It was like a roll of film creating a child’s imagination into a movie. A blank canvas that she covered up with wonders that spilled out of the paint brush. I learned so much just from the memories she replayed for me out loud. Sometimes they didn't seem real. But I loved that.
"My dad used to throw me into the air like a little kid tossing a ball up and down when he’s bored,” she illustrated. We sat at a coffee shop in the middle of town in the middle of the store. That’s where she liked to be - in the center of it all. In the eye of the storm where walls of danger created a safe room. “It was my favorite thing to do. I loved being up in the air because it wasn't something natural for humans. Why don’t we just stay in the air? You know why? Because gravity. I hate gravity. It restricts us.”
She hates gravity. I tried reasoning with her. “It keeps us safe,” I explain. But she would fight back, saying, “No, it keeps us from discovery.”
"Gravity keeps us from doing what we want. If I want to fly as freely as a bird can, then why does gravity think it can keep us from doing so? What a jerk,” she would go on to rant. I have a feeling she wasn't talking about gravity. “He made me feel like a bird, but then turned into gravity and restricted me. I hate gravity.”
We left the coffee shop an hour later. I watched her walk away, but I could hear little mumbles exiting her lips like cautious criminals escaping prison. The words seemed to hesitate its very existence with each syllable. But they kept coming like a clown’s magical cloth being pulled out of its pocket. They soon were out of reach though and I couldn't grasp what she was saying any longer as they faded into the polluted air of the middle of dreary Seattle. I stood in the center of the sidewalk. Out of place.
"My sister used to take me here,” she describes to me the next day. We lie on our backs in the carpeted ground full of soft green grass and tiny, white clouds as weeds. Under the ceiling of the branches and leaves, protected by the walls made of aged tree trunks, we sat. Relaxed. “ She used to plop me down next to her right here. This was our place. It was like a home.”
Her words rolled out of her mouth gracefully, matching her name. Gracie Mae, Grace for short. Her words had meaning and her eyes held expressions that the human face could not form. The hands that waved about in the air like leaves falling to the ground in Autumn made everything she foretold exciting and new.
"We would just talk. About anything and everything. Our favorite parts of a book, why we didn’t like that cheesy movie we just saw, what who said what at school that day. She was like a therapist to me. I never thought of her in that way until later on.”
All was quiet then. I stared at her face. It looked to be drowning. Pale skin, but pink stained cheeks - as if she smeared a rose on them. Her bright blue eyes portrayed the opposite of the meaning. The light Freckles sprinkled all around her face even seemed to be drooping. The irony floating in the air stung my eyes. A happy story, but a sad face to oppose it.
Later we strolled along the dark sidewalk. The moon set in, making its routine appearance. Stars glimmered, the galaxy was alive. The now tired out town was cozy in their beds, while two kids walked side by side wide awake on its gloomy streets. The dim lights created a yellow hue shimmering in the small shops’ glass windows. Our reflections were a watery mess.
"We used to go down to the lake past our house. It was always glimmering, with our reflections of sunscreen and bathing suits morphed into shapes as the tiny waves lapped on the rocks. I was always afraid of the water. I felt like it was something that could swallow me whole. I didn't like that feeling,” she described.
She hated water. And I knew why without her telling me. It restricted her. From walking, talking, breathing.
We went a week without seeing each other. It’s a new record. But when we came back to each other, it was different. Her story book came to a part where it all started to tumble down hill, leaving scratches and bruises everywhere.
"My friend treated me like a piece of trash - throwing me on the ground, stomping on my remains. All because she really did think that I was garbage. She littered the world with me,” says Gracie. But is that what she said, I wanted to ask her. Did she say that you were littering the world? Or is that what you said about yourself?
"Why did your friend say that?,” I questioned instead.
"I don’t know!” she suddenly exploded. She rose off of the park bench that we lounged on for a few hours. A soft breeze blew strands of her chocolate brown hair in all different directions like the branches of a tree in a storm. She turned to face me, her eyes holding an emotion that stood behind the iris like prison bars, banging on the glass to escape. Her emotions were the criminals. And she tried to contain them.
Almost too much.
Now they want to get out. They will do anything to not be cooped up inside her prison any longer.
"I don’t know…” she states this time with calmness.
Days later, she calls me. The line is silent, except for her soft breathing that fills my ears. “Love doesn’t exist,” she says suddenly. Her words shot through my mind, shocking me like a lightening bolt. It was so out of the blue she could have created a new color. More silence suffocated my lungs before I broke through and protested, “Yes, it does.”
"No,” she shoots back immediately. Hurt scorched my body. Anger filled my chest and I wondered how she could be so naive. “Love is just a chemical reaction. It’s hormones. It’s not a physical thing. It doesn’t exist.”
"Well, I don’t agree,” my mouth spoke the words I regretted saying as soon as they were said. I knew she would start an argument. Her words would be like punches in a boxing match that left black and blues all over. Mine would barely make a dent. I’m afraid. I’m scared of hurting her. Of losing her. And all because of the feeling that she claims is non-existent.
The next day, her rant continued.
"It’s not real.”
"Yes, it is.”
"No. It’s not.”
"How can you say that?” I finally blurted out without my mind’s consent.
The torturing silence poisoned the air again. “Because you can’t love a body. Or a soul. You only love the things that make up that body and soul. The little things that you notice about a person that they don’t see. The way they make you feel. The stories they tell.”
Her reasoning confused me to the point of giving up. It made me feel like everything she told me was a big pile of nothing.
"Remember when we first met? We were sitting on the sidewalk just outside the movie theater with all of our friends. My friends were talking amongst each other like nothing else in the world mattered. But I just sat there. And you noticed. You left your friends, sat down next to me, and you talked. “She paused for a moment, as if contemplating whether or not to go on. Like if she did, the whole world would crash around her and she would be left with nothing. “But when it was my turn to, you looked at me the same way my dad used to look at my mom. They aren’t together anymore. Now he doesn’t look at her at all. Love doesn’t exist. And all that is proof.”
"Why does she only tell stories?” I question Gracie’s friend.
"Because she has nothing else to say,” she responds without hesitation. A facial expression that seemed to reveal all of her thoughts and feelings about Gracie was plastered on her face. Disgust. Dismay. Irritation. “She only cares about herself. That’s why she only talks about her life.”
Wrong or right, her so-called “friend”’s words angered me. But this wasn’t just about her friend’s opinion of Gracie.
"She told me all these stories about her life, but then just last night she took me back to when we first met. Why?”
The girl just stares at me and leans on the table in front of her, almost spilling the half empty cup. “You really don’t know, do you?” she asks. The concern she expressed towards me spread like a disease. “Once she talks about you, then you are no longer relevant in her life. She’s done that to all of her friends. Including me. I wouldn’t stick around much anymore.”
Now I see why Gracie was as frustrated as anyone would be when their heart is burned at the stake.
It’s been weeks since we’ve talked. It feels like my life is missing something. Pain overflows in me and it’s hard to bare. She says love doesn’t exist. But tell me, I want to ask her, what is this I am feeling? And why does it feel like you tattooed it into me?
I call her. The phone keeps ringing. No answer. The loud, shrill noise echoes in my ears like screaming in an empty room. Was her friend right? Does she actually just drop you? Like a piece of trash?
Day after day, I replay the memories that she panned out for me in my head. I pretend like she is still here. I don’t know how she is doing. I never see her. It’s like a black hole swallowed her up. No, I tell myself. That’s not right. She doesn’t like restriction.
I want to interrogate her with questions that would help me to figure her out. She’s a map that no one knows how to read. A puzzle piece that doesn’t fit in anywhere. A lost puppy that doesn’t want a home.
The gravity that she hates holds her captive in my mind. The water that she dreads suffocates her until the last sight of her that I receive is the death of her presence in my life.
The pain; the loss; the lack of her restricts me. She’s afraid of it, yet she manages to get herself tangled in it. She restricts herself with her own stories. She restricts herself from moving on. The irony suffocates me just like the water she fears.
Is that what you wanted?