Where To Find Us | Teen Ink

Where To Find Us

May 18, 2022
By Egycal52 SILVER, --, California
Egycal52 SILVER, --, California
6 articles 0 photos 112 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Hats off to the past, coats off to the future."
- American Proverb
"Why do you keep hiding behind your mask,
When even the scars formed by your mistakes
are you own constellations?"

The lost boys became guardians: it just happened that way. The ones who’d washed up in Lotus Lake in a moment that nobody recorded, and were too proud to ask Peter Pan for help, who didn’t think they’d be searched for very much, had been more of a burden than a help to their homes in their other lives. They needed a purpose. Life was over, that much was true. But Purpose was still there. Beyond human mortality were a million positions to fill. They found their companions one by one, Yaser first, a little boy who’d miraculously seen him, smiled at him. Yaser had forgotten what it felt like to be looked like, how his pupils automatically adjusted to eye contact like camera lenses. After that he never left the boy’s side except to return to Neverland. When he told the other boys, they laughed. It was to be expected of him: he was the soft one, calm like ocean waves at night. 

  But Teil was the second one to find his companion, and that meant something. He was the sharp one. The first one to say out loud “We’re not coming back” that night, when he realized no one else would say it. Aydin had made a strange choking sound in his throat and started to cry. Anwar had kept his hands in his pockets and his eyes and his eyes on the floor, everything in his stature saying: if I talk, if I think, I’ll break. So Teil had said it. He was the bravest, the scariest because he showed no outward weakness. Yet he was the 2nd to become a guardian. Someone completely unremarkable, a middle-aged woman that looked like a schoolteacher. There was no particular reason that anyone knew of. He just felt the urge to trail after her. There was honeydew in her shopping bag, his favorite. He hadn’t wanted to eat anything since his arrival in Neverland. But when he followed her into her house, saw her put them in a Persian bowl, he thought, so what, it doesn’t matter anyways. He pulled it into jagged halves, ate it with his hands, let the juice run, wiping his forearm across his mouth and jaw when he was done. It was the best he’d felt in a while. And, as if that was a rational reason, he decided to stick with the lady, protect her. He picked up her house keys when she forgot them. He got between her and cars at crosswalks. He lowered the fire on her stove when things were burning.

  For a while, he didn’t form any dedication to her. It was a job, was all. Little by little, he learned about her: she was a lawyer, & had family on the east coast. And she had enemies. People he had to drive away. He’d plopped onto the couch at the end of a long day when three angry people had showed up at her office to complain. “You’re trouble, aren’t you?” he’d asked out loud. It was not what he’d expected from her, and for some reason, that made him feel better. Her eyes had flickered towards the couch for a second, enough to briefly stop his heart. But she said nothing, only smiled a little. Maybe a butterfly had crossed the room in her world. 


     He was there on the day a former client had cornered her in an empty parking lot. He saw the man’s anger, his shoulders hunched, his jaw and neck muscles tense, his eyes and mouth forming an expression that was all wrong. He heard his violent words, his curses and accusations, and he’d been angry. The backs of his hands had heated up. He wanted to push the man away, punch him in the gut, slam his head into the wall. It was nothing he hadn’t done in his other life. People had told him violence was not the answer, but how not? It had worked just fine for him. But when he saw the knife, glinting in the light of a world he’d never reach, he realized how useless he was. It was a new feeling to him, and it broke his heart. He looked at the woman, who he’d gotten used to over the past stretch of time, who’d been his only purpose, and he loved her with all his heart and was terrified. He didn’t know what to do. His icy exterior, his violence had been crutches that had clattered to the ground, and he was unable to move. He wanted to look away more than anything, to hide, not to know what was going to happen to her.  If only he’d been alive, he thought. He would’ve saved her. But he knew that if he was alive, he never would’ve met her. Or if he had, his only thought would’ve been, what an ugly skirt she’s wearing. So he remembered who he was supposed to be. Fierce, burning Teil, angry and mesmerizing. He threw himself into the man, tore the knife away from him, fumbled for the keys to open the car and pushed her inside. He knew that, in her world, something different had happened. Maybe the guy had just walked away. She’d become a main character in his life, but she knew nothing of him. He was sharply aware of that and it hurt. But it had to be. When she’d gotten home, still shaking, she’d stood by the door after locking it. Knowing she’d never know him (and that was a comfort, for he’d be embarrassed to act so open), he’d wrapped his arms around her waist, leaned his chest on her back and pressed his cheek to her shoulder. Back in Neverland, when the boys talked about their companions, he told them he had gotten another mom.


   It was still Teil, though. Still trouble. He’d pull open the curtains although she liked it dark, cry “get some light in here!” Some days, he was angry. Once, he’d seen some kids walk by. Privileged, rich kids, with new shoes smelling like the inside of a box. He used to sometimes want their life. Now he realized he’d never have any life at all. Just one day, that was what he wanted. But he’d never get it. He was twisting the knife, and pain shot through him. Even if he could go back, would he? He couldn’t remember who he was anymore. His life now was decided, the only thing he knew. His other mom; the boys; the Lotus Lake in Neverland; that was his life now. If he went back, maybe he’d never find them again. It’s all your fault, he thought at her. You’re the reason I can’t go back. For a moment he forgot entirely that it was impossible. You’re the reason, you lonely old lady. He walked into the kitchen, where she was drying dishes. You’ll never even know me, you ungrateful idiot. You’ll never even know how many times I’ve saved you. You’re just a passing leaf. I’m the one who’s stuck like this. You have no idea, do you? And he picked up the glass she’d dried and threw it at the wall. In her world, it slid and broke. She bent down to pick it up. Only then did he remember that what was done was done, that he’d never go back anyways, and guilt crept up on him. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “I’m sorry.”


   One day she was meeting a client. He didn’t recognize the client’s face, her features. She wanted to sue someone who had..what was it..not killed..but put her child in a position of danger..well, the truth was, she didn’t know if her son was alive..the point is, he was missing. He’d been missing, and he would most probably stay that way. You may have heard of him.. the four boys at the coast..and Teil knew what she was about to say before she said it, and he got up and ran out of the room. Not them. Not that night. Not their stupid actions. He didn’t want to know. It was all over. Everything was ruined now. He hated the person he’d been. Why was he still accounting for everything that had happened in his old life? Teil was as foreign to him as any stranger. But he was stuck with him, stuck with his personality, his life, his actions. Even now. Now she’d know about him, which he’d always half-wished for, but which he now realised he didn’t want at all.


 He stayed away from her for a while, clearing his head. But then he learned she was visiting her sister and niece, and he was excited. For one thing, he had to be with her. Many accidents could happen on a vacation. For another, he was curious. He wanted to see her family, see her being happy and carefree. And he hadn’t taken a trip in ages. So he went. He lifted her luggage, helped her make sandwiches and made sure she had a first aid kit. He sat in the trunk of the car, listening to the radio. Oh, if people could see them: a forty-something year old woman in a blue cotton blouse, large glasses, earrings and sneakers. And in the back, legs spread over the luggage, a wiry teenager in red fake leather, a choker, and a gold earring he’d “ borrowed” from her cabinet. They were both singing off-key to Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. It was summer. What year, he had no idea. But it was summer, just as he’d left it.

He was with her as she greeted her seven-year old niece, Umniya. Wish, that was her name. He felt like he was finally even with the boys. They all had little kids in their companion families. They coddled them and played with them, completely forgetting to act cool. They hadn’t acted cool in a while. Anwar blew rainbow soap bubbles. Aydin did finger paints. Yaser had his hands full keeping his new little brother from falling off his skates. Now I have a friend to play with too! He thought. He knew how stupid and childish that sounded, but he didn’t care.

   So, after lights-out, he sneaked into the window, as he’d seen Peter Pan do, and invited the still-awake Umniya to Neverland. “I’m dreaming” she said flatly, but he persisted. He opened his eyes wide and scrunched up his nose, goofing around until she finally agreed. He put his foot on the window sill, held his hand out to her, mouthed “ready?” But suddenly, his other mom was at the door. She swung into the room, sat on the comforter. “I heard you moving around. What are you doing?” “Going to Neverland!” Umnya cried enthusiastically. Teil chuckled: this from a girl who’d just moments ago denied his existence. “ With Peter Pan?” The woman enquired, a hint of friendly sarcasm in her voice. “No! With Teil!”

The lady froze, her eyes darting. “You mean that kid, my client’s son?” Nods. “ Honey, that’s impossible. Don’t be ridiculous.” Her voice grew sharper. “ And don’t listen in on my conversations with your mom! And aren’t you too old for make-believe?” The girl opened her mouth but closed it again. “ And even if..Teil.. even if he was alive, I wouldn’t want you near him.” “But he didn’t do anything wrong! He was the victim! You said..” “Just because someone was the victim of something, doesn’t mean they were saints. Teil was a complicated kid and he made bad decisions. He would’ve grown up badly”. 

Teil was freezing. His arms were numbing. He felt like he was shimmering. He didn’t want to acknowledge her words, but he was drowning in them. He’d never thought about what people said about him; he just never cared. But she was the last person he’d wanted to think badly of him. He’d felt safe with her. Safe, what a word. He tried to remember if he’d ever felt safe with anyone in his old life, but there was nothing there, no taste of such a feeling. He was dead, had been. Why couldn’t he have safety even then? He was angry for letting himself go, for putting down his walls. But why? Why would she speak of him like that? How could she think so badly of him? Her face when she said it gutted him, even as he tried to pull up his armor again. She hated him, disdained him. Maybe even was scared of him. People used to say where he was from “ We wish them nothing but mercy” when discussing someone who’d passed. It meant that whatever bad things someone may have done, it didn’t matter now that they were gone. Was it not his right too to be spared everything but mercy? I wasn’t a bad person, he almost whined. I was just put in a bad situation. I was unlucky, is all. I was never a bad person. I thought you’d like me when I imagined meeting you. I thought you’d be glad to see me. Then he said out loud, so you don’t want me? He tried to make it sound like a threat, like he was leaving to punish her. But he knew it was true. She didn’t want him. Well, he’d make her. He’d wreck her home, burn it down, and when she’d be crying it would already be too late. Yes, that’s what he’d do. The thought of it empowered him. But he realized he was paralyzed. He realized it all at once, like an electric jolt. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t feel. He was not a guardian anymore, just a lost soul. He couldn’t see his fingers in front of him. His weight tipped onto his foot on the windowsill, and sick hysteria filled him. He tried to send the nervous signal to his muscles: hold me up, hold me up. Please no, he thought. I can’t. Then he lost his foothold and fell backwards, out the window, through the road and into Neverland. It hurt, but not too much. It made his spine tingle. His body was leaving him. It was his pain that stayed. He wanted to claw at himself, but he could only let the pain consume him, let his heart flood. He was sobbing without tears. Please, let me die, God. Kill me. Take me where Your promises are, he prayed silently. I should have been there by now.


  Teil lost his colors after that. The rest of them stayed in lasting relationships, ripping eviction notices off of doors and stopping trains from leaving a minute too early. But Teil had faded. He’d always been over-eager in life. He always had to have what he wanted when he wanted it, and that had gotten him in trouble. He was too intense, wanted things too badly. He wanted to be noticed, to be loved back when it was not his place to have that luxury, when he should’ve been content with purpose. The pirates in Neverland found him at the bottom of the lake. He’d been there for days. When they pulled him up, even Captain Hook shuddered, felt sympathy for him. “ Go home, child,” he sighed, after they’d dried him off and laid him on the riverbank. The boys hated to be in Neverland without him. They looked for him and called for him. But he had no more words; he was all out of life. He heard them cry out for him and let their sadness permeate him. He had committed to give up, and he wanted to stick to it.


    And then one day, when he’d been lost so long that he’d lost himself, The atoms in him started flickering. They pulled his fragmented existence into something like an orbit. Going, going, that was the song of his pulse. She was going. He tried to ignore it, but soon it was blowing up his very essence, forcing him together. He had to get up, to go see her. She was his Purpose, and he had to protect her. Just as he’d done that day long ago, he didn’t question the instinct. He got up. It took a long time, as if he was swimming to the top of a heavy swamp. It hurt every muscle. He was disoriented and felt faint, but he ran with all the strength he had left, and slowly, then faster and faster, his substance came rushing back to him. Aydin saw him. “Teil!” He yelled, twice. Teil looked back at him, and the last thing fell into place: his smile. A smile was a rare thing from him. Those who ever got to see it were lucky, and they remembered it long after other things had been forgotten. And then he was with her, as if he’d dropped from the ceiling. He felt vivid. And then he shrank back, and his smile fell away. Because she was on the floor, keeling over. Papers were strewn everywhere. Her office was in disrepair. Shewas in disrepair. She was wheezing like her breath was being cut out of her. Her pupils were dilated. Her hands were white, and Teil’s pulse was screaming like the worst siren in the world: Going, going.


 The sight of someone on the verge of death was not new to Teil. He’d lived in a seaside city. People were constantly being pulled out of the riptide currents, reckless kids who’d ignored the warnings. Everyone had CPR training. He’d pumped water out of many kids’ lungs, till they woke up coughing and throwing up. He’d slap them and tell them to listen to the alert next time, then hand them over to the beachgoers and seaside waiters to do the drying, comforting, and hospitalizing.


  But this time was different. There was nothing he could do. His guardian powers were gone. All he knew was that she was fading, alone in this awful dirty little office. He kneeled down, tried to turn her over and help her up, but he was grasping at thin air. He brushed her scattered papers away from the carpet where she was, turned off the silent TV. He felt that he was losing his mind. She was relaxing slowly.  “Hey, hey”…. He started talking to her..“I’m here with you, there’s nothing to be afraid of!” Where have I been all this time? he asked himself. How long has this been happening? His mind kept jumping to old songs.. You are my sunshine.. Please look at me.. My only sunshine.. Please don’t leave me..You’ll never know how much I love you.. I have nowhere, I’m lost without you.. Don’t take my sunshine away.. I love you. He was rocking himself like kids when they got lost at the beach. He realised how young he still was, how much there’d been to learn and see. How much care he still craved, although he’d learned to take care of himself perfectly well. “Get it together, Mom. You’ll be okay, just get it together!” She was slipping away, and he was panicking silently beside her. He couldn’t think anymore, he couldn’t look at her. He tried to be strong for her, but everytime he looked up he came undone. He laced his fingers with hers, as he’d never done with anyone in his old life. He was done with who he’d been. He kissed her on the cheek and cried against her shoulder. And through the screaming in his brain, a breeze whispered: “ Coming.”


 He was back in Neverland, in the pool. He had his colors. He let himself sink to the bottom and breathed in. It was a strange feeling to breathe underwater, but pleasant. He was still settling when a shadow came over the water, scaring away the crayfish. It was a hand breaking the cold water’s surface, reaching for him. He should have felt empty: he’d just lost his companion. But in his heart was something he couldn’t explain. He was apprehensive to take the hand, so he floated to the surface, took one wide stroke towards the riverbank. When his feet touched the floor, he turned. He was wet but didn’t feel the cold. He looked up.

 It was her, as he’d first seen her. He said nothing, let her speak, his eyes wide. “ You’ve done so much for me, Teil. You’ve been so patient. You made my life so much better.” She did sound like a teacher, after all. “Forgive me. I never meant what I said. Thank you so much.” She was looking at him. She was talking to him, so warmly, with love. She walked towards him, through the pool. He noticed Aydin, Anwar, and Yaser watching him, smiling and crying. Yaser waved a little. Teil wanted to apologize to them for that night. For never being who he could have been for them. But she said “ You’ve been more than enough. You are just right for all of us.” Peter Pan was smiling down at him from his perch in the air, that familiar, mischievous smile. Captain Hook stood on the rocks. He said “Go home, child” again, softly. Teil loved them. But there was no ache in that love. He didn’t say “ I’m going to miss you” because he wasn’t leaving them. Not really. He turned back to her. She was waiting without impatience.“ Do you want me to take you?” she asked, and her voice was smiling.


When she embraced him, it hit him fully that she was real; that he, for the first time in a long time, was real too, a body and a soul. He was alive again. He thought this would never happen. As he hugged her, there was a sense he couldn’t articulate; everything from here was different, better. It was something he couldn’t imagine, but not in a way that scared him. It was the meaning of Safe. It was the meaning of Being. It was feeling everything at once. 


He heard Anwar shout: “ You know where to find us!”

Lotus Lake.


That was where.

The author's comments:

The lost boys of neverland have always fascinated me. Who were they? What would they be doing if they weren't trailing after Peter Pan? Why were they even there? They seemed the perfect protagonists of an emotionally driven narrative.

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