posted on: Thursday February 25, 2010
Dara Plath ’13 / Portfolio Staff
The boy walked next to the sidewalk. He dragged his feet against the sun-cooked road, creating a scraping sound with each step. He always wore the same ripped jeans and white t-shirt permanently tainted with raw earth. He also wore an expression of teenage angst which tended to scare some of the adults in town.The town was small, as most towns back then were inclined to be. It was home to a cluster of paint-shedding stores and businesses, one cracked tombstone cemetery, a dusty library, a small school, a church, and one of those lakes you sometimes see on the cover of tourist brochures and postcards. It was the type of town in which all the townspeople celebrated holidays together. On the Fourth of July there were fireworks on the lake and a parade consisting of one lonely fire truck, a few old and seemingly ill-tempered vets, some boy who could barely play the trumpet, and a group of mothers pushing their babies in strollers. New Year’s Eve was a bit more exciting; there was a Christmas tree bonfire, hot chocolate, and lovers skating together on the frozen lake. One year, a girl fell through the ice. She had two blonde pigtails and wore a red wool jacket. When they pulled her out, her lips were blue and her eyes resembled those of colorful angels forever frozen on a stained glass window: empty, yet serene.That wasn’t the first time he saw a person die. He remembered being very little, the kind of little where everything around you seems like it should belong in some fairy tale about giants and trapped princesses. He was being ushered down a long hallway painted with tiny pastel colored flowers. The hallway seemed to go on forever, its walls continually stretching into that frightening place called eternity. It eventually came to an end at a room. The room was brightly lit, not with the cheery glow of sunshine but with those nauseating fluorescent lights which constantly hum. His father stood behind him, squeezing his shoulder while his mother sat in a chair next to the bed. Her eyes were puffy and red and she emitted that sense of exhaustion which comes from long periods of crying. In the bed rested his grandfather. His skin was rough and peeling, and his breathing mimicked the shrill hiss of the wind as it tries to slink through the floorboards. The boy observed as his chest moved up and down; he worried each time it fell that it would never rise again. What he remembered most vividly though were his eyes. He watched as the last threads of life unraveled out of him. His eyes became rather elated, as if he were crossing over into an eternity with no fluorescent lights humming their songs of pastel flowered hallways.The adults worried that the boy would become one of those rebellious children who smoked cigarettes and drew graffiti on the side of buildings. They warned their daughters about the boy, told them that he was “bad news.” However, like most boys his age, he fell in love. The girl had daisies in her hair and always wore pretty summer dresses. He loved that she sometimes pursed her lips together when she was trying to solve a hard math problem or while engrossed in one of her romance novels. Most of all, he loved her knees; they were stubby and pale, and she was always trying to conceal them when she sat down. He loved that he was privy to this concealment, as if they shared some lovers’ secret. However, she was a daughter, and like all the daughters in the town, she knew that he was nothing but bad news.As the boy walked next to the sidewalk, he observed the manicured lawns and white picket fences which spanned the entire street. He passed the house where the girl with the stubby knees lived and momentarily watched the flickering of a TV behind the drawn curtains. The boy wished that he could be sitting on the couch next to the girl, his hand resting gingerly upon her knee. He lifted his foot up, ready to take the small step onto the concrete sidewalk, but stopped. He knew that was impossible; he knew he didn’t belong in their world of flower-painted hallways. Instead, he resumed his walk until he reached the gates separarating the town from the rest of the world. The boy didn’t stop, he didn’t even hesitate. He continued walking next to the sidewalk, out of the town and into that frightening placed called life.