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A Mile From Bedlam MAG
It was unbearably hot. So hot that even the skimpiest bathing suit seemed excessive, and for Miami that was saying a lot. But insecurity had made me don a T-shirt and shorts. Gazing down, I squinted as I tried to count the grains of sand that peppered my feet. Bored after a hundred, I tried counting each wave that rolled in as lazily as a dog's lolling tongue. However, that too, on that particular day, soon grew dull. Kevin sat beside me, and though neither of us spoke, I noticed his chest's every rise and fall from the corner of my eye.
He seemed so content leaning back on his elbows in the sand, his head tilted at an angle to catch stray rays of sun. His hair gleamed like rich auburn rubies from steaming craters of Earth, and the sun, playing idle games with each strand, heightened its beauty with light after light after light. At times, he seemed to be sporting a halo.
When his eyes caught my gaze, my lungs forgot to breathe. It was like being assaulted with two spheres that held stunning spectrums of the most beautiful shades of brown – mahogany, dark honey, traces of warm cinnamon, and toasted almond with specks of hazel. After two years of dating, I still never failed to notice his special beauty. His features, like an enchanted mirror, reflected the tender charms of his spirit.
He smiled, and hesitantly I smiled and rested my head on his shoulder. He took my hand in his, and as always, I felt a shock from the sight. His freckled hand the color of a ripe peach against the dark brown of mine was especially unnerving at that moment, and I could feel myself stiffen.
But he didn't notice. Sea gulls were parading the hazy skies, casting winged shadows on us, and on his crimson-tinged lips rested a soft smile of amusement as they circled us like their cousin vultures. He glanced at me and, ever the gentleman, placed a soft kiss upon my cheek and held me closer, as if he thought me afraid of those gulls.
There were words building inside me, so many that I was afraid they would boil over like a pot of water and scald him. We'd made some vows, admitted to strong feelings for each other, and never, ever had he purposely done me wrong. Yet, there were times when doubts turned my mind into a basin of negativity. Nothing lasts forever, my mind cried, and forever itself is nothing.
At home that night, I sat by Mother on her bed, and soon, I found myself laying my head gently on her abdomen as she stroked my hair. I loved her. I loved the proud, lovely lines of her face, the dark eyes, ever intense and brimming with a wisdom that was more comforting than intimidating. But, for a long time now, I'd been afraid to voice my feelings, even as I remembered a time when they poured from my lips. Images flashed to and fro on the television, and I stared with glazed eyes, not acknowledging its sounds and sights. It took me a moment to realize that my mother had spoken.
“Sixteen … You'll be all grown up pretty soon,” she said in French.
“I guess so,” I muttered in English.
“So many changes. I can't even believe it's you walking hand-in-hand with Kevin sometimes. The years skip by so quickly.”
I sat up and by the flashing glow of the television, I saw a weariness on her face that made my heart pump strands of fear through my blood.
I forced a smile.
“I'm still a big baby, you know.”
“If you are now, you won't be later.”
I felt an overwhelming urge to hug her, be close to her comforting smell of jasmines and apples, and be small again. Yet, I didn't give in to it.
The next day, she dropped me off at school as usual, and I hesitated as I got out and leaned through the window to place an uncertain kiss on her cheek. She barely seemed to notice. I could tell her mind was already dancing furiously around all that she had to do that day. Her face, I saw, was becoming thinner.
She drove away, and I watched her car become a speck against a newly awakened sun. I felt alone.
I stood there until soft pulses against my leg snapped me into the present. The cell phone in my pocket was vibrating. Kevin's familiar voice, deep and kind, glided to my ear. Ever the courteous beau, he had called to wish me a good day at school. We chatted for a minute, then two, and as always he said “I love you” before hanging up.
But, unlike other days, I didn't rush to the school that seemed to hover before me in the reflection of skies that despite the stretching sun were still somewhat gray. Time passed without me recognizing its passing. In the distance, I could hear the school bell ring. Class had started. Startled, I blinked and was surprised to find the warmth of tears on my cheek.
The soggy gray of the school walls seemed suddenly ominous. Two years more inside that building would hurl me into adulthood and then, I couldn't say. I'd never noticed myself growing up before. But there it was; I wasn't too far from adulthood. Everything in the rocky now and everything in the misty then frightened me. As I finally rushed toward the school building, my thoughts refused to let me forget that I was but a mile from Bedlam.