I just want a night of peace and quiet from my parents. Is that too much to ask? I want a night where they don’t yell at each other and my father would pan his anger at me and hit me with his belt. I’m sick of it.
I pack my five shirts, two pants, two shorts, a pair of flip flops, and I wear my jacket. I’m leaving this house. I take a few snacks and count my money left. It’s not enough but it will do. I don’t exactly have a plan, considering that I’m almost dropping out of high school, I’m an eighteen-year-old boy with no experience with any kind of job except for cleaning houses.
Dad’s always drunk and Mom’s always with a new guy. Basically, nobody’s home and it’s like I’ve always been alone. Dad works sometimes in this building project nearby and gives him a few cuts of cash. Mom makes money by dating guys as sponsors. It’s pretty messed up, I know. They always taught me to just accept what’s been given, but this time, I’ve had enough.
I sneak out of the house and drop on the pile of leaves just by the yard. They’re all asleep so it wouldn’t matter. I begin to run and run and run. I stop by the bus stop to catch my breath. It’s approximately 2 kilometers from our hours, well, their house.
I don’t think it’s practical for me to ride a bus because really, where am I going to go? I have no friends from school, I barely know any of my relatives, so basically, it’s just me. Ah great. It begins to rain and I didn’t bring an umbrella. Why does this even have to happen?
I need to stay in the bus stop and not ride a bus, rather, I need to stay and maybe sleep here because it will get muddy. That house is literally in the middle of nowhere. Houses are too far apart, people literally have fences bigger than an Alcatraz, roads aren’t even present anymore. School is 4 kilometers from here.
While waiting there, I see stray dogs approaching. I’m just like them at this point. But they weren’t stray dogs and they’re definitely bigger. They bark or howl or whatever but I’m already running for my life. They might be wolves who are very hungry like me and I don’t want to be dinner.
The rain has stopped but my feet are sinking on the wet dirt The cold wind from my run is drying me off. I’m definitely leading them a trail of my scent. I need to go higher. I take my phone out and use it as a flashlight. I need to climb this tree. I grab onto the first branch and it’s thin as hell. I don’t have time for that. I take a step, holding on with one hand and at this point, adrenaline is all over my body.
I’m on the fourth branch and I look down. I’m preeetty high enough. I look around and I don’t think I’m being followed anymore but I’m not sure. Might as well sleep on a tree than be dinner. I lean back and turned my phone off. I need to conserve my battery. Just when I thought I was safe, my muddy slippery shoes made me fall into my grave. Literally.
The ground is wet and mushy and I’m like, six feet below the ground. I look around and try to climb but the dirt just crumbles on my hands. I need to get out of here. I call out for help. I can hear my voice echo and it’s seriously scary. It’s the middle of the night, I just ran away from home and now I’m in some type of rectangular ditch. I’m not that tall, I’m just five-foot-eight, the opening is a far reach for me.
After some time of struggling to climb up, I took my phone an raised it up above the ground just so I could see where I am. I video the surroundings and find out that I am in a graveyard. To my horror, I saw someone walking towards the camera from afar and I’m shaking. I drop my phone and turned off the light. I sit and try to hide but where will I hide? I’m afraid and I regret everything. I’m sorry mom and dad. I’m starting to see things and I might have just lost my mind.
“Hello?” I heard a girl’s voice. “Is someone there?” I’m hearing things. I close my eyes. “Is anyone there?” her voice is closer. “I could’ve sworn I saw light here…” wait, it’s real!
“I’m here!” I call out. “Help me!”
“Oh my god” I hear her drop something then run towards my direction. “Where are you? Do you have a flashlight?” she asks
“Yeah!” I say and take my phone again and waved it up
She reaches down to me and pulled me up with all her strength. Once I was able to anchor my foot on the higher ground, I have managed to pull myself up. We’re both lying down on the dirt, panting. I look around and there are sharp crosses on top of some of the tombs. I’m lucky enough to fall in that grave and not on the tombs.
“Thank you” I say breathless and I can’t see her. I take my phone and shine the light on her. Her hair is blonde and her eyes are hazel. “If you weren’t here, I probably would have been a real corpse”
“You’re welcome” she says and sits up. “It’s not like this happens every day, I guess”
“What do you mean?” I sit too. “You here often? In a graveyard?” my thoughts begin to run wild as she might be a friendly ghost who helped me.
“I’m here often, yeah” she dusts off her arms. “But I’m not a ghost or undead”
“That’s what the ghost or the undead would say” I look for my backpack.
“Try living with my family, we’ll see if you’d prefer that over this” she says
“Why? What’s with your family?” I ask
“I’m from a family of eight siblings. I’m the middle child and all of them are brothers.” She says. Well, I’d still rather be there than my own house.
“That’s a lot” I say. “How old are you?”
“I’m seventeen, you?” she asks
“I’m eighteen” I say. “I’m James” I reply
“I’m August” she says and shakes my hand. “I never thought I’d get to talk to someone alive besides myself here in this graveyard”
“You’ve made your point that you’re alive” I chuckle a bit, “What do you do here besides escaping your very noisy house?”
“I write music.” She stands and helps me up. “I really want to become a singer but it’s impossible to sing and hear right there at home”
“That’s cool” I say, “How’s it going? You sound so sure about that dream”
“Oh yeah, I have like, a tunnel vision for it, it’s the only thing I see happening” she says. “I stay here because the quiet is so nice. No one would dare to go here unless someone’s going to be buried or it’s visit-your-dead-relative day or whatever”
“You don’t get scared?” I ask
“No, why would I?” she says, “What can a pile of bones underground do to me? Real humans scare me more cause they can hurt me, dead people just stay, well, you know. Dead”
“You make a very good point with that” I say and she goes to pick up her guitar that she dropped because she ran over to me to help.
“How bout you, what happened to you?” she assesses me from head to toe. “You look like you’re going to a sleepover ooor you’re running away”
I tell her my family story and at first she was shocked and questioning and swearing at my family. I know, even I would want to curse them. But no matter what I’d do, they’re still my parents and they still deserve a little respect from me since no matter the way they got the money, they were still able to bring home food on the table.
“Wait, so” she says, “How did you manage to endure that? What was the last straw?”
“Well,” I say, “The last straw was mama brought home a guy while my father wasn’t done beating me up. And so, he had to beat the guy up first. I really tried to make my mom leave but she wouldn’t”
“I’m sorry that happened to you” she touches my face. She takes her own phone and lights it up near my face. There reveals my cuts and bruises from my dad.
She’s observing each one, carefully brushing her thumb against each mark she could find. I mean, I just fell off a tree down to a grave. It looks like an accident. It can’t be that bad. As she looks at my face, I see myself staring at hers too. Just by the soft glow of her phone light, I can see her face and she is beautiful. I can see that her eyes are pained to see me like this.
“I’m really okay,” I reassure her. “I’m used to this, been receiving it since I was a boy”
“It’s not okay…” her voice breaks off a little bit at the end. “Just because they brought you in this world, they’re entitled to break you anytime they want” she whispers
“I know, you’re right” I say, “I’ll be better.” I hold her hand that’s on my cheek.
“I want you to know that I’m here,” she tries to hold back her tears. “There are people here that can show and give you love more than your parents.”
“People here?” I let out a small laugh, trying to lighten her up. I look around. “You mean the corpse, ooor you?” I squint at her.
“Are you flirting with me, James?” she says, lifting a brow, but her mood is better, and she smiles at me. She throws me an attitude and crosses her arms.
“What if I am?” I say, “Hypothetically speaking, of course”
“What a story to tell the grandkids that I met their grandpa in a graveyard” she says
“Oh, so we’re that far on to making generations of us, I see” I chuckle
“Just doing it your style” she smacks my arm. Ow. “Oh my god I’m so sorry I forgot” she quickly puts aid to my arm and she’s gentle again.
“Do you have plans on going home?” I ask her
“Do you?” she replies, looking at me once again
“I don’t know, I ran away from home for a reason,” I say, “I really don’t know, August”
“Okay, fine” she rolls her eyes on me. She takes my hand and pulls me along with her.
“Where are you taking me?” I ask her
“I figured you have no where to go based from my deductive reasoning,” she says and we stop by this small kind of a shack thing. “I figured we could stay here”
“We?” I say almost too loud. “I mean, why wouldn’t you come home?” I ask her
“I told you, someone out here will love you” she says, “Unless you want a corpse, I’ll stay with you for the night.” She opens the door and there are mats and pillows on the floor.
“Are we not breaking in?” I ask and she’s already setting down her things and lay the mats down. I help her.
“This is a shelter for the caretaker but he’s out with his family right now” she says and takes the blankets out.
“You close?” I ask and sit beside her
“Sort of, yeah” she lies down and so do I.
The concrete floor is cold considering it’s the rainy season and the windows are open. The two of us are beside each other, lying down on mats and pillows. I look at her and try to thank her again but she shushes me. She places her head on my chest and she is warm. I try once again to speak but she tells me not to waste energy. I oblige.
She wraps her arms around me and she’s lightly tapping my arm. I remember my mother had done that to put me to sleep when I was young, when everything was simpler. I try to hold back in my tears while the memory flashes around in my head. But she can feel and hear my breathing. She whispers to me telling it’s okay. And for the first time, it felt like it really is.
I close my eyes and I feel relaxed. I’m not nervous for my life and maybe, just maybe, this is what it feels to be loved.