Something to stare at
Have you ever had the feeling of intense loneliness, the kind that comes out of nowhere and smothers you, and you’re swimming in it like it’s thick, sticky honey, even if you’re surrounded by people? Even when those people are some of your closest friends, and you can’t explain it?
That’s what I’m feeling.
I have no idea where it’s coming from, only that it won’t go away.
Even though I am supposed to be having a great time, here with Virgil and Lara and Xavier and Saffy, even though this meet-up was my idea.
But it is here, and I cannot explain its presence. Even though there is no reason for me to feel this way. Even though I want to be enjoying myself.
It is here, and I cannot escape it.
I snag another slurp of slushie from Virgil. The sweet, syrupy tang of cherries fills my mouth, along with the crushed ice, so cold it sends a shiver down my spine, despite the warm weather.
“Hey! Yagmai, that’s mine! Go buy your own!” he protests, but I know he’s only joking. I can read it in his eyes. I swallow the last of the tangy goodness before sticking my tongue out at him, bright bright red.
The sun escapes from behind the clouds, finally, but as the temperature heightens, I’m forced to shrug off my shirt, revealing my stupid printed shirt beneath. I tie the shirt around my waist, the red flannel flying out behind me like a flag.
“Pfft! Yagmai, what even is your t-shirt?” Lara laughs as she comes up on my right. I pull it out so I can read it. In a glitched font, the words I have ctrl of this situation are printed across my chest.
“What?” I protest. “I thought it was cool!”
“Cool? I think nerdy would fit better.” Lara teases. She is wearing a spaghetti-strap lemon-yellow dress, a pale blue flower crown in her short hair, and has completed the look with… Beaten up black converse. Sometimes I’ll look at her and realize how grown up she is, but then I notice the things like this, and she is once more our Lara, with her crazy good dress sense, laughing brown eyes and admirable confidence to carry off her outfits and hare-brained ideas. I look away from her back to Virgil. Scrutinizing him, I notice how uncomfortable he looks, in his blue hoodie, hood up. I tap his arm.
“Why don’t you take your hoodie off? You must be sweltering,” I say. His eyes grow wide and scared, a -rabbit-in-the-headlights kinda look. I stop walking. Lara, Saffy and Xavier look back with a question in their faces, but I wave them on.
“We’ll meet you at the churro stand!” I call out. They nod and continue on. After they disappear into the crowd, I steer Virgil towards the closest bench.
“Virge, you need to accept that people are going to stare, no matter what you do. You’ll need to know that for life. I should know-it happens to me all the time.” I look down for a moment at my faded jeans. Paint splatters them, and my mismatched hi-tops hug my freakishly skinny ankles. Without looking in the mirror, I know what my face must look like right now.
Pale caramel skin, maybe one or two shades darker than usual from all the sun. Kaleidoscope eyes, the colour of which nobody knows. Lips stained slightly pink from the slushie. Black roots swamping electric blue hair, unruly and messy, falling into my eyes, at that awkward mullet stage, where it’s not too long to tie back but not short enough to leave down. The back of my neck feels too hot, and I know that I need to wash my hair. And to top it off, i have a glistening silver constellation on my arm. It stands out far too much on my dark skin, not half-hidden on the translucent skin of a Galatriox. No, this one stands out like a bull in a China shop.
I know I confuse a lot of people-they don’t know if I’m a Galactian, an Earthen, a native or what. I get a lot of questions about it. It used to bother me, but I don’t mind the questioning anymore. I’m used to standing out, but Virgil…. He isn’t, and it scares him. I look up at him again.
“Look…I know you’re scared. About standing out. But… It isn’t that bad. Sure, people will stare. But… They’ll stare anyway, even if you’re normal. Earthens, Natives… Everyone judges everyone. It’s a part of life. So, if they’re going to stare, we may as well give them something to stare at.” I clamp my mouth shut. I didn’t mean to say that much. Hesitantly I meet his eyes- oh, crap. They’re full of tears. I didn’t mean- I’m sorry. Crap crap crap. What do I do?
“Thanks. You’re right.” His voice is thickened with tears. I watch as Virgil stands up. He unzips his hoodie, passing me his bag so he can shrug it off. His eyes meet mine-he’s scared as hell. I do my best to convey all the support I can in my eyes. He shrugs it off slowly, tying it around his waist like I did. I hand him his backpack again and he shoulders it once more. I stand up. The thick black stitches on his neck are jarring against his pale skin, like a bar code of three lines. A matching set are embroidered on his left wrist, flashing at me as he pulls the strap over his arm.
I feel a sharp pang of pain as I catch sight of the countless lines underneath the stitches-the scars that earned him those black lines. I can see him trembling. Taking a deep breath, I grab his hand-It’s cold, clammy.
I smile at him. “Let’s give them something to stare at. Also, I believe we have a churro stand to find.”
And, as we walk off in search of the elusive churro stand, I realize the loneliness has gone.