In college, I went on a date with the son of my mother’s coworker. I couldn’t remember if his name was Jason or Justin, so I spent the entire night maneuvering my way out of saying his name. He... [+]
He was careful not to slip on the steps, which were already slick from the myriad of pairs of wet shoes that had climbed them previously. The interior of the garishly yellow bus was packed tighter with students than his mother’s jar was with spare buttons. He wedged himself into the only gap he could find and closed his eyes. The engine’s rumble was loud and the students’ racket louder like the jar of buttons was being used as a maraca, but the patter of rain beginning to fall again drowned out the sea of noise.
Soon he was drifting beneath the tides of wakefulness, dreaming of a place where there was time for the grass to dry between thunderstorms and soil could soak up warmth before rainfall turned it into mud again. Sunshine existed in this dreamland, dry and warm, but so did the chilling soak of rain. It crept in through the seams of the perfect scene no matter how desperately he strived to dream it away. The rain was embedded in his mind. Rooted so deep he could not remember the beginning and did not believe it would end.
The ever-present downpour fell onto the sun, sizzling, at first, when they made contact. Then the relentless drips began making its surface slick. Fat drops drizzled and plopped, seeping into the orb of warmth. Each splat of liquid magnified the already blinding light. He could not keep his eyes on the brightening sun, so he fixed his vision to line where the sky met the sea instead.
The horizon line had different plans. It ebbed, and flowed. It twisted back and forth. It constantly morphed into something that struck more fear into his heart than its last form had. First came a glass bottle filled with a vile substance, next he saw himself alone on the street, a high school dropout transcript, then the senior, who had punched him in chemistry last week, his mother bruised in a ditch, his mother disappointed and disgusted with him, his mother going back to his father. He did not think there was anything the horizon could show him after he had seen his father with rage filled eyes, but the apparitions did not relent.
Soon his gaze was forced away from the specters and upon the sun, which was more magnifying water now than it was light. The luminescence was more than his eyes could stand, but the disturbing displays the skyline continued to contort into were more than his heart could stand.
He let his irises burn. The fluorescence caused a pain so intense it ripped a scream from his throat. He did not close his eyes. He did not look away. He only stared and screamed. His vocal chords thundered until his esophagus was raw and a flock erupted from his chest in a burst of feathers.
He counted one, two, three, four, five, six, seven birds as they flew toward the line where the sky met the sea. The gale conjured by fourteen flapping wings beat down the sea mist on the horizon and with it the revolting illusions.
Even so, he kept his pupils glued to the drying, dimming sun. The cries ripping through his chest did not stop but only changed. Changed into words and meanings. He pushed all the air out of his lungs in the form of a sentence he swore he would never even whisper.
The sun drained of light and it was as dark as the backs of his eyelids. The button jar maraca of a school bus returned to his ears. He opened his eyes to the sight of a significantly less crowded row of plain brown seats. Condensation from the window he had been leaning against was smeared on his right cheek. He wiped the wetness away with his jacket sleeve and peered through the foggy glass to see that the bus was pulling up to his corner. He watched precipitation lightly sprinkle into a puddle and blinked the sleep away from his eyes until the bus lurched and braked.
Pools of fallen rain splashed around his ankles as he followed the brick path he and his mother had laid up to the front door of their home. His shoes were kicked off next to the door, and his bag was dropped beneath his jacket, which was hung on a hook. He looked at the button jar on the self, took a deep breath, and gathered all the courage he could find in his soul before his mother came in to say hello. He turned around, and she looked so warm and dry, that he whispered the sentence he had only shouted once before in a dream, which he could not remember.
With no hesitation in her step, she pulled him into a hug. The veins in her arms wrapped around him and stitched together the seams that had been letting the water leak in, the same way they had stitched up his wounds after his father left and after his classmates’ words cut him deep. At that moment, with his mother’s spare buttons holding him together, he felt he could shout his secret from the top of the rainiest mountain in the world without an ounce of fear holding him back.