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The infectious street light shone through a jagged blinded window to paint an abstract piece on the earthen hardwood floor. A counterfeit alarm clock continued its ticking; on a shelf in the corner of the largely vacant room it was a reminder that the night would still go on even if hearts were still too pumped on teenage mania to fall into the lull of sleep.
In a room with two twin sized beds, one cold and clean and the other occupied but not at rest, there he lay. On some level he was miserable and stunning like the shiny, tired clock. He sighed in a final defeat, rolling over to to a view of the room not seen in daylight, one steeped in hypnosis and bronze with clockwork shadows that left a ringing in one’s ears. Stacks of ancient and electrical machines lay under the bedside table, still glowing with the golden light of radio frequencies.
Retrospectively, the room was as awake as he was; his tired daytime sky eyes had a little ring around the center much the same color as the whispering yet prepared streets. His pupils swallowed the slight citrine rays. He blinked and was met with the painful image of the back of his eyelids as the gossamer veins circulated blood slowly but not slow enough.
His final decision came as he sat up with force, an earlier thought burning, perhaps the cause of his sleeplessness. Dusty brown hair tossed forward, mattress squeaking ever so slightly, giving the oxygen to his spinning mind he was a fallen angel awake in his bed. The creatures of whimsy and nostalgia watched him with pity.
Tentatively, his hand reached for the scratched and many-times-dropped old flip phone that lay haphazardly on the edge of the bedside table. A glaring but reassuring pixelated whitened screen was without clutter at that moment at 2:47 AM, JUNE 24 07. Sweaty fingers pressed keys until the tendons in his fingers threatened carpal tunnel and he’d drafted a sluggish and lengthy message to that girl at the end of the block, across the street. Spring evenings at school dances and football games left with tired, contemplating thoughts still weren't enough for this much of an unsolicited gesture. He saved it as a draft, anyway, before starting new with a blank canvas, a clean slate.
In far less of a fever he’d sent something casual but dangerous, the kind of message you’d send for ransom. He collapsed back into the pillow, now feeling a bit more like maybe the insomnia was a myth. The grueling moments went by where he feared her instant response, desperate and finally reciprocating.
Instead, he was glued in time, vision distractedly focused on a textureless ceiling where he waited for some electrocution of bravery or pathetic inspiration to maybe get him through again to the morning. On one of the clock’s subtle remarks, a sound meant during the day to be uninterrupting erupted through the atmosphere. A sparkling lemon candy tone chased the silence back to its lair as a square of light illuminated itself out of the corner of his eye.
The action seemed harsher at the time, but after the heart-squeezing nerves of opening the message and reading the almost careless confirmation, he’d ripped the suffocatingly thin summertime blanket off his legs. Basically fully clothed in the previous evening’s apathy, his legs swung over the side of the bed like a monstrous metronome tick in the light of a failing concerto. His heart lost its steady beat as if he’d been waken from his sleep by a car crash in his circulatory system. She’d said yes, and they were now both crawling out windows and quietly clicking doors shut on an adventure in the hours stuck between the perception of night and day. He tossed the phone against the discarded covers as he gathered what thoughts he had left that hadn’t escaped for the now dead, once sunkissed streets.
Within his perception of a few seconds, the seventeen year old lack of humane conscience led him to the white framed window. He ripped the clattering blinds up, assuming with gnarled hope that the rest of the house’s patrons were in those five minutes of sleep where not even the fires of Hell could wake them. The windows in the older house lacked screens or any other safety apparatuses, so without restraint the beast crawled from the sanctuary of his lackluster second floor bedroom to the pitch black roof.
Letting the mild air enter the stuffy confinement he’d just escaped from, he was now feeling freedom. He stared down at the street, streetlights providing security in patches. He watched with wild eyes the whimsical lack of activity glorified and severe by by a simultaneously stimulated and sedated mind.
With bare feet he felt rushed. Sitting on the near top of the house, he was only a few yards from the sweet suburban grass, the domesticating cement, and her chapped, scarred lips.
The roof was gritty and the moon, barely in half phase, grinned in a feline smile. Blue light danced with the incandescent glow on the streets, an empty light show for no one but him. His dangling feet hung over the edge of the roof, with not nearly enough interest from gravity to pull him to a crumbling fall. The electric feeling appeared in his fingers as he clutched at the tarry roof beneath a starless sky tangent to the city. The moment, the decision, seemed like a craving not infected enough to take charge, as he remained motionless, watching.
But eventually the cocktail of built-up fatigue and the wide open, taunting gold and indigo mystery spilled over. It moved him past the point of inspiration as he gripped the rain gutter within instants. He dropped to the lawn, his joints aching upon impact with a sick ferocity.
He was now on the vulnerable ground, as opposed to in the force field he’d felt on the roof. A feeling came and passed that he shouldn’t be doing any of this, that his toes dug into the chillingly different soil and suffocating grass beneath his feet would damn him to some sort of demonic relapse. A relapse that would keep him locked in a symbolic dark bedroom somewhere in his psyche. A horror movie excitement, a fueling feeling encompassed him, however, and after his knees, ankles, and headache dulled, with purposeful strides he slid from lawn to sidewalk to the rarely touched middle of the street. Bound for a place of risk and petty fear and thrill that he had an accomplice, he didn't feel the uneven pavement drilling into his fleshy soles.
The crickets whispered behind his back, speaking only after he had passed. There was only two blocks to the old school, with its cracked parking lot and crooked buildings, the one he’d spent more than half a decade at. Those days were filled with various paper materials and nights spent in that same bedroom, watching the glowing autumn divide itself in two until only winter remained. Those buildings he left in May where he began sleeping hours more and nearly drowned in dark, leeching lakes. His mind filed these thoughts as he sped, fled - his goal was to reach that place in record time. His quick strides reached a thumping rhythm and although the humid air did not stir, a chill grabbed at his back like an aggressive follower.
There wasn't a single vehicle on that grid of streets, so he moved, unnoticed, from one end of the block to the next. He appeared as an almost nightmarish sleepwalker and his feet were bruising with the impact on man made stone.
He stepped carefully albeit almost blind over a jagged-edged pothole. The sharp pavement and harsh atmosphere of the inky lighted lot had an uncomfortable emptiness after dark. The street lights here were distant and watching like miniatures. He looked past the still tree silhouettes against the stellar, phosphorescent sky. The crickets were gone, and a star in the sky began to flash and move, evidence of an airplane far up in the atmosphere on a journey.
He waited for another figure to show up, walk into the vacant lot like a fighter entering the ring. He stood in the open, night swirling around him in a delicately balanced dance. The darkness and the invisible creatures did not touch him and he, in turn, stood meditatively as if waiting patiently for the universe to collapse. His breaths came slowly, and he began to realize after a few minutes that his feet were ground raw, and that standing there any longer would cause him to bleed. Not any other reason. This is what he willed himself to believe as he limped off toward the rusted chain-link fence, leaving in shame.
His fingers looped through the grimy space as he soothed his feet on the silky texture of the curb. He kicked at the fence, in a landslide regretting homecoming and winter formal and prom and all those glittery nights packaged dangerously in tinsel and streamers and balloons. The old school haunted shortly after three, with no swirling, comforting fantasy worlds like it was like at midnight. He staggered away, back to the street. To him, it felt like everyone else’s existence was some sort of inside joke, one he wasn't a part of. Had he dreamed of her enthusiastic acceptance or was he oblivious of her imminent sarcasm?
His suffering footsteps reached a forced beat as the imagination melted away. The neighborhood streets were missing something; they weren’t sprinkled with an insomniac’s magic - there was nothing in them for the poets to craft from. Each footstep taken sent him nearly careening towards the black street, like each tick by the ill-fated silver wind-up clock. Scuffed and tainted feet thumped against the pavement and he ducked his head in fear of being found out. Embarrassed over how he fell for the bait in the mousetrap, the mania chilled and dropped out of the warm summer night. Hands in baggy pockets, he rushed home with bruises and scrapes and his blood cells slowing to the point of a star-laden, disillusioned exhaustion.
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