slid back farther against the rock of Cal. The professor, the student, the man. I melted in his grip, let my lips feel the spot they could reach. The flesh of the neck.
“And where will we go?” Cal murmured. His rugged breath called for rugged meaning. I slipped my fingers back in his. They sang as they touched. They were a pleasant surprise.
“Where no one will find us.” My tongue flickered in rhythm to my thoughts. When I was this close, my mind didn’t stretch to feel. It felt. Simple. I needed simple. I needed escape.
“And where would that be?” Hissed Cal.
The outside world was blocked from our vision. In my view, I could see the shady wall leading to the one bedroom, one bathroom. Dark was ahead, my field of vision was destroyed by the night. This is what I saw. This is what I felt. Escape.
“You tell me,” I giggled. My lips inches away from flesh, I crept up inside myself, curled his hands around mine, his arms around my center. Safety laid its foundation here. Safe was maroon walls and one bedroom. The city was shamed by its security.
“A little cottage. By the sea.” He held our hands up again. The light lit them from within. They blinded my view. I shut my eyes.
I imagined a cottage by the sea. Waves instead of horns. Imagery in replace of words. I caught myself then. Grabbed myself through the thin curtains kept closed. Pulled myself out. Groped my softness, my sheer tears. A little cottage by the sea. An escape. A life to live.
Once I got hold of myself, I touched the skin, felt the wounds, mended the broken. Breathed the air, kissed the faces, the tongue that butchered unraveled its sorrow.
I was put back behind the curtains. Held till breath broke apart. The window opened, a crack ceased to be mended.
But the arms circled, a movement that was forced to long for. And so I did. I held the warmth.
And I smiled.