It had been a long day.
I had gone to the diamond with my family to support my little brother and his baseball team, but what was supposed to be a friendly rivalry game ended with a kid smashing his baseball bat into another kid’s face.
The children scattered in screams, the ambulance was called, and since the sight of so much blood on the fresh green grass made me sick, I left the bleachers of the diamond and headed out to a hill nearby, where if you have very good vision, you can see most of the Eastern side of the town.
I wear glasses that are so thick they can’t be turned into contacts, and with the smell of blood still fresh in my nose, I had my eyes squinted almost shut, so I couldn’t see. Not that I would want to see. In fact… I didn’t even know what I was doing up there in the first place.
I knew that to the Eastern side of the town was Martin’s house. I knew that was where he lived, with his older brother and younger sister, where they tried desperately to make ends meet, while my family on the other side lived well. In a nice two story house with a chandelier in the living room, dining room, and kitchen. I knew that because of a stupid prank that had gone hilariously wrong, Martin’s house was the only one with a multicolored roof, and even if I was blind, and even if my eyes were squinted shut, it should still be easy to see.
I had gone up here to see it, but now I had lost the courage to.
Martin meant everything to me. Being with him was like staring at the starry sky on a clear night, it was refreshing, it was peaceful, and soothing, and effortlessly romantic. He and I had a relationship in secret, because I knew that my family would never see the beauty in his soft blue eyes, all they would see would be his worn yellow converse and the beat-up pickup truck he drives.
Those cold, unforgiving people who only see money signs where they should see humans would never accept anyone below the poverty line, and the day they found out about us, they had me make a choice. To be disowned, left hungry and homeless in the streets, but keep my will to live, or to stay in the family with my riches, my comforts, and suicidal thoughts, and never see him again.
That day, that lovely day with the temperature at the perfect medium, and with a soft breeze running through the trees. That beautiful sunny day turned into a cold night, where the trees looked dying and desolate instead of colorful and crisp. That day I lost all the red respect for myself. I saw the color drain from Martin’s face when I let him know my decision, and I thought, “So this is what it feels like to be sold.”
He understood alright, but the winter that followed was the harshest I’ve lived. It rarely snowed, but the cold was biting and furious all the same. Now I had no arms to warm me, but I had a fine expensive beige coat hat was too bulky and for all the fancy goose feathers it was stuffed with, did nothing about the cold.
I suppose that’s the way it is when the cold is internal. Not even the most expensive jacket or coat or space heater will do anything for you.
Now it’s springtime, and my parents are calling my name. I know I should hurry downhill to them. The slick white limousine is probably waiting for us. My brother will want to rush into my arms to be comforted. He hasn’t spent enough time in this insidious black-hearted family to learn their ways. He still believes people can be nice and selfless. He still sees the world in color.
I take my time on my way downhill. It was like this before I met Martin. Time seemed to move sluggishly, like greenish brown sewage sludge flowing continuously through the underground rivers. Time trudges along, and so do I.
My phone buzzes and I see that the coach has apologized on behalf of the “psycho kid” who smashed the other boy’s face in. No word on how the boy is doing, if he’s alive or dead, if he’ll ever be the same again. No word other than my name being shouted angrily from the diamond. And I know that if I don’t hurry, the boy’s injuries will be nothing compared to the ones I’ll get when I get home.
No one has laid hands on me since I last saw Martin five months ago. I wasn’t going to break the streak by allowing my body to become a punching bag for a sleazy businessman, even if he was my father, even if he did own me.
My red tennis shoes squelch in the mud, but still I run. I’m right. The shiny white limo is waiting for me, along with our driver, whom I recognize as Jaime. Jaime bows to me, and closes the door when I get in. He’s the only one who still bows. After my father discovered my relationship with Martin, he had some of my “family privileges” revoked. These included dinner, my private tutor, my car, my bank account, and to top it off, the drivers were to no longer bow to me.
But Jaime bowed until his head was lower than the fluttering black coattails on his suit. I imagine he knew what had happened, and I say that because he never bowed so deeply before.
I stare out the darkened window and think about that. I don’t deserve to be bowed to, my father is right on that front. I had sold my will to live for a warm dinner, for private tutors, for money, things which I hadn’t gotten to keep anyway.
I don’t deserve to be bowed to, but as the car rolls on, time catches up. I feel the hands of the clock spin along with the wheels of the speeding limo, until the hands are blazing orange with fire, and then white.
A feeling of urgency sprouts in my chest and my head accelerates thoughts until they become blurs along with the hands of the clock. The feeling of urgency grows from a dainty flower to a towering baobab. Jaime doesn’t bow to me because he thinks I deserve it, he bows because I need it. I need to be reminded of who I am, that I made mistakes but well, so does everyone, and that I was placed in such a bizarre and offensive position that my choice would have been the wrong one no matter what.
People don’t bow to garbage, they bow to royalty, to people with power. The power perhaps to open the door of the limo during a red light and start running.
My chance is coming. The light changes from green to yellow. Jaime’s eyes through the rear-view mirror. The hands of the clock accelerating. The background slowing. My head pumping. Light red. Unlock. Pull handle. White hot hands. Step outside.
Screams come from inside the limo and I slam the door shut and sprint down the street. I run past some bushes, past the brown bricks of the bank, past the trashy grocery store with the blinking blue neon sign. I run until I reach the gas station, and then I collapse against the wall.
Time has slowed down again, now it flows normally, the way it should. Now it feels like cool water flowing down a nice delicate stream. Long gone are the screaming white hot hands of the clock, now they’re quiet, ticking and tocking silently, but with a reassuring consistency. I tap my foot to the beat, and then hear a familiar voice calling my name.
A few seconds ago I didn’t have the energy to continue standing, now I jump up and rush to the voice.
I run into the familiar shirt and smell of car oil and grease and feel the cotton shirt I gave him for his birthday scratch my cheek. He wraps his arms around me and I hold him tightly. I want to beg for his forgiveness, I want to but no words come out of my choked throat. Instead, tears cascade out of my eyes. Every single tear that I didn’t cry in five months comes rushing out of me and I sob incoherently into Martin’s shirt.
He holds me even tighter, and when I close my eyes I see stars. Beautiful bright stars, with the white and blue milky way cutting through the dark sky. He runs his fingers through my brown hair, and through his shirt I feel his heart beat. It has the same steady beat as the consistent, soothing, clock.
He lets go of me and takes a few steps back. The clouds above his head look like blue, purple, and pink cotton candy swirling around the rapidly darkening sky, the breeze ruffles his tangled curly hair and when I finally have the courage to look into his eyes I see that they’re red rimmed and glassy. I finally get my throat to work, and croak out, “I’m here.”
He smiles a gentle quivery smile and takes my hand. There is no mention of what I had to do, no mention of the depressing and suicidal feelings that rode off in the speeding limo. There is Martin, with his hand in mine, a feeling (long forgotten) of happiness growing in my chest, and a single star shining brightly in the rapidly darkening sky.