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"Have a nice day!" I exclaimed to Seth as I walked out the door. Zane's car was outside, already blaring the rock music he seemed to like so much. We were going driving. We were always driving.
"Have a nice day!" she said as she walked out my door. 'Have a nice day?' Is she f****** kidding me? She was going out driving with her new boyfriend while I had to sit at home until it was time to go to the party. I plopped down on my bed and stared at the clock. In the next room, I heard the TV crying.
"Where do you want to go?" Zane asked me. His eyes weren't on the road and his hand was on mine.
"The park," I said. I felt the jolt of the station wagon and the wind pick up in my hair. Looking out onto the road, I saw a mother pushing her child in a stroller. The child was crying and the mother was talking on her cellphone. We drove by too quickly for me to see if she ever got off that phone.
Okay, I wasn't going to wait around for Remy. I'll just start getting ready for the party now. I walked to my mirror and stared at the person in front of me. He was attractive, I suppose, but his eyes were dark. Had they always been like that? They looked just like my mothers eyes. Green, deep emerald green, but dark. I ran my nails along my left cheek. Not sharp enough.
The park was beautifully green, painfully green. We sat on a bench while Zane wrapped himself around me. He kissed my ears, and then my nose, and then my cheek. Behind his long brown hair and shoulder, I saw three little boys. Two of them were laughing while the other one was on the ground. His face was bloody and he was struggling to get up. Zane's eyes caught my own.
"What are you looking at?" He asked. I pointed, and we both watched.
The two boys were violently beating up the other. When they had caught us staring, they ran away. But not without giving the one on the ground one last kick in his stomach. They were too far away to reprimand or to stop, and I'm sure they ran all the way to an empty home. The beaten up boy stayed on the ground for a little while longer. When he got up, I noticed he was wearing the same shirt the other boys were wearing. 'The Lightning' Young Boys Soccer Team.
I searched around my room for my prized possession: a Swiss army knife. It used to belong to my father and he gave it to me as a present after I had won a soccer championship back in elementary school. "You're stronger than you think," he told me. Was I? Looking back in the mirror, I looked strong. Built. Ready. But I was never ready to start. I pulled out the knife and ran it gently along my cheek. Yes, it was sharp enough now.
I looked out my window. It was getting dark. Across the street lived Jane, a girl my age. I could always see right through her living room. Tonight, I saw her and her father arguing. Her father was tall and mean. He slapped her face. She didn't cry. He kept yelling and I kept staring. I wasn't surprised by this, it happened a lot. He threw her against the couch and slapped her again. Her eyes caught mine. They always did. They didn't scream for help, they never did. They just begged me, silently, to keep it all a secret. I always did.
I saw her father laugh.
"Can we leave?" I asked. My eyes were blurry and I felt like crying.
"Rem, things like that happen between boys all the time. It'll just make him stronger," Zane assured me. I wasn't convinced.
We got in the car again and drove. In our suburb, there weren't many places to go. The park was our center, and around it were small restaurants. We decided to get smoothies. Walking up to the store, I saw girls from my high school. They were pointing and laughing at someone else, but I couldn't see who. Zane put his arm around my waist and led me past them.
"Remy!" one called out to me. She was blonde, I couldn't remember her name. "You look great, what's up?"
"Uh, not much. Getting a smoothie," I answered her. What was her name?
"Well, be careful, there might not be any left. Lisa just went in there and I'm sure she loves smoothies," she laughed. Her friends laughed along. I didn't.
She gave me a quizzical look. "You know, 'cause she's fat," she explained.
I got it. "I got it," I said as I walked away.
I put the knife in my jeans' pocket and put on a button up shirt. I combed my blond hair and put on deodorant. It was hot. Walking out of my room, my house was oddly quiet. Until I heard my mom.
In the kitchen, my mom was opening a pill bottle and holding up a glass of water. She caught me staring at the pills and gave me an apologetic look.
She was a beautiful woman. Around here, they all were. I used to think she was the most beautiful, but not so much anymore. I looked more like her than I did my father. We had the same death in our eyes.
I was tired of it. I walked up to her and took the pill bottle right out of her hand and threw it against a window. It shattered. I walked out and started riding my bike. I didn't have time to search for my car keys. I heard her shout behind me. I haven't heard her shout in years.
Back on the road, Zane needed to change before the party, so we drove to his house. Looking out the window again, images passed by me. A husband and wife shouting at each other on their porch, a handful of middle schoolers smoking cigarettes, little kids pretending to shoot guns at each other, and Seth riding his bike.
"Seth!" I shouted, but he couldn't hear me.
It turned dark, finally. I had arrived at the party but Remy and her boyfriend weren't there yet. I sat on a couch and pulled out my American Spirits. I ripped off their filter and smoked them. Everyone from our school was at the party. They were all getting drunk and pretending to like each other. But, there were two girls who seemed to be fighting. They were cute.
We had finally arrived at the party, but we were late. The music was loud and I saw faces I've seen before but couldn't recognize. We sat next to Seth who was smoking his unfilitered cigarettes. He offered me some and I accepted.
"So, what'd you do today?" He asked us. His eyes were fixated on two girls in my grade who were yelling at each other.
"A whole lot of nothing," Zane answered.
"What did you do?" I asked.
A smile crept onto his face. "Nothing."
"I saw you riding your bike here. I shouted at you but you couldn't hear me." I pulled at his button up shirt.
"I was in a different world," he still didn't look at me.
The two girls were starting to get louder, and before anyone could pull them apart, one had slapped the other. Everyone started 'oohing' and crowding around them. Zane, who had his arm draped around my shoulder, got up to get a better look. So did Seth. I got up too.
The girls were now tumbling and clawing each other, while the other girls were cheering them on and the boys were laughing. Zane turned to look at me. He was smiling. I turned to look at Seth, who wasn't.
"You think this is funny?" I asked Zane.
"Well, yeah. They're dumb girls, probably fighting over a boy." But this answer didn't please me. I was trying to walk, run away, but Zane kept grabbing at my arm. It hurt, I just wanted to leave. It was loud, it was ugly.
"Where are you going?!" Zane shouted. He kept grabbing and pulling me back in.
"LET ME GO," I yelled. He did, and I ran out. Before he let go, I saw Seth's eyes turn dark.
"Dude, what the f*** was that?" I asked Zane. The girls were still going at it with nobody stopping them. I knew Remy didn't like that stuff, I knew she would run.
"Nothing, man, she always runs." Zane was a tool. He was ignorant. I pushed him.
"What the f***, bro?" Zane barked. I pushed him again and as expected, he pulled me to the side of the house. He backed me up against the wall. I noticed that the street lights were brighter than they had ever been. No one saw us, and no one could hear us either. It was too loud for echoes.
"What the f*** is wrong with you, Seth?" He kept pushing me up tighter against the wall. His beefy hands on my shoulders. I reached for the knife in my pocket.
It was too loud. I couldn't hear myself think. I ran to the end of the block. By the stop sign, I couldn't hear the party music or the girls shouting anymore. I rolled up my sleeve to look at my arm. It was dark and bruised.
I pulled out the knife and opened it. As soon as the silver hit the light, Zane backed off.
"F***, dude...what is that?" His blue eyes suddenly looked ghost white. "Is that a knife? Are you f****** psychotic?" He tried to run, but I pinned him down. And before we could both say anything else, I felt blood. And I heard a scream.
My arm, it was bloody and bruised. Zane was strong. I felt like crying, but I knew I couldn't get away. There was always going to be a mountain. I started to run again, but then I heard a scream.
I pushed Zane down again and ran to catch Remy. There was so much blood everywhere. I threw the knife by Zane's body. As I ran I thought about getting away. But I knew I couldn't. I had done it now, and I had to own it. There wasn't an end in sight. There never was. I got the answer I was looking for, the relief I desperately sought. My father wouldn't have been proud, he would have called me weak, but this was the only way to do it. I couldn't feel small anymore. I couldn't be the same.
I saw Seth running toward me. He looked crazed, especially under the bright lights. He stopped and caught his breath. It was only until he was close enough that I saw. His cheek was sliced open. Deep, destroyed, and spewing out blood. So much blood. From his left temple to his lip, his face was sliced. Sliced and sliced. I knew then he would never look the same.
"Remy..." I tried to talk, but my face couldn't move. Blood fell into my mouth and onto my tongue. I knew I couldn't tell her the truth. The night was spinning around me.
"Seth!" I was panicking, grabbing at him, trying to clean up his face with my sleeve. I couldn't breathe.
"What happened?" I cried.
"What happened?" she cried. If only she knew what the answer was worth.
"Zane," I began. The city lights were bright. I wondered then if those lights could shine across our entire sprawl. "Zane. He. He...He," I coughed up blood. I saw my mother. I saw my dead father. I saw Jane. My mind was spinning. I tried to swallow but all I tasted was blood.
Remy was holding me up. She never looked more beautiful. Her dark hair was a mess and her hazel eyes cried help. She waited for me to keep talking. In that moment, I wondered if I would take it back. What I had just done.
"Zane cut me," I answered.
No, I wouldn't take it back. In that moment, Remy's eyes shifted from fear to hate. Anger. A feeling she rarely felt. She mainly felt pain.
"Zane cut you?" Her eyes grew dark. Like mine.
I felt sorry for her. She was sensitive and fragile and all she wanted was to get away from the surface, from the ugliness of it all.
"Yes," I answered her. There was nothing left to do.
Zane had cut and mutilated my best friend. My only friend. Was Zane not who I thought he was? I stood there, trying to hold Seth up while he tried to maintain consciousness. I could see his eyes drift back into his head. What was I going to do now? I had spent years building up a protection against all the ugly I saw, but right in front of me stood the ugliest thing of all. My most special person tarnished by someone who I thought was honest, true, pure. If only he were pure...
I let her believe what she wanted to. Always. She's a strong, determined person. She wanted things to be pure and beautiful. But, living in a place like this, things never were. I wasn't. I let my cheek bleed and I let myself taste it. It was grotesque, but things always are. I was half of a person without her. I needed her to believe in something ugly. I needed her to stop believing the parks and the people and the parents could be anything but ugly. So, I made her believe in my ugliness. But, I made her think it was never mine.
That night, Seth and I lost a lot. He lost his beauty, I lost my imagination. I saw it all as ugly. Distorted. Real. I didn't want that little boy to get beat up, or for those girls to be bullies. I wanted them to be pure. Authentic. The suburbs were dead to me, and my hope for it's change had become long gone. This town had deceived me.
I didn't meant to trick her. But, it had taken me too long to figure out how to get her back. My cut had divided us. Now, it was us against them. Zane had been in the hospital for weeks for a concussion that had put him in a coma, and until he was released I was to keep my flesh scarred and I my conscious at bay. I would wait to see if he remembered.
For some reason, no one spoke to me anymore. They blamed me for Zane's hospitalization. I never told anyone the truth. They think it was all Seth's fault, and the valley of a scar on his face was justification. If only my old friends knew. But, time passed, Zane was still in a coma, and Seth started to feel better. So we drove. But, this time, I kept my eyes closed.
Remy had become who I wanted her to be. Someone who stood up for herself, for the people she loved. She let go of her old friends who had better intuitions but horrible morals. So, we drove. And as I searched for life in every passing car, she kept her eyes closed.