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7.2 billion people are remaking the world every moment, my father used to tell me. He said everyone, no matter how insignificant, how poor, how crazy, was changing lives and making thoughts just as they were breathing air, their very beings mixing in with everyone else's until it was all just one big bowl of fire, burning holes of thought into the very core of our planet.
We're all revolutionaries, James, he said. I believed him.
I still believe him.
He's gone now. I guess he finished remaking his part of the world. Maybe he's on to remaking the heavens now, though who knows? If he were still here, I'd ask him how the world handles it, being messed up and pulled apart and stuck back together all those times by billions of stupid people, brilliantly imbecilic humans like me.
Dad was, like he used to say, just some "stupid college professor".He thought everyone was dumb by nature, so dumb that we wouldn't know what true intelligence was even if it slapped us in the face (though it has, many, many times, he would add). I laughed at the time, even though it was almost true.
It just numbs me to think about it now.
I mean, he died so long ago I don't even miss him anymore, but all these things he said, these ideas, keep swirling and buzzing in my head, trapped. I don't know what to do with them - sometimes I accidentally walk right in front of cars because they're so loud and distracting.
Other times, I just sit in my room and stare out the window like I'm possessed, all these ground-breaking inspirations banging and pounding inside me. I've tried putting them down on paper. It never works.
Dad was the writer, not me.
I was the words in his mouth, he said, but that was just bull. How could I have inspired him? All I did was complain about how crazy he was half the time even though I knew he was just a dreamer. And dreamers were on the opposite side of the human spectrum from maniacs, so different that they were similar.
The world was the black and white, and he was the color. Only, he believed everyone was the color.
So now I'm here, sitting in this classroom, watching a fly hover around the window, breathing in the stale air, and wondering where people's colors go when they die when my phone vibrates, jerking me out of my coma.
I pull it out and quickly read the new message under the table.
Out by the park in 15, meet me there?
I don't have to read the name to know who it's from, or what my decision is.
Yes, I think but don't write. Instead, I slip the phone back in my pocket and turn once again to the window, my heart rate jumping up all of a sudden and all the thoughts of change and world-remaking whooshing out of me like air.
Life changed for me this summer. Not because my father died - that was a couple years ago, ancient history, read and closed (but not really), but because my life finally seemed to start where I had always wanted it to. It's like all of a sudden I became colorful.
Well, Dad would say I was always colorful. But it had felt like I was more a palette, sometimes bursting and sometimes - most of the time - empty.
Everything started, like all great things do, with stupidity (another one of Dad's famous sayings). Namely, me falling out of a window and breaking my leg. I think I was either really bored or high off of sharpie markers that day, because I decided it would be a good idea to see if I could tie all the blankets in my house together and lower myself out my window to the ground.
The beginning of the plan worked brilliantly, but everything else quite literally fell apart when I was about halfway down.
I must've tied one knot too loosely, or maybe the satin was too slippery. One second I was cruising down my magnificent blanket-pole, enjoying the view of my plain plastered wall, and the next I was sprawled on the floor, unconscious.
It was the first time I ever passed out. Not as cool as I expected it to be.
Still, it was when I woke up at the hospital the next day that the first hints of green and orange spilled out of me. Right next to my bed was another one, and on it was a boy with a book. Not just any book - The Picture of Dorian Gray.
My eyes travelled up his fingers, up the pale yet tan arms and up the flat, almost scrawny-looking chest and finally to the face, immediately intrigued.
He had brown eyes that were so light they were almost hazel and a head of raven-black hair. A halfie, caucasian and what, Korean? Filipino? His pale lips - everything about him was muted, it seemed - moved just slightly as he mouthed the words to himself, a look of sheer perplexity falling across his features.
I tried not to notice how cute he was, or how close to me he was, or how much I was staring. Should I say hi? Ask about his book? I've never really been good at starting conversations.
"Dude, your eyes are burning holes in my neck," he said all of a sudden, his gaze still fixed on the yellowed pages.
I felt my face flame and looked away, muttering an incoherent "sorry". I totally forgot people had such things as peripheral vision.
"It's okay. I'm just messing with you," he replied. He was smiling at me now; I could feel it in his words. "So what brings you to this wonderful abode?"
I laughed. "I fell out of my window and broke my leg. It's kind of a strange story. You?"
"Concussion. Kind of not a strange story - a ball hit me hard while I was playing soccer. Not fun." He stuck a bookmark inside Dorian Gray and set it aside. "By the way, I'm Elijah. Nice to make your acquaintance."
I hid the earth-shattering grin that was building up inside me. There was something about him that was just so interesting and funny, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Maybe it was the way he said things like 'abode' and 'acquaintance', words that were wonderfully out of place.
"I'm Jamie. Nice to meet you too."
He must've noticed me shift my gaze to his book, because he held it up and said, "It's a class assignment. Have you heard of it?"
Have I heard of it?? Who hasn't? "Yeah, it's practically my favorite book. Do you like it?"
He shrugged and went off on a long tangent about how philosophically, it was all very enlightening, but since he didn't agree with the morals of Oscar Wilde or any of the characters, he wasn't sure what he thought of the story.
I only heard half of what he was saying; the whole time he talked, I was busy staring at him, taking his face in, his features so I would never forget what he looked like in case we never crossed paths again.
But we did. Many times.
We exchanged contact information before I got "let out of the jailhouse", as Elijah put it, and a couple days later we were hanging out in the bookstore, by the park, and at his house, which was only 5 minutes away from mine.
By the time summer ended, all the colors had exploded out of me, and out of him too. It was amazingly wonderful and weird at the same time. I didn't know I was capable of feeling so...much.
In September, I showed him the little alcove by the park made from three pine trees and dozens of tiny baby saplings, hoping against hope that he'd understand why I brought him there.
I didn't tell him about its history of luck, or about the rumors of romances blooming in this very spot. I hadn't even known if he liked guys that way.
He never mentioned he was gay, and I never mentioned I was. Somehow though, we must have figured it out. Between the seconds of space that separated our mouths and the moment our lips touched, we figured it out.
I'm wondering now if that's why Elijah texted me this afternoon, when he hadn't ever since school started.
I haven't seen his face, his real face, not the one inside my head, ever since that day, but I need to, so badly that I practically sprint out of school. I'm at the park in less than two minutes after the last bell strikes, swinging on the rusted swing set waiting for Elijah, imagining him and me together, so together it hurts. I close my eyes.
Breathe, just breathe.
Minutes pass. A group of my classmates walk by, laughing and talking, and I drop my head, hoping they won't notice me. They don't.
I can't sit here with all these nerves jumping around inside me, so I jump up and walk, going nowhere.
I try not to think about what will happen to me, inside me, if he doesn't show. I try not to look at my watch every 3 seconds, telling myself that he'll be here, he's okay, he asked for me.
It wasn't just in my head this time. The text was real.
A bird flies by, some loud, raucous mockingbird. I look up as I walk. The sky is totally clear, a perfect fall day, not too cold, not too hot. For a second I lose myself, and I realize this is where all the color goes when someone dies - in the golds and maroons of falling leaves, the dark emeralds of pine trees, the pale light blues of perfect autumn skies.
I'm mesmerized, so mesmerized that I don't realize until Elijah starts talking that I've stopped right in my tracks.
"Hey," he says. Suddenly, everything that enchanted me a moment earlier becomes him. He's staring at me, at my nose maybe, trying hard not to look me in the eye.
He's nervous, I realize.
Me too. "Hi," I respond lamely, suppressing every single thing I've wanted to say to him in the 32 days since we last met up. What a great start. "So.."
"Yeah," he's fidgeting now, tapping his middle finger against his thigh.
I watch a wisp of his dark black hair take flight, the corners of my mouth lifting up ever so slightly. "So, do you want to...?"
I reach for his hand and pull him along until we're running and laughing, because I know exactly what he was asking, and then, when we're safe in the alcove, I thread my fingers through his hair and kiss him mid-laughter. He pulls me closer, everything happening so fast, wrapping his arms around me and I drown, my head far, far away in the nonexistent clouds.
It feels good. So good.
"I missed you," I say with my eyes closed, our foreheads pressed together.
"Me too. So much." He brushes a finger across my eyelashes. "They're so long," he murmurs, and I laugh, catching the end of his words with my mouth, holding them there so they'll never disappear.
He once told me that he's always had a thing for people with long, thick eyelashes, that it's the first thing he notices when he meets someone.
My eyelashes were the longest and thickest ones he's ever seen, he told me. That was in the Before, when we were great friends, best friends even, afraid to lose what we had by going after what we didn't.
I suck in a sharp breath, the past summer running, racing through my head, scene after scene of happiness bursting forward like tides of a tsunami.
If this is what it feels like to fall in love, I can understand why Dad was so weary of it. It makes you crazy, makes the whole world crazy, he ranted, especially when you're young. But that was when he was drunk, so I never figured out if he meant it or not.
"So was there something you wanted to tell me?" I ask without thinking, pulling my head out of the Dad-gutter. I feel Elijah tense for a split second.
Please, don't let it ruin the moment.
I wait, my body bracing itself for those words that end everything. But no. There's no way that's why he met me here.
Elijah coughs and blinks, holding his eyes shut for the longest time. When they open again, they stare right into mine. I'm blown away.
"No. Nothing." He says after a moment. "It's nothing."
In a flash, his lips are on mine again, and I'm not really sure what's going on or what to think. Not that I can think when he's so close.
Then we're falling, his back making contact with the pine-needled floor, and it's just us again, no words, no nothing. No birds in the sky and no oxygen in the air. Everything pushing the possible and defying the impossible like in a fantasy novel, and maybe that's where we're at now- off in another reality, where romance actually works out and nobody dies and happiness doesn't just fade.
It's right at the intersection of joy and delirium that I decide Dad was wrong.
Imagining the backs of my eyelids becoming silver and gold from the riot of emotions in my blood, it suddenly occurs to me that we aren't all revolutionaries - not everybody gets to touch a thousand souls or start a war of independence or be something unforgotten by time.
For so long I've tried to find the Revolutionary inside me and failed, thinking it was my fault that I couldn't change the world. Desperately clawing for recognition in anything that I did, even more so after Dad wasn't there anymore to tell me I could do anything I set my heart on. But the truth was that I never needed to change the world, that I'm not a revolutionary.
But this - right here, right now, ignoring the needles poking at my hands and feeling my inner Heron, the spirit animal Dad gave me, soar as I kiss Elijah - is my revolution. In two minutes or two hours or two years, it may not be anymore.
But for now, it was entirely enough.
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"Profound change is cumulative."