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Being Elsewhere This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Sometimes, I awake in the middle of the night, perfectly alert, with an itch to be elsewhere. My skin curls against my muscles, my muscles hug closer to my bones, and the marrow within my bones moves slightly, a spider inching to the right, then to the left. Not too much, but enough. Soon after, I fall back to sleep and forget the whole thing. The next day, or the next week maybe, I see an ant moving from grass to pavement, or a fly in my house, and I can’t help but think about how far they must have traveled to reach such an alien terrain. Think of how new the tar of my driveway must to be that ant, as odd and misplaced as I would be if I ended in someplace so cloaked in snow that I was blinded. I’ve never seen snow, never felt the cold slip to warm on my hand, or watched the vast whiteness oppose the utter blackness of my pupils. I’ve never truly seen the breath birthed from my mouth, only been aware of it. To see it, suspended in the air like smog from a tower, seems impossible. Maybe as a child I had experienced such a phenomena, but I guess I never could have thought it significant enough to remember. It’s funny, the important things one dismisses in childhood. Then, when I think of that fly, drunkenly flopping about my house, when I think of how wonderfully lost it must be, that’s when my body palpitates again, trembling at the thought of being elsewhere.
I’ve told a few others of my longings, my shivering to move on, but they wave it away with a vein-covered hand, as something that simply clings to those of immaturity. When you’re older, they say, you’ll understand. But here where the sun always shines, here where the grass is always green, how could I possibly be expected to appreciate the positive without the negative to contrast it. I feel tragically inexperienced in the ways of the world, of the people. How am I supposed to feel the warmth of comfort when there isn’t a square of my skin that can begin to understand the cold?
Sometimes, caught up in the ecstasy of elsewhere, I pack a suitcase. I bundle in the necessities such as clothes, and hygienic items, and then add the things of sentimental value. Things such as books written by Dickens, Poe, and Steinbeck. Things of good taste that people can respect and understand. Everything else is useless, like the television and the movie stars and the meaningless pop about dancing and clubs that fill so many minds with the preshrunk, plastic-wrapped, hackneyed words of the commonplace. If I could just leave, if I could capture the uncontrollable want to migrate, then things would be different. I would see, I would be able to open my eyes to so many things I’ve never even experience.
I’ve always admired such creatures as the geese. To be able to just pick up and fly thousands of miles to a new destination, a new home, with such a simple-minded grace to your observations would be cuttingly distinct. Where do they go, these geese? I sometimes picture them in South America, greeted as old friends amongst creatures with grandly adorned plumage, or sitting on a beach amongst the tourists. Then I wonder if when they return from South, do they find it different? What makes it good enough for them to return when they can stay where they are for warmth all year long? Whatever the answer is, I guess it doesn’t affect me so I shouldn’t brood over it.
Over the course of a few hours, when my frantic fever drops, I can sadly unpack my suitcase, tuck back my dreams of escape into dresser drawers and fold them up on hangers in the closet. I sadly place them back on the bookshelf, each in its exact spot. My skin hangs limply on my muscles, which flop on my bones, whose marrow does nothing. My body is devoid of stimulus, worn and devastated by the excitement of the want. I look outside and see the trees and wonder what it’s like to be grounded in one place, like a small island rooting down to the bottom of the sea. At least a tree can sway in the breeze, capture the air on its leaves. A tree has probably seen everything, but to me it looks lonely, with its spindly white fingers it seems to be always reaching for something beyond.
I open the window and look out, placing two hands firmly upon it; I swing one leg over and straddle the sill. Hm, I think, and that is all. It’s astounding how often there are simply no thoughts going through my mind, only wind, and the buzz of a cicada maybe. I laxly swing my other leg around, so I’m sitting with both legs out of my house. I reach out one hand, and then the other to grasp the arm of the nearby tree. Its rough bark feels cool and dry on my hands, it feels nice. I sit there for a second and ponder how strange it must be for this tree, having some foreign life just holding its arm. I’m just a ghost to the tree, really, something that comes and goes. I’ll definitely be gone in a few years, for college or for real life, and this tree will still be here. This tree must have been held by a great many ghosts. We as humans have so many different thoughts and ideas that are entwined with the word tree. We give them personification and describe them, much as I am now. Thoughts like that remind me of the infinite human urge to label and organize things, into recognizable patterns and classes. What would a tree be, if it had no name? What would I be? Maybe if we could walk around, with no outsides, just our insides, the world would make more sense, without making any sense at all.
Slowly, I lift one leg and curl it around the arm of the tree, and then the other leg follows. The arm bends slightly under my weight, so I decide to move up the tree to a sturdier branch. As I get to the top, the stars are sharp like shards of glass, sitting just out of my reach it seems. So Delicate. Ever since childhood I’ve always thought the sky looked like the ceiling of a large black dome, just like the planetarium we all went to once on a field trip. I liked to pretend that world was just encapsulated by a planetarium, it made the whole thing smaller and more graspable; it gave me a greater sense of unity with my cohabiters of the Earth. We were all sitting under the same planetarium, right? But still, sometimes, when I’m in the right kind of mood, it just makes me cry. Maybe because I know that in the end, I’m just a ghost, we’re just ghosts. That gargantuan sky, the ever-expanding universe, that’s what’s really tangible. And sometimes, being in this same mood and all, it makes me cry because reality just seems so horribly fake.
The itching feeling that tells you when to move on has been in humans forever. The Bantu migrations, the pacific migrations, the pilgrimage to America, all large groups of people ready to start anew. Some of those same people who told me the want clung only because I’m young argue about roots. The ancestral lineage of a family is sacred, they tell me, why would you want to leave your roots? But no, I think, that’s not roots. None of us are really from America originally anyway; it’s such a fresh nation, filled with a medley of different people from so many different places. Roots are a family deep in the jungle of South America, who’ve lived on the same lands, passed down the same tools, and spoke the same myths for centuries. Or maybe I’m wrong, maybe roots are all around us. The Okies in the west who’ve sowed the same seeds, and plowed the same land. Maybe it’s the small business man in the big city, who neglects his family while trying to save them with paper wealth. Not real gold or any ore of true value, just some stupid special paper. Or maybe there are no roots anymore; we’re all just balloons that have been cut away, wandering slowly, trying to find our way back. But we can’t really, because when we do we end up back on the earth, deflated and wrinkled. And the thing about these balloon people is that they’re everywhere, they’re everyone, because in the end, we all want to fly away. Deep down, we all feel the shivers course through our spine and tingling settle in the nape of our necks; in the end, there is no escaping the push of our heels and feeling of being elsewhere.



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Joanna23 said...
Aug. 17, 2012 at 10:33 am
I really love your use of imagery in this, it's really beuatiful. It really made me feel exactly what you talking about. Maybe use more of a plot to move the action further? But nice effort really.
 
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