The fire roared in the night, its glowing orange almost contradicts the action with its gentle lapping and need for the air that keeps it burning. I sat on the top of the old picnic table, that wasn’t so much old as it was weather-worn. I never sat where I was supposed to. If there was a chair and a counter, I would sit on the counter. If there was a table and a bench, I’d sit on top of the bench. Some people say it’s because I’m a non-conformist. Personally, I think it’s just because I don’t really care. There was a boy, sitting at the other picnic table. Pretty smile, pretty eyes, preppy clothing that didn’t look too bad on him. I didn’t know anything about him but he was haunting me with the way he sat so silently, staring at me through the night and the smoke. I look at him, he smiles and I think to myself about boys who try to woo me.
They never win.
It is rumor among men and boys alike that I was out of reach. I had earned the title the un-touchable one. That’s what I was too, not only because I didn’t want them, but because I couldn’t want them.
The group that had conjugated at the picnic tables one by one slowly got up and walked into the garage where there was some obscure seventies band playing loudly. There was a girl dancing in a clearing of the floor which was covered in acquired junk and things my uncle had picked up out of the garbage with no intent to fix. From a ceiling hung a box fan, buzzing with quiet a racket, and surprisingly loud enough to be heard over the music. The girl grabbed my hands and pulled me in with her and there I was, with a complete stranger moving my hips and holding her hands in mine.
The world fell away and my vision sort of blurred, but there he was again. That boy was there; and he was dancing too. The music permeated every inch of exposed skin there was on my body. Seeping through my pores, and into the fatty flesh beneath; it invaded me and I wasn’t sure that it had permission.
I never was the skinniest girl, always a few extra pounds, and I always tried half-heartedly to diet and better myself so nobody could say I never tried. Every one still called me beautiful, and they always said I should smile but I never really had anything to smile about.
When I was eleven my world started to fall apart. My dad started a down-ward spiral into madness, and my mother had a heart attack at the young age of 32. Relentless as she was, my mother survived, and my dad still continued the life he had always led. He always was the jokester, the funniest guy that everybody knew. That was just his problem too. Everyone knew him, and everyone wanted a piece of him for themselves. They called me lucky, but I knew they were all wrong. The happiness was not worth the almost constant pain. I would never admit it but I was unhappy with him. I loved him the same, I wanted to be just like him, but I could not be happy with him.
I went on a vacation with my aunt and a boy I blew off for the first half of the trip before realizing it was a mistake. The rest of that trip I found myself staring into gray-blue-green eyes, smelling sunflowers whenever he came near, and letting go of my white-knuckled grip on life. I let loose my hair, and forgot the constraints of everyday life. Everything stopped mattering in this place and although nothing mattered up there anyways it seemed it couldn’t get more perfect. I had my red-headed dream and nothing was changing.
Serendipity played me for a fool though. I didn’t realize until it was too late that I’d never see that boy again and I never have. I don’t even have a picture to remember him by. I have nothing cement to even prove he ever existed. Maybe he was a figment of my imagination. I don’t think anyone could ever be that perfect and that broken at the same time. But then again, I suppose that there are exceptions to that rule, some say. They tell me to take myself as example. They tell me I shouldn’t have to know half the things I do, that I shouldn’t know how to take care of myself and that I shouldn’t want to take care of my parents when I was older so they would never have to work again. They say I should ignore my guilty conscience when I can’t help something. But I can’t ignore it. Its always there nagging and nagging.
The world returns to me as one song ends, and I am shocked that they didn’t change it before it did. That was the way it had to be with them, nothing had to end before something else could begin.
Frank Sinatra starts to play. Irrelevant and out of place in the haze that is my uncle’s garage. The boy starts to dance some frenzied dance into which he pours all his passion and possibly some bottled up emotions. It is the most attractive thing I have seen and when he is done he is sweating and smiling, and his eyes flash with something foreign to me; happiness. Absolution was never anything I took solstice in.
For the first time that night in a frenzied motion of liquor induced stupors I heard the boy speak. The only six words I would ever hear him speak, directed right at me.
“Keep that beautiful personality of yours.” He speaks, ever so clearly and huskily out of breath, with a hand over his heart- he blinks but his eyes do not open again. They remained shut; holding, almost wistfully, on to the words he has just spoken.
I had only wanted one person more than I wanted him at that very second. I wanted to grab him and hug him; I wanted to let the sweat and sweet smell covering him to mix with my perfume. Then the moment passed although it seemed an eternity where no one moved and the words sank into the cement, through the walls and into the house, permeating with its sweet solidity into the floor boards and resting finally in my heart.
Frank Sinatra still crooned in the background,
Can’t take my eyes off of you,
You’re just too good to be true .
As everyone left he looked at me once more and smiled, and not saying a word, walked right out of my life. It’s what everyone else had done. I lived my life with them, but separate, I handled my own problems and I never let them see me shed a tear.
I heard laughter in the other room, another joke my father had told. They all thought he was so funny, so normal. I woke up everyday wondering if he was still alive.
Nobody ever knew, nobody noticed, and I never told them.
They were happy, and somehow I was just a wannabe.