Friday, April 3, 2009

Chapter 2

I sat by the window waiting for Matt to come again.
I still knew that I couldn't go with him to New York City but part of me worried weather or not he would leave without me. His fire had always been stronger and if he made up his mind, I could never stop him.
The more time went on, the more I got the feeling my family didn't like Matt. I stopped mentioning him around my parents because they always seemed happier on days when I didn't. I didn't see why everyone didn't like Matt around town but it was undeniable. People would call the police on Matt all the time for reasons I thought they were making up.
I guess everyone in town suspecting Matt to grow up to be a serial killer could contribute to his urgency to leave town, but I was almost certain it was entirely about pursuing his dream about getting out of here.
I couldn't focus on seemingly anything so I decided to take a walk to clear my head.
I walked for awhile and finally came to the big black gate. It was the sign that you were leaving town. They were cold and steel, making me shiver as I ran my hand down one of the bars. This is where I usually went on walks, just daydreaming about the day that I would get to pass those gates and never look back. I shivered again and put up the hood of my sweater, trying to keep warm.
I turned around and was surprised to see Matt standing behind me.
He smiled and looked past me at the gate. He had his hood up so it was hard to see past the shadows on his face to see what expression he was wearing.
"I don't understand why if you wanna leave town so bad why you won't come with me."
He stepped closer to the gate and leaned his back against it.
"I know I said I understood, Maria. But I don't."
He sounded so sincerely broken and at that moment I almost just said yes.
"I can't just run away to New York City. What would I tell my family?"
Matt looked away from me and paused for a moment.
"You wouldn't."
What I hadn't realized until now is that when he said that he wanted to "run away to New York City" he really wanted to run away. I wasn't supposed to tell my parents, I was just supposed to run.
"... Are you kidding me?"
He still wouldn't look at me, making me feel suddenly cold and shut out.
"You're almost 17. You don't have to be on a leash anymore."
I understood that I didn't know anything about his family situation, but if he thought that being a daughter meant being on your parents leash then he must not have known a lot. But in some ways it was more true than I was willing to admit.
"... I haven't even graduated high school yet."
He finally looked back at me and something jumped out at me. My eyes widened.
He had a bruise slightly below his eye that looked like the result of being punched. I let him slide on most of the mysterious happenings that I noticed aftermath of on him, but not this one. I was worried about him and I would no longer tell myself that I didn't have that right. He was always worrying about me if anything bad happened to me. I needed to turn the tables today.
"Matt, how did you get that bruise?"
A moment of silence passed and I reached out and gently fingered the bruised area. Whoever did it wasn't shy about leaving a mark.
"Your dad."
I was stunned silent.
My dad? I didn't he hated Matt enough to punch him that hard. I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it. Not my dad.
"... What?"
He sighed. I knew he didn't want to turn me against my dad but he knew me well enough to know I would keep insisting he tell me. I hated things unfinished. If you started telling me a story, you had to finish it.
"When I came to your house to ask you to come with me to New York City. When I got down from the window, he was already outside. He asked me what I was doing sneaking into your bedroom. I told him that I wasn't doing anything wrong but he didn't believe me."
"And he punched you?!"
"... And said he'd call the police if I didn't leave."
I just stood there completely without words. Finally I hugged him mostly in sympathy and partly because it was so cold. I had no idea why all these bad things kept happening to him. I couldn't figure out why bored police officers would just park on the street and watch him, waiting for him to cause trouble. Or why my dad hit him for coming to see me. But they kept happening anyway and it broke him down nevertheless.
He hugged me close to him and a wave of comfort washed over me. What was great was that he wasn't one of those guys who would pretend to be all tough and macho when awful things happened but he wasn't one of those guys who just ran away from their problems.
No matter how warm and safe that moment felt, I needed to go talk to my dad.

When I got home, my dad was just sitting at the kitchen table completely normally. He looked so relaxed, I almost lost the nerve to talk to him but the clarity of the picture of my dad punching Matt was so clear, I couldn't stop myself.
"Why did you punch Matt?"
My dad looked over at me and all his relaxation turned to tension.
"I thought we had a deal."
"What deal?"
"He said he wouldn't tell you."
My dad was actually making deals with Matt so I wouldn't find out.
"What the hell, dad? You can't just punch my friends-"
"He got into your room through the window. What was I supposed to do?"
He had to be kidding.
"Talk to me or something! You didn't have to hit him!"
He folded his hands on the table. He seemed unnervingly calm.
"You don't really talk to us anymore, Maria. Matt's a bad influence on you."
"Matt's the only person I talk to because he's the only one who listens."
"That's not true."
But it was. My parents never listened to me. They always smiled and nodded but they were only hearing what they wanted to, I was sure of it.
"I want to be a singer."
"I want to be a singer. Bet you didn't know that."
"Only because you never told me."
"No, it's because you never listened. You never cared. Only when it comes to Matt. All you wanna do is destroy him because you get a bad feeling about him."
He stood up but I couldn't tell why. Did he want to hug me to get me to shut up and tell me none of it was true? Or did he want to hit me like he hit Matt? I didn't care. I wasn't standing down.
"Matt's just a kid! Leave him alone! In fact, stop caring about him! Just like how you stopped caring about me!"
A ran upstairs before my father had a chance to respond. I closed and locked my bedroom door and sat against it. I never thought my dad was one of those people. He had actually abused a kid only a few months older than me. I didn't know who to trust anymore. I felt abandoned and betrayed. Even though it wasn't me, for all I knew I could be me next.
I hated acting like the defenseless girl waiting for her prince to come and sweep her off her feet. But I couldn't help it. I started crying into my hands and I could feel my hands trembling. Only I wasn't waiting for some mystical prince. I wasn't even waiting for Matt. I was just waiting for my stronger self to come back to me.
I reached into my pocket and took out my phone. Hands shaking, I dialed Matt's number and impatiently listened to it ring.
I'd made up my mind. I needed to get out. Matt was right, I needed to break off the leash and feel solid ground for the first time.
Matt answered the phone.
My voice was shaking, everything inside of me felt broken. I will never forget that moment.
"I'm coming with you, Matt. We're going to New York City."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chapter 1

As people always say, the grass is always greener on the other side.
When I say "small town" what do you think of? A cute little corner shop, friendly neighbors, little kids playing outside, everybody knowing each other. Maybe that's exactly what you picture when I say "small town," maybe it's nothing like it.
But when I say "small town" I think of lost ambitions, smothered dreams, countless dead-ends but most of all a big black gate.
I've been living in this little town for nearly 17 years. A quiet little suburban job with meadows and neighbors and when you go outside in the summer you can hear all this little kids playing outside. But for 16 years, I've been living one big dead-end.
It was a pretty little night in late April. I sat in my bedroom, sitting on my bed with my iPod. Just waiting.
The glass in my window rattled.
I took of my iPod and looked over at the window. Without thinking I smiled.
Matt was my best friend. He lived a few blocks away and almost always came by. But he almost never came in the door. It's not that my parents didn't like him, but I definitely don't think they trusted him. But Matt was one of those kids who everyone was just looking for a reason to call the police on him.
I got and and opened the window.
"Your always welcome to come in the door..."
He just laughed and climbed in the window. I closed the window behind him which felt almost normal at this point.
One of the great things about Matt was that he always had the same feeling about living in this little town. We never got the homey, little town, cozy feeling that seemingly everyone else in town got. He turned around to face me, looking excited as if he had some grand idea.
"I hate this town a little more every day."
I smiled and laughed. Told you.
He sighed and started walking around the room even though I'm sure he knew it inside and out.
"No one's ever gonna find us here. Opportunity doesn't just walk around small towns looking for undiscovered talent. It doesn't matter if you were the star in your junior high musical, that's not gonna change anyone's life." He suddenly looked serious and almost too cute to resist. "I wanna change someone's life with music the way music changed mine. I wanna make hope out of absolutely nothing."
Even though I had heard this speech a thousand and one times, it still left me amazed.
Matt and I wanted to be singers. Not when we grew up... now. Matt had always pushed me to pursue my dream and made me believe in myself and my dream. I always felt guilty that I was never able to do more for him.
We had been friends for 3 years and I had never even been to his house. I never heard about his family, but I always worried about him. I tried not to pass judgment on his situation but he lives in the poorer part of town and unexplained things would always happen but by know I knew the "it's about my family, don't ask" look when I got it. And whenever I thought about Matt and his family memories always came flooding back...
I remembered once he disappeared. When we were 15. It was really random, too. He didn't say anything to me the day or even the week before it happened. But he came to my house a few days later and it was terrible. He looked bruised and battered and it was the first time I'd ever seen him cry. I've seen him cry since but that was the first time. He wouldn't tell me where he went or what happened or really anything. But I was just so happy he was back, I didn't push him any further.
He snapped his fingers in front of my face.
"Hello? Maria?"
I shook my head, breaking away from my trance.
"Yeah, sorry."
He crossed his arms and lean back. Now this was the face of a Matt with an idea.
"You haven't heard the best part!"
"The best part?"
"The best part." He put his hands on my shoulders and looked at me, pleadingly. "I wanna run away to New York City. And I want you to come with me."
Out of all the things he could've said, I never would've guessed that. He had joked about it before but this wasn't a joke. It was all in his eyes.
"I wanna be where somebody might find me. Where I can find myself."
I slightly smiled. I won't delay telling you this any longer. I love Matt. I loved his smile, I loved his voice, I loved his everything. I put my hand on his cheek.
"You know who you are. You have such a strong sense of self, how could you even say that?"
He looked serious again. Serious in that "please believe me" way.
"Please, Maria."
I shook my head. I really did love him. Running away with him would be like a dream come true. Like a fairy tale. But I couldn't let my heart rule my head right now.
"This needs time, Matt."
He nodded seeming to understand. But I still just wanted to say I would go with him. That we could go together, right now.
"I'll give you time. But promise me you'll think about it."
I nodded.
"I promise."
I heard footsteps coming up the stairs and suddenly being here with Matt felt more sinister than it probably should have. But this wouldn't be the first time this happened.
"Hide or bail?"
"Bail." He kissed me on the cheek. "Think about it."
I opened the window and smiled. He almost always kissed my cheek before he leaves. I'm sure it's just a friendly gesture but it always made me turn into such the 16 year old girl.
"I will. Promise."
"You better." he said jokingly and climbed back out of the window. I closed the window again and rushed over to sit on my bed. As if something never happened.
But we knew better.