Moment of Strangeness, Part 3

To KB, for her moment of strangeness.

As I distractedly toy with one leaf in my left hand while eating the ice cream mix that Allen and I have created, Allen says, “Ms. Palmer, I feel as though I should clarify on some points on this…affinity we have.”
“Go ahead,” I reply, curious as to what he might have to say.
“Very well.” He pauses to eat from his sundae. “You see, I am of the belief that two persons must and cannot be friends based solely on the fact that they share similar interests and pastimes. It is a friendship based on such tenuous grounds that I cannot even be certain of its veracity. Those who assume that they have found a friend because the other enjoys reading the same books or watching the same movies as they do quickly presuppose that said person is a new friend, which I find to be a most egregious error.
“At this current juncture in this process of our getting acquainted with each other, I think we both have realized that we share a great deal in common; however, I do not believe that that is sufficient. If we were to but share a meal at school each day and greet each other at some other point, our relationship would be but tangential. Therefore, Ms. Palmer, I propose that we do not try to find out what we have in common, but instead let one or the other talk about anything and everything regarding ourselves, whether it be memories or aspirations or something completely different. What do you have to say, Ms. Palmer?”
I am duly impressed. Despite my having wanted to call Allen a friend over the last few days, I haven’t, in part due to many of the reasons that he has just said. I have never had a true friend, and I find the word to hold a great deal of significance and weight, a word that cannot be used trivially. To be honest, I am not sure when or how a friendship is to be formed, but for the moment, the most I have is to go with what Allen Stevens has said, so I reply, “Very well. I believe we can try it. Who should go first?”
“Ladies first, I do believe,” he replies, finishing his sundae.
“All right then. My favorite color is cyan, I enjoy taking long walks in the park while listening to the same song on repeat, whenever I get stressed, I…” and so I go on, explaining all the facts that make Margo Palmer Margo Palmer. But just facts and the occasional slight oddity is all that I give. It is almost as though I’m reciting something off a chart, mentally sorting through facts and discarding the ones that may put him off. It is dishonest, one side of me argues, but the other side tells me that it’s for the good. But the good of what?
“…when it’s raining, and, uh…oh, I’ve always wanted to bake cookies with someone in the middle of the night.” And then I pause, stricken with embarrassment. I immediately begin to backpedal, and say, “Oh, gosh, I didn’t really mean that. It’s not as though I’m some solitary person who’s always just wanted to do something like that.” The feeling of discomfiture weighs heavily on me, and I am tempted to just leave, despite my having no means of transportation. The last thing that I wanted to do was appear to be an introvert in front of Allen; and yet, this is what I have done.
But Allen does not say anything in regards to what I have just said. Instead, he merely nods and asks if I’m through. I nod, but I am both perplexed and relieved. I have just been completely candid with someone who I hardly know, and I have embarrassed myself, but he has not chosen to exploit the moment. And it is then that I realize that Allen and I have truly started to become friends.

At 2:38 a.m. the next morning, my phone buzzes. I am a light sleeper, so the faint noise wakes me up immediately. I have a text message, and considering that both of my parents are asleep, it has piqued my interest. I take my phone and glance at the screen.
555-3591: Ms. Palmer. I must ask you to open the window and take note of the fact that there is a 17-year old boy standing at your front porch with a grocery bag. He is waiting to see how he may gain entrance into your house. Thank you.
There is only one person besides my parents who has my phone number and knows where I live. I rush into the bathroom and splash my face with water, then change into a blouse and jeans. True to his word, Allen Stevens is standing in the driveway, dressed in a white T-shirt, plaid shirt, blazer, jeans, and Converse sneakers. I take my keys and quietly unlock the front door, then whisper, “What are you doing here?”
He gestures to the bag. “Due to my inability to fall asleep, and your desire to make cookies, I decided to purchase some ingredients to bake said dessert. You will find butter, eggs, brown sugar, and chocolate chips in here. I presume that we will be able to obtain the other ingredients from your pantry?”
I stand there, uncertain as to what to say. Here is the boy to whom I have revealed a part of me that, despite its seeming inconsequentiality, has left me feeling vulnerable. And he has not chosen to brush it aside or intrude upon it, but instead…he has made it become real, something tangible. It sounds absurd, but I feel like a child who has cancer and has gotten his wish fulfilled. Of course, I do not say any of this to Allen. Instead, I say, “We shall have to be absolutely quiet in order to not disrupt my parents.”
“But of course,” he whispers before following me inside. I lead him to the kitchen and turn on the lights. My parents sleep upstairs, which is beneficial to the current situation.
“Do you have a recipe for the cookies?” I ask.
He nods, and reaches into his pocket to pull out a folded sheet of paper. “Indeed. I printed this off the Internet prior to my excursion. Due to the potentially disruptive noise of the hand mixer that must be used in the former steps of making the cookies, it may very well be necessary for us to use said appliance in other room as to not awaken your parents.”
“We can move to the basement,” I say. And so we move to the basement and beat the butter and sugar and eggs and vanilla, and stir in the remaining ingredients before moving back to the kitchen to start shaping the dough into cookies.
As I eat a spoonful of the cookie dough, I say, “There is a boy in my house.”
“You are correct, Ms. Palmer,” Allen affirms. Then he adds, “There is some cookie dough at the corner of your mouth.”
I wipe it off. “Thank you,” I say.
“For what, if I may ask?”
“For everything. For sharing lunch with me, for ice cream, for listening to my moment of strangeness, and for following through on it.”
He shrugs. “I do not believe that I have done anything which merits your thanking me, but, you are welcome.”
And then I hug Allen Stevens, who also hugs me, and I feel content and satisfied with everything, and then my parents walk into the room.
My mother, who is wearing her favorite terry night robe, is mentally taking everything in, processing it, and analyzing the situation. My father, a tall, thin, bald man, is yawning, but also staring.
“There is a boy in our house,” my mother says matter-of-factly.
“You are correct,” I say nervously.
“There is a boy in our house at 3:19 a.m. making chocolate chip cookies.” This is my father.
“Again, correct.”
“I cannot believe this,” my mother says, very seriously.
Here Allen walks forward to my parents and says, “Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, it is a pleasure to meet both of you. My name is Allen Stevens, and I would offer to shake your hands, but as mine are covered with dough, it would be most impolite. However, if you were to wait for another twenty minutes, you would be able to partake in the cookies we are in the process of making.”
My mother, however, still appears to be on the part that there is a boy in her house at 3:19 in the morning. She again says, “I cannot believe this.”
“Mom,” I begin, “I can explain ev—”
“You are making chocolate chip cookies without hot chocolate,” she interrupts me, “and not only that, but you had the audacity to not invite us? Margo Palmer, I am hurt.”
I, however, am bemused. I have not been lectured, I have not been told to get rid of Allen; instead, I have been scolded for not making hot chocolate and for not inviting my parents. It is too much for me to take in, and I stand there, my mouth slightly agape.
“Sweetheart, it’s not polite to stare with your mouth open,” my father stage whispers before pulling out some cocoa powder from the pantry. My mother takes the milk from the fridge and pours it into a saucepan, then sets it on a burner.
“Allen, you said?” she enquires.
“Correct, Mrs. Palmer,” Allen replies while sliding the cookie tray into the oven. “Also, if I may say, your daughter is a most fascinating person.”
“That would be our Margo,” my father says. I cannot help but feel that they are talking about me as though I am not in the room. But I do not mind, strangely.
I jump into the conversation as though this is something natural that I have done all my life, as though my family normally invites a friend from school to make cookies and hot chocolate in the middle of the night. “Mom, we can make spiced hot chocolate, if you don’t mind.”
She shakes her head. “Not at all. I’ll get the cinnamon and nutmeg in just a moment.”
“Wonderful,” Allen says, using a spoon to scrape out the last of the cookie dough. He passes the spoon to me, and adds, “This is all simply marvelous.”
And it is. Because I have twice revealed a moment of strangeness in as many days, and I have not been rejected. I have been accepted, and I have found a friend—no, I have found three friends. It is strange to think of my parents as friends, but it is true. I now see that a relationship turns into a friendship when one bares himself to the other and reveals a private moment, something that leaves him—or her—vulnerable. And when the other person chooses to not take advantage of the moment, it is where a friendship truly begins.
My name is Margo Palmer, and I can now confidently say that public school was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Less than three,
Josh

Moment of Strangeness, Part 2

I am standing just outside the school’s exit, waiting for Allen Stevens to procure any of the items that must be taken home with him. As I stand there, I mentally go over the schoolwork that I must have done by the next day. Despite this being but the third day of school, I have—and I speak in the vernacular—a ton of homework to complete.
Allen has offered for us to work together on our homework, but I have chosen to decline. It’s not because I dislike Allen Stevens; nor is it the fact that we have only known each other for only seventy-five hours. It is more the fact that allowing Allen to come to my house involves introducing him to my parents, which intimates that I have made a friend—which is something that, as my parents well know, is not something that Margo Palmer has a great deal of, if at all—which then will lead to undue sentimentalism, awkward conversations with Allen, and the like.
“I sincerely apologize to have kept you loitering here at the school premises, Ms. Palmer,” Allen says, bringing me out of my thoughts. “Shall I give you a ride in my car, or would you rather wait for your mother to transport you to your domicile?”
“Well, during my last period, I received a text message from my mother saying—and I quote—‘will be 30 minutes later. Srry. Love u.’ Spelled s-r-r-y, and the last word is solely the letter ‘u.’”
“As the dispatcher of said text is a close relative of yours, I shall refrain from further comments. May I assume that you wish to be driven home?”
I smile. “You have assumed correctly.”
As we walk towards the area where Allen’s car is situated, I take the time to study Allen Stevens. I have realized that Allen Stevens enjoys keeping those who observe him constantly guessing. While on the first day of school he was in jeans and a plaid shirt, the next day he wore a flannel black shirt with hot pink edges, and tight pants. Today, he is wearing a crisp white shirt and black pants. The other thing that stands out is the fact that he has painted his fingernails jet black. He does not bring it up, and neither do I. I respect his privacy.
And then we are at his car. It is a Honda, and it appears to be new. Allen merely says, “A perquisite of having Riley Stevens as my father,” before opening the door for me. Once I am seated, he starts the car and stares at the small screen that shows him what is behind the car as he backs out.
He presses a button, and music fills the car. The display says that the song currently playing is “King Of Carrot Flowers.”
“Neutral Milk Hotel?”
“Correct,” Allen says. “It is another group I enjoy listening to. It used to be an obscure band, but recently, it has become the current trend.”
“High school students are so terribly vacillating,” I say. “The only thing that’s worse than fickle teenagers are those who attempt to be hipster for the mere sake of being…hip.”
“I loathe them more than I despise those who listen to the arrhythmic affront that is supposedly music.” Allen hangs a hard right, and I grip the seat tightly. “At least the latter genuinely enjoy what they listen to; the former, however, spout off various no-name indie bands that make them seem all sophisticated, when in point of fact, they really are simply being ostentatious.”
“Aren’t we all hypocritical, though? Isn’t it the sine qua non of being human?” I ask.
Allen merely cocks his head to one side, purses his lips, and drives in silence. “Ms. Palmer,” he eventually says, “might I have the pleasure of taking you to an ice cream shop and getting something to eat?”
I take only a moment to answer. “Why yes, Mr. Stevens. You may.”
“Splendid.”
A few minutes later, we come to a somewhat jarring halt in the parking lot in front of the rectangular one-story stucco building that is presumably the ice cream place. I have never been here before; then again, I have been to few places since we moved here three months ago.
“If you’ll hold on, Ms. Palmer,” Allen says as he gets out of his car, “I shall get the door for you.” He opens the passenger side and waits for me to get out. “Shall we go?”
“Indeed,” I say. Allen Stevens escorts me inside the brightly colored interior. The room is decorated with bold curtains and vintage paintings. The floorboards are just slightly creaky, but it can hardly be heard over the ambience of laughing children and talking adults.
As we get ready to order, Allen says for me to go first. After looking through the menu, I say, “Uh, a double scoop of pistachio mint in a cone, please.”
“No, no, no,” Allen exclaims, his face etched with a look of horror. “Dearest, you simply cannot be so banal, so predictable in what you choose to eat while dining with me. A double scoop of pistachio mint? Are you in earnest?”
“Yes,” I retort, defensively.
“Ms. Palmer,” Allen crosses his arms and turns to face me, frowning, “each person has but one sole life to live, and that is all. When you lie on your bed in a hospice several decades from now, reminiscing over all that you have accomplished and done, will you be able to say ‘Well, at least I was able to order a completely novel creation of my own at that ice cream place when I was with Allen Stevens back in my junior year’? Will you?
“These little choices, my friend, hold more importance than you think. You go to school, graduate, continue to further your education, get married, have children, work, retire, die, and you live your life as countless others do. But it’s all a paper life that burns away in a moment if you do not take care to not be cautious about this thing that is called Life. All these little choices, Ms. Palmer, all these are significant in your life. In short, I cannot in good conscience allow you to order merely…pistachio mint. You must be venturesome, my friend. Venturesome.” Allen Stevens takes a deep breath and shakes his head slightly, unsmiling, yet I know that he is not displeased; I already know the nuances of his facial expressions and body language, and I can tell that he is merely waiting for me to make up my mind.
“Very well then, Mr. Stevens,” I say, “give me a moment to decide and I shall see if I can satisfy you and create a moment that I can remember as I lie on my deathbed.” My voice is jocular as I speak, but I do not yet know what will happen.
As Allen orders an ice cream sundae with three different flavors and a myriad of toppings, he pauses to tell me that I can create my own item. I decide to do just that, and order a blend of cappuccino, vanilla, and chocolate ice cream to blended to a milkshake-like consistency. Allen and I decide to add chocolate chips to the mix, followed by instant coffee crystals and just a little bit of caramel and almond flavoring. I then ask Alicia, who is making this new concoction, to add some ice to the whole mix so it comes out frothy.
The drink is poured into a large plastic cup, followed by whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and a maraschino cherry. Allen is clearly pleased—as am I. He opens the door for me on the way out, and we walk outside and sit on the prickly grass in the front of the homey building. There are bone-colored plastic chairs and rocking benches scattered around the front and sides of the ice cream place, but I want to sit on the grass, and apparently, so does Allen. I’ve always enjoyed sitting on grass and staring at its verdant greenness, pulling up clumps of it and smelling the earthy soil beneath it, and observing the tiny insects marching to and fro amidst the towering blades.
But that is not at all: while some people see grass for just being a nearly omnipresent sort of vegetation, I see it as more, something complex. While the ubiquitous grass represents life as it grows, dotting the landscape with its signature bold colors, it is also death: once a body is buried, the grass eventually begins to grow out of the freshly piled mound of dirt, out of us. And so the grass is life and death, hope and despair. It is a complicated metaphor which one can spend hours puzzling about, as I often have.
But now, I am here with Allen Stevens, and he is here with me, and we are together, and my heart is not beating rapidly, as I thought it might have. Instead, it continues to send blood throughout my body, allowing me to go on living. And never before have I been quite so grateful for that fist-sized organ that is called the heart, because I have never experienced the feeling that fills me at the moment: a sense of going on and on, and an underlying sensation of happiness that is not dominating my faculties, but merely allowing me to realize that this moment that I wish could go on infinitely is one that must not be forgotten.
Then again, I am not sure that I could forget it, even if I did want to.

Moment of Strangeness

I am sitting in what sounds very much like a rock concert, minus the music, as I eat a salad and burger. Every single person around me in the cafeteria during fifth-period lunch is talking as vociferously as they possibly can, and the amount of noise that is being produced is inconceivable.
My name is Margo, and this is my first day of public school. Goodbye, homeschool. Hello, hell.
I push the limp mess of alleged salad—which consists of bedraggled lettuce and a few pieces of tomatoes, olives, and croutons—and set my fork down, disgusted. I was expecting fire and brimstone after all the horror stories I heard of public school. Fire and brimstone may have been too polite. Between the chaos and confusion of trying to find my different classes, the not-so-covert giggles and whispers about me, and the bathroom/brothel that I oh so unfortunately had to use between second and third period, it has been quite a day. And to think it’s not even over. Oh, the joy.
“You, my friend,” a voice that resonates clearly over the loud din in the cafeteria says, “you look as though the one you loved used the f-word on you.”
I jolt, surprised. First, who has just called me a friend? Second, I notice that the person said “look as though” instead of “look like.” And yes, I am into grammar. I then look up to see who is standing next to my table.
It is a boy, seemingly towering over me, wearing a grin, glasses, and a plaid shirt and jeans. His hair and eyes are brown, but his skin is slightly pale. He pulls out the chair opposite of me and sits down with his tray, uninvited.
“So I look as though the love of my life cussed me out?”
He shakes his head and sighs. “No, the other f-word: friend.”
“Ah. That one.”
“Indeed. Might I have the pleasure of knowing your name?”
“Margo Palmer.”
“Allen Stevens. Lovely to meet you.” He takes a bite of his personal pepperoni pizza. “Dearest,” he goes on, “you must never, ever, ever get a hamburger here, unless you have confirmed its provenance. If you are certain it has come from either McDonalds or Burger King, you may eat it. Otherwise…” he shakes his head, but does not finish the sentence.
“I’m sorry,” I say, “but did you just call me dearest?”
He pauses for an infinitesimal moment before nodding slowly. “Indeed, Ms. Palmer. I believe I did.”
“And why, if I may ask?”
Instead of answering my question, Allen Stevens narrows his eyes, as if he is deep in thought, and then switches trays with me and eats my hamburger, his face revealing just the briefest flicker of distaste.
“I’m sorry?” I say.
“No need to apologize,” he says, dismissing what he thinks is an apology with a flick of the wrist. “It’s your first day, am I not correct? I simply cannot stand for the cold indifference and heartless antipathy our fellow attendants of this fine education of institution show towards the newcomers. Therefore, I take it upon myself, Ms. Palmer, to guide the neophytes who so happen to wander into my path.”
“My gosh,” I say, “you’re the first person I’ve met all day whose vocabulary includes words besides hot, cool, dude, like—“
“—bro, chill, babe, God, and the like?” He smirks ever so slightly.
“Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. You have no idea how annoying it is when teenage couples stare deeply into the screen of their phone, texting their significant other with insanely meaningful phrases like, ‘love you babe xoxo.’ The facileness of it all is so…depressing.”
“‘I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach’ has now become ‘u mean so much 2 me, bae.’”
“Oh, my gosh, bae?”
Allen shakes his head. “Don’t even ask. The slang expressions and solecisms of our current time is disheartening.” He takes one last bite of the hamburger, then works his way around the mess that is ostensibly salad. “What I find to be even more disturbing is the taste in music that many of the others have. They frequently listen to such drivel without the slightest compunction.”
“Boy bands and generic pop are as entertaining as having a hemorrhoid.” I launch into a list of popular bands that, for the most part, annoy me. “One Direction, Ke$ha, Justin Bieber.”
“Eminem, Bruno Mars, Carly Rae Jepsen.”
“Glee, John Mayer.”
“I loathe John Mayer,” Allen says. “If I say that I enjoy listening to 65daysofstatic, or Boney M, or 12 Stones, I get blank stares. I used to say that I frequently listened to Bastille, but not since it became the new thing.”
“Precisely!” I almost exclaim, perhaps a little too thrilled at the prospect of finding someone who shares such similar tastes. “You say Blind Boys of Alabama or Guided by Voices or The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, an—”
“What do you believe is The Boy Who Trapped The Sun’s magnum opus?”
“There is but one answer to that: ‘Dreaming Like a Fool.’”
“I like you already,” Allen says emphatically. “Though our knowledge of each other is, at the moment, but incipient, I do not believe that this will be an ephemeral friendship, Ms. Palmer.”
“Indubitably,” is all I can say. If someone had come up to me a few days ago and said that I would meet someone—and I cannot call Allen Stevens a friend yet, because the term friend is gravid with meaning—who readily seemed to both understand and commiserate with me, I would not have believed them. And yet, here am I, a fresh junior on her first day of high school in Missouri, sitting with that someone. It is unbelievable.
Allen Stevens takes my tray and dumps the leftovers into his tray while saying, “Dearest, we are such snobs.”
“Oh, I know,” I reply, already having gotten used to his calling me dearest. “We sit here and criticize the others while doing nothing to rectify the situation.”
He shrugs, just barely. “To each his own, I say. Regardless, who would have fathomed that I would have the distinct pleasure of sharing lunch with such a sophisticated and, if I might add, attractive snob?”
“Did you just call me attractive?” I demand.
Allen doesn’t answer me; instead, he slings his brand-new green backpack onto his shoulder, grabs our trays, and starts making his way through the tables. “The bell will be ringing in precisely three and a half minutes, Ms. Palmer. I suggest we prepare to depart from this room before this already dissonant cacophony becomes even worse.”
I shake my head and follow him as he empties our trays and sets them done. When he sees me standing next to him, he grins crookedly, and oh, my gosh, did I just say that his grin was crooked? But, in my defense, it honest-to-God is. And while I will most certainly not admit it to this new acquaintance of mine, Allen Stevens is also attractive. “You do know, Mr. Stevens, tha—”
“Please, call me Allen.”
“Right, Allen. You don’t even know what grade I’m in and what’s my next class.”
Unfazed, he pushes open the swinging cafeteria doors and says, “Well, Ms. Palmer, what grade are you in, and what is the class you are currently heading to?”
“11th grade and government with Mr. Hayes.”
“Lovely,” he says, linking my arm into his and walking down the hall. “It appears as though we shall share a class together. Is there need to stop at your locker in the event that you should have to retrieve some items before class?”
“I believe not.”
“Very well then. Mr. Hayes taught my geography class last year. He is the archetypal “Mr. Know-It-All” of the school, I believe. But worry not. Notwithstanding his seemingly infinite knowledge, he is not in the least patronizing to his students. I believe you shall enjoy his class.”
Before I can stop myself, I am saying, “If I were to be in your presence while under the instructions of aforementioned lecturer, I’m certain that it would be an enjoyable experience.”
A barely perceptible smile flashes over Allen Steven’s face as we arrive in front of the classroom. “This way, Ms. Palmer.” He opens the door for me, and continues to speak, his voice hushed. “Mr. Hayes allows the students to be seated at their own discretion. Sit wherever you please. I shall escort you to your next class at the end of the period.” He sits in the row closest to the window, in the third to last seat.
For a moment, I am tempted to sit elsewhere, to not look like the clingy girl. I hardly know Allen Stevens, and he hardly knows me. But still, I find myself sitting directly behind him, staring at his closely cropped brown hair.
Allen turns around in his seat and winks at me. The other students are filing in, talking somewhat more quietly than they were before. He whispers, “Hello again, Ms. Palmer.” Then he turns around, rummages through his backpack, and pulls out his textbook and phone, which he inconspicuously places in his lap.
Suddenly, fifty minutes seems much too long.

To be continued.

Less than three,
Josh

100 Words-5

He walks to his car calmly, holding a bag. He seems to be self-controlled. But they do not know what he feels.
Fifteen minutes later, he is at an abandoned parking lot. He steps out and looks around. Trash flutters around. The wind howls.
He opens the bag and takes out a glass bowl. Then he lifts it over his head and hurls it to the ground, watching as it breaks into a million pieces. He takes a glass plate. He breaks it as well. He never speaks, never screams.
But all the potent anger simply must be let out.

The following was written by Andrew, a cancer patient who currently resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

There really is such a thing as monsters, and for someone to tell you otherwise would be a foolish thing to say.
Sure, there’s no such thing as the boogeyman waiting for you under your bed, but children are being hurt, traumatized, and robbed of their lives every day. I’m not going to bore you with the startling statistics, nor am I going to drone on and on about the “numbers.” Because, at the end of the day, no one wants to hear that, and at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter until it matters to you.

It never mattered to me.

I was a 14 year-old kid. I was more worried about high school football games and taking Suzy, captain of the cheerleading squad, to the dance. I was focused on getting my learner’s permit, finding a job, and just living life. And then, out of nowhere, the monster showed up at my front door, mouth roaring and claws scratching every inch of reality away from me.

His name is Cancer. He’s relentless, he’s brutal, and he’s a killer.

On October 10, I lost a good friend to this monster. For the past couple of weeks, everyone watched him deteriorate. For the past couple of days, everyone watched him die.
But that’s “normal.”
When this monster grabs ahold of you, and throws you into the world of ports, PICC lines, chemotherapy, MIBG, and countless surgeries, the word “normal” is rewritten.

Because in this world, three-year olds are cut open from the neck down.
In this world, fifteen-year olds spend months on end in a hospital bed.
And in this world, ten-year olds die in the arms of their sobbing mothers.

I’m not asking you to run to your local children’s hospital, climb the stairs to the oncology unit, and be there for the aching parents and children, but that would be awesome.
I’m not asking you to reach into your wallet and donate to someone’s fund, or to research to find a way to kill this beast, but that would be beautiful.
I’m not asking you to sob for the thousands of child-sized caskets that have been topped with hundreds of pounds of Earth, but I am.

In Memory
Jayson Brown
Forever 10

Andrew is from Orlando, Florida, but is currently residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as he receives treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. He can be found here on Facebook.

Let’s Talk About The Ocean

Hola, amigos. This is—to the best of my knowledge—the fourth post of my (typically) impromptu series of “Let’s Talk About X,” in which (as always) I shall proceed to ramble incoherently about whatever topic I feel like talking about. And today, I’m going to talk about water. Yes, water.

No, I’m not going to sit here and talk about H2O, people. My chemistry knowledge is severely lacking, despite my having taken a chemistry course a few years ago, and my passion for most sciences is on the same level as my passion for okra (which, for those of you who do not know, is not at all.) You see, while some people find anacondas or staplers or knives terrifying, there’s something that, to me, is much darker than any of those: the ocean.

Trillions and trillions of gallons of several miles deep salt water that go on for millions of cubic miles—it’s absolutely terrifying. It’s the home to countless of species that range from the microscopic to the gigantic. As a human, we see a sperm whale, which is so much more immense than we are, and we feel cowed in its presence. But…that whale, in the great expanse of sea, is nothing more than a mere speck—it’s hardly anything at all. It’s one thing looking at a mountain range or being in the middle of a thunderstorm. That alone can bring out our insignificance. But there’s nothing, and I really mean nothing, that so blatantly lays out the fact that we’re absolutely nothing. A swim at the beach normally goes a few hundred yards at the most—that’s nothing. It’s just skimming the barest edge. Our weakness, our tininess, our selves are put into perspective, if it can even be called that, when we find ourselves in the great mystery called the ocean.

What’s even stranger is that, as I read once, the ocean isn’t really an enemy. It just has no interest in us. It’s apathetic. It gives us food. It gives us oxygen. That’s all. But if we’re not smart, it kills us. It doesn’t care. It’s just how it goes. We don’t belong there, and if we wind up being careless, it just might be the last mistake we make. The ocean has gone on for so long before us, and it will continue to go on after us, not caring. It exists, and that’s enough. If we get in its way, it’s our problem.
And that’s only on the surface, what one can just see when he’s flying over the Atlantic Ocean one day, realizing how infinitesimal he is. But there’s a whole other feeling when you’re actually up close and in the ocean.
I suppose that I should give an example to help illustrate my point. About a year ago, when I was in the Caribbean, which is where I’m from, I went on a trip with a group of friends. We took a boat ride to this deserted island called Klein Bonaire, where tourists often go to spend the day. Anyways, while the girls were busy lying in the sun, I went out with a couple of guys to see how far out we could go. So off we went, swimming lazily and talking, diving down under the water to see how deep it was, and so forth. Soon the sand was ten feet from me. Then twenty. Thirty. Colorful fish darted by rapidly, ignoring their unwelcome guests as they went around their daily work. Then, as I was under the water, I looked ahead of me and saw something I never forgot.
Up until then, the water was a clear aquamarine blue. I could see straight to the bottom of the ocean floor without any difficulty. In fact, it was so clear I could see hundreds of feet behind me. But straight in front of me was a deep, dark wall of blue that loomed up at me like a giant mouth, lazily yawning, waiting to swallow me. It was just…emptiness. It sounds silly, but it almost felt as though going into it would mean it was over. The void went up and down, and it felt as though there was nothing else but me and that great big wall of near-blackness. The water in front of me was so deep that I could see hardly anything, and it was then I really started to feel that gnawing sense of panic.
You see, it’s like this: you can know that you’re supposed to be afraid, but you don’t really get truly afraid until you acknowledge the fear. Once you admit to it, it’s ten times worse than just intuitively sensing the fear. It makes you want to flee as fast as you can, leaving you hopelessly terrified. Right then, when I saw that seemingly never-ending blackness, I didn’t really spend time contemplating on my weakness. I just knew. There’s a difference between knowing and acknowledging. One is innate, the other must be voluntary.
It’s easy for us to play the whole popularity game and try to matter, pushing aside that small fact that we really don’t. The whole business of mattering is very time-consuming. But none of us, from the famous movie director to the unassuming garbage man really matter in the eyes of the ocean.
In fact, we hardly matter at all.

Less than three,
Josh