By Beckaa Wallig
I knew this girl once. She was real cool like, keeping her back straight and head poised—real classy, ya know. She never paid any attention to the looks we all gave her but every time she met your eyes ya had to look down 'cuz you could tell she knew the thoughts behind your eyes. She was the type of girl all guys dreamed of nailing but she was too good for something like that, too perfect. Not that she was snobbish. Naw, she was above snobbery like an angel floating just above the earth, too pure to set her feet on such a lowly thing. That's how she walked, like an angel with her hair blowing back behind her and a small secret smile that told of some extraordinary knowledge no one around her possessed. She was perfect.
I didn't know at the time but she lived in my neighborhood, in the older half, the half that had been built before these two neighborhoods collided into one. I didn't find out that perfect angel lived in my world until the night Mama made me take out the trash. The garbage cans were on the side of the house, ya know, just far enough that I couldn't run it in my t-shirt but close enough that it felt like a waste to put on a coat. Luckily, Mama was being fussy that night so she made me put on a jacket before she handed me the bags and I hurried around the house not wanting to miss the game on TV. I kicked the irritating snow out of my way as I rushed around the side and yanked the lid of the nearest barrel, throwing the bag of trash in and slamming it back down.
I turned to run back inside 'cuz it was freezing out there but, I dunno, I must have caught the sight of movement out of the corner of my eye 'cuz I turned toward the park that spread out behind my yard and saw this person with their face turned up to the sky. I meant to go back inside, I mean, if some psycho wanted to stand outside in the freezing cold then that was their business, but something stopped me. Maybe I recognized her from that far away but as I trudged closer to the now still form it dawned on me that she was the psycho.
I dunno how I suddenly got some balls 'cuz I'd never had the guts to look this girl in the eyes let alone walk up and possibly start talking to her. She looked almost childish and innocent at the moment, vulnerable like. Her dangerously intense eyes were clear for once as she had her face turned up to the sky. It was probably the innocence that got to me because suddenly I had the guts to walk up and stand next to her turning my face up to see what she was looking at. I didn't understand it though, it was just a few stars in the sky. Big whoop.
"You're Kevin, right?"
I turned my face to her but she hadn't taken her eyes off of the sky. "Yea," was all I said. Good going there, Shakespeare.
"I didn't know you lived here."
I seemed to have "repeat after me" syndrome because all I could do was say the same thing back to her. "I didn't know ya did."
"I live in the old half."
She didn't appear to have anything to say after that so I just stood there dumbly. I tried to think of something to say but my newly acquired balls ditched me in the heat. I stood there nervously shifting my weight back and forth, boxer style. Yea, I was real smooth. My thoughts were going 'round and 'round inside my head. Should I leave her because she thought I was annoying or would she take offense at me just walking away? Should I say something or would that be annoying to her? Luckily, she saved me from my own frantic thoughts.
"What are you doing out here?"
"I could ask ya the same thing." "Repeat after me" syndrome again. I wanted to see her reaction but she was still facing the sky with that secret smile on her face. She made me cool my heels for a few seconds before she deigned to give me an answer.
"I'm soaking in peace," was her simple reply. No explanation, no nothing.
"Huh?" was my sophisticated reply. Nice going, Ace. I shifted uncomfortably under her solid stare wishing she would turn it back to the sky instead of staring me down.
"Do you really want to know?"
Something told me she would know if I lied. Ya know, like she could look into my soul or something. I didn't let my stupid head get in the way. I replied before thinking.
At my nod she closed her eyes and turned her face back up like she was somehow soaking up the scattered sky. "Close your eyes… open your ears and listen. Just listen… Listen to the wind... Listen to the snow… Listen to the cars along Windsor… Listen…"
Her voice faded away as I was absorbed into the cushioned silence. A car honked somewhere but it was in a different world separated by a thick blanket of snow. The thoughts that had been running around in my head fled to the back of my mind where they could not disturb me. I stayed lost in this new found world not wanting to venture away from such a peaceful place but something shifting near me brought me back to the real world. I looked over to where she would have been standing but I was forced to shift my eyes down to where she was sprawled out, child-like on the snowy ground, her eyes still closed and facing the sky. She suddenly looked so free and open with her snow matted hair fanning around her head. She looked, ya know, perfect.
Knowing I was watching, that smile came back as she pealed her eyes open. "Lie down." I did as I was told. I didn't want to break the dream she had wrapped around me. "Now look up."
I turned my face to the sky and gasped, real girly like. The stars were beautiful and so unwashed out there away from the secretive lights of the city. She giggled breathily at the goofy expression I must have had plastered on my face and began to point out her favorite clusters of stars. She didn't really know any of the "proper" constellations but, ya know, some how her enjoyment was easier to catch without all those stupid fancy names and set formations. I'd never seen her this way. She was like a kid in a candy shop rather than the well contained girl all of us had dreamed of cracking.
Suddenly, the reason behind that secret smile hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn't that she was somehow more perfect than the rest of us but that smile didn't belong in the world of high school melodrama and petty ordeals. Her smile belonged where she belonged: out here in the vastness of the speckled sky. It was her peace that set her apart. Her smile was a mystery because we lacked the capacity to find that peace on our own simply because we hadn't stopped to see the world and realize it was missing. I felt real dumb for not seeing it before.
We stayed there for a long time, maybe a minute, maybe an hour, or perhaps a lifetime. I didn't want to go back inside and risk losing her or, more importantly, the peace she had shown me. I was forced to end my stay when Mama's nagging voice broke from the house wondering where in hell I'd gotten to.
She stood with me as I got to my feet with a sigh. I turned to her trying to smother a look of longing, but some of it must have slipped through my eyes. She smiled in her own secret way inviting me to share it. The smile tugged its way onto my face as I realized, ya know, I didn't need to worry; whenever I lost it I'd find her here ready to lead the way again. It was reassuring.
That smile didn't leave my face as I trudged up through the snow to my house and I don't think it ever did. Every time I saw her in the hallway or during class we shared a little smile. She was perfect, ya know, real perfect and perfectly real.