Screw this. I don't even let people get to know me in real life, let alone on the internet.

Image of Short Story
Occasionally, it would be too dark. It wasn’t the intense shade of the sky that worried Julian though; it was the glaring hole in it.c The moon felt powerful when it was dark, like it could take in the entire world and know it. When the sky wasn’t like that, and instead was the rich purple of royalty, the moon felt like an old friend. On those nights, Julian would sneak out and sit in the front yard, looking not at the stars and moon, but beyond them. He studied that purple until he felt like he was a part of it. It was closer to him than the moon, more personal in its attempt to understand humanity.

That January was colder than it had been in a long time. When he walked to the bus stop one morning, Julian noticed how his breath would sometimes make pictures. He’d hold it for a minute and then release it in a misty stream.

Puff. That one was sort of a dog.

Puff. Tango dancers, like he’d seen once on TV.

Puff. A fist.

After that he had some trouble making anything out of them.

At the bus stop, one of the kids kept pretending he was smoking cigarettes by holding one hand up to his face and then blowing out as Julian had.

“Look,” he said in an airy voice, “Just like your dad, huh Julian?” A couple of other kids laughed, but Julian just shuffled nervously and blew his own breath out. It looked like nothing but the clouds at night.

School was too long, and Julian had trouble staying awake in art class. His head dipped, and he dropped his paintbrush on the floor. They had been doing water colors for weeks now, and most students were starting to wonder if they even had the supplies to do anything else.

“Julian?” the art teacher yelled, picking the paintbrush up off the floor. She was nice, and often had large purple swirls around her eyes that Julian liked. “I thought you said we were done with all this falling asleep in class.” Her voice somehow managed to combine worry and anger. She was a teacher right now, but some of the parent in her bled through. Julian couldn’t recognize this. He took back the paintbrush and dipped it in the purple paint.

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Wouldn’t you like to use another color? That paper has already got a lot of purple on it, don’t you think?”

The paper was covered entirely in the one color, but Julian kept putting it on.

“I want it darker,” he said. “It’s not right like that.” The teacher mumbled something and moved away to yell at a kid holding brushes up like tusks. Julian realized it would take a lot of paint to get the shade of night.

On the bus on the way home he fell asleep again. When he woke up he couldn’t tell if he’d missed his stop. It wouldn’t be the first time, and he knew his dad would be furious. He turned to a kid who was sitting next to him, reading.

“Did we pass the Langdale stop?” The kid looked up from his book with hesitation, and Julian could see the irritation in his eyes.

“Are you that kid whose mom died?” he asked as if it was the plainest thing in the world.

“No,” Julian stuttered. It didn’t sound true to either of them, but the kid turned back to his book anyway.

“Yeah. Like two stops ago.”

Julian looked out the window and tried to see if he knew where he was and if he could walk home. He couldn’t tell where they were, and it was already getting too dark to walk anyway. Lately, the nights had been getting too dark, and Julian didn’t want to be left outside with the moon. His body went through all of the physical components of stress, his heart sped up, his breathing quickened, but he couldn’t feel it emotionally. Instead he just resigned to it, and hoped there might be purple in the sky tonight.

He got off on the next stop, the book reading kid annoyed that he had to move to let Julian out of the seat. When he got outside, he stood still and held his arms together. For a long time, Julian thought the world couldn’t get as cold as it was this January. He tried to call his dad, but there was no answer. Tears tingled behind his face, but he instead let the tension out in a long breath.

Puff. It looked like a woman’s face.

He smiled at it for the brief time it remained. But it went away just like the rest. His eyes felt as heavy as they had in art class, and he laid back on his backpack in the grass and fell asleep.

When he woke up, he kept his eyes closed for a while. He was trying to decide if the sky would be too dark tonight. If it was, he thought it might be unbearable. The moon would stare at him, so pronounced against the ebony, with a smooth white perfection that he might have known once. He might have known it not too long ago in the face in his breath. If it was there, he didn’t know what he might do, but the cold ground was making his arm sting, so he did sit up and open his eyes.

He was greeted with the purple that he probably would have visited tonight if he were home anyway. It made him wonder why his dad hadn’t answered. Sometimes, he wouldn’t come home for entire days, so it could be that. Even when he was home though, he would sleep and drink, so it could be either.

Julian remembered once when he got home from school and his dad was watching old videos on the TV. They were filled with static, and at times would skip whole moments. Julian sort of liked them like that because it felt like how real memories feel. No one has this crystal clear picture of all of it in their heads; it usually jumps to things that are important. Sometimes, they aren’t really events at all, but are little snapshots of fists you’ve seen too much, or faces you don’t see enough, or graceful dancers you remember from a show she used to watch.

On that day, he sat on the couch with his dad and watched the videos, and sometimes asked who people were. Most of them he knew, he just knew them after time had done its thing. They both laughed when Julian said that grandpa now looked like a rubber mask of the grandpa in the videos. Julian had not heard the laugh in a long time, but he was kind of glad. It was raspy and withered, like the inside of him was melting into nothing. Luckily, Julian hadn’t heard it since, or really talked to his dad since.

As he remembered this Julian looked up at the purple sky and tried to hear the sounds it made. Julian thought that silence was impossible, because even things that don’t make sound you can hear make sound you can feel. The sky that night sounded like the low hiss of air escaping a balloon.

Julian took off his jacket and lifted his shirt to look at the spots on his arms. They were the same purple as the sky, and he ran his fingers along them lightly, careful not to push down on them because that was when they’d hurt. When his dad had given them to him, he said that Julian looked too much like his mom. It was confusing, and hurt a lot, but Julian thought it was alright. The purple spots actually made him look more like his mom. They made him feel closer to her Both of them shared that shade of night sky.