Sunday, September 21, 2014

Indebted to a Postcard

I was driving around town on a Sunday. The town of Riverton to be exact. I had just moved here a few weeks ago with my uncle. I was really glad that he had picked this place. It was quaint and quirky as most small towns are. This one had an aura of sophistication mixed in with the pure innocence it emitted. I found that fascinating. I drove past a large structure at the edge of town. I immediately recognized it as the aquarium that Riverton was famous for. A few mornings ago when I was at the convenient store near the harbor, I had seen numerous post cards for visitors to take back so they could spread the word of tiny little Riverton. A lot of those post cards had the name and picture of this aquarium. I glanced at my watch and inferred that I had enough time to go in and walk around a little. Besides, I didn't have much else to do besides get home in time to cook dinner for Uncle Brady. 

I initiated a U-turn and drove back the way I came until I found the turn that would lead me into the aquarium parking lot. I found a parking spot quickly because the lot was mostly empty. Slow day, probably. I got out of my old but functional car and walked towards the entrance. I stepped through the double doors and let my eyes roam over the place and adjust to the difference in lighting. Outside, the sun was shining relentlessly but in here, it was as dark as dusk and tinged with blue. I supposed they wanted to mimic the color and feel of being underwater. I liked that. I started walking around, scanning through the little bits of information they provide below each tank and then just watching the fish. I appreciated the vivid colors of the coral put at the bottom of the tanks.


"Hey," a voice sounded behind me, making me jump.


I turned around and saw a dark haired boy in a light blue T-shirt. On the T-shirt was the name of the aquarium and a small picture of a clownfish. "Hi," I said.


"Liking the angelfish?" He asked, gesturing to the tank I had been staring at for a while now.


"Yeah, they're beautiful. You work here?"


"I volunteer," the boy answered.


"Wow! That's cool. You're likely to win best summer job at school," I said, smiling. 


He laughed. "Yeah. I like it here. It's peaceful and more rewarding then printing receipts at a convenient store. I'm Mark by the way."


"Stacy."


"Are you new in town? Or just visiting? I've never seen you around here before."


"I just moved in a couple of weeks ago actually. My uncle wanted to leave the city and get started on the whole 'small town life' thing."


"So, you liking what you see?" He asked, running a hand through his hair.


I was silent for a while.


He flushed. "I mean the town."


I laughed to dissolve the awkwardness. "I know. It's great. The people are really nice," I offered as I involuntarily fingered the side of my sundress. 


"I'm uh... about to feed them. Do you want to come with?" He asked, gesturing to the tank again.


"Is that okay?" I wondered.


"You're not going in; just watching. It's fine." 


"All right," I agreed, smiling. I followed him down couple of hallways and up a flight of stairs. He told me to stay put while he got into the gear. I saw the tops of all the tanks. From here they looked like swimming pools. Mark came back a second later, dressed in black scuba gear. The mask and flippers and everything. He took out the mask and grinned. "Like the outfit?"


"Dashing." I chuckled. I watched as he did his job. I began to notice little things about Mark. For instance, he motions were all very gentle. Not too rushed, not impulsive. He seemed like one of those rare people who actually had it all together and like never lost their temper. I was oddly envious. I was also conscious of his smile. He had a really wonderful smile, the type I would never get tired of looking at. After he finished his duties, he changed back into casual attire.


"So this is how it's done," he said, gesturing to the fish after he finished the feeding. 


"Cool."


"Am I boring you?" He fretted.


"No, no!" I said quickly. "It's really intriguing."


"Hey, you wanna grab lunch?"


I deliberated in silence for a moment.


"Come on, if you say no, I'll just be eating my lousy peanut butter sandwich I brought in a Ziploc bag. But if you say yes, I'll have an excuse to have good food," he said, laughing. 


I laughed along. "I don't know. I might have to get home."


"No...Seriously, come on. Have you been to the restaurant by the harbor? They serve the best fish sticks in the entire country. I do not kid, Stacy. I do not kid."


I looked at his pleading expression a little longer then I nodded. "Okay." 


We drove together in his car to the restaurant. The meal was great and I really had to admit to myself that I enjoyed talking to him. He was an optimistic person who had his own views on the world. His was a refreshing personality. I found myself quickly growing addicted to his laugh, his bad jokes and spoken fun facts about sea creatures.


"Did you know that the correct collective noun for jellyfish is a smack?"


"What? Really? A smack of jellyfish?"


"Yep! Weird right? So tell me something about yourself."


"What do you want to know?"


"Anything."


I'm uh... going to study psychology?"


"Cool! You can read minds, then."


"Why does everyone say that?" I responded. "You know, psychologists don't actually read minds. They study behavior and expressions and body language then they draw plausible conclusions."


"So…basically, in summary, they read minds."


I rolled my eyes and smiled. "You? Are you only filled with fun facts regarding sea creatures?"


"Hah! You wish!" He said as he picked up a fish stick. "I know about land animals too. Kangaroos use their tails for balance so if you hold a kangaroo’s tail, it can't hop."


I blinked. "Really?"


"Also, if a croc has clamped onto you, push your thumb into its eyeball. It'll let you go immediately."


I shook my head slowly. 


"Elephants undergo menopause."


"What?" I choked on the lemonade.


"It's true!" 


"No way."


"Really. I know. I'm like a fun fact dispenser."


"Wow..." I muttered. "What are you going to study? Later I mean."


"Eventually I'll make it to one of those bigger schools to study oceanography. Right now, I'm pretty content here. Also, I'm still saving up. All's good."


"Awesome."


"So, what do you think of this place? Riverton."


I thought about it. "I keep thinking it's like a dream. It's so quiet that it's almost magical."


He nodded thoughtfully. The rest of the afternoon was so harmless and hopeful. Mark was a great person and before we said goodbye, I already knew I wanted to see him again. I remember thinking to myself that it really was dreamlike. And if it was a dream, I'd be fine with not waking up. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

I despise people who deliberately make things harder for other people. Life is hard enough as it is. Wholly unnecessary judgments and destructive lashes do not better the world. To those people, why are you even here?

"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?"
-George Elliot 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Someone Just Like Me

I always believed that chance and luck dictated most of our lives. The way I saw it, so much of what defines our lives is because of chance and luck. For instance, a talented man was recognized because he was lucky. He was lucky that someone had recognized his talent at an early stage. He was lucky people nurtured him and helped him grow. Well, we aren't all lucky. Some of us get our loved ones ripped away.

“Anna.” My mom's voice snapped me out of my daydreams again. No, not mom, step-mom. “I just want to remind you that we are doing this in your best interest.”
“Got it.” I mumbled in a voice that sounded dead and detached even in my own ears. I sounded empty, lifeless and aimless.

I shrugged off the self-pity and forced myself to toughen up. I knew this was coming. I wasn't surprised when my step-mom came in my room to talk to me about it a few nights ago. She explained how this was necessary due to my behavior. In layman's terms, I was basically asking for it. I didn't seriously think that all my actions would be forgiven and forgotten, but part of me still was confused at how it all led to this.
We arrived at the cold, dark and ominous place before the sunset. Boarding school. Yeah, that's what they called it. I knew that this was not an ordinary school though. It was a cross between a boarding school and a mental institution. Of course, they didn't put it like that. They made it sound all flowery so my guardian would buy into it. This would be my personal hell. I was sure of it before I even got my bags out of the car.
I was showed to my room. I assumed we would all have roommates but I didn't have one. That should be nice. I didn't enjoy having to make small talk, though I had perfected it. I thought about all the other things I had tried to perfect over the years. Seeming normal, pretending to be like everybody else. I wondered if I had really ever pulled this off. Another thing, hiding my pain. That was something I always worked on. The pain that lived inside me was something no one could ever take away. That's how it felt to me. All the therapy and counseling in the world that I was put through didn't make it go away completely. Why is it that my stepmother and Nana had put me here in this sick place? Last month, the first anniversary of my parents' death, I had attempted suicide.

I didn't want to think about it anymore. It was too agonizing to bear. Even with all that time, I still felt so wrong inside. I felt so alone. I felt that no one truly understood me. Time heals all wounds. 'What a joke!' I thought to myself as I exited my room and went to walk around the vast campus. The buildings were grey and dull but I had to admit that aside from those boring buildings, the place was actually quite beautiful. There was beautiful green grass and there were trees and flowers. The sunshine touched the grass and the leaves in the trees making the scene almost bearable for me. I glared up at the summer sky and then bundled up my long waves of hair and quickly tied a messy bun. I found the biggest tree on campus and began to climb. It was something I always did. It had become a habit of mine. I liked tall places. I had never been afraid of heights. My depression and anger pushed me higher. I was really high up in the tree when I finally decided to stop climbing. I sighed heavily and carefully found a safe spot to sit.

“Hey. Get your own tree.” A hostile voice startled me. I looked around me and spotted a boy about my age sitting on the same tree. His voice was hostile but his face was polite. I thought I saw a trace of humor somewhere in his expression.
“I'm sorry. I didn't know your name was engraved on this one.” I said sarcastically.
He chuckled at my response. “Chill. I was kidding. I like to kid once in a while.”
“Oh.” I said not knowing what else to say.
“You're new here aren't you?”
“Just enrolled.” I noted that my voice sounded somber.
“What's your name?”
“Annabelle. Call me Anna.”
“Cool. Annabelle. Pretty name.”
“Thanks. Aren't you going to tell me your name?”
“Matthew. Call me Matt.”
“Cool.” I copied his response just as he had copied mine.
“What are you doing up here?”
“I like it. What are you doing up here?”
“I always come here.”
“Why?”
He shrugged. “When I'm all the way up here, and I look down, everything down there seems simpler. And I see things a little more clearly than I would if I were on the ground.” He smiled slightly but it wasn't a happy smile.
I was stunned into silence. My eyes fell on his face. I wanted to drop my gaze but I couldn't seem to for a minute.
“What?” He asked.
“That's exactly why I go up to high places.” I confessed.
“What are the odds? I found someone just like me.” His voice was lighter now. His reply somehow made me relax a little. I felt pretty weightless. I hadn't felt that way in a long time.