I Left It In Myles Bay

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The snow fell in heavy lumps that really couldn’t be described as flakes. Nothing about them was flaky; they stuck to the ground and onto the windshield even though Diego had the windshield wipers working like the heart of a hummingbird. The inconvenient white powder continued to slam against the glass only to be wiped away, revealing a glimpse of the road ahead.

“You had to pick this day, of all the days in the world, to have a mental breakdown,” Diego grumbled and fiddled with the radio, trying to catch a decent station. “If you weren’t my favorite cousin I’d be at home, watching Netflix right now,” he declared.

“At least there’s no traffic,” I said, offering what little positive input I could.

“Joanna,” Diego said and turned to look at me with sincere wide brown eyes, “That’s because no one in this whole wide universe is dumb enough to drive in this weather.”

“I’m sorry,” I said and put my gloves on. The car was warm enough but my fingers still felt like icicles from running into a gas station and buying the huge map that was folded out on my lap.

I had to give Diego some credit; he had only started to complain after a full two hours of driving in silence. He was the kind of person you called up in the middle of the night and asked to get in a car and drive to an undisclosed location with no questions asked. He was also the kind of person who insisted on red Twizzlers for road trips, which is why we had to stop by a 24/7 Seven Eleven before we could head for the highway.

“Hey, didn’t you guys use to rent that summer cottage?” Diego asked.

“Yeah,” I answered.

Diego sighed audibly and danced his fingers over the steering wheel. “Joanna, Joanna, don’t tell me we’ve driven all this way for you to tell me we’re going to be doing some breaking and entering.”

“I know the code for the key,” I said and shrugged my shoulders, “It’s not a crime if you have a key.”

“Yeah, remind me to never hire you as my lawyer,” Diego remarked and went back to staring at the road, glaring at the snow as if he could melt it away with his stare.

“I need to go there,” I said, my voice quiet, almost washed out by the sound of the radio. “You don’t understand, but I need to.”

“Trust me, I don’t understand why you need to go to some shabby cottage in the middle of nowhere, but I do understand that you need to go there.”

Foggy roadI guess I felt thankful. He didn’t need to know why, and he didn’t ask. I wanted to tell, but I was afraid that it would ruin the trip and it wasn’t a very good trip to begin with. But I had managed to push It away, just for a while. And I needed It to stay away. I was so scared of It coming back. I’d kept It away by thinking of happy times and happy moments. Each one gave me only so much time. It ate away at my joyous memories and eventually burned through them like fuel. But I knew. There was one place, with memories too good, a place where every room rang with laughter and held the warmth of sun rays in the floor, a place where I had always been happy. It had always stayed away, never daring to enter this place, secluded by tall pine woods and water. I was out of fuel. I had no other choice but to go. So I packed a bag at five AM and called Diego. Then it was the concerned looks and awkward explanations.

“I need to go to Myles Bay,” I’d said.

“Yeah and I need a week in Cuba,” Diego had laughed, standing in my driveway on Markham St. his dark curly hair flailing in the wind. “What else is new.”

“I need to go,” I had insisted and looked back at the house, noticing my parent’s bedroom light switch on. “I need to go now and you can’t ask why.”

He’d given me this look, this look I’d seen on his face many times before ever since we were little kids. When I’d had tantrums in Walmart, embarrassing his mom who swore it was the last time she’d babysit me niece or no niece. When I’d spent my entire sixteenth birthday locked in my room. When I yelled and cursed at my parents, which was unheard of in this family. And when I’d come back from our trips from cottage country, he saw It settle in, and the look was there to tell me so.

“We are at Owen Sound,” Diego announced, snapping me out of my thoughts. “Are you sure we can’t stick around here for a while, it’s the first decent station I’ve found in ages,” he laughed triumphantly. And indeed the radio didn’t screech and rattle with bad connection, but played clearly, filling the car with a beat and melody.

I looked at my map, ignoring the music. “Thirty more minutes or so if we don’t stop,” I tried a smile, “Next pit stop is Wiarton, they have that huge statue of a mouse I’ve been telling you about.”

“Ah, the infamous Wiarton mouse statue,” Diego rejoiced, “Seeing that damn thing better make up for this trip, cuz.”

“It’s pretty glorious,” I said and smiled.

“Full speed ahead,” Diego declared and indeed did go above the speed limit. The drive to Wiarton passed in a blur. Diego was happy and excited about the music and seeing the mouse statue and I didn’t let myself think. When we finally drove passed the Wiarton mouse named Willie, Diego slowed down and gawked in awe. The thing was completely covered in snow; it looked like Santa Clause with a heavy beard of white. “How can you even tell it’s a mouse?” He exclaimed. “This, this is outrageous, Joanna.”

I gave him an apologetic look, tracing the roads on the map. “You gotta remember we’re on six not on ten anymore.”

“Wha- What does that have to do with the mouse?”

I furrowed my brow. “N-nothing?”

“That’s it. I see a Timmy’s ahead. We’re stopping for coffee. Who knows when the next opportunity will come along.”

“I don’t drink coffee,” I protested as he steered the car into the abundantly empty parking lot. “No drive through…We’ll wish me luck. I’m going out there.”

I waved him a meek goodbye and shuttered as the car door slammed closed. Diego was my oldest cousin. We had two others; Janine and Amber. They were twins. The lived with Uncle Harry and Aunt Connie in Brampton. We saw them for Christmas and birthdays and all the big holidays. Diego and I, however, had grown up in the same neighborhood a couple blocks apart. We’d gone to the same school and we’d played in the same soccer team. Both of us quit after a year. I’d known him all my life and he was more of an older brother than a cousin to me, but that was because my parents were very busy people and Diego’s mom, Christine, got stuck with me after school and on the weekends. I couldn’t remember a week that had gone by without us not seeing each other, except for those that I’d spent at Myles Bay with mom and dad. Four weeks out of the summer in complete isolation from the city, from Diego and Christine and from work and school and everything that messed things up. So I felt a bit guilty, for letting him come along this time. And I was scared that maybe the place would lose some of its magic having him there. But he had a car. And a driver’s licence. Two things I no longer possessed.

The door opened and let in freezing air. At least the sun had gone up while we made the drive. It made everything look so bright in a fresh coat of snow.

“I got you hot chocolate and a muffin,” Diego said and handed me a greasy paper bag. “And don’t tell me you’re not hungry because you haven’t eaten anything since we left.”

“Blueberry,” I noted. “My favorite.” I accepted the food and the warm hot chocolate because I saw no point in arguing, which was unusual for me. I had a tendency of always finding something to argue about. But Diego was very disarming with his concerned looks and his blueberry muffins and radio stations. So I settled with nibbling on my muffin as he continued to navigate us up a road that took us through fields and shaky looking buildings.

“You gotta make a right turn here,” I said.

“Into the woods,” Diego remarked. “Meryl Streep was great in that movie. Meryl Streep is great in everything.” He laughed to himself as we drove on a slippery sand road through a thick forest. I knew it wouldn’t be long now. Five minutes tops. I sat at the edge of my seat. Leaning in to see through the snow covered windshield. We broke out of the mess of pine trees and I saw the water. “Oh,” I gasped, “Look at that.”

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The lake thrashed with wild waves, the body of water too large to freeze even during the winter lows. The snow hurtled into the dark blue and sunk to join the waves. Behind it, in the horizon, a beach followed by the edge of yet another enormous patch of trees colored in various dark greens covered in snow dominated the view. Rows of summer cottages lined the other side of the road, I recognized every single one. I remembered walking up and down that road with dad, inviting people over for a barbeque. I’d never see him wear an apron anywhere else. Or flip-flops. Not even in the summer when the city sizzled and bubbled with heat.

“This place looks deserted,” Diego said and slowed down on the icy road.

“No it’s not. It’s so alive it’s almost scary,” I said and pointed towards a house with a wide terrace and a sloping roof, “That’s the one.”

Diego pulled over and I stumbled out of the car. The cold stuck to my skin as I scrambled for the door, carefully navigating the stairs. “Hold these,” I said and handed my gloves to Diego who was right behind me. I punched in the familiar code and opened the little vault, the key dropped onto my bare palm, the metal so cold it felt like hot needles. I tried the lock and it opened without any issues. Both of us hurried inside.

“The heat isn’t on,” Diego complained and quickly took in his surroundings. The whole place was very tacky, decorated with the most extravagantly horrendous furniture. For some reason the owner had decided on a rainforest theme for the living room. “I’ll go see if I can do something about that.”

I stood in the hallway. Looking at how the familiar tiles zigzagged on the floor. It was a little better. Not how it used to be. But that could have been because of Diego. Or maybe the snow. I hugged myself and pulled my jacket closer. “Something…” I mumbled and walked further into the house. “Why is this…” I opened the door to my bedroom. The bed was stripped and all the linens folded neatly in the closet. The wall was still as pink as it had ever been. But something, something was wrong, because I could still feel It. And It shouldn’t be here. Shouldn’t be able to come here. I became frantic, going through the rooms, the drawers, the kitchen cupboards. I could feel my pulse sky rocket and my face flush. I knew that wasn’t good. Knew it from experience. “Stop it,” I told myself, but my hands kept rummaging through the utensil drawer; I spilled forks and knives and spoons on the floor. They rattled like instruments on the tiling. “This is…this can’t be. It’s supposed to be good, so good…” I muttered and moved on into the living room. I stopped abruptly as I found myself staring at Diego, kneeling in front of the fireplace. He’d managed to get a fire going, effectively warming up the space.

“Check this out Joanna, I fixed it,” he exclaimed as he turned to look at me, his smile faltering as he noticed my current state.

“You didn’t fix anything,” I said, my voice strung high with panic. “There’s something wrong. There’s something wrong with this place. There’s something WRONG,” I couldn’t stop it. My plan had failed, the last scraps of power I’d clung onto were gone. It was over. It was here and I’d brought It here.

“Jesus, calm down,” Diego said. I waved him off and stormed out. I shed my jacket on the porch and enjoyed the numbing wind. I could hear him following me. “Wait, Jo!”

I kept walking until I reached the water. Dead plants and frozen soil made a barrier between me and a rickety dock. I slouched over the remains of weeds and stopped to wedge off my winter boots. “Oh shit,” I squealed as my feet hit the cold wet ground. But I didn’t care. Because I was going to drown It. Just like those snowflakes drowned, dissipating under the layers of dark and freezing waters.

“What are you doing?” Diego called. “Are you insane? Are you out of your goddamn mind? You’ll freeze to death, Joanna!”

I kept moving, keeping my steps quick. I glanced back and saw Diego hesitating on the road. He saw me look. “I’m not gonna come after you. I’m not gonna die of hypothermia because you’re having one of your freak attacks!”

I cringed. He wouldn’t?

He wouldn’t. That was good. I didn’t need to drag anyone else down with me. Let him go home and eat his Twizzlers and listen to the good station in Owen Sound as he drove down. I waded through the water, holding on to the slimy side of the dock so the waves wouldn’t wash me away. The water was up to my stomach. It was paralyzing cold. It was hard to keep moving so I stopped when it was up to my shoulders. My hands dropped under the surface and I found my entire body had gone numb. I couldn’t move if I wanted to. The dock was just a couple of steps back, but I couldn’t will my legs to move. I felt It. Stronger than I ever had. Clenching its fist around me, squeezing out my breath, holding me still even though the waves around me splashed and raged. It’s just a lake. It’s never been this angry. I’ve never been this angry.

“Joanna!” Diego called, he stood at the very end of the dock, peering at me. He was holding out a hand, but I couldn’t grab it, couldn’t move. “Grab my hand!”

“I can’t” I sobbed, not sure if the wetness on my face was due to the water or tears or the invasive snowfall. “I can’t. I can’t anymore. I can’t stop It.”

“Jo, Jo, please,” He begged and reached further. “Just get out of the water.”

“But it didn’t work,” I screamed.

“I know, I know. But we’ll fix it.”

“I can’t fix it! I’ve tried, but I can’t. It’s all over me and It won’t let go,” I breathed, my teeth rattling and my body violently shaking.

“Try just this one time, just one more time. You’ve been doing so good,” Diego coaxed, “You’ve been doing so much better…And mom’s not mad about the car anymore. I swear, she’s all giddy buying a new one. We can start having Sunday dinners again. Roast chicken and lime beans.”

“She’s not mad about the car?” I asked, sniffing.

“No, she’s not mad about the car. Just like she was never mad about Walmart or baking you a birthday cake you never ate. More frosting for the rest of us,” Diego argued, “Now, get out of the water.”

I stared at his hand sure I could reach it if I tried hard enough. The look in his eyes was pleading, convincing, bargaining.

I wondered for a second if grabbing his hand would be like reducing a hurricane into a gust of wind, tucking it neatly into a drawer in my bedroom, waiting for it to gain strength so one day it would burst out, wrecking everything in its path. I wondered if it would feel like crashing a car into a brick wall, pointless, splintering, and anticlimactic. And I wondered if it would cause more trouble than do good.

“Please.”

Wordless Agreements

cemetary

A funeral; people dressed in black, shifting awkward looks. They surrounded me. They encircle me, gazing at me with expectant eyes.

It was a cloudy day with a high expectancy of rain; I could practically feel it gathering up in the air. If life were a movie, this day would have been the perfect set for a funeral. I saw my grandmother clench her umbrella hesitantly. She was waiting for the rain as well. I suppose we were all waiting for something to relieve us from this suffocating moment.

I, my younger brother, and my father stood next to the casket opposite from the pastor. Everyone was looking at us or blowing into their handkerchiefs, which I was sure they would use later to dry their tears. I looked down. I was looking at my black heels that were digging into the soft grass. They were brand new and uncomfortable. They chafed my feet, making them bleed. I frowned, realizing they’d be stained.

I distantly registered the pastor speaking. I’m sure he was telling everyone present how good of a person my mother was. Had been. He went through the typical stuff people get graced with when they die. I thought it was nonsensical. Everyone here loved my mother, that’s the reason they were here mourning her in the first place. I stopped listening and concentrated on the grass that grew among the headstones with admirable persistence.

The casket was lowered, prayers were said, and I, I was still looking at the grass as I felt the first drop of rain fall into my court shoes. It sank through my stockings and wet my toes. I felt my little brother, Nick, squeeze my hand. I raised my chin to look at him. His round face looked devoid of color, practically lifeless.

“Everything is alright,” I whispered.

“I know,” Nick said, “But you’re crying.”

I put my fingers to my cheeks in confusion. They were sticky with tear stains. I wished that the droplets falling out of the corners of my eyes had been water, but the bitter salty taste they brought to my lips made me think otherwise. Crying was the last thing I wanted to do. I had no idea why I was crying. All day I had adventured inside my numb mind and I wasn’t nearly ready to step out from its protective nooks. It was rather amusing; it was as if my mind was completely isolated from my body, as if my body was just doing what it had been programmed to do.

Walk. I walk.

Speak. I speak.

Sit. I sit.

Cry. I cry.

But I could feel it disappearing. The shelter I had so gratefully accepted was falling apart. Little by little I began to hear people speaking more clearly. Little by little I started to feel the chill of the crispy autumn air sink into my bones. Little by little my feelings began to resurface. For weeks I had kept them to myself, buried somewhere deep inside my mind. I wanted to walk through them blindfolded in the dark. Unfortunately, now they started to wake. I quickly pushed them back before they made it all the way to the surface. I forced my gaze back to the grass. By now the small blades of grass were carrying the weight of huge water droplets. I had never identified with a blade of grass like I did just in that moment.

My grandmother opened her umbrella. People calmly made their way to their cars. They locked out the gloomy autumn day and drove off safe from the rain. I, my father, Nick, and grandmother stayed for a while, standing in the empty cemetery. Father didn’t say a word nor did he open his umbrella even though the stubborn gusts of wind and rain wet his best suit and tossed his blonde hair. His mouth was a tight line and his dark eyes were somewhere far away.

Nick and I gathered under grandmother’s big black umbrella. It wasn’t of much use considering that we were already soaked through, but it seemed like the proper thing to do.

“It really is terrible,” grandmother mumbled. I raised my brow.

“To go and tragically die like that,” she continued in an accusing tone.

I had learned not to let grandmother’s comments bother me. She had never had much discretion and wasn’t the most delicate person to begin with. It was no secret she’d never liked my mother. As far as she was concerned, father had been incredibly stupid and childlike to marry someone as reckless as mom. I didn’t know quite how I felt about it.

“What difference does it make how she died? You didn’t even like her,” I stated.

Grandmother frowned and crinkled her nose in disapproval. She grabbed Nick by the hand and told me to go wait in the car.

I sat in the backseat and stared out through the tinted window. Everything looked so much more depressing though it. Mom had always hated tinted windows. She always used to say that even the prettiest day looked like funeral party through them. I couldn’t appreciate the irony. We always fought about those tinted windows, every single time we got in the car. This morning, however, no one had mentioned them. Was a car ride even a car ride if we didn’t argue about the tinted windows? I didn’t know, but what I did know was that this morning had felt particularly empty.

My thoughts were disrupted as Nick opened the door, sliding into the seat next to me. “We’re leaving now,” he said, looking beyond relieved. He wanted to get out of here possibly more than I did. Grandmother sat next to dad in the front, getting ready to navigate. Dad turned the key in the ignition and the car purred into life. We drove away from sacred land, the gates closing behind us.

“Hey Bree,” Nick began.

“Yeah?” I wondered if he would bring up the tinted windows.

“My shoes got all dirty. Do you think mom would mind if I walked around the house with them?” He cocked his head to the side, waiting for an answer. Honestly, I didn’t understand why he would ask such a dumb question. He should’ve been more concerned with what grandma would say about the dirty shoes. I shrugged my shoulders. “You know, I’m not sure. I’m gonna have to think about it.”

I watched the corners of his mouth tug down, his entire being seemed to deflate. “You’re gonna tell me when you figure out, right?”

“Of course,” I replied, even though I didn’t want to spend another minute thinking about the dumb question. I leaned back and watched dad and grandma through the rear view mirror. Exhaustion shone on both of their faces, but they looked so very different. It was hard for me to recognize dad through the mirror. He looked so lost. All day he’d been wandering around like a puppy, having grandma order him around.

“Nick?” I tried. “Do you think we should get a new car? One without tinted windows.”

I saw the smallest smile flash across his face before he became very serious. “I think it’d be a really good idea,” he said and looked out the window.

“Dad.” I waited a bit to get his attention.

“What?” He answered in a monotone voice.

“Nick and I think we should buy a new car, one without tinted windows.” I watched his every move, through the mirror I saw his eyes sparkle a bit.

“That is not funny,” Grandmother snapped sharply and took a calming breath. I stared at her in awe. Why couldn’t she leave it be? Why was no one allowed to laugh? I crossed my arms, closed my eyes and leaned against the window.

“I thought it was funny,” Nick whispered.

“It was goddamn hilarious,” I muttered under my breath.

We had and old Victorian house. It was the American dream house with the white picketed fence and perfectly cut grass. Actually, right now the lawn was a muddy mess. As I stepped through our familiar front door, nothing seemed familiar to me. The bright colorful walls contrasted wildly with all the people dressed in black. My house looked like a bad music video. I walked into the living room full of people I was sure I knew but couldn’t recognize. We served coffee, cakes, cookies, pastries and everything grandma knew how to make. A constant hum of voices filled every room. I sat on the couch among familiar strangers and tried to make proper conversation. In no time I just began listening to others while untangling my long messy hair. I came to the conclusion that people talked about the weirdest things at funeral receptions. Almost no one mentioned mom. It almost felt like they were avoiding talking about her. When they talked about the food or décor they all wondered how my father had managed to make such a lovely home. The truth was that dad had nothing to do with our food or décor. Mom had painted the walls. Mom had mowed the lawn and picked out the decorative pillows. It was no wonder things felt odd, she had been gone forever, or so it seemed.

“Bree! Honey!” I heard a familiar voice exclaim. Looking up I saw mom’s sister, Elizabeth. She walked over to me and hugged me in the middle of the living room. It felt uncomfortable. People were looking at us; looking and judging everything I did.

We moved into the kitchen where grandma was busy trying to find space for all the food people had brought over. That too, I thought was nonsensical. We put out food for the guests and they lugged their own bodyweight’s worth of food over to our house. It was absurd. Mom never understood the custom either, but still she brought a casserole to every funeral reception we ever attended, because it was just what you were supposed to do.

“Were you there today?” I asked.

“Of course we were. Peter just got lost on the way there. I told him to bring the GPS but you know how stubborn he is,” Elizabeth said and smiled gently. I nodded, because I really did know what Peter was like. He was someone who danced between fine lines, someone you never quite managed to figure out, and someone who would definitely not listen to a GPS.

“Oh honey,” Elizabeth sighed, “I’m so sorry, I still can’t believe that Mary is gone. I feel like I haven’t grasped it yet. I keep waiting for her to walk through the door and give me some of her famous unsolicited advice. You do understand, don’t you?”

I nodded. I knew.

“She was always making the oddest remarks,” Elizabeth continued. She seemed to thinking back, almost nostalgically. She made it seem like she’d last seen mother years ago, even though we all visited grandmother for her birthday a few months ago.

“Do you remember how she always said I order Peter around too much?” Elizabeth asked, narrowing her eyes. She picked up a strawberry covered pastry and bit into it. “You know, Bree, I never understood that thing of theirs. You know, the one that made it seem like they had some kind of agreement that the two of them would stick up for each other till the end.” Elizabeth shook her head. “Like last week, I told Peter to get a haircut, because he looks so shaggy when his hair grows too long. And guess what he said to me?” Elizabeth crossed her arms. She was getting herself upset with her own words. She seemed to be inventing pain as if the pain that already existed wasn’t enough.

“Well?” I asked, not really caring about the answer. I glanced at the clock hanging on the bright yellow wall. Again the wall contrasted Elizabeth’s two sizes too small black dress strictly. Others didn’t really fit into our house.

“Well, he said that he wants to grow his hair out, like he had it back in college,” Elizabeth said, sighing dramatically, “You know, sometimes I feel like I have three kids instead of two.”

I nodded and tried to look like I understood even though I had no idea how we’d gotten from my dead mother to Peter not wanting to cut his hair. On the other hand, I understood it completely.

“He went to college with mom,” I stated as nonchalantly as I could. “Maybe he’s going through a mid-life-crisis or something. You’re lucky he’s not buying a Porsche.”

“That, Bree, my dearest, I don’t think I could handle.” She sighed again. She did that a lot.

I pursed my lips and looked out to the backyard where Peter sat on the wet grass next to the flowerbeds. He was speaking with Nick. Nick was smiling. I smiled. I wondered if Elizabeth would smile if she knew.

“Lizzie,” I began, “I think I need some fresh air. I feel like I’m suffocating in here.”

Elizabeth gave me a bland smile, not looking pleased at all. “Well, do put on a cardigan, I wouldn’t want you to get cold.”

I nodded once again and marched out without a second thought about the cardigan. As soon as I stepped out the cold hit my bones and I sort of liked it. A bunch of people stood next to our backdoor, lighting their cigarettes. The gray smoke slithering in the air, forming strange shapes didn’t bother me in the slightest. Not even the toxic smell made me go back inside. Instead it woke me up. I took off my shoes and walked across the grass, the mud and humidity soaking through my stockings. I sat next to Peter and Nick, cross legged, it wasn’t very ladylike. A small ray of late autumn sunshine reached my face as I took a deep breath.

“Nick, Lizzie wants to talk to you,” I said, lying blatantly.

“About what?” He asked. Again, it was a rather useless question. I would have told him had I known. “She said something about muddy shoes.”

Nick looked terrified for a moment. “Do you think mom saw the muddy prints on the carpet?” He looked at me first, then at Peter.

“Angels see everything,” Peter replied, smiling, “But I doubt she’d care about things like that.”

Nick seemed to calm down for a bit. Peter sighed,” Elizabeth on the other hand…Well she’s never been a fan of muddy footprints.”

“Oh man,” Nick sighed, copying Peter, and started his way back to the house.

As soon as he was in through the door I turned to look at Peter. He looked different from what I remembered. The Peter I knew was always smiling, and when he wasn’t, you could tell would have liked to smile. Now he was smiling, but I could tell it was the last thing he wanted to do.

“Do you have to feed Nick bullshit about angels?”

“Do you have to lie to Nick about muddy footprints?” Peter replied his voice gentle as always, calm and composed.

I balled my hands up into fists at my sides. “How’d you know I was lying?”

“I figured you might want to talk to me,” he said sincerely, “but don’t worry. If you hadn’t lied, I probably would have.”

“Figures,” I mumbled and stared at nothing.

We were quiet for a while. I patted the grass and finally spoke. “You know what I wish for?”

Peter gave me a quizzical look.

“I wish I was like Nick. I wish I could just feel sad and mourn my mother in peace, but I don’t think I can do that.”

Peter gave me a knowing look. “You’re mad.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t matter, because she’s dead. And I can’t be mad at a dead person, because it doesn’t make any sense.”

“Not everything makes sense,” Peter stated and handed me a white tissue.

I stared at it in confusion for a while before I felt the familiar taste of tears again. I was crying again. I could hear myself gasping for air as I grabbed the tissue and dried my eyes. “Y-you know, I don’t even f-feel like crying.”

“There’s nothing to be ashamed about,” Peter said and placed his hand on my shoulder. “If you need someone to be mad at, you can be mad at me. I’m alive. It makes more sense that way, doesn’t it?”

“I-I don’t really want to be mad at anyone.” I couldn’t stop the sobs now.

“Lizzie knows,” Peter said. He looked down at the grass, studying it carefully.

I wiped my eyes and tried to focus on him. “Um, Lizzie…She wants you to, um, cut your hair.” I watched as a raindrop slid down a blade of grass, releasing it from under its weight.

“I probably won’t.” Peter smiled to himself.

“I kind of thought so.”

Closed Doors

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There is a small clock high up on the wall. A round white frame with little black numbers inside, it ticks away the seconds with two bold, black hands in an echoing, raspy discord. The merciless hands spin away – fast-forwarding every minute, leaping onwards in great spurts. My awareness hangs on every second that I hear rushing past. My eyes are drawn back to the black and white pane no matter where I turn. How can a small clock make so much noise; it seems to be all I hear, while my heart jumps to its insistent rhythm.

—————

I try to turn away, but the endless ticking echoes loud in the silent room. I walk to the fridge. Opening the door once more, I scan inside for anything. Without even looking I quickly close the door. I walk to the table and sit down. My eyes draw immediately to the little black numbers, dancing in a circle on the wall and the relentless tick stirs my restlessness again. I stand up, walk to the window and look out. Glassy-eyed I glance at the street, but the harsh street lighting quickly drives me further from the pane.

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I flop on the bed, but jump right back up again. I pace the small room and then try to sit down again. I check my phone, hoping for anything new. Drifting to the other end of theroom I stare at the familiar books on the shelf, but nothing strikes me, nothing interests me.

What to do? Mmm, yes, what a good question. No, not a question of what should I do, that I know, I’ve been planning it for some time now. But the real question is can I? Will I?

The uneasiness I’ve tried to bottle up breaks the dam. Anxiety beats in my chest and muddles my thought.

So many things could go wrong. No no, there are so many reasons to be excited. Focus on the positive. You’ve made it this far and the decision has already been made. But then again, it could all be awful. It might not work out.

I glance at the clock again. How fast it seems to move. There isn’t much time left to decide.

It has all been known weeks in advance and schedules and papers spread out over my tabletop. Apprehension gnaws at my resolution; couldn’t I just leave it? Forget everything? From underneath the mess of papers on the table I take out the map, which I’ve drawn routes, buildings and new landmarks on. The bright colors and excited scribbles mock my confusion. All the excitement seems to have vanished and left a knot of disquiet in my stomach.

Colored pencils and symbols on paper won’t help you find the right doors and even less the right people. You won’t know anything anyway, and they won’t know you. They won’t care to know you. They’ll have their own groups and their own rules. And you will be an outsider, while they’ll know everything, know everyone. Not to mention that you will be different, with different ways of acting and different ways of speaking and dressing and thinking and eating and breathing and; Oh I don’t want to go!

I bounce out of my seat, knocking the chair over. Panicked, I lift my gaze to the clock above. I know the moment must be drawing near. Suddenly the long hand seems to slow meaningfully and then tauntingly strikes the hour in slow motion in front of my shocked eyes. It’s time.

My mind screams fight or flee. The choice must be made now. There are two ways forward, but I have to choose the direction. Soon it will be too late to go. The plans that cover the table dance before my eyes, alternating between pretty pictures of what all it could be and dark visions of how I fall apart.

Disturbed by my dark reflections, I swipe the papers from the table. Papers fly through the air flashing times and addresses, names and dates in a swirling frenzy of information. Whispering voices echo around my head. “Foolish”. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing”. “Coward”. “That’s not what we expected from you”. “Naïve”. “This was such disappointment to us”.

No, maybe this isn’t for me after all. I should have turned back earlier. What are the prospects that this will work out? What were they ever? Did I lie to myself and flatter my abilities? Imagine that I could be anything I wanted?

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I glance out the window again, yearning and hoping that someone or something would beckon me forward. But the harsh lamplight won’t call out. There is no one who will notice if I don’t arrive. I give up and defeated slump on the bed. Emptiness and the soothing dumbness of having decided lull me into stupor.

But my subconscious won’t let me be. The possibilities I’ve dreamed about flash through my mind. You know you can follow the path you’ve wanted to choose. But it takes the courage and will to face the unknown. And in my mind I believe I can find that. I see myself rising, checking the clock – not in panic, but in excitement – brushing back a loose strand of hair and opening the door. A final look around the room, bag on my shoulder and I turn to new possibilities. Steps echo down the hallway fading slowly into deafening silence.

 

A loud tick stirs me to movement. I’m drawn to the window as if by force, compelled to see how I take those last steps out the door and down the unfamiliar street. My gaze follows the springing gait down the street. The corner comes and I don’t see anymore, don’t know which ways the road turned or how far it would go.

—————

Since then I keep the ticking of the clock company. It has a new voice now. The hands of the clock inch languidly on, with a mellow click slowing by the hour. Day in and day out, I listen to the whisper of the hands breaking the deafening silence.