Everything’s just out there. And you're just here. You feel nothing can be a part of you, and you can’t affect them. At all. It's a feeling as if you are running through a ring, over and over again, with the billions of people running through their rings around you. You bump into each other, sure. Yet you’re never in the same ring at the same time. Their…. Existential. They exist, but not to you. Thinking of this, rolling through life in my ring, letting my mind run free through the field known as the universe, how is it possible that I saw that man? That day? How is it possible he doesn’t run in a ring? He’s not obstructed from the world, and he sees it as it is. He sees me, in my mind, at my desk, thinking my thoughts. And somehow, he just knows. He knows I can see him.
Now, I said the man. That's a lie. He was a boy, not very much older than me. He just has the mind of a man. Well, I guess that’s a lie, too. He has the mind of the universe. Anyone can tell that. He just decides to depict the universe through music. Another strange thing. And, when he’s near, that beating just….flies away. Not the beating of my heart, though I wish it were, but the beating that presses against the ridge of my nose, the sides of my head, the insides of my hands. The beating that is telling me “you don’t need to think this hard. You’ll be perfectly happy without thinking this hard”. Have you heard that beating? In this boarding school, the absence of public chaos does nothing to alleviate this drumming, pounding, condemning beat. It is excruciatingly painful, and it just flies away as he steps near me. Then nearer. Then sitting next to me in the desk on my right. And God, for once my head is relieved.
I don’t look at him. I know I should thank the man, the Universe boy, but how could I if he didn’t even know what he did? Now I feel as if he should never leave my side, like how you never want to leave a spot by the fire to head into the cold. He looks at me instead. “Aren’t you gonna thank me?” he asks, and I am just astounded because there is no plausible way he could have known.
“Weren’t you in pain before? Are you not in pain now?” he says this with a manner that makes it seem as if he’s from the 19th century. So, strange. I may think that way, but I don’t speak that way.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say to end the conversation, but I don’t look back at my book. Why can't I just turn my head back to my book?
“Yes, you do. I can see it. Well, you're welcome.”
“Who are you?”
“A fairy tale boy with a fairy tale name,” he says, and somehow, I believe it. It makes sense. He pulls out a book, with no title, and what looks to be no words as he flips through. But he stops on a page in the middle of the book and looks as if he’s reading. Now how can you read a book if it doesn’t hold any words to read? “Stop staring at me,” he says, as he pulls out a pair of earbuds and goes back to “reading”.
I do stop staring, and I don’t ask any questions. You never make friends on the first day of class. Everybody knows that.
Why are words on paper so much more sacred and believable than the words we hear? What is it about the tone we put into our pencil, to make it scratch the surface the way it does to relate to anyone? Like emotion pouring out of a fountain, knowing that it will somehow touch another living, breathing soul. Yet just a touch is all we want. How do we get touched more by what we read rather than what we hear?
My head in my book, my real book. His head in his….book? If it is a book. Again. For the fifth day in a row. How does someone come every day, sit in the same spot next to the same girl, listening to the same lecture every single day without change? Every day he “reads” the same book. He “listens” to the same music. And guess what? It’s not even music. I checked. His earbuds? They lead to nowhere. He’s listening to niente. Nothing. Nothing changes. ever. You’re not allowed to just….stay the same. Everybody knows that.
We are all really two people. Everyone denies this inconceivable thought, but it’s true. You might not know it, but you have a conscience. And that conscience is not you. Not one single bit. Your conscience is made up of everything around you, not you yourself. It’s like that one friend who you are always seeking approval from. If you’re a straight-A student and skip fifth period, your conscience is going to beat down on you. Technically, that’s not you, because you make the choices. I am not me, I am we. no one will see these thoughts though. Not one. Only me and my conscience.
Three weeks. He walks in, takes eight long strides to his desk and sits. He looks at me for about 13 and a half seconds, and I look back. I always do, and that’s what drives me crazy. He looks forward for about 20 seconds, then down at his desk for five. He pulls out his book now and reads. I have it all memorized. Every action this Universe boy does, and yet I still don’t know his name. After three weeks of this damn class, how do you not know someone's name? It just drives me crazy. Like everything he does. Not crazy in love, God no. Crazy as if he were my little brother. Crazy as if he’s driving my thoughts insane, and he knows it. Then I make a revelation, something else crazy that has not crossed my mind before. How could I not have noticed?
“Why isn’t your name called every day when we take attendance?” my brain is congratulating me for thinking so smartly. It’s throwing a small little party and telling my heart to call the pizza guy. It’s a crazy party.
“That’s not the question you want to ask,” he says, without even looking up from his “book”.
“What do you mean? Of course, that’s the question I want to ask. Why would I ask a question that I didn’t want to ask?”
“Well, it’s not so much that you didn’t want to ask that question, it’s that the answer I give you will not be the answer you’re looking for. Ask me a different question.”
How? It has to be intentional. It just has to. “Ok, then, what is your name?”
“Bingo! That’s the right question” he says, now looking up from his book and turning towards me. “What is my name. Well, what do you think it is?” he asks, actually inviting a real conversation into his head.
“No, that wasn’t rhetorical, you have to actually guess. What do you think my name is?”
I don’t know how to guess, but the only thing I have to go off of is one of the last things he told me. “A fairy tale name?”
“Not just a fairy tale name, but what you think sounds like a fairy tale name.” he has fully pulled out his earbud now, and the teacher keeps eyeing us. What, has she never witnessed a conversation?
“Well, what do I think is a fairy tale name? Something like Jonathan Smett?”
“Yes,” he says. Looking back at his book, he puts his earbuds back in, and I don’t think I’ll be able to get another word out of this boy. Yes? Yes to what? You don’t just say yes. Everybody knows that.
Du bist der Sonnenuntergang über den Bergen,
He comes in storming, yet not in madness. It’s a storm that comes after confusion. It's a realization. He sits down on my right, this Universe boy, and just looks at me. For a while. Why is he breaking the schedule? “I figured it out,” he says. “You and me, we’re connected.”
“How so?” I try not to look up from my book, not a single look towards him. If I do, then I would be keeping my own schedule, and I guess this is a day about breaking schedules.
“Guess,” he says, with a sort of arrogant airiness about him.
“You make me guess too much,” I say, trying to seem annoyed so he would just tell me.
“I can’t say it out loud because I don’t think you would let me.” Here is where I question. I’m pretty much an open book. Well, almost. There’s no way he could possibly know, right? Right. I mean unless he’s a mind reader, he can’t know. Well, I guess he is a mind reader, isn’t he, if he holds the universe in his mind.
“Ok, well, write it,” I say, handing him a piece of paper and a pencil at the end of its life. He writes with a preciseness that only comes with years and years of understanding just how much visible words on a page can mean to a person. He hands back the paper and pen, carefully observing my reaction to the words he has written:
There’s always a link between two people who have anything in common, and I can feel our link. It’s something major, like love, yet love equals death in a strange sort of way. Our link, for a lack of better words, is girls
“What?” I nearly shout, yet I get a glare from the teacher. My hands are shaking, and the back of my brain is telling me the answer to this, but somehow I don’t believe it. I mean, there has to be a different meaning why he said girls. Right?
“Oh come on,” he says, looking at me with wonder. “It’s obvious! Girls… “
“Um….I don’t quite see it.” he gets a bit frustrated with this, so he takes back the pen and paper, with the teacher glaring at us over the computer screen.
You like what I like. You know that right? We are linked and I think you're afraid to admit this link.
How could he know that? How in the world could he know that? You don’t just somehow randomly guess someone's deepest secret. Everybody knows that.
My mind is just a farm. There are chicken coops everywhere that house the dreams. But instead of letting them loose during the day to feed on the sun-kissed grass, they can only come out during the night, where the moon makes the flowers all the more sweet. Even when the stars are covered, the clouds provide a blanket for the dreams to drink from. And sometimes, when the dreams leak through reality, new rivers and creeks are made on the farm. I hate those rivers and creeks. Almost as much as I hate those dreams.
I remember a dream I had. It was a repeating dream that happened every night for three months. It felt like it fed off the moon. I hated that dream. Hating that dream made me hate myself, and now this strange Universe boy just feels like how much I hate that dream, but I don’t hate him because I shouldn’t. Didn’t he say we had a link? What he wrote on the paper the other day, it just reminded me of the dream. The dream was about a girl. She was a girl I knew really well before she….well….she left, in an untraditional sense. I hated her and loved her all at the same time. I hated her because I loved her. I hated me because of her, and I hate him because of me. The strange shapes that you trace in your head always lead back to you.
“You’re right, you know.”
I nearly scream as I turn to see the Universe boy sitting right next to me, slowly twisting a feather in his hands. I didn’t even see him walk into class, let alone take out all of the materials on his desk right now.
“I’m right about what?” This boy that seems like the second part of me, my tangible conscience, is really starting to put me on edge.
“You’re just right. You’re always right, Everliegh,” he says this as he hands me the feather, letting me touch the sleekness of flight. I stare down at it, completely complexed by the means of his words when I realize something. Everliegh. No one calls me that, except my grandma. This world knows me as Evie, even our teachers know well enough to avoid my full name.
“How did you kn-” I snap my head up to look at him, give him a curious glare, but he’s gone. My teacher gives me another hushing look, yet she doesn’t seem surprised that the boy next to me is gone. Nothing left of him but the piece of paper we had written on a few days ago. He added more onto it, underlining the delicate words.
You aren’t just one person, are you? Sometimes secrets need to be let out, making them a part of ourselves. Everybody knows that Everliegh, but do you?