‘I want to run away,’ I say nonchalantly, often with a shrug, my eyes fixed on that one crack in the plastered ceiling of the cafeteria.
‘And do what?’ asks my friend, rolling his eyes. Everyone was getting used to these tantrums my brain threw. Everyone but me.
I pick up my spoon and push the food in my plate around. And do what? I don’t know. I honestly don’t. All I want is be to somewhere else, somewhere far away. Somewhere that doesn’t make me feel so claustrophobic.
I carefully pick the greens out and set them aside. Swallowing a spoonful of rice, I turn my gaze to a side and say, ‘Maybe work at a small store or something. Does it matter?’
Good natured laughter erupts from my friend and I smile, just a little, but turn my face away quickly. I can see a small fawn picking its way in the grass there. A couple of late shift workers were hauling the day’s waste into huge bins. I suppress the sigh building up in me.
Being invisible is a luxury, I think. One that I don’t posses.
‘What for, anyway?’ he asks, after a while spent in silence.
I shrug again, my go-to answer to personal questions these days. ‘There would be peace,’ I say. And before I can stop myself, words tumble out. ‘In the middle of nowhere, with just enough money to sustain myself. No ties…no responsibilities..no…well, anything. Just me, my cat (probably) and a small place. I could just….be.’
My friend raises his eyebrows at me and I blink rapidly. Okay, that wasn’t supposed to be a speech. Flustered, I turn back to my food and shovel another spoonful of rice into my mouth. Whatever. It’s fine, I tell myself.
Another silence follows, a little more awkward, a little less long. ‘Are you alright?’ he asks, genuinely concerned.
And I just stare. It is all I can do to stop myself from becoming extremely disgruntled.
I wait a beat before I respond with my trademark shrug. ‘I’m fine. It was just a thought,’ I say, eyes darting in between his face and my food and the crack.
He looks unconvinced, but lets it drop. Everyone knows there’s no point in arguing with me when I’m in that mood.
Later that night, as I walk back to my dorm, I think about it again. I want to run away, my voice echoes in my mind. I tell myself that it’s stupid.
But is it, really? Asks the notorious voice.
I have no answer.
Maybe, yes. Maybe, no.
That night, I go to bed, with a heavy head and a stinging in my eyes. My arms feel tired, little pink things, swollen and delicate. After effects of a panic attack, stuff I’m used to. No big deal.
I roll onto my back and throw my arms over my head. The pillow cushions the flesh, and I sigh, a little contended, a little sad, but mostly, very, very, very exhausted.
I sat on a cliff overlooking a small valley. The sky overhead was clear, an unusually bright blanket of blue, woven with thin gossamer of white clouds. The spring breezes were light, fluffing the petals of the flowers they touched, carrying the lone dandelions to waiting fingers and wishing hearts.
I ran my hand over the still moist blades of grass, letting out a contented sigh. My mind was at peace. It felt light and free, much like the spring breeze around me. I liked that.
I twisted my wrists and looked down at my bare arms. They weren’t pink anymore. Just the golden brown. No scars marred their smooth surface. I liked that, too.
Down in the valley, a small town bloomed. A post office somewhere near the town Square, a market right down the main Street. Tiny box-like houses and small, modest gardens sprouting in the oddest of places – right next to a stream cutting through the valley; a little off from the main street, unconnected to any road or lane; right next to a fully functioning elementary school. It was odd to my city-bred eyes. Odd, but beautiful.
Tiny figures of humans moved about, down in the town, some in pairs, some in large groups, and some solitary. The murmur of everyday life carried to the cliff, like the buzzing of a bee. I smiled. I liked that an awful lot.
‘Thought I’d find you here,’ I heard someone say and turned around.
A girl about my age was skipping towards me, her plain cotton dress the colour of the sky, a long dark braid swinging at her hips.
Maya. That was her name.
‘Where else would I be on a day like this?’ I said, gesturing to the world around.
She rolled her eyes and plopped down next to me, looping her arm through mine. We sat in silence for a while, drinking in the essence of life oozing off the surroundings.
‘It’s so beautiful out here,’ I whispered, stretching my legs, and leaning back a little so I could see the hills past the town a little better.
‘It is, but..’ Maya hesitated, letting go of my arm and turning to face me. I raised my eyebrows at her and she sighed.
‘But..Don’t you ever want to leave? This is nothing, in the middle of nowhere. All we can be here is…invisible’
She said that in a tone so forlorn, I was tempted to laugh. But I didn’t.
‘Invisibility, my dear Maya, is a luxury,’ I said, and felt a small spark ignite somewhere in the depths of my mind, like a forgotten, buried memory torched to life. I shook my head, ridding myself of the feeling.
Maya smiled, in that sad, wise way that, for some reason, made her look even more beautiful than she was. ‘Which luxury has ever aided in greatness?’
I blinked, taken aback. This conversation didn’t feel like anything even close to normal. It didn’t even occur to me to question it though. It was all so surreal, yet felt solid.
Before I could think of something to say, her form rippled. I blinked a couple of more times, and it only made her ripple faster. Her outlines turned blurry. Nothing seemed odd about it though. I simply stared at her now-fading self, expecting her to say something. And she did, too.
‘It gets lonely…here,’she said, running a distorted hand along the grass, tracing an unintelligible pattern. ‘And you feel lost, not… fulfilled. Not when you’re alone, anyway.’
She looked up then, a small smile curving her lips.
‘You start realizing that you can’t run from yourself. Wherever you go…whatever you do… some companions are always constant.’
And with that she faded, her blue dress dissolving into the sky, her pale face a part of the clouds.
I sighed, as if she had just stormed off.
The cliff under me shook, tilting the world on its axis. And I sat there still, on the softening rock, watching the reddening sky. A clang echoed through through the world, loud and unnerving. I jumped, pushing myself to my feet. Under me the hustle bustle of the town was undisturbed, no one noticing the deafening clang or the reddening sky.
I turned on my heel, prepared to run down.
And the world disappeared from underneath me. A scream ripped through my throat as I tumbled into nothingness. I’m consumed, whole, by all that is truly true in the world. Darkness.
I wake up panting.
Dreams had stopped being pleasant a while ago. But I’m surprised at the sheer lack of blood and death in this one. Perhaps this sick mind of mine remembered beauty, after all.
I think about what the girl in dress made of sky said. About loneliness and nothingness.
Even as I try do, I can feel the dream slipping from my fingers. My mind is in that state, floating in between sleep and awakening. Remembering anything feels like trying to swim through thick honey. I try to hold on to that soft voice, that shaking image…
Before long, sleep pulls me under again, and I sink into the mattress, settling my head against the comforter.
I roll onto my side and yawn, curling my body inwards. And just before I fall into the limbo of sleep, I hear a small whisper somewhere in the back on my head.
You can’t run from yourself.