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“I just don’t feel safe.” I almost have to force the words out of my body and I deliberately avert my gaze towards a particularly interesting potted plant on the counsellor’s desk. The price tag is rubbing off the pot and the bright pink petals clash with the dull beige of the walls.
“Do you think someone is going to hurt you?”
I clench my hand into a fist. “No.”
“Then how come you don’t feel safe? Do you feel threatened, or is the world just a threatening place?”
I pause, my gaze travelling from neon pink plant to a crack in the wall to the floor.
“The world.” When she doesn’t respond and the silence begins to grow, I sigh and shift my position on the couch. “I’m just jumpy. All the fucking time. Something is going to go wrong any second and – “
“And you need to feel in control.”
I shrug. Control? The last thing I want is to control anything. I just want to stay out of it, stay out of life, the world; I think of my room and I wonder if I can stay there forever.
“The past was dangerous to you, Isaac. It was painful, it was traumatic, it turned your world upside down. Your mind is still there. You’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. But you are no longer there. Your mind may be, but you’re not there anymore.”
The skate park is quiet, the air broken by nothing more than the skittering of autumn leaves on the ground. I get there and hop onto my skateboard, practicing for a few minutes before the sound of clattering wheels from afar grows louder.
Marcus skids to a stop and nods at me. “You’re pretty good.”
I shrug and get off my skateboard, motioning to the side.
“I’m sure you are too.”
He grins and walks past me, hopping on his and doing a few tricks around the park without another word, only an occasional challenging smile in my direction.
For the next hour we skate without another word, a light breeze drifting past us, rays of sunlight beaming down through the floating white clouds. I barely keep up with him as he moves with his skateboard as naturally as an extension of his own body.
I slide down a ramp and slow to a stop, sitting down with a loud exhale at the bottom. I hug my legs and stare up at the sky.
His gaze flickers to my direction and he joins me at the bottom of the ramp, placing his feet on his board and lying back, arms criss crossed behind his head.
A deep calmness spreads through my chest, sinking into a heavy emptiness and I close my eyes for a moment, trying to pull myself back. The sounds of distant laughter mingle with a growing rumbling noise of water and damp mist against my face, though the day is hot and dry.
“Hey.” Marcus nudges my foot roughly and I’m shaken back to the present. He’s holding two soda cans from his bag and hands one to me.
I down half of the can, ice cold and far too sweet, down my throat in a few minutes.
He laughs and we continue to sit in a quiet, almost awkward but not quite, silence for a few more moments.
“So, where’d you move here from?” he asks curiously.
I barely meet his gaze, only move to lie down and stare up at the stark blue and white sky. “Just this rural town at the edge of state.”
He makes a noise of acknowledgement.
“It was so small, everyone knew each other,” I find myself saying, rambling just to fill the quiet. “There’s this beach that stretches for miles. It was – is – my favourite place. Nothing ever seemed to go wrong there, by the ocean. And a small greasy diner everyone went to. And…a forest, full of wildlife.” I trail off and his gaze turns to me.
“Sounds nice man.”
“It was.” Suddenly my vision is blurring and I grit my teeth together. Not here. Not now. I roughly rub at my eyes with my fists, turning away in a pretense of stretching.
Marcus shifts next to me and sits there with his eyes on me for a few seconds, opening his mouth then closing it and falling silent.
“Wanna race each other to the park?” He pipes up, getting to his feet and grabbing his skateboard.
I nod gratefully, pulling my shirt over my face for a moment, wiping my eyes, but also the sweat off my face. My vision clears again and I grab my board.
We hop on the road and he pushes off ahead of me.
I follow closely after, our wheels clacking and rumbling down the wide, quiet road together.
The rain pounds relentlessly on the windows, water running furiously down the glass. I sit in my bed with my headphones on as loud as possible without hurting my ears, but the outside noise still gets through. I scroll through my phone until I’m too tired to continue, sinking into my pillow as lightning flashes outside.
The pouring rain slowly seeps into my dreams as I drift off into an uneasy slumber, clutching my pillow, hugging it close to my chest.
Somewhere in my dream, the water crashes and roars, growing from rain to current to floodwater. Somewhere in my dream, water sprays in my face and overtakes me, pulling my legs under, then my torso, arms, head, all of me.
Somewhere else in my dream, someone starts screaming.
I wake up with a start, my yell breaking off into nothing. My body is covered in cold sweat and I groan, grabbing my phone off the nightstand. 4:30 am. Outside, there is only a light breeze now. I wipe the sweat off my face with one hand and fall back into bed, staring up at the ceiling. My heart still races and I roll to the side, trying to force my brain back to sleep again.
It’s to no avail. I lie there in a half dreary headache state, mind drifting in and out of the same dream, nausea only growing by the hour.
It feels like no time has passed at all when there’s a loud knocking at the door, followed by a sharp voice shouting at me to get out of bed. I wait for my dad to retreat to the kitchen before getting to my feet, wandering around my room for a minute, hand hovering over my camera.
I carry it to the living room minutes later along with my phone and earphones. I sit down at the breakfast table, poking at the eggs and toast with my stomach turning inside and out and doing relentless cartwheels inside.
“Eat your food.”
My dad half places half slams his own plate of breakfast down opposite me, working methodically at the butter and toast.
“I don’t feel like it.”
“Do I look like I give a damn about whether or not you feel like it? Eat your breakfast.” My dad turns on the television and turns away from me, studying the morning news with unbreakable intensity.
“You’re up. Good for you.”
I look up at my mom as she strolls into the kitchen, scooping the last of the eggs and toast onto a plate and sitting down next to me.
“Isaac, I know this is early. But your father and I have been thinking, you really need to get a job. Good way to get your life together, settle into a new place. Make some money, get yourself going.”
“I don’t want one. I’m busy,” I mutter back, biting unenthusiastically into the toast. The roaring noise grows in my ears again.
“Life is going to happen whether or not you want it to. And in life, you’re going to want a job. It’ll be good for you.” My mom sniffs, the irritation creeping into her voice.
“Don’t feel like it.”
My dad’s head snaps from attentiveness on the television screen to onto me and my heart skips a beat. I lower my head down more so that most of my vision is just plain toast and mediocrely scrambled egg, but my dad’s voice still cuts clean and sharp through all my senses.
“What do you mean don’t feel like it? You’re going to spend your life sulking in the house? Is that what you feel like doing?” He places his glass of orange juice down sharply and the brief sound of it makes me curl my hands into fists, chest tight and taut.
I lift my head and turn towards him. “You have no fucking idea how I feel.”
“Isaac! Don’t you dare use that language with your father or you’ll be sorry.”
“No.” My dad responds in a cold, calm voice that makes my heart drop. “The boy clearly has something to say. Why don’t you be a man and continue your train of thought?”
“I – I said you have no fucking idea. You never did, you never will.” I drop my knife and fork onto the plate with a clatter, pushing my chair away from the table. I turn to grab my camera, prepared to walk out the door. My dad’s hand flashes out of nowhere and snatches at it before I can turn away.
“You’re not going anywhere.”
“Give that back to me.” My voice rises and I reach towards it but my dad holds it out of reach. “Please.”
“If you don’t learn to respect me or your mother, then why do you deserve to have this?” My dad snaps and the camera is hanging swinging from his hands.
My heart races so loud in my chest it almost drowns out everything else.
“You don’t understand,” I shout, my voice rising despite myself. I grab the camera strap and pull it towards me.
I barely have time to move as my dad grabs my shoulder, pushing me violently back into the table. My heart jumps in fear and I only stare back in disbelief as my mom interjects.
My dad lets go reluctantly, his sharp eyes still on me.
I grab my camera from my dad’s hands as he momentarily weakens his grasp and I run out of the house, slamming the door behind me, breathing too rapidly and too shallowly.
I get onto the road and I continue running, not sure where to go but knowing only to run and run and run.
For a brief, delirious moment, I’m running to Lucas’ place, but there is no Lucas’ place here, there is no Lucas here, not anymore.
I stop in front of a neighbourhood far away from home. I grasp my camera to my chest, safe and far away from my dad, and slow down.
My heart rate slowly falls back to normal as I take in the early morning goers; those sipping coffee in front of cafes, those walking their dogs and listening to music and shopping and meandering up and down the neighbourhood. I raise my camera, steadying my hands.
An old man doing a crossroad with a half eaten croissant on a plate in front of him.
A middle aged woman walking a husky down the street.
A little boy tugging his mother’s hand and pointing at the flowers at the side of the road.
I take a deep breath. I pretend. My life is simple and uncomplicated, nothing more than one of a passing stranger floating fleetingly through a brief snapshot of a Saturday morning.