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Impulse and Spontaneity
Jamie sat alone, slouched on the metal bleachers.
Marco leaned against the side of a rusty pay phone, mumbling to himself quite incoherently.
Jamie sighed, noting how big the bleachers could seem when there was no one sitting in them. The emptiness made her feel vulnerable.
A lot of things, she realized, made her feel vulnerable. Home made her feel vulnerable. Her friends made her feel vulnerable. Strangers she passed in the street who dared to meet her eye made her feel vulnerable. Even painting made Jamie feel as though the entire world was looking down on her unfinished canvas and presuming things about her that were not true.
So Jamie unintentionally isolated herself. Or maybe it was intentionally. She said little at home. She listened to her friends, but never made a comment. She watched the sky when she passed a stranger in the street.
So maybe it was intended that Jamie be isolated from everyone in her life. Maybe she wanted it to be that way. Because without isolation, she reasoned, how could she tell herself apart from anybody else?
Marco kicked a stray pebble next to his sneaker. It ricocheted off of a light pole and sailed over the curb and out of sight. He had been standing on the same street corner for a time longer than he knew.
Every now and then, a person walked by Marco, waving or murmuring a nearly indistinguishable “hello” as they passed. Marco acknowledged them all with a smile, even though he tended to strongly dislike people in general. But he was not the kind of person to let that show. Marco was the kind of person who would lean up against the side of a pay phone with nonchalance, even when all he wanted to do was go home and crawl into bed, and maybe even cry a little bit.
No. Marco was the kind of person who would keep the nonchalant expression on his face, even under his own bedcovers.
One of Jamie's friends had balanced at the top of a perfect pyramid of thin girls with curly ponytails and bright eye shadow. But Jamie didn't care.
The crowd of high school students had gone ballistic when the home team made the final touchdown that won the whole football game. Jamie had remained seated. Because she didn't care.
And when her friends wanted to get a pizza to celebrate the victory, Jamie still didn't care.
It occurred to Jamie at half time. She didn't care what half of the people in her life did, said, or where they went. She didn't care about the stupid football game, or any of the other things her friends cared about.
And so she had sat there silently for the second half of the game, wondering why she didn't go home, or why she had even bothered to come. By the time the stands began to clear, nachos and popcorn strewn across the ground, she knew it was because she didn't want to be alone, at least in a physical sense.
All she needed were the fans shouting and cheerleaders cheering in the foreground so she didn't have to acknowledge the background. The background which every so often pierced her bubble of normality. The background that always succeeded in convincing her that no matter how many people she surrounded herself with, she would always be alone.
And yet here she was, long after the game had ended, by herself and slightly miserable. For some reason, she couldn't just uproot her feet, just couldn't leave the empty bleachers. She could have gone with her friends, and maybe she should have, but Jamie was beginning to think that it didn’t really matter where she was. She would always be
Marco was impulsive, not spontaneous. Spontaneity was supposed to be synonymous with adventure and luck, neither of which Marco had very much of. On the contrary, regret and karma seemed to follow him much more closely. But as his father often pointed out to him, he was only 16. What could he know about life? Marco knew this was meant as a rhetorical question, but strangely, he had answers to it, none of which he was willing to share with his father, or anyone, for that matter.
He was at lunch when it happened. The cafeteria was full of loud teenagers all talking so animatedly that it made his head spin. He found himself alone, as usual, staring at the red and white tiled floors. The sounds of conversation faded into a distant buzz, and he felt his mind delve into itself.
Marco heard his own voice inside his head, repeating his personal mantra. I want to get out, I want to live.
I want to get out, I want to live.
I want to get out, I want to live…
…because living was more than letterman jackets and Trigonometry. Marco wasn’t sure what it was, but living was not high school, or college, or a career in a cubicle. In fact, he had a strong feeling that it was something else entirely.
Hearing his mantra gradually increase in volume inside his head, Marco looked up and out the cafeteria windows, to the grey sky outside.
I want am going to get out.
This surprised Marco, for he had never had such a thought before. But something had clicked then, in the middle of a high school lunchroom, and he soon found himself on his feet, not walking, but running through the cafeteria, not minding whether anyone noticed, eyes fixed on the sky outside. He didn’t stop running until he was half a mile away, air filling his lungs absolutely and wholly.
I got out, he had told himself. He then collapsed onto the sidewalk. Somewhere in the distance, thunder shook the sky in a way that Marco thought to be ominous. He tried to catch his breath, waiting for the euphoria to fade.
Jamie stared at her hands, fingers intertwined. She held her hands so closely together that her knuckles became white, blood draining to the tips of her fingers.
Her eyes slipped out of focus, and everything became soft and blurred. Her hands, so tightly held together, relaxed and she inhaled deeply.
It was moments like these, when her mind was so entirely empty of conscious thought, that Jamie did not feel alone or inadequate or weak. It was moments exactly like this that Jamie felt undivided and unbroken and… complete.
Jamie blinked, and the moment was gone. Her surroundings materialized around her, and she stared ahead at the vacant field. And as she did, a feeling she did not recognize slowly began to rise inside of her.
Marco did not know what to do with himself. Time was passing slowly now, and he felt less and less like he had actually made an escape.
So he examined his fingernails. They were short and square.
He then absorbed himself, for the next few minutes, in picking the dirt from under each fingernail, starting with his thumb and moving outward, until each finger and its respective nail was clean.
Glancing at the overall appearance of his hands, he decided he liked his fingernails better with the dirt under them. He dejectedly shoved his hands deep into his pockets.
“Excuse me, young man?”
Marco looked up, startled, at the elderly woman standing before him.
“I need to use the telephone, if you’re through.” Recovering himself, he took a large step away from the payphone.
“Oh. Sorry, ma’am. You can have it.”
He turned away quickly and began walking in the opposite direction, fists still jammed into his jean pockets. He watched his feet carry him along the sidewalk, wondering vaguely where his impulsiveness would take him next.
Jamie made her way carefully down the bleachers, studying her faded sneakers as they descended towards the empty football field. She reached for the elastic band that held her ponytail in place and slid it out of her hair. She ran her fingers through the strands of her hair. It was soft and flowed to her shoulder blades.
Jamie was now standing at the edge of the field, hesitantly glancing around to make sure she was by herself. She folded her arms across her chest and looked at the visitor’s bleachers, and for some reason which she could not explain she imagined the mirror image of herself sitting in the stands, too involved in her own little world to even look up. Jamie tried to see the person her parents and her friends saw: The quiet one. Aloof, impersonal, unfriendly, and Jamie’s personal favorite, apathetic. Why not add self-absorbed to complete her unflattering outward appearance?
She shook her head. Looking at the bright yellow goal posts 100 yards away, Jamie became urgently restless. The end of the field called her, taunted her, and begged her to meet it at the edge of the earth. Her feet fidgeted uncontrollably and Jamie felt the strange feeling surge through her fingertips.
And she started to run. Her face up to the darkening sky, her arms outspread as if she might take flight or just fall out from under herself , Jamie ran, with no other prospect than to make it to the end of the field and back again.
She ran until she was out of breath, until she had outrun all her problems, shedding every layer that had been so unjustly thrust upon her, until she was metaphorically bare.
She ran until she was just Jamie, and no one else.
Marco was surprised when he found himself at the high school, of all places. He was even more surprised to find that he was not by himself. There was a girl there, all alone, in the middle of the football field.
He shuffled towards the vacant bleachers, sat down, rested his chin in his hands, and he watched.
Jamie was out of breath, but she didn’t stop. She was no longer just running, but dancing, dancing as if she were all alone in her room with the music turned up so loud that she couldn’t hear anything else. She turned and she leapt and she ran across the field, and every movement was so flowing and intricate that time seemed to just stop and swirl around her. Everything else faded away, receding back into the darkness from which they came. Every step, every motion magically linked itself to the next, as if it was all happening in the same moment. The world around Jamie became dreamlike, without the restriction of gravity or the impending future. She danced as though she had always danced through life, and in that moment, the solitude became her bliss. Jamie was alone, a singularity from the shadows, a bird from a cage.
And then Jamie heard the faintest trace of a breath being taken, from lungs which were not her own.
Marco watched the choreography of a soul, laid out on a matted green field.
Her movements were like a blue satin ribbon winding through a canyon. He had eyes only for the river, which surged through her fingertips and her toes as she ascended. She reached towards the sky with her arms, and he feared she might reach it and sail away on a cloud.
Several miles away, lightening illuminated the sky, but Marco did not wait. He was on the field before the thunder made a sound.
The first drops of rain fell as Jamie turned to face the person who had shattered any previous sense of security she had. She wrapped her arms around her torso protectively. Her heart beat furiously from her fresh outburst of emotion, and she could feel the blood rushing through her ears and arms and legs. She endeavored to quiet her uneven breaths.
Jamie let her eyes turn lifeless as she tried to avoid the gaze of the boy standing in front of her who had, undoubtedly, seen right through her.
Three rain drops fell, in rapid succession, onto Marco’s forehead. She must have known he was there, because she stopped and turned, and looked at him with an invisible veil drawn over her eyes. The light around her, however, ceased to fade from his memory. Her face was expressionless, but he continued to see the girl with the hair cascading, lips parting, and fingertips spreading. The window to her soul did not exist in her eyes. The window to her soul was a door which she kept closed. Today she opened the door, and he had, unknowingly, stepped over the threshold.
These thoughts came to Marco in imagery and not thoughts, and the language of words was momentarily lost to him. He did not know if he should speak, or what he should say if he should. He stood, watching her eyes trace his outline. Coldness and wetness sent sharp jolts to his body, and Marco looked up at the darkened sky as the rain began to come down. Hundreds of droplets fell out of the clouds, one by one.
He looked up at the sky briefly, and then he said to Jamie,
“Why did you stop?”
She felt herself become restless again, but in an entirely different way.
The girl stepped towards Marco challengingly.
“I don’t know. Why does it matter?” she replied.
He stepped towards the girl. “Because it’s the only beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life.”
Jamie looked away and shook her head. “I don’t know you.”
Marco smiled. “You can.”
She shook her head again. “You don’t know me.”
“But I want to.”
“Why would you want to know me?”
“Because you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life.”
The rain came down in sheets, and both Jamie and the boy were soaking wet. The thunder was drowned out by the sound of her rapidly beating heart,
and the flashes of lightening could not compare to the intensity and brightness reborn in her eyes once again.
Marco came closer, knowing he had never been more impulsive. The rain slipped down her face like every tear she’d ever cried, her hair stuck to her temples. Water molecules accumulated on the ends of her eyelashes, and her lips parted the way they had before.
He leaned in until Jamie felt his breath on her face. There was no protest, no objection, no words spoken as her shoulders relaxed and her arms fell to her sides, and the rain continued to pour down on them. Jamie felt a spark of electricity go through her veins as she met the lips of a stranger.
Marco held her face with one hand on either side of her jaw and kissed her lightly, just brushing across the surface of her lips with his. The air smelled like moisture, she smelled like roses, and Marco didn’t even know her name.
He kissed her tentatively the first time. Then he waited, scanning her eyes for concurrence.
Jamie put her arms through his arms, pulling him so close that her sneakers overlapped his.
Marco wove his hands into her drenched hair, and their lips met with brazenness. He closed his eyes and imagined the rainfall as rose petals, drifting slowly to the ground around them.
Jamie didn’t dare to blink. She watched him gently close his eyes, let her skin absorb the rain, and let her lips absorb his.
Marco tugged tenderly on her arm. She let him lead her to one side of the field, their fingers interlaced. He let go of her hand, and he whispered, “Don’t stop this time, okay?” She nodded, and smiled.
Jamie took his hand back in hers again, and she whispered back, “You either.” Then she ran, pulling him along, and together they shed every layer.
Marco danced, and she danced with him. They danced together, but alone, two elaborate solos occurring simultaneously. He reached for the sky, and she reached for the sky, and in the end, they reached for each other..
and they fell onto the muddy field, laughing and losing track of their limbs. They held each other and looked into each other’s eyes until the storm clouds disappeared. Then they lay in the grass, holding hands and gazing at the invisible stars above.
Time stopped. Forever existed. Together, they simply became two grains of sand, suspended indefinitely within the hourglass.