I led her to my house that night to tell her that I loved her...that I had always loved her. I loved her from the first moment I saw her flipping off that bus driver. She was all wrong for me from the start. I was a timid kid. I spent most of my time with my mom shopping for groceries and clothes or whatever she wanted at the time. She was this story that only other stories could fathom. She was an enigma; saying one thing that had made me think she was one person, then another that would defy my presumptions. She got kicked off the school bus for calling the driver an idiot. She laughed at him and walked off the bus and down it's stairs. She turned and saluted him with her favorite finger.
She showed me some interest after she had watched me get mercilessly beaten by some assholes after school. They wanted my shoes. I had a hook-up who worked for Nike and got me shoes for an eighth of the price. For at least three years, I had the best shoes in the school. They got me as soon as I got past the baseball field backstops; where we were out of view. They asked nicely first. The first kid said, "Nice shoes man!" The next said, "How much you pay for those shoes? You are wearing clothes from K-Mart, so something doesn't seem right." I said, "I paid what anyone else would pay. I just choose what I want and what I don't care about. The military says that your shoes are the most..." Punched in the face...kid three. The first kid held me down with his knees on my shoulders and the second started holding down my legs, one by one, until the third had finished taking off my shoes. He held them in front of me as my nose bled and tears streamed. I could barely tell what they even were with him holding them in front of me.
I stood to my feet to face them. I didn't have much as a kid, but I was so excited when I learned that I could have these shoes for the same price as the ones from Payless that the other kids made fun of. I was proud of them. So I faced these kids; I looked them in the eyes, sucked in some of the blood from my nose, and spit it as far as I could in the direction of the first kid's face. It landed on his mouth and some in his eye. He was pissed. He started screaming and gagging. I took my chance and kicked kid two in the nuts and watched him drop my shoes. I turned around to throw a punch at kid three's throat and found a fist in my eye. I dropped. The lights went out and didn't turn back on until I was the only one left on the sidewalk. I looked to my left and saw just the baseball field. Above me was grass. To my right was this girl. This girl that had never looked in my eyes before, despite me having memorized her every detail. She looked for a moment, smiled at me, then walked away.
The next day, she sat with me at lunch. I didn't say much. I mostly just stared down at my plate and tried really hard to figure out what to do with my hands. As I poked holes in the styrofoam tray, she blurted out to the table that I had kicked these three kid's asses. Everyone looked at me. I couldn't figure out what to say. I looked up for a short moment and saw the whole table staring at me. I didn't say anything. Inside I was jumping all over. Why had she said that? Why had she sat next to me? I did get my ass kicked right? I stopped hearing anything. She kept telling a story that was a little bit true, but mostly false...I think. I was watching her mouth as she was talking about me and I couldn't believe that this girl was talking about me. It didn't matter what she was saying.
I was an instant success! All of the sudden, everyone at school wanted to sit at my table. But that day she told the story; that was the one and only day I would sit with her at lunch. She sat across the room after that as kids were piling around me, asking me for advice and tips. I could only look at her, but she wouldn't look at me. The one time she did, we locked eyes. We had just spoken to each other, I just knew it. I got up and started walking toward her and she left. I caught her after school by my bike. I asked her to come over to my house to play video games. I had no interest in video games. I didn't even have a video game console. I just wanted her to come over; to see her eyes look into mine a little longer. I felt her pulling away.
I took hold of her hand and and led her to my house. From days of thinking, I had decided that she liked that I stood up to those kids even though I got killed and lost my shoes. She must like a strong person, and I am going to pretend now. We walked and talked about things neither she or I had told a single person. We passed my house a dozen times. When it finally got dark, I decided that there was no better a time to tell the girl that I loved her. My mom had this beautiful garden she worked on every day in the back yard. This would be the perfect place. I was going to take the biggest chance of my life. I was tired of not taking chances. I was smart enough to know that my high school fame wouldn't last long. I didn't care about that at all. I had wanted her and only her.
We got to my front gate and I led her to the backyard. I opened the wooded fence and watched her eyes widen at the lights that lit the garden. 80% of my mother's heart was shining in the eyes of the girl that was 95% of mine. She squeezed my hand.
Then it all disappeared.
She disappeared. I walked into the house and no one was there. I ran down the street to the 7/11 and no one was there. I called 911 and no one answered. For the next week, I would knock on doors and call random numbers in the phone book, looking for anyone to answer. The television was static. The radio was squealing noise. I got in my mom's car and started driving. I was fifteen and had no license. My hope was that someone would pull me over. No one ever did.
I drove all over the country looking. No one seemed to be here but me. I sat down on the boardwalk in New Jersey and watched the ocean pass and swell. I drove to Florida and put my feet into the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and ate a pretzel. I drove to Marti Gras and Bourbon street was empty. No corpses or foul odors; just emptiness. I drove through the dark night of Las Vegas and found my way to California. In California I gave up searching for people in the world. I was the last and she was gone. I thought about her every day, wondering if she could see the things I was doing. I acted for her in case she was. I grabbed a camera and took photos of me shouting into the dark sky at the top of a ferris wheel. Took photos of me in famous people's homes.
I listened to record after record of any musician I could find. They made me feel human. These people poured out their hearts and guts into these records. Some went bankrupt and failed. Those were my favorite because it made me think about them now, and if they knew I was listening as the last person on earth. If they didn't capture the masses, at least they reached the last person on earth. I felt them.
I started painting her face. I would make a painting while drunk on alcohol and hang it somewhere in the city. I hung one in front of the library, the city hall, the 7/11, the high school, and the video store. These were the places I went to most. After that, the locations became random and numerous. I thought once when hanging my artwork of her on the freezer door at a Rams Horn restaurant, that if another person showed up here, they may think my subject was the president or even God.
I continued to make signs pointing other life to my life, but no one ever came. The radios were dead. The televisions were static. There was nothing living, not even animals. I traveled the entire country, too afraid to brave the sea. I had seen even Omaha seven times. I never got her out of my head. I didn't want to. She was the reason for my survival so far. But I didn't want to be alone anymore. It occurred to me that death among the masses of everyone who has ever died is much less lonely than being the only person alive. I had all of the resources to live, but lacked the only thing that sustains life...love.
I stood at the lip of a cliff on the Grand Canyon and closed my eyes. I looked at her as she watched me get beaten. I watched her smile and walk away. I remembered her breath on my face as she sat next to me at lunch. I remembered my favorite memory. She grabbed my hand when she saw my mother's garden. She knew I loved her...and she loved me. I stepped off the cliff and began my descent.
She stopped me. She grabbed my shirt and pulled me back. I turned around and looked into her eyes. It was HER! She had darker hair, but she was there. She squeezed my hand and we got into my car. It didn't matter to me where she came from or where she had been. I only wanted to be with her. We talked all night and told each other things we had never told anyone. At the end of the night, she asked me, "Why are you telling me all of this."
I told her, "There's no time for small talk: Things vanish quickly."
Thanks for reading...Z