It was a simple, rectangular piece of land. You've seen it before, in your mind, in front of you.
It's surrounded by twenty thousand shuffling insects of electricity; they shoot themselves in the forehead and then their filaments alight, sharpening up everything unreservedly.
I was waiting for the feeling of tainted. When entitled small-time sentinels would sweep up their sharp claws and I'd be hushed off the beautiful grass, pushing and yelling. With some curses or a crude shove, they'd say something cheeky and sharp like, “We only let you ‘performers’ in during prep rallies.”
But nobody made themselves known, nobody made a single noise. I straddled the plastic bag close to my chest and prodded my way to the centre field, capsuled and conspicuous, in the company of a bottle of rum. It clinked regularly, against the rivets of my thick brass wristband. Finding myself at the middle, I likened myself to the juvenile, astray countenance of a bad tourist, glancing wide-eyed and taking multiple 360s—just to soak in the place.
More the time, than the place, though. This time was a vacuum and every opportunity I recalled the very fact—I seemed to be drilling holes and letting out some level of poignancy from the entire evening.
I don't know why it seems, sometimes, like you must make an effort with yourself. It must always be memorable; every finality must be an event. By eighteen, you become attuned to heightening societal expectations, and if you've met those with a sufficient grace, you can flex your second face to the fence of the id. Only the fence though, and you've got to keep your arms and legs within a reasonable cloak of anonymity. It's such a tricky game.
So I don't expect the world to be judging my actions, my individuality. When the cloak is on.
The moon isn't full; it sits right above me at a narrow ninety-degree curve. Angling away from my eyes in lithe movements—every time I look up to stare it plays back at me with a new eloping facet of blue. One layer wastes away, then another shade reveals itself, then another. At 2.19 a.m., it's set at a frosting teal. The sky is delivering me to parchment perfect peace. And you, Moon, quiet silver libertine (no, hermit), are drawing long breaths and readying yourself for a quick hideaway amid the shallow rain.
All around the multiple rising rows of seats are staring oddly. Flat reds and blues in alternating sections, hopelessly heartless without their usual warm bodies to coddle. Football's the only thing that's mattering, and I wish I could be that guy too, who just didn't think about it. I spend two years taking photos of the glorious winners. They stomp the ground, drop on their knees and their eyes fall; they shout back to the crowd for so much love, and the crowd goes boom, clap and thunder, perfect.
A few times in the day they'd be practising, by themselves, racing around an imaginary, unravelling track. Sometimes, they'd slip and fall to the wetness and grime. Brushing themselves off and their pretty girlfriends and boyfriends would come pet their heels and kiss their lips and I'd take photos of that too, for the fortnightly issue. Time dictated it, I grew tired of their momentarily flights and grappling to the short-time ecstasy of others became impossibly tiring.
Heart abashed with pinpricks of fleeting guilt, I sound too heavy.
But nobody made themselves known, nobody made a single noise.
Enough. Sitting down, I take off my enveloping frames and sigh. Rum bottle out, I retrieve a round-bottom glass from the bag and pour freely to the hilt. I let the long neck slide backwards, and then let the bottle trip over to the side—within my bended knees—uncapped. I slip back and lie down, glass still held, resting on my chest, and stare at the remarkably picturesque blur of the late sky. In the absence of my spectacles, everything appears like a lazy van Gogh. Not exactly blind without them, though; I can tell apart things to a noticeable extent. Like this. This particular piece of the night... it's a broken hourglass of diamond, swimming in flashing stars and pirouetting dismally in pieces with floaty, fickle clouds. I'd slip a hundred dollar bill down its revolving luminescent belt, if I could.
I picture myself from afar, from the point of distance of a search chopper. They'd see me, here, by myself in the empty field of dew, rain knocking silently and beautifully about my smooth wrists and face. What'd you think, Captain? But listen to me, even if the rain you're dirtying mixed in with my glass and bottle it wouldn't matter because I was graduating in two days and I wouldn't get to be here ever again.
I only went unnoticed when slinking in to the grounds because the season had just ended. I'd timed this so; the cleaners would be coming in a few hours and security, knowing this, had left the shuttered arena-doors open when they went for a late night coffee run. I imagined (and knew that) they were away around the library, chitchatting about new TV and their bittersweet wives in the cool air-conditioning of the teachers's lunchroom.
A few days ago, I had the oddest conversation. By my girlfriend's porch, afternoon lethargy swaying in the wake of these ends, the preceding moments sparked by my hope for our titillating summer together.
“We're both going away, and I don't think I can do this,” she stated, final. Shocker, shocker, wow.
Sliding up right against my chest, she pressed her cheek against mine. Her scent—old linen, and frivolity? But it hurts me, because I knew immediately she was completely immovable. Before her arms left my waist she ran a nimble hand flat across my damp hair and whispered something about “maturity” and “pretty happy days ahead”. But she was never this deep. I took a cycle across the neighbourhoods until I was in the city and got myself a new haircut, because I was such an untenable child at the time and she'd just ruined a perfect July.
This was so recent, I tell myself. The rain slaps me flat on my open mouth. I spit out and sit up, flustered, and suddenly, the floodlights to either side of me spark alive and bathe me in an unflattering boom of whiteness.
Someone found me, oh.
I don't move for a while, hoping whoever it is will announce their arrival or departure over the speakers and let me wallow in alternating darkness-induced pity and mortification. The reassuring weather drops pretence and shifts altogether; I take diluted sips out the bottle and wipe my eyes even though I haven't got any dirt on my face. Worsening, agonised rain. Typical.
Rising, I brush my wet clothes and straighten out my matted hair, letting the sultry aloof alcohol fall and mix with the grass and my shallow inhalations.
Why? Years have gone by and I can't even fasten myself to an empty field without someone flashing their horrible sights in my direction or telling me I need to push the heck away.
Is it always going to be like this? Is it impossible for a chill dawn on the bleachers when the only girls and boys cheering are the ghosts of people who actually sat there once? Now it's so messy; their memories only just dying and moving on repeatedly and I've ascertained this place is sickeningly grave.
I decide to leave.
* * *
Outside a recently shuttered comic book store in the middle of independent downtown, I sit testing a chewy piece of meat on a park bench, by myself. The hot-dog man, standing beside, stops talking to me after a few minutes of me replying in monosyllables and the odd, curious curse word.
He must be a kind man, but just fucking no.
The rain has left me wrapped in a velvet of flighty secretive smoke, and my own sweet sweat. There's an entire line of decorated streetlights, and hanging from their curved ends—neat triangular fliers with flashy, tart slogans. Another tournament is coming to town soon. By the next month, I figure. All the wind in the city will be different and I'll be out of here and the honest moon will be presiding over those guys, then.
I try to look down both sides of the street but only a single street-lamp right above my park bench is lit, and I imagine the city must be cutting down to accommodate the floodlighting fancies of all the dissident little perverts spying on high-schoolers in football fields. In my proximity I find only the hot-dog man, lateness, and the intoxicated, intermittent cry or moan from dwindling groups of partygoers. I get lost, for a few minutes, in this closeted street-side, so I don't notice when he comes and sits next to me.
“Ford.” The sound of my name is an unexpected strike, and I almost revert to an apology. An apology he doesn't need to hear.
One of ‘the guys’. You've sauntered across the neighbourhood and found me sitting by myself. What are you doing here?
I turn to look at him, and his eyes reflect no noticeable machinations.
“What were you doing on the football field? Why were you fiddling in the control room, Jeremy?”
Should I have been expecting this, of you? You're one of the good guys, right? With your broad teeth, broad shoulders, broad tales to grunt of and your, well... your broads?
I realise he isn't going to say anything until I initiate, though, which is perplexing to me. He sits, and I go ahead.
“It's a bit late out for a stroll, yeah? And the rain was coming down a little while ago, too. Have you lost yourself?
“I mean... are you lost?” I immediately amend my tone and words, taking a final bite of the hot-dog. Strong, sharp mustard scrapes into my torn upper-lip. Must have cut it open on the bottle cap, I absent-mindedly surmise.
“I don't know how this is going to look, man,” he begins, turning sideways to face me. I stay dormant, but my eyes flicker to the constant sway and fall of his pale hands. They aren't empty.
He slides my spectacles across the park bench, from his warm knees. The plastic edges brush my thighs and I stare at them blankly, for a moment. They're covered in mud, and I realise I'd left them on the grounds. He was there, and he scalped them. A shiver taps my collar, jesting, while I momentarily wonder about whomever else could've found them, and how easily I could've been caught out by security or the cleaners. Would even they care?
He caught me.
“What were you doing on the football field? Why were you fiddling in the control room, Jeremy?”
Until now, I'd been resting on the prize of mystery. Everything about this was as precarious as a sheeny, unstable shard of glass, and then he decided to just step on the edges.
He touches my arm, and gives me a slight press near the elbow. This gets uncomfortable, and he breaks away when he notices my furthering stillness.
“I know what you're going through, I can relate,” he says, and his mouth stays open for a moment too long, and his eyes curve themselves into two, sweet little razors. His stark pupils are radiating—contorting caramel in a golden, boiling kettle inside. And I'm sure then—the kindred ladies must love his heavenly, after-lust monologue-y shtick.
“I think, right now, Jeremy,” I end, “is the perfect place for me to just leave you and pretend you weren't at the light-box, at all. Let's just pretend, it'll be better for me.” I scoop up my frames and wipe the rain-splatter away from them. Putting them on, I swiftly turn. My fixed gaze picks up the last of this diminutive, horrible guy.
But he isn't, can I even tell?
You put on the lights, and you just stood there watching me swim.
My footsteps are faster and faster, away from even the most shallow white-noise, and the stirring of night winds makes it easier for me to protract lonesomeness. He's been left behind, and all I can boil up about is that this asshole has completely intruded on my rum-soaked disaster-sprawl on our football field, and I can never forgive him for being like this.
Because morning is just arriving, and it's all just going to revert. Newness for the sake of it, and all my vintage deepness will just be for naught.
I turn a corner and I know my porch isn't too far off anymore. I can't decide if I want to sob about any of this.