Saturday, February 19, 2011


Daydreaming – Dark Dark Dark

Cassandra stared in and through the multi-tasking window that was acting as both portal and mirror. Currently it was being utilized more for its light-refracting properties rather than its translucent abilities as the girl stared at her reflection. With the prompting of a head band, her hair framed her face and her eyes stayed the same while the majority of her skin acted as a chameleon upon the dusk tinted scenery of the 8 route that shone through her reflection as it flowed by the bus outside. From her many roundtrips on the 8 she had found that at this time of night, she was particularly fond of the wallpaper the bricks of the Immanuel church put on her face. She liked looking at herself in windows. She had always thought that she looked better in windows than in mirrors.

More than a hot bath, more than a massage, more than her friends, more than her favorite song, more than her favorite food, more than her family, more than eating her favorite food with her family, as of late what brought on the most relaxation for Cassandra was riding the bus. Her mind could rest its eyes, her heart could put its feet up, her spine could breathe in deep when she was on it. Somewhere on there she found the balance where she was neither weighed down nor held up. It calmed her to be among people because there were none of the options and anxieties that take the place of others when one is alone. It calmed her to be on her own around people she didn't know because she was free from the push-pull of expectation and experience that's a side effect of familiar company. Plus, there was movement. Movement she was not responsible or accountable for.

She partook in this bit of public transportation often. Sometimes she would bring a book or an iPod. Sometimes she would text. Sometimes she would stare out the window or even sleep. Many times, like tonight, she would just watch her reflection. She kept to herself on there. She made little eye contact with others and even less small talk. She did as she pleased on the bus and in turn being on it pleased her much.

That evening, as the bus caught its scheduled wind at a stop on Brighton, a youngish male walked on during the flux of people. He hung his weight on a strap and against a bar, standing near the front of the vehicle. Being the only other person under the age of 25 inside, Cassandra took notice of his presence; even more so because the presence was that of a male.

Via clandestine looks that swooped from this man and then back outside like a wave lapping up and then backpedaling from a beach; she continued to take notice. The more she looked, the more she felt an affinity for this stranger. The more she looked, the more she felt like her and this man were strangely connected.

She became sure they were linked in some cosmic way. With his cardigan under his coat, and the earbuds in his ears, and because of the bag on his hip, she was sure that they would get along; that if he would notice her and smile, and come talk to her, ask what she was reading, tell her what he was listening to, then take her to a coffeehouse, that they would end up staying there until the place closed, talking. And then they would exchange phone numbers and continue their conversation till 4am. That they would know what one another meant when they said things; that they wouldn't be explaining things, misunderstanding things, misinterpreting them, they'd just be talking.

And then, at Sheridan, he promptly exited the bus.

The annoyed resignation of realizing the corner procrastination has backed one into was the only thing on Connor's mind. He took an inventory of the charlatan excuses he had given himself, the priorities he hadn't properly budgeted, the impulsive logic he had signed off on. Now, with a probable all-nighter awaiting his company, Connor thought that there would not be a single minute within the next 8 hours that he would enjoy.

He thought about it some more and hoped that it'd only be 8 hours. In his bag was a duo of 5 hour energy's that Connor feared he would need every minute of.

His was the Sheridan stop, and when it came he exited like one of the walking dead, which he currently felt like in spirit, but which he would literally feel like the next morning when his physically exhausted self would be placing a hopefully completed paper on Dr. Salt's desk.

Grasping his slowing evaporating freedom during the 3 block walk to his building, Connor felt like he was finally starting to appreciate life fully and that if he didn't have this one paper, that would probably be rather pointless in the grand scheme of things, that he would be completely happy. He thought about all the wonderful things he would do for himself and humanity that very night if it weren’t for that soul-sucking essay. If only.

Two eyes from inside a sleeping bag shadowed his shadow ghostly as he paced past. Connor suddenly felt envious of the homeless man. He wished he too had no concern for due dates, GPAs, or the causes of FEMA's failures during Hurricane Katrina or whatever it was that his paper was supposed to cover. He wished that instead of engaging in a wrestling match with his brain and laptop all night, he would be passing the darkness in a manner more compatible with the human body.

When the man was out of sight, Connor then thought about what a stupid, immature thing to think that was. This caused him to start a new inventory of all the immature thoughts that had led to his procrastination and all the immature thoughts that came flowing thus from when he was firmly in the grips of patience's evil twin.

Right before he sunk keys into his door, Connor was only a few more of the appropriate neurotransmitters away from indulging the impulse to run back down the stairs and down the street and back to the man in the sleeping bag. He thought he could ask the man something along the lines of "what's the meaning of life?" Every time he saw a homeless person he wanted to ask them really cliché questions like that. It wasn't that he thought he'd be returned with a variety of profound and insightful answers that hit upon truths that existed outside the responses typically conjured by conventional society, he was merely curious what they would have to say.

He didn't though. He thought he thought better of it.

Truth - Alexander

On a raft of cardboard, in a sea of concrete, Cable, laid inside his home. Below him, the sidewalk hardened. Hours before the last crumbs of heat absorbed from the day’s sunlight fled away from the cement and so, hiding as much from the world as from the cold, he lied there, huddling into his sleeping bag.

Most people would call it a game. He didn't. To him it was seconds and minutes, hours if he was lucky. It was time. It was something that didn't make hunger so sticky, the boredom so available to hang out, the regret so needy. It kept the cold from being drilled so deep, the guilt from prosecuting. It medicated momentarily.

A 21st century kid would be bored, but it was all he had at the moment and for a long train of moments that night it had been working. It didn't take much for something to work for him anymore. This one worked especially well when exhaustion's anti-effort propaganda was so convincing to every cell in his body. And so he laid. Still, immobile. If it weren't for his eyes that cut out the shadows of passerby's and re-imagined them like a child finding objects in the clouds, he would be so still that you'd swear he was the very center of the entire universe, around and upon which everything swirled and rotated and moved and hung and hinged, as he remained motionless; the frozen crux.

A young man was scuffing past. As he walked along his shadow was handed from streetlight to streetlight. From his horizontal vantage point, Cable tied the man’s shadow into the dynamic shape of a clock hand that kept going from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock and then repeated the 180 degree turn again and again. Cable liked it when the shadow’s movements were shifty and complex. He liked it when it took more time to associate it with something. He liked what he had come up with just now.

The man walked on and Cable continued to watch the shadow that shifted loyalty from light to light until it had passed from his sight and he was forced to fast his eyes until another appeared.

Then, instead of a shadow, a sequence of high-pitched giggles; like someone running their finger up a piano's keyboard.

Cable's eyes went to the sound's estimated location. They brought back to him three people across the street. He continued to look on until details began to reveal themselves. There was one woman, and two males. One of the males was Carl, his homeless neighbor on the north side of Sheridan Street. He was always trying to sell people old, wrinkle-carved post cards. Usually people just gave him money and told him to keep the postcard. This is what appeared to be happening now. More laughter, the woman again, words were being spoken, but there was too much distance for Cable to find contrast between the sounds.

Another arpeggio of giggles followed by something that Cable would come to often think about. Carl grabbed the young women's hands; the man she was with took a step forward, not sure if his fight or flight response was about to be tested, but Carl only started dancing with her. It was a slow anachronistic, idiosyncratic dance that she went along with. In fact, she seemed to be enjoying it.

The dancers shuffled around some more on the sidewalk as the other man looked on awkwardly. Carl spun the girl slowly over and over again. Watching them, Cable felt something. The feeling didn’t quite match up or overlap with anything he felt before. He liked the feeling at the time, but he wasn’t sure if he’d like it if he were to ever feel it again. All Cable knew was that at the moment, watching them, being Carl would be worth a winning lottery ticket, a thousand shooting stars, 3 genie wishes. Although it would have irritated Carl, and weirded out the girl’s escort even more, if Cable would’ve went and asked her right then and there, she would’ve danced with him too.

Carl finally dipped the girl for a finale, which spilled out some more giggles onto the street and then before Cable could take everything from the scene in, the girl and her wallflower were off walking away from them and back into that million human mass of people in the city that you weren't currently living life with firsthand.

Cable experienced wanting something so much that the desire for it is equaled and snuffed out by an ever-growing disappointment that comes from each moment’s awareness that one doesn't actually have it. It's the curse of wanting something too much. If you want something too much, you'll never actually get it. You’ll be blinded by the goal and never see the first step you could take to get there. The discontent will siphon your motivation and confuse your sense of direction. You'll just lay there and think about it, be tortured by it. Cable just laid there.

This memory was one that he would come back to frequently. Many times the thought of it would impart some relief from reality for him. It would also many times make him ache at how things actually are and were.

From time to time on their walk to her place, Caitlyn would start laughing. She knew her companion, Corbin, would not reflect as fondly about what had just happened. She imagined he felt annoyed, uncomfortable, a tad emasculated. She felt he was probably imagining her to be some flighty, impulsive hippy; which she kinda was, but also kinda wasn't. Either way she got irritated at the thought of him thinking that. She would remind herself that she didn't care, then think about randomly dancing with that homeless man, then laugh a little, then become aware that Corbin was still being a bit weird, then she'd start the cycle over again.

This was their second date and due to the majority of the walk that was concluding that date being conducted in silence, each was being forced to speculate on the status of their partner. It was forcing both of them to mentally put money down on the others' probable mood, thoughts, and desire for a third date.

Young Blood – The Naked & Famous

At her building, a half-hearted hug was exchanged along with a promise of future communication that was vague enough to be loop-holed out of later by either party. As soon as Corbin was gone, she realized she felt exhausted. There was no real time or energy left for anything so she began her pre-sleep checklist of chores and dressing down. Once in her bed, her relaxing mind and body caused her thoughts to slip easily from one to another.

Floating back to memories of college, the images in her mind were framed by cloudy, ethereal borders of nostalgia. She called upon recollections of those times when she felt like her personality was taking shape, finding contrast and distinction from the world around her. It was during college that she felt that she first truly achieved, in part, that existential goal of finding oneself that was so hyped up during her adolescence. It was like her eyes had finally gotten used to the dark and she saw that around her, it was not all black, but a palette of gray, and she saw that there were shapes and forms, and that she was one them and that she had her own form, her own shape, her own shade. Caitlyn’s current wistfulness also served to bowdlerize those memories into a format that better fit her current emotional ambiance; leaving out the often anguishing aspects of birthing one’s personality, and leaving only the times of self-knowledge amity.

It was then, during her four years of school, that she tagged herself with words such as impulsive, spontaneous, spirited. It was now that she felt like all those things were n/a. She saw that those attributes only fit when she had a floor under her. She was only those things when an institution like college was there to give her both reasons and excuses for doing it. Without that, without them; she wasn't. To be such a person now meant more than dancing with the homeless, but actually becoming homeless herself, jumping in her car and driving in some direction till something caught her eye or broke her car down. It meant pawning her stuff and taking off to Europe; filling in the blanks, connecting the dots later. It meant something she wasn't sure she was capable of. It meant something she wasn't sure she'd regret at 50.

So Caitlyn stuffed those thoughts back into some untidy, unorganized, mostly-forgotten shoebox and pushed it back under the bed in her mind. She threw in thoughts of tomorrow's demands, thoughts of disappointing, dull men like Corbin, thoughts of disappointment with herself, in too. With the idea that maybe when she woke up tomorrow something wonderful will have happened, something wonderful that will have changed it all for her; for the better.

Walking into Starbucks the next morning before work, Caitlyn exchanged places with a man holding a drink carrier who held the door for her before making his exit. Something in the man’s combination of manners, smile, haircut, Chukka boots; made Caitlyn want to take a second look. It was more than attraction. There was something about him that Caitlyn wanted to know; something that at the moment she felt like she might be able to understand simply by watching him walk away into the rest of his life.

Inside she spun around to the outside window. She watched the man get into an old car parked on the street. There was a woman in the passenger seat as well as shirts and suitcases hung up in and pressing against the back windows. She saw the out of state plates and began imagining their story. In her mind, they were two young artists who had grown tired of the 21st century brand of dizzyingly disconnected monotony and had set out upon the world at large to see what they could see and do what they could do. In her mind they were very kind, very witty, very attractive, very trendy, very physically/psychologically/emotionally/spiritually healthy people who were very much in love with one another.

She thought that she should do something like that. Maybe she just would.

Two days, 1200 miles, a sonically exhausted iPod, countless passive aggressive hints, three aggressive and direct arguments, and yet she still had not tired of echoing the GPS's British taskmaster voice. Every "turn. right. at. Mad-ee-sun" was doubled and he only found respite from the mimicking with phrases like "continue. for. eighty. miles."

His mood cycled through the nuances of a thesaurus entry for annoyed as his momentary sentiment would morph from irritated to exasperated to irked, miffed, ruffled, to perturbed to chafed to bothered to et cetera.

It was not just that she was his sister. Any human being continually doing that or any of the other myriad activities she deemed appropriate car trip behavior would've gotten under his skin. To her, it was exactly just because he was her brother. Only with him was she able to behave completely unchecked. For an 18 year old girl, being with someone that they are not trying to impress, attract, entertain, or any other of those word’s spiritual and synonym cousins and brethren; someone whom they don’t care what they thought of them, is a luxury and a relief and a necessity.

Someone’s Missing - MGMT

Cameron and Carmen Blythe were at the moment in the throes of something they would one day recall fondly, though that proposition seemed further off than the end of their cross-country trip. For Cameron, it was the road trip of shame, a tail-between-the-legs prodigal son homecoming. It was the best option for a dream to be a graphic designer that had run out of financial fuel, but which could still be rebooted. It was a logical, though uncomfortable decision that was made with understanding and empathetic parents. It was being 27 and moving back to somewhere he hadn't lived for nearly a decade. Ultimately, it was something that made sense; what he wanted to do could be done from anywhere, especially somewhere with free rent.

For Carmen it was a vacation. It was parents seeing an opportunity for brother-sister bonding, a senior trip for their graduating daughter, and something for Carmen to do besides going with her fellow New Mexican classmates to old Mexico again for spring break.

So a plane ticket was bought and under the pretense of helping Cam pack and having two drivers, the siblings were reunited. From her haphazard boxing up of his belongings, to her "letting" him do most of the driving, to her humming along to her heart's content despite her tunes’ correspondence with what was actually playing, to her spilling drinks 3 different times, to the never-ending repeated British accented directions, Cameron felt the same childish aggravation he felt at 14 when Carmen continually butted into his birthday sleepover. Though some of his irritation was understandable, Carmen was also unfairly and unknowingly being boxed in with some of Cameron’s current frustration with the elements of his life too.

The morning provided Cameron with none of the feelings of a fresh start, but the grimy aches of sleeping in a car with half the amount of rest he was used to getting in a bed. Neither did the trip ascribe feelings of untethering, of possibilities lined up; just an air of defeat.

Needless to say, Cameron did not feel like talking, least of all to his sister. So after handing Carmen her drink and making a cutting comment about spilling, the car was started and Cameron began to hibernate in his thoughts. He ignored the doubled "proceed. to. 23rd. Avenue" that he heard in his periphery, and continued driving. He ignored the humming she had struck up and the fact that Carmen seemed to be staring at him. He wasn't going to give in. It wasn’t easy though. Like an itch that you refuse to scratch, feeling that one is being stared at without checking to see if the hypnosis is true, can be a bit maddening. Still he would not do it. That's what she wanted.

The traffic light eased from yellow to red and Cameron eased the car up to the intersection and took his position at the starting light for the next turn of color. On the corner, right by the car, was a sign-twirler. Wearing a body suit the pale blue-green color of oxidized copper along with a slightly terrifying foam Statue of Liberty mask; the individual was uncomfortably close to the their car. Being stopped next to sign-twirlers made Cameron feel even more awkward than being stopped by panhandlers. The current presence of one also did nothing to help his already raggedy nerves.

The shoddy Statue of Liberty continued to dance and its movement tickled the corner of Cameron's eye, making him want to look straight at it. He refused. He couldn't give in to anything else besides looking straight ahead. The dancing continued. Beside him, Cameron sensed Carmen looking back and forth between the sign-twirler and him, wanting to see his reaction; to see if he wanted to laugh like she desperately wanted to. Laughing was even more out of the question than looking so he continued focusing ahead.

Cameron then noticed that the sign-twirler's dancing coincided with the beat of the song they were listening to. He found this amusing, but bit the corner of his mouth to prevent it from showing to his sister. The dancing continued and the longer they waited and the more the person danced, the more he wanted to laugh. The busy intersection slowly cycled through its lights and Cameron was centering all his willpower on not busting out.

But, when the sign-twirler started pelvic-thrusting it was too much for both a bitterly-disappointed and embarrassed 27 year old as well as a stubborn, deeply-annoyed and worn out brother and he laughed and so Carmen laughed too and they looked at each other as the light turned green and laughed even more; even harder.

Living in America - DOM

Twice to the right, then the same to the left, two up, two down, then once to the right and left and up and down and then four hip thrusts while correspondingly pushing the sign out and in; shoulders and legs improvised. Caleb had his routine down and was thus able to fill out his shifts robotically. From inside the costume he could care less about the people that laughed at him, honked at him, threw stuff at him, were politely annoyed by him, were made to feel slightly awkward by him. There were worse ways to earn 7.50 an hour. Plus, he could study while he worked.

Flowing into his ears from headphones was not music to dance to, but intermediate German lessons. He would listen and repeat hard, Spartan German phrases as he rhythmically moved his body. He was pretty sure that anyone who passed by him on foot thought he was uttering curses on them.

Once again, he did not care. Believing that contemporary American culture deserved such tacky marketing strategies as sign-twirling, Caleb felt no embarrassment nor regret for what he did. His only concerns were paying for school and working towards getting out of the states and over to a Berlin or a Munich or a Heidelberg or even a Vienna. Basically any place that spoke German and that didn't have to resort to such brainless tactics such as sign-twirling to get people's attention. This was not where he wanted to be nor what he wanted to be doing, but it was bearable because it was a way to get where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to be doing.

So Caleb continued to grind out the Germanic syllables for three more hours of twice to the right, then the same to the left, two up, two down, then once to the right and left and up and down and then four hip thrusts while correspondingly pushing the sign out and in; shoulders and legs improvised.

After his shift, Caleb took off his costume in an alley and biked back to campus. Slaloming through pedestrians he set out for the main library. There was some work on Goethe that he needed to complete before his next class at 2. He slipped into an empty table and began assembling his temporary work space. Reaching into his backpack and through the gaping mouth of his Lady Liberty mask he pulled a book out and started filing through the sticky-notes he had placed throughout the text.

Three paragraphs into his work, Caleb took a 5 minute break to get a drink and waste some time on the Internet. While unnecessarily checking his email for the second time in that 5 minute span, a conversation was overheard that Caleb deemed worth hopping unto.

At the table behind him, from the voices he heard, he believed there were 3 girls. One was describing to the others a "friend crush. You know, don't you like ever see someone, and you're just like, 'man I wish I were friends with them.” She went on to say that it was "totally different from a real crush. That's the whole point. If there're feelings like that at all then it's not a friend crush." Then furthered explained that you “can totally have a friend crush on a guy or a girl."

One of the girls expressed doubt over the possibility of such crushes and entered into some pseudo-Freudian rumination on subconscious sexuality. The last girl said she knew exactly what the first girl was talking about.

Caleb tried to get into his work, but continued to get tugged back into the conversation he was eavesdropping on. Between tangents on friend crushes and weekend plans, the three females seemed to be working on some sort of anthropology project. It was these episodes of focus from the girls that kept Caleb interested. In particular it was the girl who had spoken last who was distracting Caleb from his work with her keen comments on her own work.

From her, came many remarks on the inside-out social and economic decay of America which Caleb wholeheartedly agreed with. She spoke of some Scandinavian social policies which she believed would work in America. She blamed the current housing crisis on Congressional changes to the CRA in ‘92. She jumped from topic to topic, but she seemed like she knew what she was talking about. Caleb found himself surprised at how much of what she said, he had thought about on his own. His ears perked up even more when she began praising how Bavaria had grown into prosperity without losing its cultural or historic core. He wished he could turn around and talk to them (her).

We’re Happening – The Vaccines

He took the thought of speaking to her from nebulous wish to a potential occurrence to a game-planned reality. His priority now was deciding his course of action with this girl whom he'd never actually seen. In his mind he had two actions. The first was to turn around and, with an irresistible mix of wit and charisma, introduce himself and engage them in some non-creepy fashion. This seemed rather difficult as the words "creep," "creepy," and "creeper" were very much in vogue and people used every opportunity to assign such language to situations such as this. He could just see that one girl who didn't believe in friend crushes deciding that some aspect of him trying to talk to them was creepy and announcing this observation to all within library voice earshot; thus undercutting the merits of taking that action.

Also, he never thought of himself as “that guy”; the kind of man who could eloquently disarm strangers with his words and magnetism. Caleb believed in the idea of a dream girl much more than the American dream and with that belief, he always figured that to have the kind of romance he anticipated with this ideal girl, he would have to start out their courtship with a debonair action of the sort that a that guy would take. Even though no one else would see him as that guy, she would.

The second course of action would put this presumably suave first impression on hold for a bit. First he would find out as much as he could about her right then and there through eavesdropping, hopefully even a first name, then find her on Facebook, stalk her on Facebook, come up with a strategy to slowly work his way into her life based on the information she shared freely on Facebook. Probably, through some long-term approach like being in a class with her, then working on a group project in said class with her, working on said group project with her in the library, ironically talking with her in said library about friend crushes, then a smooth change in subject from said crushes to real crushes while walking her back to her dorm, revealing he has a real crush on her as they approached said dorm, have said crush reciprocated, followed by a joyous run back to his own dorm, a phone call to mom telling her he thought he had found "the one," then being able to tell the story at their rehearsal dinner about how he knew right from the very start that they were meant to be, and being able to retell the story at least once a year at family gatherings and such as they aged from newlyweds to parents to grandparents.

It then came into his mind a bit of practical wisdom once shared with him by his friend Carson. Carson told him of the strange phenomena where almost all girls sound attractive. He gave an example where you would be on the phone with some customer service representative and while you were talking with her, in your mind you would imagine her to be young, pretty, and single, when in reality the kind of woman working that job is probably 35, portly, and divorced. Ever after Caleb had found this to be overwhelmingly true in his own life and so presently he became scared at the thought of striking up a conversation with the girls only to discover that she was not as he pictured her. He combined these thoughts with the other sophomoric theory that he had been introduced to only that day as he tried to decide if he had a real crush or only a friend crush on this female.

After a thorough examination of this issue on levels both theoretical and functional, Caleb settled on his having a friend crush on this girl at the very least. He decided that the distinction really mattered little when all he really wanted to do was talk with her. With that squared he away he determined he would wait till the girls left and then he’d follow and catch up with her, introduce himself, and with humorous and refreshing honesty, confess his eavesdropping and begin a discourse that would hopefully lead to either a very happy friendship or romance. He slouched down in his seat and sighed happily at his simple little plan.

The silence in the library seemed a few decibels quieter/louder than it had been a few minutes earlier and with horror Caleb turned around to find the table behind him occupied by only a single male and with a glance at the clock, himself late and unprepared for his 2 o’clock.

He hustled his things into his backpack and ran off to class already formulating multiple devices for tracking his library fräulein down.

Dreaming - Seapony

She had been inside for far too long. Two hours of fluorescent light and stale air and Callie’s skin was ready for some pure vitamin D and her lungs craved air without an expiration date. Especially today. Though she had spent the majority of her life under a roof, today was one of those days where the presence of walls somehow felt like an intrusion on her existence.

With a cancelled class and a solid start on a group project, Callie’s obligations for the day were now non-existent, but instead of engaging in some open air activity, she headed back to her dorm to seize the opportunity for a nap. So across the lawns that were heaving green after a week’s worth of sporadic rain and through a campus whose foliage was rebuilding itself after a cold winter, Callie took in the Friday afternoon feeling that shows possibilities and hides responsibilities.

Sliding into her unmade bed, Callie resumed the last position she had found herself in that morning.

2-ish hours later, reality slowly fluttered down to her consciousness like a shirt blown off the clothesline and settling on the lawn. It came to her first that she was in her room. Next, she realized it was PM not AM. Then, she recalled that it was Friday. Now, it came to her mind that it was 4:19. Followed by an attempt to recall her nap’s dream, which had sadly been ripped up into scraps too small to reassemble by the time she tried. Then, it was the decision to search for her phone which she had lost among the tides of bed sheets. After that, it was the slow processing of a text message inquiring about Callie’s availability that evening that preceded an invitation to go to a bonfire if she was free. This was followed by an affirmative reply on all accounts and a subsequent choice to lay back down; not caring if she fell back asleep or if she just laid there thinking.

She did both back and forth and it was during a downhill descent back into sleep that her vibrating phone awoke her fully. Answering in a voice thick with sleep, Callie discovered that her friends were in the car waiting to leave and wondering why she had stopped responding to their texts. Suddenly alert and still in her clothes, Callie was quickly off to meet her friends.

It was now almost 7:00. Callie and her girlfriends allowed themselves their one nutritional splurge of the week as they gave in to the convenience of the drive-thru before setting out on the 90 minute drive they had ahead of them. Even after they had eaten and been on the road for a bit, Callie was still dusting off some grogginess and trying to truly wake up.

She started thinking about how much she had slept. She hadn’t realized how exhausted she was. Over the course of her life at school she had experienced many of these unplanned marathon naps. Callie and her friends would joke and call them piggy bank naps where weeks of subtle exhaustion build up to the point that you have to just cash out and check out for a while. They always surprised her though, when they actually happened.

River – Akron/Family

With the darkness increasing and the civilization decreasing, Callie found herself more and more disoriented and unfamiliar with their location even though she had been out this way many times before. She was glad when the car began slowing before changing directions and road surfaces as the pavement gave way to dirt. They were just about there. She saw a fire behind bars of trees and barriers of cars. Once again, she was ready to be unconfined.

Getting out of the car, Callie walked straight to the fire. She felt a little bad for not being very engaged with the others during the drive. Her world seemed to be on a couple seconds time-delay from the world outside her and so she hadn’t been the best company. Fires, like TVs and babies, gave excuses to stare and not talk and that’s what sounded best to her at the moment.

Most people were still greeting one another or getting something to drink, but Callie went and found a place on a log. Putting her hands in the pockets of her pullover, she leaned towards the fire like it was in the middle of telling the most fascinating story.

The dropping temperatures ushered more people towards the heat. Callie greeted any familiar faces that greeted her first, but most of her attention went to the fire. She found herself following the blue flames as they moved around the very center of the fire. She soon lost herself staring as the flowing flames took precedence over the surroundings in her consciousness.

“You ever notice how everyone looks better in firelight?”

A guy suddenly appeared sitting next to her, straddling the log, posing random questions, and forcing her to regain the presence required for human interaction.

“Hm?” She said.

“Have you ever noticed how people are better looking in firelight?”

Never one to be rude without cause and this being far from the first time a man had begun interacting with her without an apparent reason, Callie replied simply,

“What do you mean exactly?”

“Look around. You probably know most of these people or at least have seen them before, right? Well look at some of them and tell me if you think they look more attractive than usual.”

Callie looked at the guy for a second to see how serious he was, shrugged to herself, then did a sweep of the people near the fire. To her surprise, she did legitimately find that the people seemed to be better looking than usual. Their faces seemed interesting and full of life. There was something in each person that Callie wanted to linger on.

“Whoa. I don’t know if it’s like a placebo effect or what, but they really do look better.”

He laughed then said, “It’s for real. I’m telling you, you can’t photoshop people to look as good as what they do near a fire.”

“And why is that? Enlighten me.”

“It’s because of the movement. So the fire gives enough light that you can clearly see a person and what they look like, but because the fire’s moving, people’s bad features seem temporary and they become kinda invisible. So you don’t notice them. You see the face for once, not just the unibrow or the crooked nose.”

“Do you use this line at every bonfire?”

He laughed again, then said, “It’s not a line. It’s the truth. People don’t describe brides and mothers-to-be as glowing for no reason, right?”

“’K, well, I’m not going to lie, I’m kinda buying into it.”

“As you should. Think about it. If you’re talking to someone and they have like a weird birthmark that’s awkwardly close to their lips: most of the time when you’re talking to them, you’re focusing in on that, but…in the firelight, the flicker makes that birthmark go in and out of visibility so you don’t really focus in on it and you end up seeing the rest of their face. That face is no longer defined by that birthmark, it’s just a face. It’s weird, but it’s true.”

“What’s your name?”

“Chayce. Yours?”

“Callie. And tell me Chayce, where did you acquire this bit of ancient wisdom?”

“Just paying attention, that’s all. I don’t know, I like fires so I’ve had lots of opportunities to pick up on it.”

“Are we a pyro then?”

“Mmmm…not quite. “

“So why then?”

“Why I like fires? Well, I don’t know if this will make sense, but do you ever feel like everything’s moving like really, really fast?”


“’K, me too. Sometimes I feel like everything’s moving so fast that I’m constantly going to be nostalgic for something. You know just cause everything’s changing so fast? Before I know it, the things around me are gone and I’ve moved on almost without knowing it. I’m telling you, almost every day feels like an out of body experience for me. It always feels like a combination of yesterday and tomorrow or something, but never today. And it just makes me always nostalgic for something. Does that make sense?”

“Yeah. Actually, I kinda think I know what you’re talking about, but… what does that have to do with fires?”

“Oh yeah yeah. Sorry sometimes I just get going and forget where I’m heading with something. And I know this will sound hokey, but please believe me that this is being said in all sincerity. So anyways, fires have this natural sense of movement. It’s constructive and destructive at the same time. There’s a balance to it you know? So like just by watching it or being around it, I feel like I’m back on track with the proper rhythm of things.”

“No, yeah, that makes sense too and even if it’s insincere, it at least sounds good so…”

“Well, I’ll take that. Seriously, I hope I’m not coming off like I’m trying to be some Native American mystique or something. I can promise you I don’t usually take myself this seriously. So I apologize for busting out all this weird, abstract stuff before building it up with some “hi, how are you?’s and such.”

“It’s actually easier to talk about this kind of stuff than small talk sometimes.”

“Agreed. Anyways, I still can’t get over how everyone always looks better around a fire.”

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