When Form Reflects Content: On Beauty and Truth

14 May

In his elegy “Lenox Hill”, Agha Shahid Ali recounts to his mother on being asked by the universe, “So, how’s the writing?” To this question, he responds, “My mother/ is my poem”. Upon reading this piece, I had never more intensely resonated with a line. Poetry, to me, is the barest, most candid manifestation of emotion. It is artistic expression so honest that only one sequence of words, thoughtfully and meticulously arranged, can express it. This representation of complete truthfulness, in all areas of life, is the way in which my mother exemplifies poetry.

As a cosmetologist, my mother is an artist herself. She carries out her philosophy through her craft, utilizing makeup to magnify the beauty in someone, a beauty that is already present. Her makeup enhances; it does not create. In this way, she is an amplifier of truth, allowing her clients to perceive beauty in themselves that, to them, might not be as immediately recognizable as it is to the rest of the world.

I remember, during moments of self consciousness so common in my teenhood, my mother would sit me down, and make me up. The knot behind my ribs would dispel as I watched her work: her glasses balancing on the tip of her nose, enlarging her intense gaze; her eyes shifting across my face, like a sculptor scanning for bumps in wet clay; her knuckles periodically tucking under my chin to lift my face towards the sunlight. At times, she would meet my gaze and her intenseness would melt momentarily, offering me a gentle smile before returning to work. And after some time would pass in peaceful silence, she working and I watching, the intenseness would soften again into an expression of satisfied resolve, and I would know she was complete. She would instruct me to stay seated, my knees bumping together in anticipation, as she rushed to find a mirror. And every time she made me up, every time she returned and tilted the mirror towards my face, I was astonished at the beauty she manifested. In my reflection, I would see the version of myself I had always illustrated in my imagination: a face with blemishless skin and blushed cheekbones, defined eyebrows arching over deepset doe-eyes, thick lashes sweeping across my eyelids like weeds on fertile ground. Most importantly, I glowed with gorgeous self-love and appreciation.

My mother would sit next to me and take my hand between hers. “I did nothing,” she would tell me. “All I did was make you see what everyone else sees.” My eyes would brim tears, not because I wished I was beautiful, but because my mother allowed me to see that I had always been.

What my mother does with makeup, I strive to do with poetry: uncover truth, beauty that might be convoluted but is omnipresent nonetheless. My mother, my poem, inspires me in all areas of my life, and every morning, I wake up grateful for the opportunity to read her again.

adrian (ONE ACT PLAY)

27 Sep

SCENE 1

ADRIAN is sitting alone down stage left, playing with a toy truck. MOM is pacing center stage, arguing with her husband, who is not physically present.

MOM

Okay, I understand. Being different is okay. She’s clearly different. But there’s a difference between being different and being…

Don’t put words in my mouth, Michael. You know I wasn’t going to say that.

What I was saying is there’s a difference between being different and being so different that I start getting calls from her teacher for “questionable behavior”.

… No, of course she’s not doing anything wrong, but getting a call from administration during her second week of kindergarten is a red flag to any parent.

Different is having a secret talent in math, Michael, different is learning to read early. Different isn’t that.

Gestures to ADRIAN.

Maybe we should call someone…

I don’t know, a therapist? A psychologist?

There are doctors out there that could help us, help her. I’m telling you, I did some research the other week, and read a bunch of articles that laid out her situation to the T.

Apparently it’s a condition, a mental condition, and a couple of therapy sessions could straighten her out… People have sworn by it, Michael, I think we should give it a try.

Anyway, she’s still in her developmental period, right?

Nothing is set in stone.

 

SCENE 2

ADRIAN is sitting cross-legged down stage right, reading a Goosebumps novel. MOM stands directly behind ADRIAN, holding a periwinkle skirt behind her back. ADRIAN does not look up when MOM talks.

MOM

Amy, honey, I have a surprise for you…

You have to close your eyes first: you’re going to love it.

Good, good. Are you ready? Okay… now, OPEN!

Say something, honey! What do you think?… Well I think the material is gorgeous, and the color matches your eyes beautifully. And it would pair wonderfully with that white silk blouse I got you the other week!… And you know what I think? I think you should wear this to your formal coming up.

Don’t be ridiculous, of course you’re going to go. It’s your eighth grade formal! Your last big event before graduation! I remember my formal, gosh, it was ages ago. I remember, your grandmother took me to a wonderful little boutique down in Maywood. It’s closed now, but it had the most adorable dresses and jackets and shoes… And she told me, “Pick whatever outfit you want, darling, and I’ll buy it for you. Happy graduation.” I couldn’t remember ever being happier than I was that day. We spent hours flipping through rails of dresses, trying on different combinations of skirts and heels… Until I found the most gorgeous purple gown somewhere in the mess. It had a bodice that hugged my waist and a skirt that flowed beautifully down my legs to my ankles. I had never felt more beautiful.

We should go shopping sometime, don’t you think, honey? Get you out of those awful slacks and into something meant for a figure like yours. People will start thinking you’re a boy with the clothes that you wear.

ADRIAN looks up to the audience.

 

SCENE 3

ADRIAN sits in a chair. Throughout the scene, ADRIAN begins masturbating. MOM is pacing, fuming.

Disgusting. Disgusting!

And to think, I wondered why you never mentioned a boy, why you never answered when I asked you about crushes at school. Because you’ve been sneaking around with a girl?

ADRIAN moans.

So what, you’re a… I can’t even say it. I think I’m going to be sick.

ADRIAN moans.

My daughter. My beautiful little girl. I don’t know where I went wrong… Was it the divorce? Was that it? I know your father and I were a bit shaky, distant sometimes, but we were always there for you. We always supported you. And now, this?  

ADRIAN moans.

I knew we should have stuck with the therapy. It’s your father’s fault. He said it was making you unhappy, but we should have just stuck through it. Maybe you wouldn’t have ended up like this.

Maybe it’s not too late. You’re still young, you’re only a teenager, maybe I should call Dr. Napoli and see if he has any availability this week. He can help us.

ADRIAN moans.

What do you mean? You don’t know what you’re saying, Amy. You’re going through something, and it may seem right right now, but it’s only a stage, and Dr. Napoli can help you get through it.

You don’t know what you’re saying. Don’t you want to be normal? Do you really want to be a freak for the rest of your life?

MOM raises her voice. ADRIAN moans louder.

Well, you know what Amy? If you don’t want to get better, I won’t help you. I’m done helping you. I tried everything with you, bought you the nicest clothes, took you to the nicest stores, took you to the best psychologist around, I tried talking to you about boys, I told Haley’s mom to try to get Haley to talk to you about boys. I tried everything! But you still decide to sleep with that disgusting lesbian. And you know what? That makes you exactly like her.

ADRIAN climaxes.

ADRIAN

Whispering as ADRIAN climaxes.

Olivia…

MOM

A disgusting lesbian.

 

SCENE 4

ADRIAN is miming excited conversation with fiance downstage right, discussing details for their wedding. They are putting invitations in envelopes, blissfully in love. MOM is upstage left, with a phone to her ear.

ADRIAN’s voicemail plays.

 

ADRIAN V.O

Hey there, you’ve reached Adrian and Olivia! Sorry we can’t come to the phone right now, but leave us a message and we’ll be sure to get back to you. Thanks!

MOM

Hi Amy… Adrian. Sorry.

It’s your mom.

If you’re there… pick up, honey!

Well, that’s alright. You must be out with Olivia.

Well, anyway. I wanted to tell you that I heard the fantastic news from your father. I’m very happy for you both!

I was going to drive up when I heard, I even started baking your favorite cake. Carrot ginger, remember? I used to make it for you after school sometimes… you’d open the door and you could tell by the scent that I had made it, and your face would just light up… I was going to bake it for you, but it got super hectic at work and I couldn’t afford to miss a day… But I’m going to drive up for the weekend, with cake, you better believe it!

Anyway, honey. I just wanted to tell you that I love you and I’m just very –

Voicemail ends with a BEEP.

… very happy for you.

 

SCENE 5

ADRIAN is sitting alone, finally center stage, staring out into the audience. ADRIAN addresses MOM, who is not present.

ADRIAN

You know what I thought of when Olivia and I took Cameron to buy her prom dress today? I thought of that time you dragged me out into the city to find an outfit for my high school graduation. It was very strange, very sudden; you had already known I was gay, it was finally sinking in that I wasn’t the girl you always dreamed I would be. You had stopped taking me to boutiques and buying me clothes, years before. And you knew I was borrowing dad’s tux for graduation; that was already settled. But that day, I got home from school, wasn’t even off the bus before you grabbed my wrist and dragged me to your car. You were smiling so hard, you seemed almost manic. And you wouldn’t even tell me where we were going. “It’s a surprise,” you kept saying, “it’s a surprise.” Honestly, I was more petrified you were having a stroke than I was disappointed when you parked in front of that little boutique.

The windows were draped with such a bright shade of pink. And it sunk in, what you were trying to do again. You sat there and you screamed, “Surprise!” and you looked at me with such hope, the guilt almost resurfaced.

And you know what? I humored you. I walked in with you, and nodded when you asked me if I thought something was pretty, but the whole time, you were draining me of everything we had let grow together, all of the trust and love and acceptance. Drip by drip, with every dress you snatched from the rack and swung in my face. Every dress, you took something else out of me.

But, you know, looking back, you showed me exactly what not to do with my own kids, kids I knew I would have one day with the woman I loved. I guess I have that to thank you for.

Cameron tells me she’s in love with the boy who asked her to prom. And I couldn’t be happier for her. I’m watching that boy like a hawk, don’t get me wrong, but I’m letting her love. And I really pray that one day she finds the kind of love that I found with Olivia. And you know what, mom? I hope you find that love too.

 

END

 

We Are Still Looking Down

30 Sep

Last night, at 7:53 PM, I accepted the request of my one thousand and fifty-seventh friend on Facebook. In some virtual dimension of my consciousness, I could see neon confetti falling and hear victorious Spartan men crying and feel as though I received a letter announcing my full-ride scholarship to Harvard University. After allowing myself to indulge in my cybernetic triumph, reality spiraled me back to the silence of my room where I sat alone, with my legs crossed and my door shut.
A handful of hours later, after scavenging the internet for fascinating articles to post for my one thousand and fifty seven friends to appreciate, I stumbled upon a spoken word film that, of course, captured my attention after the Ebay commercial ended and before the final image flashed. As a poet and an outspoken activist, the poem’s heartfelt discouragement of social media peaked my interest enough to share it, along with an artsy quote from the poem: “Learn to coexist”.
The poem, entitled “Look Up” by Gary Turk (you may watch the video here, if you wish to do so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS9Wte1gX9g), revolves around the question of what we miss when our attention is enveloped in our technology. The poem artistically hits major argumentative points, such as we are not the selves that we paint on social media, and virtual relationships are as false as they are animated. It goes on to depict a striking story of a man who met his future wife while asking for directions, only later in the story learning that none of this happened because he was on his phone.
Only after some time to ponder the happenings of that day did I recognize the irony in the poem. I spent five minutes and one second of my time – to say the absolute least – listening to a poem with tear-jerking orchestral music in the background, about the necessity to drop our technology and “learn to coexist”. However, after watching this beautifully directed video on YouTube about something that a large percentage of me believes in, I could not help but contemplate the effectiveness in regards to its cause. Yes, I cried when the male character kissed his dying wife on the forehead, only to learn that she was never given the chance to be his wife. Yes, it articulated, in an exquisitely genuine manner, a movement for which I would wholeheartedly argue to my friends. But did that inspire me to shut down my computer and pick up a book? Did Turk’s words truly influence the way I perceive social media, or did he just beautifully reiterate something I have always believed in? Did sharing that video do anything to further the cause, or did I just encourage my one thousand and fifty-seven friends to spend time watching another video and then to share it, so their thousand-some friends will do the same?
Being hit with this realization, my mind brought me back to a number of articles I had read about the same topic. One of the articles, for example, entitled “Hiding Behind the Screen” by Roger Scruton focuses on the ideas that social media provides us with a medium onto which we may portray our most attractive, and perhaps most deceptive, selves, and that the relationships we may develop online are safe and unreal.
The article strongly argues the same point that the video argues, but which medium is most effective? Was it the article or the video that best persuaded me to shut off my computer and take a walk around my neighborhood? Did either of them?
In such a comparison, it is important to recognize distinctive features in both pieces, and question how those attributes stand in the effectiveness of its delivery. The article takes a psychological approach to support the argument, explaining in depth the detriments of using social media as a way to cultivate relationships. Scruton writes, “In the once normal conditions of human contact, people became friends by being in each other’s presence, understanding all the many subtle signals, verbal and bodily, whereby another testifies to his character, emotions, and intentions … When attention is fixed on the other as mediated by the screen, however… [one is] not risking [his or her self] in the friendship to nearly the same extent as [he or she] risk[s] [his or her self] when [he or she] meet[s] the other face to face.” He goes on to describe how one engages in a relationship with the screen that depicts the messages, not the person creating them. As clear through the excerpt from the article, Scruton’s piece is dense with information as opposed to emotion, developed theory as opposed to personal experience. While Scruton’s article is thick with his negative opinion, he still uses psychological information to support his argument.
Similarly, in the video, as Turk appears in front of a black backdrop looking straight into the camera, and clips play of teens scrolling through their newsfeeds on Facebook, his voice rings:

“I have 422 friends yet I am lonely

I speak to all of them everyday yet none of them really know me

The problem I have sits in the space in-between

Looking into their eyes or at a name on a screen

All this technology we have
It’s just an illusion
Community, companionship, a sense of inclusion

When you step away from this device of delusion

You awaken to see a world of confusion

So when you’re in public and you start to feel alone

Put your hands behind your head, step away from the phone
You don’t need to stare at your menu or at your contact list

Just talk to one another, learn to co-exist”

The poem states a problem, how the author perceives that problem, and how the reader may escape that problem. There is no informational evidence to support the poet’s case, only artistic representation of a predicament the poet presents. It important to keep in mind that, generally, an article is designed to be descriptive, where as a poem is designed to be emotional.
So, the article provides a more logical approach as to why social media is more detrimental than it is beneficial. However, which medium draws the most attention, and will be most easily passed along? It is much more difficult for a thirteen page article to capture your attention over a five minute video filled with a sexy English man, beautiful background music, and a somber story that is integrated to leave you a little bit broken. While the article is filled with fact and is definitely persuasive in its argument, it is only entertaining to those who enjoy reading informational articles. The video, in contrast, is written, directed, edited to be easily watched and passed along.
So while both mediums have their positive and negative traits that allow them leverage in their effectiveness, the video provides a strong message that will most likely remain in the viewer’s mind. And while the article provides strong support for the writer’s case, it is an unfortunate but noteworthy point, as written in Christine Rosen’s article “Faking Cultural Literacy”, that most people do not care much about the hard facts. Whether or not the viewer decides to act upon the suggestion that he/she is given is entirely up to the viewer. As for myself, while I recognize that very few of my one hundred and fifty-seven Facebook friends are anything more than virtual acquaintances, I also recognize that I am a product of my generation which will continue to be enveloped in our technology.

A Painting of a Tree

4 Aug

My imagination streaks a picture of a presence in a fashion as idealistic as luminescent light illuminating this coffee shop. I chain myself to the acknowledgement that idealism is only oils coated behind biased perception, playing behind eyes that saw too much anyway.
I’d see intermingling branches when I’d peer above myself, not in the crude, harsh interaction of wood against wood, but instead the content, interweaving leaves of adjoining stagnancy. The energy emitted from those arms, trudging in equally submissive unison, interjects the preset tension of external qualms, gentle coating my hands and softening my fingertips. I do not see roses growing from the cracks in the pavement, nor do I see colors drenching the blown up advertisements crowing our heads. But, accepted obscurity, adjoined challenges, defaulted respect, I do see, and each hint of our positivity strips away the debris from my chest, the warmth melting the remaining grains of past ignorance.
Let fate set a gilded frame on the solidity before our roots into which we can rest, not for the world to perceive but instead, to lock us in place, to ensure us into a proximity in which you can see my every flaw, every imperfection to the stitch of my skin. Though that which makes me human looms like a blotch of ink on the corner of your glasses, our quarrels can be dismissed as imperfections as well. These marks that taint the space between us make us as human as we are.
But our humanity only catalyzes the rest, only prints the blank sheets of looseleaf upon which we will both drag the pen. Abandon predeterminations, misconstrued romanticism. Just speak, and let speak, as the birds that lie on our interwoven branches do the same.

Metronome

4 Aug

The gentle padding of the routine jogger’s strides along River Vale road could be heard like a metronome from the opposite side of the town. Which laid, understandable, about 12 square miles from where she ran. Though the midday sunlight streamed through a crack in the blanketing clouds, deeming it an optimistically decent day, the only sounds able to be heard were the thumps of the jogger’s relentless feet beating the already-beaten-down concrete.
The squeaking tires or the occasional passenger along the town’s single main road rang like a foreign instrument, interrupting the orchestra of practical silence of which this town prided itself. The jogger, by mere cause of routine, would pause her metronymic steps about the entrance of the Country Store, where she’d order their famous Pike Roast, enjoy the bitter energy warming her throat, and thus continue her daily path along the silence.
The Country Store, and all of its secluded corners, served as a reservation for teenage recklessness, the air encompassing the lingerie musk of all the “firsts” experienced there: the tentative first kiss of exhilarated middle schoolers, with the intention of infiltrating adulthood; the first swig of Jack Daniels by the time-constrained freshman, all with the apprehension that the next call to his phone would be by his omniscient mother; the first horribly conducted “puff puff pass” by the group of sophomores who swore they never would, six years before. All the firsts, all the experimental actions taken by kids who thought had known better, billowed upon that earth like grey smog from the chimney of a fireplace. The under-nourished ground absorbed that smog as if in hope of some water, and yet the firsts continued clouding as children continue growing. Like a cycle. This town, I’ve realized, is a cycle.

To Question

14 Nov

To question is a fairly cherished ability in the eyes of the simple-minded, and arguably, beyond. It’s quite beautiful in its own intimate way, for a mere sporadic thought of inquiring confusion can spark, rarely bigger or more significant than a spark of a flame itself. One single, tiny grain of curiosity is all it begins as, and yet one minute puzzlement could indefinitely morph the bounding molds of the beholder, for rarely does a trivial curiosity remain at its level of insignificance. That infinitesimal puzzlement soon spreads rapidly like virus to each curve and crevasse of your brain, not merely embracing your cortex and suffocating your cranium, but sinking into each millimeter of terrain as if it were quicksand. And beneath the thin surface of your control system, hiding behind each wrinkle and through each directed action, your brain is hardly yours anymore. You are alive, you are tortured, you are awakened. Lying at the tip of each fingernail is a liable answer and if not, yet another question to clasp a fist around the base of your neck and steal you to a new state of awakening. You are fueled by this ever-kindling flame as it controls everything that you do, that drives every word your lips form, all braced by the itch of this no longer insignificant curiosity, but now, a question. And, let me inform you, let me scratch this itch of yours, until this thirst is quenched, until your puzzlement is given relief with absolution, you are your question.

You see, I am a child of question. A girl. A woman maybe? I don’t know. I’m a being of many, many questions because none of my questions were ever answered.

Please, allow me to keep us in an equal understanding: I am hardly a simpleton, never under the short-reached extents of a fool. In fact, a sizeable sum of my questions I had answered myself. They are none but theories, of course, but what could truly be one hundred percent consoled as truth? Even what the average, educated mind understands as accuracy could very well but nothing but an assumption supported by coincidences. The term one in a million, when the theory of these coincidences emerges, is typically brought up, as if that one in a million verifies the unrealistic nature of the thought. As if that one in a million is a synonymic euphemism for never. But, ah, here is yet another question I answered myself: what is never? What is nothing? I believe there is no such thing. One in a million is slight, but a possibility, as two in two million results in two lucky contesters, despite from how many people they rose.

Shall I quench yet another of your inevitable questions, unvoiced anywhere but your mind? Who am I?

In truth – and this is definitely truth – I don’t really know.

Confession of the Insane

3 Sep

It’s funny how the mind works. At one moment, you could be completely and undoubtedly stable. And the next? Unstable. But I’m only using that word as a euphemism, a polite replacement to a word I’d never imagined my hands to scratch on paper. My “unstable” mind has been to Satan’s basement and bedroom and back, and I think I deserve the deception of this situation’s intensity. But then again, as my back leans against this cool, white, brick wall, as my fingers create for you this confession that which you believe is merely a story, I’m bound to realize that I began writing this for release. And keeping this word locked in Satan’s sock drawer will not allow my unstable mind the full extent of a release.

No. It’s funny how the mind works. At one moment, you could be completely and undoubtedly stable. And the next?

Insane.

You see, I comprehend this particular reality: that to you sane minds reading this confession, it’s nothing more than a work of art. But before I utter another word of truth, let you grasp the understanding that this is my life. This is real. This is real, even if this is not.

It’s funny how the mind works. As I lay against the cold wall, carved by ice, it seems, fingers scratching what I can on this crumbled paper with this stolen pen, I hear Him again.

He’s here. He’s in this room.

The walls are so light, it’s blinding. The walls, the floor, the leaking ceiling, the slowly circling fan. It even smells white, like that revolting scent of alcohol at the hospital. But with each step He takes – slow, calm, and as loud as gunshots – the walls, I swear to you, fade to grey in contrast. My eyes squint to see Him clearly. Though His skin in your reality is as mundane as the skin of a passing pedestrian, to me His skin shines with a light indigestible to mortal eyes.

If you had seen it, you would know.

If you were blessed with the curse of witnessing the phenomenon, or cursed with the blessing for the same ordeal, you’d understand.

The walls are truly fading. They are fading to every faded color on the color spectrum, a sight only slightly unbelievable, to me at least. Hell, I hardly notice. Each brick, a different faded color: blue, purple, orange, red. They practically display a washed out color pallet as He emits a light so blinding that I scramble to the blended corner and hide my face.

“Shh,” He says.

“Shh,” He keeps saying.

“Shh,” He says over and over and over until the suffocated sounds resulting from His mere presence stop.

Why tears are leaking from my eyes? I’ve yet to confirm the sold reason. Could very well be from simply the mere absolution of His being, a sensation that leaves me writhing in wonder and fear and intrigue and pain and love.

My face is still hidden in those bricks so cold that it’s as if they were carved from ice. My face, my freezing tears, my pale cheeks and white lips and shut eyes are still hidden.

Until I feel warmth gingerly touch my chin. A beautiful eruption of soothing, warm tranquility shoots up and down my body still hidden in those bricks so cold, it’s as if they were carved from ice. They are fingers. Smooth, long, soft fingers. His fingers. Fingers which then connect to a shoulder that frame a chest that balance on legs and feet that all belong to him.

The intrigue of a man who is hardly and everything that which a man is, who lives in the scrambled corridors of my mind, should certainly not reach such a distinct intensity, for if anything, health purposes. There he sits, in the darkened, shattered hallway connecting my brain to my senses, a mutual home so tattered that it’s as if it had been struck by Hurricane Katrina.

He hits, crouched, shushing me to the cliff edge of comfort, living in my mind and my veins, and the white walls and the leaking ceiling and just about everything else reality holds in its discreetness.

See, if I had learned anything from my time in this institution, it had been that there is truly a thin line between what is reality and what is not. There it lies, hardly noticeable, dividing the moment you awake from your intoxicating lucid dreams. And if I had learned anything more, it had been that that great divide which we are blessed from birth to acquire had abandoned me somewhere along my journey to Satan.

Everything is reality, and everything is not.

He is real, He is alive, He breathes the same air we are engineered to breathe, and yet He does not. I live just as He, and you and your family and yet I do not. That which is labeled as true is very well merely a story the human mind had configured. Understand: everything I say is real. Everything I say is not.

Mind you, I did once obtain that line which marks my conscious as one to blossom. I was once stable, or sane if you prefer that term. Before the war, before the blood shed from a man by the hand of another. Before I had witnessed it all. Before He appeared through the mist of my tattered innocence. What was my reality, if not the only one I knew to be true?

See, I was engaged to be married. Me! Married to a man so sane that, considering the present outcome, it’s verging on ironic. He was everything an eighteen year old romanticist would dream of, just out of college and as handsome as those topless men you’d find on a Nora Roberts novel. Oh, what a man he was.

In a funny way, he had shaken my world before my world had legitimately tilted off its axis. At the same time, he sobered me to the wonderful chapter of maturity. A new chapter, that which I had heard of second handedly, but never experienced. Have I yet experienced that chapter? Had I yet written in those black pages? Had I ventured into that land so secretive and mysterious, hidden behind a wall of blinding fog? Not with him, you can presume. Not with him. Not with the man I had so naively opened my heart to during a raging battle between brothers.

God knows I had learned much in romance. It is quite unbelievably unfortunate: how much I had learned.

Two weeks before the wedding. It happened then. The assumed turning point, or the date that which the hurricane struck. It’s funny; I had been suppressing the memory for so long that attempting to remember is as futile as regenerating a car lost in quick sand. It’s trapped in the suffocating embrace of that liquid, hovering just above absolute ruin. And yet, the line I had cast for that almost sunken dream shines the smallest ray of hope for survival. Look, the quick sand is melting!
I was worried, in the beginning of this confession, that when I had veered closer to this inevitable point, I would be unable to gather the pieces of the memory. Even worse than that case: I worried that even if I were to gather it, the jagged edges of that broken recollection would reopen old wounds and spiral me directly back to the condition in which I had begun. You realize, I presume, some things are meant to be kept broken. Some memories are best left forgotten. We all have those memories. I’m not the only one with regrets.

Nonetheless, the quick sand is melting. I feel it. And you know, it feels slightly good to start remembering, even though I realize that He is here remembering with me. Not he, but He. The one who is strangely silent at the moment. Observing, always observing.

It had occurred two weeks before the wedding. I had neglected all womanly worries most brides would drown themselves in. My mother’s adequate wedding dress was stowed away in my closet, protected by the sheer plastic it was engulfed in. Though I recall the bold, erupting excitement I felt regarding my wedding, the only bonding I currently had on my mind was the bonding of the bandages on my soldiers’ bloodied bodies.

I worked as a nurse, yes, but it was more than merely an occupation; it had become my identity. My disgust had grown numb toward the grotesque images I had seen on a regular bases, and nothing but determination thrived from there. In a way, I suppose the pain a regular human would feel during the exposure of such gore was, like so many other aspects of my existence, suppressed. Bottled up, like carbonation trapped by the slim walls of a glass bottle and capped. In turn, I suppose, the determination rocketing my success as a nurse shoot that bottle with every hardly-surviving soldier I aided. The only blockage between my nadir and I was the need for my soldiers’ wellbeing. My soldiers’ and my husband’s.

… Oh God, it’s so close. God. I almost with He would start talking to distract me from myself. From my own mind, and memories.

Ha, tears are streaming down my face. They’re dropping on this paper. I hope they won’t blend the ink.

But I remember. I remember so fucking well that broken feeling during which my composure, my soul, and my sanity were all shattered into the vast oblivion. Everything I had ever worked for, in one moment, dissolved into the pain I had been suppressing for so many years as a nurse.

I was visiting one of my favorite patients, Marcus. He always made me smile, despite the physical and mental destruction we both knew he lied in. It’s safe to say he was one of the largely contributing factors to my equanimity. Who was I to be weak when someone chained to the inevitable brink of death sill managed a beautiful smile?

We were laughing. What about, I forget. Maybe the weather, maybe my wedding. Something ordinary. But one of my colleague nurses swung open the thin white sheet separating Marcus from another patient. She told me my fiancé was on the phone, asking for me. Urgently.

I couldn’t recall the last urgent message I received from him, while he was the only tranquil control in my life. I threw Marcus a quick half-smile goodbye and followed the nurse to the main office, where the main phone was kept. I placed the phone to my ear and asked my fiancé what was wrong.

As seconds passed, silence rang on the other line, quickening my typically stable heartbeat with precognitive confusion. I heard him breathe my name.

He sounded weak. Hurt. Like the soldiers I try to aid before they are stolen by stillness. Worry held the air in a tense, iron embrace. “What’s going on?” I asked, scared, struggling to keep the ground from falling beneath me. He didn’t respond. I asked again and again, each time with more hysterical urgency sneaking into my voice.

He said my name again and, oh God, he sounded weaker. “Run,” he breathed. “Get out. The soldiers. Run.” And then I heard the utterly terrible ring of silence, suggesting the only thing that can uncap that bottle holding me. I gripped the phone to my ear and screamed his name. My hands grasped the edge of the table on which the phone was held and I screamed his name again, willing him, begging him with the shear force of my absolution to say my name back. I vaguely heard footsteps behind, and vaguely felt worried hands gripping my arms. But reality’s silence grabbed and knife and thrust it into my back, unleashing the screams for my husband.

And before I could take account of his last words, I felt the ring of the quiet dancing on the back of my neck.

And then I felt the fire, slamming me against the wall behind and shattering everything else I held dear to me.

The fire, the bomb.

Debris fell from the ceiling that was no longer there. I laid there staring up, feeling nothing but the ringing silence and the numbness to my life’s ruin. It smelled of destruction. I smelled the metallic scent of blood. Maybe my blood, maybe not. Could I move? I couldn’t think. But I tried. First my fingers, then my toes. I breathed and closed my eyes. When I could, I gathered what was left of my physical strength and pushed myself off of the bed of debris.

The room and the ruin spun around my cracked head.

Oh God, the pain. The pain I felt. I had no idea a human could feel this much pain. A pain so strong that the grey, red, and other miscellaneous colors I could have seen were blotched by a searing, white color. But I ignored it. I balanced my body on my hands and knees and crawled slowly out of what was left of the room. I heard nothing. But sweet God, what I saw.

My nurses, the doctors, seeing nothing, lying in their own life’s blood. My soldiers, stolen by death before nature could prevail. And Marcus… where was his smile? Where was the gleam in his eyes? His right leg and part of his chest, and his eyes’ gleam and his beautiful smile were stolen, stolen by the bomb.

I was the only one, they later said. The only one that survived. But, you see, I didn’t survive. I was as much taken by that bomb as Marcus was. Staring down at his unbelievably torn body, a laugh leaked from the bottomless pit by which my heart was replaced.

I laughed and laughed and laughed. I laughed at the destruction around me. I laughed at the torn, bloodied bodies I once aided. I laughed at the outcome of my wedding, at the outcome of my husband, of my life. I laughed so hard that tears finally leaked from my eyes.

And then, through the dust clouding my late workplace and home, over the bodies I shared coffee and smiles and words with, I saw Him. For the first time.

It’s funny, I thought he was God at first. And then I realized, why would God have the nerve to peer at what became of his children? No, he wasn’t God.

He was close though.

He is close.

He stood there, staring at me with those colorless and blinding eyes. I don’t remember if his feet were touching the ground or not. The aura in which he was engulfed was so white and heavenly that I don’t even know if I noticed it.

Then, with the will of his gaze, I swear to you, my wounds closed instantly. I stood with strength I had no idea I obtained. My feet left the ground and I’m telling you, his gaze carried me in an embrace warmer than any I’d received, and more comforting than my husband had ever been. Ha, I guess I was cheating. I should probably feel guilty.

But then, I didn’t feel anything. Just blackness. And that’s all I was. Blackness.

And here I am.

Countless years later. Writing this confession on this crumbled paper with this stolen pen, Him watching my every move.

His name? I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you my name either. I couldn’t tell you if Marcus’ name was really Marcus if I was ever really a nurse, or if I was ever really engaged. Maybe I was born in this institution, into the brick walls and under the leaking ceiling with that slowly circling fan. I can’t tell you my father’s last name, or if I have any sisters. But this is my story. Believe everything I say, or don’t if you prefer. They are both intelligent actions. They are both suggested in this case.

But I promise you this.

Everything I say is real. Everything I say is not.

A Dream Relived

17 Aug

I’d like to say I couldn’t imagine that it would happen again.

Or that the memories from a feeling trapped in my veins were completely unexpected to soak back into my blood and set my life on fire. I truly yearn to scratch up any remaining support for my inevitable, undeniable innocence.

But you and I and the ground I walk on and the sky I watch and the air I breathe all know that will never be the case. You never disappeared. You were just held in hold, as if time froze in an ice cube from last summer, through the equally wretched winter, until now.  And you and I and the ground I walk on and the sky I watch and the air I breathe are all witness to the melting of the frozen cuffs grasping time, grasping your movie star smile and my happiness. And as we walked upon the rocky round, as we watched the dimming sky, and as we breathed each other’s air, you brought me back to myself. And I’d like to say I was blind to it. I wasn’t.

I was surprised you didn’t know I had flown to your country, though. It was so advertised by shared friends and family that I was convinced it had reached you through the grape vine. Nonetheless, when I told you I’d be visiting your town and I read your clear excitement, familiar butterflies quaked my gut. I never knew why or how you evoked that reaction from me. It was always evident though. Even when I reached the point of convincing myself I could move on easily. Even then, at the slight thought of your name that led to a fading memory, which led to an imprisoned emotion. Even then, you somehow flipped some switched in my stomach, or opened some cage in my head releasing toxic amounts of dopamine through my body.

It made me smile. Through all of the lies I’d been living, and the quiet pain I’d been suffering from the weight of my life, you made me smile.

You looked…. indescribable. Your smile could stop anyone in their tracks. It was so perfect I wanted to just shut my lips until you would look away. My smile couldn’t compare to yours. Nearly. But you made me smile despite my insecurities.

You had the same chocolate eyes and matching hair. Same general facial structure. But, you’d grown. You were no longer the cute boy I’d met and fell for as a more immature girl. You’d become something of a man. Even your stance had matured: back straight and hands tucked in your pockets. It seemed as if with that one year gain, your timid insecurities flew away as easily as the seconds had. You were a man, and I remained stuck in between ten and twenty, lingering in time and waiting for the maturity you obtained.

I was so nervous that, with you, I wouldn’t be able to talk freely, as I felt with everyone else in the past year or so. Awkwardness became my new unfortunate definition. Stuttering, not talking loud enough, spacing out, the like. But when we began walking down those familiar roads, through our memories together it seemed, words leaked from my mouth as easily as it had last year.

I’d like to say it’s not as much as you that made our annual meeting completely incredible, but the me that you restored. But, again, I’m forced to realize that you fit into the equation like the remaining puzzle piece. Your smile made me nervous, but in the sense that I hadn’t discovered with others. I’d remembered that sense of freedom from the forever ago, but I can honestly say I hadn’t thought it could return. It had though.

Somewhere in the negligence of time or weather, we found our way to the one cement structure near the recreational center: the one spot easily marked as ours. As we climbed up to the flat top, you spoke of how you’re heading to the army in two years. I told you I would join you in the years following my college graduation, but you insisted you would never let me.

We spoke of everything for seconds, minutes, hours up there. Your deep, strongly accented voice made me laugh or cry or blush. I taught you the time step, hoping you would grab my hand to steady yourself. You wouldn’t stop shrugging your black jacket off your shoulders just to place them on mine for “five minutes”. You said you liked the cold. With each word formed by your beautiful lips and sent by your rich voice, I learned and loved more about you.

You shivered so hard, I was afraid you’d shatter if I touched you.

“Are you cold?” You asked, despite your present condition being conspicuously worse than mine.

I shrugged and giggled as another set of shivers were sent down your underdressed back. “Take your jacket back,” I insisted as I slipped it off my shoulders and held it out for you. Your eyes displayed pure unspoken defiance. With equal rebellion, trying to hold back my uncontrollable smile, I placed it on the ground behind where you were sitting.

I can imagine that through your grin, you were thinking how impossible I am. But I was more than glad I wasn’t forced by my own self-consciousness to veil myself with the mask of the perfect girl. I felt so real and alive than I had in a very long time.

“How about a hug?” I heard you suggest. I couldn’t exactly detect what bled from your voice – maybe coldness, maybe humor. Maybe excitement. I used every tint of strength I obtained to hold back my own excitement. I shrugged as if a hug meant nothing more than a hug, and glanced down at my iPod before inching towards you.

Whenever, that night, words escaped me, I would simply flip through my playlist so I wouldn’t have to meet your gaze.

I sincerely hope you didn’t notice.

Your arms were so inviting, though, and I couldn’t do much but hide myself in your warmth. It was an incredible feeling, as if the warmth your shudders had created were passed in a surge of affection towards me.

Almost unwillingly, I dug myself closer and closer to you, resting my head on your shoulder and my Heart closer to yours. You nudged your cheek on my forehead and I could feel the calm warmth of your breath.

The silence was beautiful.

It was as if the slice around us created an orchestra of music just for our ears. The wind whistled through the hands of the trees and the birds sang for us. Your breath flew in and out rather quickly – if by the cold or by the same reason mine was, I don’t know. But we were still in the life around us, trembling to its soothing beauty and to each other.

Before the birds around us could utter another breath of song, your forehead was leaning on my own.

My mind had drained of everything. All of my problems, my insecurities, waiting for me less then a mile away. I couldn’t think, I could feel. And hell, did I feel. I felt scared and worried and nervous and excited. And happy.

Your lips were so close to mine before your logic shattered the silence.

“We shouldn’t,” you murmured.

And I knew. I knew probably more than you did. I understood that the minute you took your first steps to your house and I to mine, my chest would be quaking from a raw wound. One kiss was pouring salt into my heartache, resurrected from last year.

I knew. But I didn’t care.

My eyes remained closed and my lips didn’t utter a word.

“You’ll be going to America so soon. We can’t do this. We can’t do this,” your voice was drenched and bloody with pre-existing pain. I could hear it so clearly. It felt so real that all of my doubts had faded by that moment.

Seconds ticked by before I spoke the only response I could afford. “I know.”

With that, the silence grew and the music played again. We didn’t try; we didn’t speak, or think. All we did was feel, and gravity conducted the rest.

And the second your lips touched mine, all of the possibilities existent between us played to an extent of extreme.

Your lips it a match to a side of my life I’d ever discovered before. I wasn’t just a sad girl right then. Everything I had lost returned with one kiss. I smiled and laughed and cried and understood that maybe you were more than a kiss with a name.

And that night, as we held each other and walked the rocky ground and watched the rising sun and breathed each other’s air, just for that night, you were mine.

And with words released into the air, and with our first steps apart after a night in a dream, I have nothing to hold onto but the mere words to be continued.

Cheating

9 Jul

Maggie stared into his deep chocolate eyes, innocent hope filling them, momentarily forcing her to forget about Zach. She instantly broke the gaze, fear freezing all of the blissful butterflies in her stomach. I have a boyfriend, I have a boyfriend. Despite her attempts to keep it hidden, Ari, as always, easily read the distress in her eyes as if they were an open book. What are you thinking?” he asked softly, keeping his distance. Maggie spoke the truth. It was always the truth with Ari. Always.

“I wish we could have a moment that, when it’s over, it would have never happened,” she glanced at him. Odds were he didn’t understand. She wished he didn’t . But what doesn’t Ari understand?

“What would you do in that moment?” His eyes were intense, filling Maggie with a feeling of doubt towards everything she believed in; he shouldn’t make her feel so… wanted. Maggie gulped, the butterflies resurrecting in her gut. Once again, she told him to effortful truth. She needed to. If it didn’t leave her lips, it would have been bottled up in her chest, gathering the stray emotions until it explodes and blows more holes in her heart. “I’d kiss you.”

She refused to meet his eyes, but, being Ari, he caught them anyway. “I would too,” he chuckled, running his fingers through his thick, beautiful hair. Maggie didn’t exactly find the humor in the situation, considering she had a perfectly good boyfriend waiting for her in America, and she was falling for Ari all over again. Why did he have that effect on her? Anger suddenly surged through Maggie’s pure soul, an emotion as foreign, as alien, as anything. It was fair. It wasn’t fair! Why did she have a boyfriend? Why did the world have to be cruel enough to separate Ari and Maggie across oceans? And why did Ari make her ask all of those questions??

Maggie turned her book to him, unable to meet his kind eyes. She knew she would melt into them; all of her restraints, any standing barriers, would come tumbling to the floor from those eyes. “What are you thinking?” He asked again. She could feel the heat radiating off of his body as he stepped even closer to her neglectful stance. They were practically touching. “You know you can tell me anything.”

His soft voice drained the rage from Maggie’s heart, filtering it to mere sadness. Almost to herself, she whispered from the truth of her heart, “This is the moment”. After she realized she’d said it out loud, if only a mere breath, she mentally punched herself in the gut. Though she knew she didn’t elaborate, she also knew that Gal understood the recognition. This is the moment that she wished she could forget when it’s finished. She wished with such a strong urge that she could stretch on her toes and brush his lips with hers, learning if they felt as soft as they looked. Maggie sighed and shut her eyes, knowing that she’d have to say goodbye sooner or later. Her flight back to America was a few hours, and her mom called her twice from her cousin’s house. She turned around, opened her eyes, and for the first time, she looked at him. Meaning, she really looked at him. She soaked up every aspect and feature about this man only a year older than she, but clearly a man nonetheless. His smooth, dark brown hair fell just about his eyes, causing his big hands to, every few moments, brush it back from his face. My God, those hands. Those hands that fit perfectly with Maggie’s when they danced to “Fall For You”, by Secondhand Serenade. Just them, trying to figure out the next steps under the setting sun and in the shadows casted by the towering trees. Awkward, but perfect.

His lean but think arms bulged out from under his T-Shirt, the light blue accenting his olive skin. Maggie wanted so badly for Ari to take her into his arms and just hold her forever. And then his eyes. His chocolate eyes that seemed to grip her, capture her in a cage of beautiful weakness. It was as if she could fall into his warm gaze, drowning in thick waves of lovely perfection. He was perfect. He was perfect.

He noticed her staring.

He ran his fingers through his hair, once again tousling up his hair in a cute, boyish way. He met her gaze again with such seriousness she was taken aback. “I guess this is goodbye,” Maggie said softly, before he could say something that could, if possible, break her heart even more. His lips opened, paused, then closed again, as if he was about to say something but decided against it. He seemed so sad, so broken, Maggie could feel that distress radiating from his body. “I guess so,” he sighed.

They stood there, wasting several precious moments to simply look at each other, breathing in each other’s presences before they really had to say goodbye. “Do I at least get a hug?” Ari half smiled and she joined in easily. Maggie nodded and retreated to a place she wished she could call home. He seemed to have gathered her in his arms and she let him; Maggie simply gave into him. By this point, every trace of Zach had left her mind, and she rested her head on his shoulder. Maggie felt his lips in her hair and she closed her eyes, enjoying the moment. After far too soon, he broke the amazing embrace and she stepped away. “Goodbye,” he whispered.

Before tears had a chance to fall from her eyes, Maggie made an attempt to crack a joke. “Wow, this is super depressing. I feel like we’re on some kind of soap opera,” she forced a giggle, and his lips quirked up, but he remained as solemn as before.

“Maybe one more hug?” Ari smiled and Maggie grinned at this, nodding and mumbling an “alright”. He closed the space between them and folded her in his arms, engulfing her, become one. She breathed in his scent, a delicious mixture between mint and jasmine. Maggie held onto him tightly, and he returned the intensity, even bringing more, if possible. “You know,” he whispered softly in Maggie’s ear, “we can have that moment”.

She froze and stepped away from him, her heart skipping a beat and freezing over all at once. Oh my God, I have a boyfriend. I have a boyfriend! A great, amazing, respectful boyfriend! But why do I feel like I need Ari so much? Because I do need him. But I can never have him.

“No, we can’t,” Maggie replied, attempting to apply false strength to her words. So much for strength; her voice cracked. He took a step towards her and cupped a hand on her cheek. Maggie slightly gasped, feeling electric shocks at his touch.

“I think we can.” Ari stared into her eyes, captivated, hypnotized by his intense yet gentle glare. She stared back helplessly, physically and emotionally unable to move her feet. “Can you forget?”

She couldn’t speak. All she could manage was looking into his wide eyes, waiting for his next move.

They were silent for what seemed like infinity until he slowly started lowering his face to hers, like gravity pulling them together. Maggie’s eyes automatically closed, and she felt his breath warm on her cheek. His nose skimmed hers and, as odd as it sounds, Maggie resisted the urge to giggle from both the strange gesture and the butterflies in her gut. When Ari’s lips brushed hers, she practically unwillingly let all guards left crumble to the ground. Ari kissed her then. As in, he really kissed her. Some distant part of Maggie screamed out how wrong it was and yet the other part, the majority of her heart and mind, didn’t care. She was always the one to live for today. And if this wasn’t living, she honestly didn’t know the meaning of life.

His lips left hers far too soon, and when Maggie opened her eyes, she found him staring at her. Her lips tingled from the aftershock of the kiss, causing her body to erupt with the strongest emotional bliss it had ever experienced. She was on the verge of grinning at Ari and telling him all of the wonderful feelings she felt right then, but, as she slowly faded back into reality, she remembered. Oh my God; I have a boyfriend. I have a boyfriend and I just kissed another guy!! Oh my God, technically, I just cheated! Before Maggie could start hyperventilating, she closed her eyes and breathed out deeply, as if everything, all the sins she had just committed, could fly away as easily as that single breath.

“What are you thinking?” She heard Ari ask. She opened her eyes and melted at the purity, sincerity, and mere innocence in his eyes. Maggie didn’t know how she couldn’t be angry with him; he just pushed passed everything she believed in, and he still emitted a heart-breaking display of innocence. “How to you feel?”

“Confused,” Maggie remarked, fidgeting with her necklace. “One thing I’m sure of is I won’t forget that.” Ari shut his eyes and let his head fall, something she realized he did whenever he was either distressed or in pain. “Me too,” he chuckled wryly.

“Well,” Maggie breathed after a second. “I guess this is goodbye?”

He ran his fingers through his hair. “I guess so.”

“Until next year, Ari,” Maggie made the attempt to smile, desperate to find that crack of light in the nauseating grey coursing through her veins. He smiled softly in reply and put up his hand, marking the farewell he failed to say with words. Her smile in return was, like his, masking the unbelievable amount of pain clenching her heart, and they started to back away slowly from each other. Maggie turned and began stepping towards her aunt’s house, glancing back only once to notice Ari glance back at the same time.

Maggie pivoted back around and breathed, trying to untangle the knot of confusing emotions forming in her soul. With each step, the emotions grew and tore her heart open even more.

Glimpsing at the sky, Maggie noticed one stray bird soaring behind the crowd, the flock. And, as she made her way to her destination, she wondered if that bird felt as alone as she felt right then.

THE END.

Timeless (by Alexandra Monir) Continued

8 Jul

This is a continuation of the story, TIMELESS, by Alexandra Monir. If you haven’t read the book, I sincerely insist that you do; it is definetely one of my favorite novels! Below (in the bold) is an excerpt of the last few paragraphs of the book. Enjoy!

The next morning, Michele walked up the front steps to school, a spring in her step. For the first time since her arrival in New York, she was ready to live – truly live – in her own time again. She finally felt ready to surrender to the present.

As she was digging in her bag for her homework assignment, she heard the sound of a late student skidding into the room just as the final bell rang.

‘Class, we have another new transfer student,’ Mr. Lewis announced. ‘Everyone, meet Philip Walker.’

Michele’s head snapped up in shock. Oh – my – God. She was too stunned to move a muscle as she locked eyes with the spitting image of a young Philip Walker. Michele realized with a jolt that this was who she had seen by the school office that day when she’d thought she had seen her Philip.

The new student continued to look at her with those intense sapphire eyes, even as the teacher handed him a folder of class materials. As he reached for the folder, Michele saw it on his finger – the gold signer ring that Philip had given her. The very ring she had lost.

Michele smiled at him in amazement as Philip’s words echoed in her ears: ‘I will find a way back to you. No matter what, I promise.’”

Stunned and yet in a heart-soaring state of awe, Michele was suddenly overcome with the temptation to burst into tears and to leap into her Philip’s arms. Even then, though sternly instructing herself to hold back the waterworks until they were alone, she could feel the stinging in her eyes and the blurriness taking hold of her vision. A million questions were dashing through her mind: how was it possible? Is it really him? Why does he all of a sudden look like a teenager again? Michele yearned the presence of her soul mate, and desperately missed his warm arms around her, or his bittersweet song as his fingers raced across his piano’s black and white keys. Michelle studied his every beautiful feature, not catching the perplexed expression on his face. His exquisite eyes were the color of sapphires, obtaining such a deep blue that, many times, she thought she could fall into them and land in the middle of the ocean. His luscious hair was longer, falling in thick, dark waves to his shoulders and sliding over his eyes every now and then. Everything was perfect, was the same, except for the absence of his 20th century and very gentleman-like outfit. In exchange, Philip wore a black T-shirt with a picture of “Bullet for my Valentine” printed on the front. His skinny jeans were dark blue and hung just below his waist, revealing his surrender to the 21st century style: I-like-to-strut-around-school-with-my-undies-hanging-loose. Though, despite Michele’s distaste in that style, to say that she liked it on him was an understatement. Her eyes drifted down to his finger, and she had to use all of her willpower to hold back a giggle of glee. He had the ring! When she lost it, she was 110% sure that it was the last time she would hold it, considering that she lost it at some point in the 1900s. Even though Philip himself was from the 20th century, she found it mind-blowing that, not only did he find it, but he kept it for all of these years. She was pretty sure that her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him as she blinked away tears and suddenly realized that she had become first period’s daily entertainment. Both Philip and Mr. Lewis – and pretty much the other twenty five kids in the classroom – were eyeing her curiously.

                Mr. Lewis cleared his throat. “Um, Michele, you ok?”

                Great! Attract attention to yourself, why don’t you? She shrugged him off like she was totally fine, but she could feel her cheeks heating up, and could hear smirks because of the rosy color that never failed to blanket her face in times of humiliation. She stole a glance at Philip, just to catch him scrutinizing her like she was a lunatic and/or a creepy stalker inspecting her new prey. Maybe she was a lunatic, and, as for being a stalker, she would stalk Philip any day if it meant being near him. So much for getting accustomed to living happily in her own time. But technically, Philip wasin her time, right? Michele stifled a fake cough as she muttered, “Uh, yeah, I just have allergies to, erm, dust.” Dust?! Really? Michele mentally kicked herself in the butt. How more obvious can I get??

                Poor Mr. Lewis had no idea how to react, considering his lack of children and a spouse, and therefore his lack of knowledge of female issues. She fought back the urge to flee from the situation altogether; the only aspect keeping her from leaping out the door was that her Philip was right in front of her. Returning back to reality from a mild state of shock, she, for the first time since he’s been here, soaked in his expression. He was confused, to state the least. Confused and completely creeped out from the scene she was creating. Michele’s insides froze, as she considered a painful fact. Could it be that he doesn’t even remember who I am?If that was the case, then there was no point in even talking to him alone. For the most part, she realized that he probably wasn’t even the same person. Having the privilege of traveling through multiple lifetimes – her hand flew up to the key around her neck that started her journey – she experienced things that were probably forbidden to experience in the first place. She wouldn’tbe surprised if she found herself having a one-on-one conversation withHades in her after life. But honestly, it was worthit. Michele had no regrets, nothing that she would take back, even if it meant spending eternity in the depths of hell withthat creepy three headed dog and a large chew toy. Despite her being content with her past, she now recognized the high chances of a totally other soul in his body. What can she say? God works in strange ways.

                Mr. Lewis broke the desperately awkward ice that formed in the air around us. He addressed the class, his eyes displaying exasperation to move on. He obviously wasn’t good with this sort of things, and Michele, for one, was thankful of the fact. “Philip just moved from Australia – ”

                “You mean the weird, savage place where people live with kangaroos and then shoot them for fun?” Ben interrupted, glancing at Michele every couple seconds. He definitely took to heart the little scene she constructed before and seemed envious in a way. The class giggled like they were back in kindergarten as Ben’s face morphed into a smug expression, though Michele really couldn’t find the humor in the joke. Heck, she didn’t even realize it was a joke until after her peers erupted into giggles. She hushed a neighbor and averted her eyes back to Philip, who was standing at ease in the front of the room, his eyes rolled up in annoyance. Sheesh, this really isn’t him, Michele gaped mentally. I have never seen Philip roll his eyes once before.

                “Class! Class!” Mr. Lewis ordered, scolding. “Nobody shoots kangaroos in Australia, and nobody is savage there either. Now be quiet and listen.” He turned to face Philip, and Michele could vaguely see an apologetic expression displaying in his eyes. Philip didn’t respond, or barely even acknowledged the teacher’s presence. “Philip, would you like to share a little bit about yourself to the class?”

                Michele’s lips twitched excitedly. Maybe if she could hear a little bit about him, then she could determine if he’s her Philip or not. She sat up straight, excited, and leaned forward.

                He glanced at Mr. Lewis with ticked-off eyes, and then faced the class. Michele could tell that he did his best not to look at her, and he was doing pretty damn well. He started speaking in a thick, Australian accent. “Uh, I’m Philip… Phil Walker. I’m from Sydney.”

                Philip – uh, Phil – turned back to the teacher who was leaning against his desk. So far, the chance that this attractive-in-an-emo-bad-boy-way that had the same eyes and name as Philip was in fact Philip was thinning rapidly from slim to none. Slumping back against her chair, stunned, Michele ran her fingers through her hair. I don’t get it, she thought desperately. What, is God throwing me a tease because I bended the rules a little bit? To Michele, it seemed a bit harsh, considering that she could feel her heart breaking all over again, right after the tiny taste of curing she received.

                “Anything else?” Mr. Lewis asked, urging him on.

                “No.”

                Mr. Lewis let out a hurmph and pushed off of his desk. “Ok, now let’s see where you can sit…” His eyes roamed the classroom, enlarged behind his thick glasses, and settled on a seat right between Michele and Ben. “You may go and sit in that desk right over there.” Mr. Lewis pointed to the seat as she slid farther down her seat and blushed furiously. Ugh, how is she going to live through the day?

                Phil’s eyes jumped from one seat to another, openly desperate to find a seat other than the one next to Michele. He obviously knew where the desk was, though he still asked, “Where?”

                “Right over there.”

                “There?”

                “Yes, Phil, there.”

                Phil reluctantly bent down to swing his black bag over his shoulder, and dragged his feet to the desk neighboring Michele’s. Though she knew that it was against all of the implied regulations that were a package deal to her new conclusion, her heart fluttered in denial as he drew near.

                His bag dropped to the floor witha thump and he slid into his chair witha sigh. Michele leaned forward in her seat, her head dropped so her curly hair concealed her eyes. Glancing quickly at Phil with her peripheral vision, she caught him staring at her. She cringed without even reading his expression, frightened like a kitten for three reasons. First, she threw at him yet another reason to think that she’s a complete creep; as everyone learned in kindergarten, staring isn’t nice.  Second, if he was glaring at her, she honestly couldn’t take it. She probably would havebroken down witha river of tears pooling on her desk before the bell even rang. And third… no matter which Philip it was – Phil, the punk rocker who seemed exactly the opposite of Philip, or Philip, her soul mate for all of eternity – she was still under the impression that there was hope. As a dedicated optimist, she was practically frantically searching for a little crack of sunshine in all of this, one little spark of hope that would keep her from giving up the cause and keep her dignity alive. At this point, it was even beyond her dignity, which was a pretty big step for her. Philip showed her everything that she had lost when her mom died. He relit the fire that had blown out inside of her, even when she was 100% sure that her mom was the only one who could light it in the first place.

                She was a millisecond away from averting her eyes back to her fidgeting hands at killing herself for peeking when she realized with some oddly flattering form of shock that he was looking at her. As in, reallylooking at her. As in he was scrutinizing her so deeply that he scarcely noticed that she was staring back at him. It was mesmerizing, the way that his sapphire eyes flared like blue fire with such intensity that it sent shivers down her back. Their eyes locked when he noticed her glance, and emotions flickered across Phil’s face: concentration, confusion, frustration, and one that she couldn’t put her finger down on. What is it? Is it just because her brain isn’t working properly due to the way that his stare turns her brains to scrambled eggs, or what? Then, it popped into her head, and as corny as it sounds, the best way to describe it honestly was like a light bulb flickering on. And her heart froze in a whirlpool of emotions that were overflowing her body. The last emotion that she recognized in Phil’s beautiful eyes was a faint hint of familiarity.

                Shocked, Michele finally tore her eyes from his and, as she averted them to Mr. Lewis – though her stunned mind didn’t allow her to make out his words – Phil cleared his throat and looked down. He recognized her! Well, sort of. But at least it was something to hold on to. It was like out of a world of new found darkness and desperation, a tiny ray of sunrise peaked out from the horizon and streaked the black sky. And though it wasn’t much, and his expression elucidated that his sweet moment of clarity had been wiped away, her optimism insisted that it could only get better from there.

                Almost as if on cue, someone had nudged her arm from the side: a gesture to turn around. Before she did, her lips twitched in anticipation. She knew that touch before; Michele realized it was Phil before she even peaked. It is incredible, really, how someone could become so accustomed to anything and everything about a person: their touch, their smell, even their mere presence. It may be rare, but as Michele had learned to discover, rarity played a major role in her everyday life.

                Her heart pounding a thousand beats a second, she glanced over her shoulder, nothing but Philip – old and new – darting from wall to wall of her mind.

                Michele had to remind herself to breathe, the sight so natural and common and yet the most wondrous thing in the world. She never really got used to Phil, and the effect that it left on her mind was leaving her faint. Phil was watching her intently with those large azure eyes with one arm extended, offering a folded slip of paper.

                Michele peaked nervously at Mr. Lewis, who was too engrossed on his discussion about John Adam’s presidency to notice their lapse in attention. Turning back to Phil, Michele gulped silently and hesitantly reached for the slip of paper in his hand. And, as she gripped the tiny, ripped sheet of lined paper her skin gingerly touched his, and electric sparks shot up her arm.

                She gasped and met his blue eyes, only to find his as wide and shocked as her own. In all truthful honesty, she shouldn’t have been that surprised. Those pleasurable sparks of – for a lack of a better word– love ran through her body at his mere touch; they always have. Her brain should havebeen accustomed to it by now. In fact, her mind was barbarically screeching to the rest of her body, “Shut your mouth! Act natural! Act cool!” but of course, her stubborn everything from her neck down wouldn’t even appear to be listening. So much for the whole “act natural” façade. Act natural? She might as well have put a sign around her neck in bright neon colors that read, “I’m a creep that freaks out from a strangers simple touch.” And that wasn’t even a touch. That was like a skim of the hand. Yeah, not a touch. And still she couldn’tmanage to shut her gaping mouth.

                She finally mastered up the will to pry her lips closed. Nervously, she glanced over her shoulder at Mr. Lewis, who was, once again, too engrossed in his discussion to notice their little romantic scene back there. Romantic? No, that’s not quite the word. For Michele, maybe, but not for Phil. At least not yet. The word was more… eerie. Eerie and yet familiar at the same time. Like a stranger that you know you’ve seen before, and yet you’re 110% sure you’ve never met. Ugh, life. Wait, let’s rephrase. Ugh, Michele’s life.  

                Almost automatically, and eyeing the memorable ring that was hugging his index finger, Michele gripped the slip of paper and slid it out of his hand.

                She sighed to herself, shaking from post-Phil affect, and opened the folded note. In scribbled handwriting – he obviously didn’t inherit Philip’s careful and precise hand – Phil wrote,

Do I know you?”

                Now, if none of these other incidents cued the tears, this one just did the trick. He remembered her. He actually rememberedher. How was that even possible? She really didn’t have a clue, and at the time, as tears were swelling up in her eyes, she really didn’t care much at all.

                Michele flipped the paper over eagerly and scribbled, “Yes” on the back. Making sure she discreetly cleared her face from stray tears, she turned her head to him and handed him the note. She, as a very respectful-of-privacy kind of girl – as if – she sincerely tried to turn her head. Settling the dispute withher head and her heart by staring intently at the window next to Phil and watching him with her peripheral vision, she kept tabs on his emotions. He hadn’t even opened it yet. Why?

                Her knees started knocking together in excitement as he turned the paper over and stared at the words. Just after he read them, and flashes of emotions played across his face, the bell rang, cutting the stiff classroom air like a knife.

                Michele bent down to grab her backpack and swung it around her shoulder before she made her way out of the room. Don’t look back, don’t look back, don’t look back. She had made the decision that she already made a big enough fool of herself for one day, and trying to talk to him wouldn’texactly help the situation. Yeah, her defective social skills would help as much as pouring diet soda onto a dying plant. Not the sharpest idea.

                However, as she soon realized, the paranoia wasn’t needed and, well, was going to have to wait for some time.

                “Hey,” she heard a deep, familiar voice from behind her, an Australian accent tinting the velvet voice that she once knew. A warm hand rested on her shoulder, a hand that she used to lean into as she fell asleep. Or, at least a similar hand. She wasn’t exactly sure yet.

                It was enough to turn to head, though. When she did, her eyes met a mere few inches from Phil’s. Her breath couldn’t catch, she was practically paralyzed – she was immune to any form of body control that she just had moments ago –  and her mind was barely a mind any more. Scrambled thoughts, shrieking voices like a failed attempt at harmony, thoughts crashing into the walls of her head like the ocean’s waves against jagged rocks in a storm. At some hidden corner at the back closet of her mind, she heard a muffled voice shriek, “Move, you idiot!” with such gusto that that tiny part of her brain was taken aback. She gained the realization that she had stopped moving, and rubberneckers, including Ben, halted on their tracks to observe the obscene scene. Well, to put it more precisely, Ben halted on his tracks to glareat the scene. As far as Michele could tell, this wasn’t the best of his days. But, at the time, it had barely occurred to her that anything was happening. For all she knew, the whole world was a million light years behind them. And they were flying. Somewhere engulfed in a blue as deep as the glittering sea before a sunset. Blue was all she could taste, see, smell, all she knew and all she would ever know. And it’s been so long since she’s been there. In that beautiful place that could only compare to paradise, and even there, paradise would be dulled next to this wondrous world that belonged to them.

                Suddenly, the ocean, her own world, theirown world vanished beneath her as Phil tore his eyes from hers and glimpsed around himself. The action seemed almost reluctant – and the thought made her heart skip a beat – but she couldn’t know for sure. But all she didknow was that Phil was as deep in that dream as she was, because he hadn’tdetected the watchers either. Muttering something under his breath, he grabbed her hand and started making his way down the hall, hauling a shocked Michele along with him. The snickering high school students scattered to their classrooms, giggling about what they had just observed. As if this day couldn’t get any worse.

                “Where the hell are you going?!” Ben roared from behind them, though class had started minutes ago and the hallways were cleared out. Michele could honestly care less about being late for class, though it could have well been the fact that her mind and soul were still stirring from, well, Phil. If she had the power to say something – anything – oh, she would have tackled that chanced from behind. But, no, her spirit was so dazzled by the simple presence of this new boy in her old soul mate’s being that her right mind could hardly keep up with the situation.

                A negligent Phil kept strutting down the hall, either purposely ignoring a fuming Ben advancing on them or too lost in his own thoughts to even notice. One or the other, Ben was furious for some strange reason, and Phil ignoring him was the feather that weighed him down and threw him off the edge of the cliff.

                “Hey! Scumbag, I’m talking to you!” He stomped right up next to Phil and glared at him, his eyes frighteningly wild from behind long lashes. Seriously, she could haveseen a lunatic on the streets of Harlem with a gun that obtained eyes saner than Ben’s. And what’s odd is that whenever he and Michele were together, there was never a moment when he wasn’t cool and composed, like the majority of the “popular kids” in high school. And now? Forget about coming home, buddy, because he’s got to get used to an exciting place called a psychiatric ward.

                Phil, whose hand was still linked to Michele’s, planted his feet on the ground and eyed Ben, his expression dangerous. It was more than terrifying to view it from a paralyzed set of eyes, and, in reality, she should have broken it up right there and then before matters got worse. Once again, her obstinate spirit refused to listen to advice and stayed silent in a state of shock. “Can I help you?” Phil seemed to be at total ease, soaking in Ben’s appearance from head to toe like a sponge soaking up water, but also frighteningly like he was examining an enemy before he struts into battle.

                Ben, who hadn’t even noticed Michele even existed in his ludicrous rampant, finally glanced at her. Well, he glanced at a part of her. Ben stared with a hard expression at their joined hands, and it just seemed to add some extra weight on his already-weighed-down self, and the more weight, the closer the temper meter neared to hysterical. His eyes shifted back to Phil’s who cocked an eyebrow, as if waiting for a reply.

                “Yeah,” Ben fumed, his fists balling and his top lip curling into a snarl. “You can. Let her go or you’re going to wish you never left Australia, you freaking foreigner.”

                Phil’s expression darkened. It was either Ben was extremely stupid or he had no idea of what was going on. Or he was terribly brave, which could have very well been the case, judging from previous actions, but that would just have roamed back to the “stupid” category. If Michele were in Ben’s place, she would have been shivering in her boots just by his expression. Nobody should really mess with Phil, by the looks of it.

                “Or what, Fabio?” Maybe it was for pride, or for show, or just because he wanted to, but Phil tugged Michele towards him and tucked her under his arm. Without thought – or so it seemed – Phil shifted her sort of in back, so if Ben grew Satan’s horns and started charging, he would pretty much take the bullet. Or the horns. Whichever comes first. “You going to hit me with your purse?”

                Ben laughed humorlessly, his face twisted into rage that definitely dampened his handsome features. “You have issues, man. Let go of her, or I’m going to make you.”

                Phil held a traumatized Michele tighter to his chest and replied with a curt, “No.”

                “You asked for it.” Ben swung his arm back and Michele gasped. Is he going to hit Phil?! She was about to scream, though her hands were covering her mouth like a muzzle and she was once again begging her stubborn spirit to keep quiet, when Phil shoved her behind him, grabbed Ben’s fist in the air, and decked him in the face. SMACK! Just like that. Ben slumped to the ground, unconscious. It was easy to tell that he was out cold, and Michele was in too deep of shock to break the still silence.

                She stared at him, stuttering, groping for the right words. After what she’d just experienced, Michele had seriously no intention of ticking him off, and then again she yearned to punch him in the gut for hitting her friend. But that wouldn’t do much, would it? “What? Uh… you… uh, what the –“

                Phil shrugged it off like it was nothing, though she could notice his fist reddening and swelling by the second. “It’s whatever,” he remarked, his eyes expressionless and almost bored.

                Rage swelled in Michele’s soul, like storm clouds rumbling into a clear sky, and thunder crackling like those old cliché thrillers. “One dark and stormy night,” the narrator would begin. Well, cue the lighting, because Michele was 110% ready to hurt somebody, preferably someone whose name is Phil.

                Her graceful hands balled up into unattractivefists and she stomped a step toward him. Expecting him to stumble back and shiver like a scared puppy who had an encounter with the most menacing dog at the park, she let herself trudge another step towards him, pretty much closing the space between them. He hadn’t staggered back like she had desperately hoped, but her face displayed no dismay, or, rephrased, her face exposed nothing of what she was experienced inside.

                She pointed a finger in his face. “If you ever hit any of my friends again then I will find some way to put your pretty little head on a platter. Got it?”

                His lips quirked up, showing that he was verging on the point of amusement. Oh, he was so close to a major spanking by peaceful Michele Windsor herself.  Bruised hand or not, he was going to get it.

                 She hoped.

                Phil started walking toward her, but the problem was that she was right in front of him. Even though it killed her macho façade, she backed up until her back hit the lockers and she was officially cornered. This is why Michele stayed out of fights. As hot tempered as she was, she was about as violent as Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma who was just about to get eaten by this big bad wolf. He leaned in, his amusement flaring to the maximum, as was Michele’s frustration at not being able to do anything about it.

                Leaning even farther in – and with no possible place the Michele could escape to – he breathed a menacing, “And how exactly are you going to do that, Michele?”

                Push him! Her conscious was instructing her, though she was pretty sure if she went down with her mind’s screeching she would end up as poor Ben over there. Just do it! Do it! Mom would! She grunted at the annoying truth of the words. Mom definitely would push him, as the absolute minimum. He would be getting off easy if he just got a little push. Gathering up any of the dignity and willpower that were left, she shut her eyes and shoved him as hard as she could and with a GRUNT! he fell flat on his butt.

                Still on the ground, he peered at her from behind those thick, dark lashes with an expression that was impossible to read. And she honestly didn’t havethe courage to take the time to read it. Before he could manage to spit a word out of his lips, she started darting to outside, fully prepared to ditch with fully restored dignity inside of her.

                Just as her hands were reaching out to thrust open the school doors and dart into the blinding light of early spring, a strong hand gripped her elbow like a metal hold, swinging her back and allowing her to go absolutely no where. Michele didn’t need to glance back to reassure herself that it was in fact Phil whose hand was wrapped firmly around her arm. Ugh, so close!!!! Her mental voice whined as she tried and failed miserably to jerk her elbow out of his hold.

                “That wasn’tvery nice,” Phil remarked under his breath, amusement dripping from each word like honey from a spoon. Before Michel e could reply, Phil swung open the doors and dragged Michele outside, who was rapidly losing her new-found pride by the second.

                Michele’s heals dug into the ground, or as best as they could on pavement. “Let go of me,” Michele growled through her gritted teeth, but honestly, she was just wasting her breath. Phil was heaving her along so easily that she might was well be a 20 pound puppy resisting the pull on her leash.

                They approached a shiny, black truck, and, as angry as she was, she couldn’t help but notice how the color of his car was so dark in matched his thick hair. It even glistened the same way that Phil’s did in the sun. Not that it was completely dazzling or anything. Not at all.

                Still gripping her arm so tight that her fingers were starting to numb, Phil dug into his jeans pockets and fished out the keys to his car. At this point, Michele just stopped trying to escape. It was no use, as she had begun to realize. Now she started gathering brilliant ideas for evading from his car. She could always jump out, that is, if he didn’t lock it, and if he doesn’t have one of those bothersome cars where you can only unlock it from the driver’s side. Ugh. Though Michele was far from admitting it herself, her brilliant ideas were about to take her roughly about nowhere.

                With Phil’s strong hand still imprisoning her elbow, he clicked a button on hi s keys and the car emitted a beeping sound as the headlights flashed. He swung open the car door to the passenger seat and motioned with his hands to go in. The easiness that he emanated was past the point of frustration, and stubborn Michele refused to give into him. She kept her feet planted firmly on the ground, gritted her teeth and snarled, “I’m not going anywhere with you, you ignorant, obnoxious creep. You’d better let go of me right now or I’ll call the police and report you kidnapping me.” Phil stared at her, his impassive eyes hinting no form of emotion. Is he actually considering?? Her eyebrows quirked up, smug, ready to take on the proud lights of victory, with the paparazzi snapping pictures of her in every direction.  

                His eyes suddenly rolled, his features twisting into an expression of irritation. “Oh, just get in the car.”

                Michele stood her ground and placed her hands on her hips. “I won’t!” Yes, she realized how childish it sounded; she might as well have stuck her tongue out like a three year old taunted by the mean kid at the play ground. Michele actually had to restrain herself from stomping her foot.

                Phil sighed and took a step forward. Michele, who was soon to be cornered once again by Phil, began to stumble back when Phil reached out and grabbed her elbow again. He yanked her close to him, fast and possessive but oddly gentle, and she gasped as he slipped his other hand under her knees and picked her up as if she weighed ten pounds.

                “Let me down!” she shrieked, her heart racing.

                He ignored her plea and placed her gently down in the car. She stared at him, incredulous. “Really? Was that necessary?!”

                “Chill out. You were being difficult.”

                “So that’s what you do when people get difficult?? My God, you’vechanged.” She threw her hands up in exasperation and sighed as they fell to her lap along with her suddenly heavy head. Her head was practically fully forward now, and she fought back tears that sprung to her eyes. Oh, jeesh, why now?!

                “Don’t pretend like you know me, Michele.”

                She shut her eyes and could feel her heart breaking from the memories her and Philip had shared. “But I do.”

                Silence settled awkwardly, and Michele could feel his eyes boring holes into her but she refused to meet them. She simply let her head hang, and waited patiently for him to do something, anything, that would end this moment.

                He finally let out a breath and she heard the door slam shut and the one next to her open seconds later as Phil entered the car. He stuck the keys into the ignition and turned them, starting the black truck with a furious rumble. Backing out of the school’s driveway and onto the main road, Michele and Phil flew off to… somewhere. Nowhere in Michele’s eyes.

                As quickly as the grief arrived, it left just as rapidly, drained and replaced by, once again, anger. After moments of letting it heat up, Michele was amazing how ticked off she could really become. Seriously, her rage at everything that was going on – from him hitting Ben to forcing her into his car – the emotion that stirred inside her was just about beyond explanation.

 I don’t care if his eyes match Philip’s. I don’t care that he practically paralyzes my heart even though I just met him today. I really don’t care that I have the random temptation to run my fingers through his luscious hair, just like Philip always used to do when he was angry. No, I don’t care. I hate him. I HATE him. Michele tried to convince herself. She told herself over and over again that what she felt wasn’t anything but an extremely large amount of hate. But who was she fooling? Sure, she definitely had the urge to yank Phil’s gorgeous hair out of his head, or kick him below the belt until he’s writhing on the ground in tears. But Michele had to face facts. Was it possible to make Phil cry? She seriously doubted it. Even if it was, would she try it? But then again, what’s the point of even asking that question??

                Michele turned her head, her dignity reduced to, once again, zero. No, scratch that. Her dignity was in the negatives at this point. Staring out of the dirty windows and watching the scenery rush by in a swirl of colors, she asked angrily, “Where are we going?”

                He remained silent. The still air sat between them awkwardly, causing Michele to shift uncomfortably, until Phil replied, “My place.”

“Uh, why?”

“Because we have to talk.”

Michele eyed him warily. “And we couldn’t have talked in school?”

He chuckled and kept his gaze on the road. “You were created a pretty big scene in the classroom, and I didn’t want to add to the bravado.”

She folded her arms obstinately. “Well, who says it was all about you? Vain much?”

Glancing at her with an are-you-kidding-me expression, he insisted, “Oh, come on, Michele. I can’t be the only one between us that is sure that we’ve met before. And I’m just not talking about, like, an encounter at Starbucks on a Saturday morning; I’m talking about a real relationship. And that spark back in the classroom…” He trailed off, deep in thought.

He felt the spark too! At the time, Michele was 99.9% positive that the feeling was a one way street. It seems like the .1% won over this time. And not only did he feel that magical spark that she’s experienced so many times in her life with him, but he remembers her. Well, not exactly. Not yet. But at least he recognizes that she’s just not some girl. They’re getting somewhere.

But that didn’t mean that he was off the hook for acting like a jerk. Though her heart was beating like the invisibly rapid flaps of a bluebird’s wings, she was proud of her strong voice. “You sound crazy, Phil.”

Michele, waiting patiently for a response, received none at all. No anger, no frustration, no words of exasperation. Nothing. Zip. Zero.

The rest of the car ride was uneventful and, for a lack of a better phrase, painfully awkward. Country music from an FM station played softly in the background, but honestly, in the background of what? There was no ground in the first place. It had slipped out from under her and she was currently fallen flat on her butt in some rude kid’s car – though she knew she wasn’t fooling anybody by insisting that he’s just some random kid – listening to Casting Crowns as she stared out of the window.

After what seemed like forever, they pulled into a newly-built driveway and he parked directly in front of an exquisite, extravagant mansion of a house. Michele’s jaw dropped open, stunned, though she shouldn’t have been; the house that she presently lived in was more or less twice the size of this.

But it was pretty darn big.

“You livehere?” Michele whispered incredulously, almost to herself. Phil, however, took the keys out of the ignition and leaped out the door, making his way towards Michele’s. Swinging open the door for her, he replied, amused, “You shouldn’t be so surprised, Miss Rich-and-Famous. You’re a Windsor, aren’t you? Ah, a family rival.”

Michele nodded absentmindedly, still astonished by the enormous structure that he called a house. And it’s not as if she was being hypocritical; she was far from calling her grandparents’ house her home. She slept there, she ate there, but it would never be her home.  

She allowed him to help her out of the car, pleasantly – and internally – surprised at his gentleman-like act. It reminded her of Philip.

Shutting the door behind her, she trailed behind Phil, soaking in her surroundings.

It was beyond astonishing. An exquisite garden of bright dandelions and tulips sprout all around her, with roses of every shade creating a romantic aura. Brilliant trees, as strong and stubborn-looking as the Walker family itself, allowed the house some privacy from the outside world, but still let them watch the people walking or the beautiful sunset if they pleased.

“Are you coming or what?” Phil asked, laughing, already at the end of the trail while she was stuck, dumbfounded right smack in the middle. She blushed and scurried to where he was standing, careful not to ram into him like a crazy bull.

He inserted a fancy looking key into a keyhole, and they entered the most beautiful home that she’s ever seen, aside from her grandparents’. High cathedrals rose up to the sky and a large crystal chandelier hung from it. Intricate designs of crimsons and teals danced across the soft, yellow paint on the walls, giving off a modest, modern, and very homey feeling.

“Come on!” Phil urged, snapping her out of my trance. A warm hand grabbed hers, and she was in too deep a state of awe to resist. He led her to a beautifully contemporary kitchen, swung open a door, and walked her down two flights of stairs.

When they had finally reached the bottom, everything was so dark that she was even in that annoying state when she was having difficulties identifying what was reality. Phil’s hand released hers and she heard footsteps make a path toward the center of the floor. She heard a loud CLICK! and suddenly the room was flooded with extremely bright light, causing Michele to cringe and squint her eyes.

When her eyes had become accustomed to the brightness of the room, she finally took in her setting.

It was outstanding how much could fit into this room. She wouldn’t call it small – in fact, it was very, very large – but so many things were compacted into the space that it forced everything to looksmaller than it actually was. She noted a ping pong table, a pool table, a large flat screen TV with couches neighboring it, a huge mirror, racks of baby clothes, and so much more. But what really caught her eye was the grand piano that was lying all alone in the center of the room. It might as well have had a spotlight glaring down at it, for when Michele had noticed it, she couldn’t tear her eyes away.

Because this was the same piano that Philip, her old Philip, played on in the 1900s. She was so sure that this was Philip’s piano that she would have bet anything on it. And Michele was never a gambler.

With so many questions shooting through her soul like rockets and yet fear of the answers blanketing her confidence, she was anxious to talk about something else. She glanced at Phil who was, embarrassingly, leaning across the room on the wall parallel to her, watching her every move like a hawk. Her cheeks burned that familiar rosy red, and she pretended that she didn’t notice his full lips twitch up to a smile.

“Aren’t you afraid that your parents are going to catch you ditching school?”

He didn’t reply at first, then he pushed off the wall and ambled towards her. “At this point of my life, my parents are the least of my worries.”

Michele ogled at him, confused. Philip was always concerned about his family. Something was wrong, and she could feel it from the bottom of her soul. Well, everything was wrong about this situation, but something was off. “Why?” she wondered out loud.

Phil scrutinized her expression intently as he replied curtly, “Because I have no idea who they are.”

They both fell silent, Phil awaiting a remark from Michele and Michele gaping at Phil. That wasn’tright. What?! No wonder she felt something was strange about the situation. Then who did he live with? Why does he still call himself a Walker? Maybe he’s not even related to Philip in any way, magical or not, and Michele was just getting hallucinations from depression. She wouldn’t have been shocked.

She took a step towards him, compassion washing through her. “I’m sorry. Who do you live with?”

He stared at her, his expression softening at her empathy. “Family friends.”

Michele remained silent, hoping he would elaborate without her help. Guess not, huh? “So were you brought here as a kid, or…” Her voice faded off, clearly motioning him to explain in a – she hoped – still sympathetic way.

Stillness settling in the air between them and silence ringing in her ears, Phil pivoted on his heal and started sauntering away towards the piano. With his back still facing her and his hand leaning on the cool, flat top of it, he answered, “When I was a baby, my parents left me on the outside of Mile’s and Janine’s door, my step parents, in the winter with nothing but a cloth around me and a strange letter.” He sighed, his voice heavy and his Australian accent deep with pain. He continued, “When I turned one, Miles and Janine decided they needed a fresh new start for their family, considering that I woke up screaming every night with nightmares. So, we moved to Australia.”

Oh, so that’s why he has such a strong accent.Michele’s heart was bleeding for him. He seemed like he was in such pain and despair when he talked about his parents, and though her mind was still ranting on with questions, she quietly walked up behind him and laid a supporting hand on his shoulder. Phil’s hand subconsciously reached over and covered hers on his shoulder, and she couldn’t deny the fact that her heart skipped a beat or two.

Phil continued with his story. “For the time being, I was relatively happy. I met great friends, I learned to love Miles and Janine and their baby, Gemma. Except, every single night I would have the same dream. The same nightmare, really. And when I would enter the dream, my mind would confirm that I was having the dream again, but whenever I woke up, I could never recall what it was about. The only aspects I remember each time are mirrors, a piano, and unforgettable hazel eyes.”

He met my gaze and whispered, “Just like yours.”

This is it, Michele’s obnoxious mind was whispering to her soul excitedly. Everything was coming together. Like pieces of a puzzle.   

Turning back, Phil sniffled, as if he, the famous macho man who punched Michele’s friend unconscious, were crying. But she could have easily been mistaken. Phil, however, seemed restless to change the subject, or at least discuss something a little bit less painful. Michele was completely content with that; to see this guy in pain was like experiencing it herself, only magnified.

“You know I’m in a band,” he said, his voice falsely gleeful. It was depressing how much of an awful actor he was, but Michele just played along with it, desperate to keep him away from the tears.

“Oh, yeah?” Michele giggled, actually honestly curious. “What kind of band?”

“I’m the lead guitarist and singer in a rock band called Rebellion. You should listen to our pieces sometimes. I write them.” He started explaining all this and ranting on, but more to himself than to Michele. She just listened, intrigued. Phil rambled on about how his admiration for music by Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith would never cease, and how one day he wants to become just like Steven Tyler. He even used those scarves to wrap around his microphone, just like Steven Tyler did.

After a while about all this rock talk – and Michele was paying attention, truthfully interested at all he was saying – Phil met her gaze and snapped back to reality again. “You know what my band doesn’t know about me, though?” A grin was tugging at the sides of his lips, mischievous and as cute as humanly possible. 

Michele laughed at his expression. “I’m scared to know. Are you going to tell me something like you’re also a zombie killer in your spare time, because all of this is pretty much unbelievable to me.”

Hooting along with me, Phil claimed, “Believe it! My future is set, babe. I’m becoming a star.”

“Interesting. Come back to me on that one in ten years. Now about the answer I’m scared to discover…”

He beamed at her, his eyes teasing. “Yes, it’s true. I’m a killer. You’re my next victim, Michele, so you’d better run!” He chased her around the room, and Michele and Phil cracked up at practically nothing until tears were streaming down their face and they had to bend down to dampen the pain of the blissful cramps in their stomachs. It was exhilarating to be able to laugh again. Michele realized that it was the first time in a while that she was truly happy. Without Philip and her mom, she forgot what it really felt like to grin without reason, or to laugh until she had no energy to keep on laughing. And, in all honesty, it was the best feeling in the world.

When all of the cackling simmered down to mere giggles, Phil finally managed to get out, “Nobody in my band knows that I love playing piano.”

Michele gasped, ecstatic that she found yet another aspect that linked Phil to Philip. Or Philip to Phil. Either way, they were linked, and she was joyful past the point of elucidation.

“Play something for me,” she insisted.

Phil agreed and stalked over to the black, cushioned piano bench from behind the piano. Michele rested her arms on the top and her chin on her arms, observing him sliding his hands over the smooth black and white keys. With one last glance at her, he started playing a familiar melody.

Michele’s heart froze, mid-beat.

He’s playing our song! How he even knew about “Bring the Colors Back”, the piece that Philip and Michele wrote themselves, escaped from her mind, but currently, she was lost in the beauty of the chords he played. She closed her eyes and fell into the melody, and found herself singing along. “Why, when you’re gone, the world’s gray on my own, you bring the colors back…”

Her eyes still shut closed, she raised her arms over her head and let all of the memories rush back to her, like removing a boulder from a stream. When her and Philip first met at the Windsor’s Halloween ball, when he was engaged to that awful Violet. When Philip played ragtime for Violet and her mother chastised him for playing “race music”. When they wrote, “Bring the Colors Back” together. Their picnics by the lake, their secret kisses outside of his home’s gate, when he gave her his family ring… But she couldn’t think about that now. She wouldn’t think about that now. “Why, I feel numb, I’m a sky without a sun, just take away the lack, and bring the colors back.” Despite her mental wishes, the song neared its end, and Phil played his last chord.

Michele’s ears rang at the abrupt silence, and she smiled slightly before she opened her eyes. When she did, she cringed to find Phil gaping at her, his mouth dropped open and his sapphire eyes wider than anything she’s seen with him. “What’s wrong?” she asked, breathing heavily from singing and twirling to the exquisitely memorable melody.

Phil grinned wildly and reached into his shirt. For a scary second, Michele thought he was going to yank something out of his shirt as ludicrous as his smile, but all that he pulled out was a worn-looking locket. Now, before you go thinking with a set mind that it’s not masculine to wear lockets, well, it looked pretty darn good on Phil. But then again, Phil could wear a paper bag and still look amazing.

Clicking open the locket, Phil carefully and yet urgently pulled out a yellowing piece of folded paper that resembled a letter, or an old fashioned letter, to be exact. Phil met my eyes excitedly. “This is the letter that was left with me as a baby. Read it.” He directly jerked it in Michele’s face, persistent and urgent. She raised her eyebrows, wondering what this could be about, but catching onto Phil’s contagious excitement. Over what?

She took hold of the letter and glanced down at the text. With shivering hands, she read:

“Dear Philip,

Before you run around with life, determined to creed that you’re alone in this world, let me clarify: you were never alone, you are not alone, and, Philip, you will never, ever, be alone. Even in times of despair, think of those who love you, like Miles or Janine. They truly do love you, so believe it. And I love you, too, I hope you know. And I can relate to you so much, my friend. I know what being alone feels like. Being alone is falling in love with the most perfect stranger, but only to be allowed to see her by nature’s cruel choice. Oh, Philip, she’s wonderful. I’m doing this because I want a second chance. Because I was given a second chance, and this time, I will not fail her.

                Philip, I understand how crazy this sounds to you, and the last thing I want you thinking is that I’m a lunatic. Then again, maybe I am. But aren’twe all? Yes, we all are. She taught me to accept that. But sanity only reaches certain levels, as does madness. And to you, who are a virgin to the truth, will probably take this the wrong way and throw this letter out once you reach the age of maturity. But, Philip, as a friend, a loved one, and a perfect stranger, I am begging you. Don’t throw this out. And please read this with an open mind.

                I am you, Philip, just as you are me. I was given a second chance at love, and, though you will not remember writing this, I am you. Knowing our minds, we are realistic. Or, at least I was until she came into my life. A realistic is someone who thinks everything through logically. Is this logical? Of course not. In fact, this is the exact opposite, making this sound even more terribly preposterous to you. But you, I, we, will meet her again, and you must do exactly is written, or another chance is wasted and this time, it is our last.

                I am forbidden to reveal too much to you, Philip, though what I can say is that she is beyond beautiful. And once you see her, you will know that she is the one. The odds are that she is going to ogle at you with those dazzling, large hazel eyes and you will think that she is some crazy girl. But, as time goes by, you will realize that she is so much more.

                You will play for The Song. Philip, you know exactly which I’m talking about. It’s in your blood, and your instinct will guide you to play it perfectly. IF, by any chance (and this is a big if) she sings along, you will know for sure that she is the one. Nature will guide you from there. But, I beg of you, it may sound crazy what she will try to explain to you, but believe it. Oh, it’s the realest thing in the world. If she cannot show you, just as she could not show her face to me for sixteen long and painful years, believe her words and trust her with your whole being, because she deserves that and so much more. Love is a strong word, Philip, and when you learn to say it through life, those who truly love you will say it back.

                Let her read this, Philip. My love, this is for you. I’vemissed you terribly. Every day was a struggle for me, despite my music that released some of the weight from the shoulders and the grief from my heart. Do you remember Melinda? The woman at my piano concert that congratulated me and hugged me? Well, we married soon after and had five beautiful children: Mary, Chelsea, Alice, Michael, and Aidan. Oh, you would lovethem so. I loved them with all of my heart and they meant the world to me, but no words can describe the pain that I felt for losing you. Though, as I’ve stated, I cannot explain all that I wish to explain to you, but I do want you to know that I love you so much it hurts. I have changed, my love. Time has wounded me, and the turn of the century took effect on my 1900s self. However, I want you – I need you to remember that this is still me. We are still meant to be, and somewhere inside the boy in front of you is the man I used to be. Find him, darling, and you have found me. I love you. You are my melody. I promised you I would find a way back to you, no matter what. I keep my promises. I cannot wait until we are together again.

Love with all of my might,

Phoenix Warren

Ps. I found your ring.

                By the time Michele had finished reading the letter, tears were already streaming fiercely and freely down her face. It’s true then. This is Philip. This is my Philip. She was speechless, and a mixture of deep, harsh, exhilarating emotions were crashing through her body and spirit. Ecstatic he’s here, despaired that he doesn’tfully remember her, frightened that she’ll remain unremembered. Phoenix Warren. The memory of her discovering that Philip was actually Phoenix Warren, a secret heir to the Walker throne when everyone thought he was dead. But no. Just as he had promised to her, Philip had pursued his dream to play piano. With too many emotions to hold inside of her, she let out a cry and hugged the letter to her chest, then sank to the floor.

                “Michele!” Phil exclaimed and fell to his knees to level withher. He gripped her shoulders possessively and, with sobs racking her body, she threw her arms around him desperately and held onto him as if she was afraid that if she let go, he would scurry away. Her Philip couldn’t run away again. Not again.

                Phil hushed her, whispering cliché yet soothing words in her ear and stroking her hair. His touch calmed her, so her bawls reduced to mere tears rolling down her cheeks. His lips mumbled softly in her ear, “Michele, though I don’t understand any of this, I believe what that letter says. I don’t know who Phoenix Warren is, and, quite honestly, half of the letter is rambling to me. But, I believe it all. And I believe you are special. I knowyou are special. I’ve known you for a day, but that’s all I need, Michele.”

                Michele leaned back so she could read his expression. Was he being sarcastic? Was this all a joke to him? But when she met his deep sapphire eyes, she understood that every word that left his lips was the absolute truth. They spent so many beautiful moments just staring into each other’s eyes, desperate for the moment not to last, and yet anticipating tomorrow and the day after that, knowing they have all the time in the world to get to know each other and learn the true meaning of love all over again.

                “Michele,” Phil laughed giddily with tears in his eyes. “I remember you.”

THE END