I remember a childhood full of painful surgeries and ear infections. I remember the pain all too well as if it only happened days ago.
The ear infections were severe. My ear drum often would rupture as a result. It always felt like my brain had exploding in my head, and leaking out my ear. Truthfully it looked like it too. It was like a strong stabbing pain that started in my inner ear and radiated throughout the rest of my head. Usually my ear would leak with nasty liquid the color of custard. Emergency room visits, ear drops, and cotton balls, had become a normal thing for me;however, the pain was one thing about it that I would never get used to.
The chronic infections caused tears and holes in both eardrums. Because of that I ended up having to go through a series of painful and costly surgeries to reconstruct them. Even after that some of the holes could never be fixed entirely. The damage was already done anyhow.
After the series of surgeries, the doctor finally declared that I had permanent partial deafness in both ears. That was ten years ago, but I still remember the disappointed look on my mother’s face.
After that my mom took on three part time jobs to pay for the medical expenses of all the ER visits, hospitalizations, doctor bills, and surgeries. Even now we are still in debt.
Honestly, I think my only salvation in school is Mr. T’s art class. It’s the one place where I feel no judgment- and can express myself fully. Art is beautiful, moving, and makes a statement without verbal words or sounds. Great art works tell stories that you understand with your eyes, not hear with your ears.
The whole period I spend time working on my current project. Mr. T has written on the board that he wants us to make an art piece that tells the story of our life. It can be a drawing, a painting, a sculpture, or whatever type of medium we chose, just as long as the point comes across.
The concept kind of stumps me a bit. The amount of crumbled up sketching paper on my desk is adding up, yet I don’t have one thing I’m satisfied with. Not one idea that feel more like ‘me’. It’s all too forced.
Who am I? What is my story? What is it that I have to tell? How can I express it?
I am so busy drawing and then scraping my own drawings that I don’t even notice that everyone has gone. Mr. T has to come over and tap me on the shoulder. He informs me that the bell signifying the end of the school day has rang.
His eyes then go to my pile of failures. “You know, you have a unique story to tell, but you just have to accept it, and then figure out how you can express it.” He says with a soft expression on his face. After that he walks away to sort through and grade previous projects.
I tak a few moment to clean up my work area, putting away my art supplies before hurrying out the door.
I run through the almost empty hallways, towards the office to get my skateboard and helmet from the secretary. After that I rush towards the student parking lot, hoping that Demetri’s car will still be there.
He always make me wait, but in turn Demetri isn’t the type who likes being kept waiting.
By the time I get to the parking lot there are few cars lingering around, but with one glance I can already see the empty space where Demetri’s Cadillac should have been parked.
So he left me. It’s not at all shocking.
My hand reaches up to touch the crown shaped pendent around my neck, the one he had given to me earlier today. He said I was his princess. How is it that he always makes me feel the exact opposite? My heart aches just thinking about it.
I feel a bit exhausted from all that rushing around for nothing. I sit at the curb of the parking lot, trying to catch my breath before I even attempt skateboarding home.
Really, I don’t want to go home. I don’t like being in that dingy apartment by myself until morning. It’s lonely and depressing.
I sit here, for I don’t even know how long, wondering if Demetri will pull into the almost deserted parking lot with an excuse as to why he left without me. I know better than that though. It just isn’t going to happen.
Whatever. Forget him then. I’ll just go off and have fun on my own.
I go to stand up quickly. I then turn around so fast that I end up knocking into someone.
I shut my eyes as my head hits a chest. When I opene them my face was pressed against a familiar white t-shirt with “Get Rekt” written on it. I craned my head up as I take a small step back. I make a face when I see the familiar face of the guy with the hearing aid.
Skyler starts moving his hands quickly. “Whoa. Sorry about that. Didn’t see you.” He signs frantically.
“No big deal.” I sign back. I’m irritated, but I know he’s not the root cause of it.
He seems to do a once over at me. His eyes dropping to my hands taking in the sight of my skateboard in one and my helmet in the other.
“Do you want a ride or are you good with that?” He asks as he tilts his head to the side slightly.
I bite the corner of my lip as I let my eyes drift towards Demetri’s parking space. Still empty.
I then snapped my head back to look at Skyler.
“A ride to where?” I question skeptically. I had only just met him today, so getting into a car with him probably isn’t a good idea. It is tempting though.
He smirks at me, gesturing around before moving his hands to sign again. “I’ll take you anywhere you want.”
With that he has me hook line and sinker.
I watch Skyler’s face as he drives. His blue eyes don’t stray from the road at all. He has a little wrinkle line above his eyebrows from being so concentrated. He’s driving a beat up red colored Ford pickup truck. Even though it isn’t a very nice truck, he seems to drive it carefully. He doesn’t run any stop signs or red lights or do any illegal u-turns. It’s a bit weird since it’s so different compared to the recklessness of how Demetri drives his Cadillac.
It’s quiet. Well actually I’m pretty sure Skyler has the radio on, but all I can pick up from it is the sound vibrations and muffled tones. So, it might as well be quiet.
After what feels like a long time driving, Skyler finally parks the car in the parking lot for North Redington Beach. He takes his keys out of the ignition before placing them in the left pocket of his cargo shorts. He then unbuckles his seat belt and gets out of the car. I follow after him.
Skyler puts some loose change in the parking meter before we follow the sandy path leading to the beach shore.
It’s early March so the beaches aren’t very crowded, which is nice for once since I didn’t enjoy being around so many people in such a close area.
Skyler sits down on the shore about five feet back from where the waves meet the sand.
We sit there for a moment before he turns to look at me. “Do you always accept rides from strangers?” He asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I don’t know, do you always offer rides to strangers?” I counter back, not feeling amused by his question.
He throws his head back and makes a face as if he’s trying not to laugh. Maybe he did laugh a bit? I’m not sure.
He then looks at me again. “You’re so feisty.” He gestures.
I shrug my shoulders in reply. There’s no need for me to respond to that.
I look away from him and out towards the shore line, watching as the waves crash against the sand.
Shells are littered across the shoreline. I’m entranced by the way the waves will wash out some of the shells and bring back new ones. It almost makes me feel like the waves can wash me up and bring me back new.
After several minutes of admiring the waves I tilt my head to look at Skyler.
His eyes are trained on me. They remind me of the color of the ocean water. I wonder if he has been watching me the whole time that I had been watching the shoreline.
He stares at me for a bit longer before I notice his hands start to move again. “So what happened earlier? Why were you in the parking lot? Where you waiting for someone?” He questions, the space above his brow creases as if he is worried.
I’m not entirely sure on how to reply to that. I settle with, “I was a bit late, so the guy I’m dating left without me. He must have thought I was mad at him, or that I wasn’t going to show up. It happens. It’s no big deal.”
“It seems like a big deal.” Skyler counters back.
I try to keep my face as emotionless as possible, but I know he has struck a cord. “It’s not. He can do whatever he wants. I don’t care anyways. It’s not like it matters. We’re not serious about each other.” I reply in a fury of signs, but as I sign it, I remembered the cold feeling of the crown pendant against my neck.
Skyler doesn’t seem satisfied with my reply. He shakes his head. “Why are you even seeing him then?”
I lose it. I really lose it at that point.
I stand up, standing in front of him. I glare down at his sitting form. “You don’t even know me. Don’t just pry into my life and ask questions.” I angrily reply, even speaking the words out loud as I sign them.
Without giving him a chance to reply, I take off darting towards the ocean. I just run and run until I’m neck deep in chilled salt water. My jean shorts and my t-shirt are both soaked and heavy from the water. I don’t care though.
All I can feel is rage.
Rage at Skyler’s questions. Rage at Demetri for leaving me. Rage at myself for pretending like I don’t care about anything or anyone.
I start to shake, either from the rage or from the cold water against my skin. Maybe both. I stare ahead at the water as it laps around me.
I just stay in place like that until a decent size wave comes and sweeps me under the water.
My ears burn as I am emerged under the salty water. I feel myself being pulled farther out. I don’t feel panic or a need to try to escape. All I can feel is the burning in my ears, and also an oddly calm feeling that dulls down my previous rage. As my lungs start to burn from lack of air, and my eyes start to heavy, the last thing I can think of is, “It’d be nice if I could stay down here forever”
I open my eyes after what seems like a long period of darkness. I can feel myself sputter and cough up water. Once all the water is out of my lungs I gasp for breath. I sit up quickly. Skyler stands above me, his shaggy blonde hair is plastered against his forehead and his clothes are as cold and wet as mine are. I tilt my head down to see his hearing aid laying on the sand next to me.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” He gestures angrily, giving me a deadly glare.
I sit there trying to catch my breath as I stare at him. He continues to reprimand me on how dangerous it is for me to do such a thing, and how I’m lucky he jumped in there to pull me out before it was too late.
Once I am able to think clearly I start to sign back at him. “Whatever. I’m okay. You’re okay. That’s all that matters. It’s nothing to be angry about.”
Skyler’s glare deepens as he leans down and grabs my arm, yanking me up. “Home” he signs with his freehand before he drags me towards the beach parking lot.
When we get to his truck he instantly goes to the bed of his truck, pulling out a folded up tarp. He unfolds it carefully before going to wrap it around my cold body. He then opens the passenger side and helps me in.
I tell Skyler how to get to my apartment complex before he starts up the truck. It seems to be taking forever to get there. The atmosphere is heavy. I can tell he is still angry at me. I wrap myself tightly in the tarp as I lean my face against the window. I feel tired. So freaking tired. It isn’t long until my eyes slowly close and I drift off to sleep.
I awake to a tapping on my shoulder. I glance at Skyler before looking to see that we are at the apartment complex.
“Thank you.” I gesture a bit begrudgingly. I go to unwrap the tarp from my body, but Skyler grabs my arm so I will look at him.
“Why are you like this?” He asks with narrowed eyes.
I shrug my shoulders.
His jaw clenches. “Do you want to know what I think?” He responds to my shoulder shrug.
Do I? I shrug again
Skyler’s eyes seem to light up in anger and disgust. “You act like you don’t care about anything or anyone, but that’s not true is it? The person who you really don’t care about is yourself.” He looks smug as if he is onto something.
How dare he.
For the second time since meeting him I lose it again. I lean over about to slap him across that smug looking, pretty boy face of his.
He grabs my arm before I can make contact. I swing at him with the other one, but he catches it too. I struggle with him as he keeps me tightly in his grasp. His intense eyes stare me down. They are mixed with what seems like anger and pity.
I lose the energy and will to hit him. He lets go off me. I unwrap the tarp and throw it at him before exiting his truck. I slam the door as hard as I can manage before standing there on the sidewalk glaring at him.
He shakes his head at me before driving away.
Only after his truck is out of sight do I break down. There on the sidewalk outside my apartment building I bawl my eyes out.
How is it that no one else had notices yet this guy who I had only met earlier today can see so clearly through me? As angry as it makes me feel, I knew Skyler has hit the nail on the head when he says I don’t really care about myself.