BLISS AND RAGE.
Jesse and Sarah ran.
He fervently applied pressure to the gash below the left crease of his lip while still holding Sarah’s shuddering right hand, and she produced her ultraphone as she huffed and attempted to fix her frizzed hair. Fumbling with the touch commands, Sarah summoned a hovertaxi to pick up she and Jesse two blocks away from the Weehawken Cliffs. Eventually, at the rendezvous point in front of a three-story brick abode, the flashing lights of the cameras faded and the interminable chatter of the press faded to near-silence. The taxi was awaiting their arrival.
Jesse’s leg muscles pumped acid, and his lungs felt collapsed as he opened the back passenger side door of the yellow-bordered glass-encased electric hovervehicle for Sarah. When they finally sat on the black-cushioned seats, they both panted incessantly and attempted to regain normal breathing patterns. Jesse had never experienced such exhaustion on the football field, or anywhere else. To him, unpreparedly facing a throng of media caused more undue physical and emotional stress than taking four quarters’ worth of bone-crushing hits. When he saw an equally exhausted Sarah, her cheeks beet red, sweat pouring down from her frizzed blonde hair, smiling wider than he had ever seen her do so before, he felt as if he had won a national championship; exhilarated and sublime.
“You going to be okay?” Jesse asked Sarah while attempting to smile.
“I’m a big girl, silly,” Sarah labored. “I’m good. Wasn’t that fun?”
“HA! You and I have completely different definitions of fun!”
“Well, we’re alive, aren’t we?”
“I’m too exhausted for a comeback on that one. Maybe next time.”
Widening his smile, Jesse replied: “Well, maybe somewhere a little more discreet?”
“Obviously,” Sarah drawled.
They both interlocked their hands tightly and gazed into each other’s eyes. Goosebumps formed on both their arms as the hovertaxi glided away. Sarah sank her head into Jesse’s palpitating chest, but the tremors beneath, to her, felt like a gentle massage. Jesse’s mind slowly drifted into a state of comatose bliss as he wrapped his arm around Sarah’s jacket.
For the entire fifteen minute ride to Sarah’s house, no words were spoken, and none were needed. Sarah and Jesse were not only relieved to be away from the media mob, but the comfort they took in each other’s embrace quickly erased any additional fears or doubts in their minds.
When the taxi arrived at the Schale’s translucent two-story blue-glowing crystallized villa, Jesse felt the time was right to take his newfound sense of social confidence to the next level while he gazed into Sarah’s gleaming eyes. “If you’d like to continue to go out with me,” he inquired in a smooth drawl, “I promise I will never use you as a toy.”
Sarah maintained her lustrous grin, paused to absorb Jesse’s words without rolling her eyes or twitching her face, then seductively whispered, “I know you won’t. I can feel it. Dumb jocks don’t read project Driht. By the way, that bruise looks good on you!”
Immediately after, they passionately interlocked their lips. Jesse no longer felt his facial bruises, and as Sarah disembarked, he barely felt his cuts, too.
“I’ll call you tomorrow!” Jesse shouted.
“Not if I call you first!” Sarah replied with a wink, then happily skipped toward her opulent house as the taxi glided away.
Jesse maintained his smile as the hovertaxi glided along on the five-minute journey back to his house, but when he arrived, his bliss would soon be erased.
The clock had turned 045 hrs as the taxi pulled up to 31 Clarkson West. The garage door was open, and it was never open past 1900 under any circumstances, a detail that made Jesse uneasy. The pain returned to his cheek while he was walking up the gravel driveway. He noticed Bob, standing on the staircase leading to the laundry room vestibule, pointing his finger in Matt’s face. As Jesse approached them, Matt stumbled into the vestibule, tripping on the steps in front of him in an inebriated stupor.
Seconds later, Jesse’s heart sunk and all angst within returned when Bob noticed him.
“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?!” Bob screeched, before violently yanking his white Everton polo out from the tuck beneath his brown corduroys. “I SAID WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN, JESSE?!” Jesse ignored him again. “I just had to pick up your cousin from that Jackson kid’s place, and I swear to Joshua, if you were taking that harlowcane crap, too…”
“Uncle Bob, please don’t,” Jesse vehemently pled. “Not now.”
“Save it! Why weren’t you with your cousin? Where did you come from? Why didn’t you call me or your aunt?”
And then, as Jesse neared the garage, the floodlights revealed a disturbing sight to Bob.
“What the?! What the hell happened to your face?!” Bob pled. “You’ve gotta be…who did this to you?!” Jesse tilted his head down again to hide his cuts and bruises.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Jesse growled, hoping his uncle would get the hint. Nonetheless, Bob Maith’s sense of militaristic parenting could not be contained.
“You know, this is the problem with your generation,” Bob resumed. “You have no concept of decency, honor, or respect! None of you ever went to the front lines! You grew up with all advantages; HoloTVs, fancy cars, the most prestigious education in the damn world, for Joshua’s sake! And you take it all for granted! This peace or death concept, it’s made you all… cowards! It’s that kind of attitude that gives you the wherewithal to screw around! And you probably did something stupid! Well, guess what?” Bob clapped his hands in frustration, his anger boiling into a verbal fireball as Jesse began to walk away. “You’re just confirming what you believe I think of you; that you’re some cynical, aloofish odia!”
When the word odia rolled off his uncle’s tongue, Jesse froze in front of the height-sized blue recycling bin immediately in front of him. Anger consumed him. He firmly wrapped his arms around the bin and furiously shoved it on to the concrete floor beneath, leaving full heaps of recycled glass and plastic and shattered bits of glass in its wake.
“YOU WOULD KNOW ABOUT BEING A DUMB ODIA!” Jesse shouted as he pointed his finger in his Uncle’s face. Bob leaned backward in shock. “And you wonder why we ‘quote-un-quote’ disrespect you! I may need medical attention! You see my face? I’m bleeding! And all you care about is portraying this cantankerous curmudgeon lamenting a more violent time! You never thought to call the medics?! Goodnight, Robert! Maybe you can take me to the next public beheading to teach me a lesson instead!”
When Jesse exasperatedly walked up the garage stairs and into the vestibule, he passed an equally stunned Aunt Stacy, dressed in her purple robe, holding a cup of tea. As Stacy turned toward her equally dumbfounded and astonished husband below, they both stared at each other blankly, unable to make sense of the incident they had witnessed.