Anonymous asked: When can I read past chapter 9?
I’m not sure quite yet! i’m currently working on a rewrite of chapters 1-9 because my writing style has changed so much in the last year, or at least i feel it has. I’ll do my best to get it up soon!
Sometimes when I fall asleep I have these dreams that scare the hell out of me. Like, you know when you’re having a dream, you’re supposed to have control over yourself and you’re supposed to be able to stop things from happening if you don’t want them to happen? I don’t have that sometimes. In my dreams, I can’t move at all. I feel like I’m strapped down, and I can’t really see or hear anything. But I feel so much. I feel pain. I feel my stomach being ripped apart and cut open, I feel their needles pricking ant my veins. I feel the gas mask go over my mouth as I try to scream out for help, and then I wake up.
Luckily, it’s just Tenshi and me on the train when I scream out in my dream. My eyes shoot open, and I gasp for breath, and Tenshi holds me and tells me it’ll be okay and that it was just a dream. The nice thing is that she doesn’t ask for me to explain or if I want to talk about it, but she just holds my hand and puts her head on my shoulder and tells me that no matter what, she’ll always be there for me.
It was just a dream, just a dream. I keep telling myself that to keep me from going insane. My heart is still beating out of my chest and it’s still hard to breathe but I’m getting there, I know I am. I have to be. I take out my headphones and put on a song that makes my heart slow down and for a moment I stop breathing and just think about where I am and what I’m doing.
I didn’t even leave them a note… I just up and left the apartment at 4:00 in the morning. I don’t want them to worry about me so I decide that when we get off in Freemont I’ll give them a call to let them know that I’m okay because I know now that they actually worry and that, above all else, makes me feel better than almost anything else.
You see, for most of my life I’ve felt that, to my parents, I was just this thing that took up space and ate the food that they cooked. When we lived in Pennsylvania, I would wander off sometimes at night to hang out with my so-called “friends” and they wouldn’t even call to check up or ask where I was or what happened or try to force me to come home at 2 am when they woke up and realized I wasn’t underneath the comfort of my sheets. Too many nights I’ve spent passed out drunk on the floors of “friends” I don’t even know, waking up with only the vaguest sense of sanity, not knowing which direction to start walking so that I could make my way home.
Before I didn’t want to go home because I didn’t think I had anything worth going home to. I never would have guessed just how wrong I really was.
My eyes squint as the light pours through the windows as we ascend from the depths of the earth and surface on land, west of the San Francisco Bay. Tenshi yawns and kisses me on the cheek, stretches her arms and brings them down around my neck, pulling me into the comfortable embrace of a hug, something I had come quite familiar with over the last two months.
She places her hand on my shoulder and then lays her head down on it. The driver comes on the speaker and says the next stop is in five minutes, and that’s where we’ll get off. Tenshi grabs her bag from the floor beside us and straps it over her shoulders. I throw my arm across her shoulder, and she clasps her hand in mine and we wait. We wait for what seems like an eternity. It’s really kind of surreal— the feeling that washes over my body. Everything being in slow motion, the overall image becoming more of a large blur floating through space. And as fast as it came, it was gone. Just another blip on the radar of my slowly decaying mind.
Then life showed up again. The train’s brakes squeaked down on the tracks until we came to our stop. The driver politely informed us that this was indeed the final stop and that all passengers should exit the vehicle.
Tenshi grabs my hand and leads me out of the train car. The train turns away and goes off back to the other side of the bay, and we are left here, alone, with no plans to do anything or go anywhere.
“We’re here,” she says. “Now what?” she looks me in the eyes and a smile draws across her face because she realizes that our birds have been let out of their cages and are free to fly. We can go anywhere, do anything, and not worry about tomorrow until tomorrow, and that’s a freedom that I could get used to. I could get used to taking things one day at a time.
She doesn’t even wait for me to answer. She tugs my hand and with a quick “Come on!” we’re down the stairs and out of the terminal. She jumps out into the street in front of a slowly moving taxi, and we get inside.
“Where to?” the driver asks, in a very heavy accent. I feel a little unsure about the man because he looks nothing like the picture on his license, but Tenshi doesn’t skip a beat.
“Lake Elizabeth,” she says, “in Freemont Central Park.” The driver sets the meter and starts driving. An awkward silence comes across the inside of the cab after that, but she grabs my hand and lays her head on my chest and lets out a small sigh of relief.
“It’s remarkable, isn’t it?” she whispers, her voice so soft that it’s almost inaudible. Her hand caresses my chest ever so slightly, sending tingles down my spine, electricity to my mind. The sound of her voice being the only thing in my universe, the only thing I need in my universe.
“What’s remarkable?” I whisper back, pondering the possibilities of her answer.
“The feeling of being alive.” She says, and that’s that. The thing about Tenshi is that she never really needs to explain stuff like that anymore. Before I would have asked “why?” or “how?” but now I don’t need to because I feel it too. She has this extraordinary ability to put into words all the things that I feel inside and I’ve grown quite fond of it. I’ve always thought that people who say that they can complete each other’s sentences were so full of themselves, but the thing with Tenshi and me is that we don’t need to complete each other’s sentences to know that we complete each other. And knowing that is far more beautiful than completing sentences could ever be.
When I wake up, my room is pitch black, which is strange because usually light comes in through my window, even at night, because San Francisco never sleeps. But I check my phone, and I have 4 missed texts from Tenshi so I scroll through them and then apologize and tell her I was sleeping and that I hope I didn’t wake her up, but if I did, I was sorry for that too. I check the time, and it’s 4:17 in the morning, so she might be up. I don’t think she sleeps at all, honestly. If she does, I don’t know when. It seems like she’s up all night and all day.
Almost immediately, I get a response back. She wants to meet, so I grab my hoodie and keys and leave. I don’t try to sneak out or be quiet, I just go, which is really unlike me. I stop at Starbucks and pick us up a coffee each and make my way over to Union Square Park to the benches. I have to wait about 15 minutes before she gets there, but I don’t mind. As I see her start to walk, I put down my coffee and get up and walk towards her. She gives me the kind of hug where when you’re done, you have to ask if everything is okay. I keep thinking that she’s going to let go of me and for the longest time, she doesn’t. When we finally let go, she takes my hand, and I lead her over to the bench and hand her coffee.
“Thanks,” she says, and as she takes a big gulp of it, a small smile lights up her face, and she gives a relaxed sigh and says, “I really needed that.” Her fingers clasp in-between mine, and for a while everything is silent. I sit and finish my coffee, and when I’m done, I get up to throw it away, but Tenshi stops me. She puts down her coffee and kisses me hard on the lips, but it’s almost desperate. I kiss her back trying to be a bit gentler and then all of a sudden, she stops kissing me and I see the tears that are falling down her cheeks. She wraps her arms around my neck and buries her face into my shoulder and screams as loud as she can and cries and cries and cries.
So I hug her back and let her get out what she needs to get out and when she’s done, she looks at me with her eyes all puffy and more than anything I want to be able to look her in the eyes and say something that would make all her pain and suffering go away, but I realize that there is nothing to say, and that’s okay too. Because as long as I’m here, and she knows that I always will be, everything will be okay. But when I look her in the eyes right now, I realize that Tenshi, like me, is broken. And I always thought that being broken was a bad thing, but it’s not. Because inside, we’re all a little broken. And I never realized how beautiful being broken could be until just now. Tenshi was every bit as broken as me, if not more, and yet she accepts the parts of me that are broken and when she looks at me she sees me every bit as beautiful as I see her. I think the reason why we’re all so broken is because a part of us went missing when we were born and we spend our whole lives searching for that missing part, and when I’m with Tenshi, I don’t feel broken anymore.
I take her hand in mine and lift it up and kiss it, and then kiss her again. And she laughs a little behind her red, swollen eyes and smiles again. She sniffles a little bit and pushes her glasses back into place, and relaxes back on the bench. I don’t bother even asking her if she’s okay because I know she’s not, and when she’s ready to talk about it she knows that I’m here.
“You wanna get out of here for the day?” She asks me, like she’s got a plan already. It’s as if I can see her mind racing faster than either of us can comprehend and even if I said no, I’d end up going with her anyway.
“Yeah, let’s leave. Let’s go somewhere. What’s the plan?” She thinks for a second and looks down Powell Street.
“How far out of the city can BART take us?” She asks, trying to think about it herself.
“Well, we could cross under the bay and go all the way down to Freemont, if you want. I’ve never exactly been down that way, really.” I know that it’s an expensive ticket to go that way, too, but what the hell? I was in the mood for a real adventure.
When we get there, the station is really freaking cold. I think this might be because Tenshi is still wearing my jacket, but either way, I don’t mind being a little cold as long as she feels comfortable. I pay for our tickets, and we start walking down the stairs to wait for the train to come. The circular bench like seats seemed inviting for five o’clock in the morning, so we sit down, waiting for the blinking sign to tell us where we’re to go.
Sitting together, underneath the mall, waiting for our train, the silence starts to eat away at me. I start to feel my heart beat a little faster, and I start to lose my breath. Everything goes out of focus. But then, Tenshi grabs my hand, kisses my cheek and lays her head on my shoulder. And the world starts to slow down, just enough so I don’t feel so crazy anymore. Enough that I feel like maybe, I might actually belong. It’s like I know where I’m supposed to be and that’s exactly where I am— sleep deprived, holding hands with the girl I love, waiting for a train to take us away from all the people and noise of the city.
We end up waiting there for half an hour, Tenshi’s fallen asleep on my shoulder, but the sound of the train shooting through the tunnel towards us wakes her up. The lights flicker on and off and I see Tenshi yawn as we stand up. The last car is empty, so we walk in and sit all the way in the back corner, together. I take out my phone and keep checking the time, anything to keep me awake on the long ride to Freemont. When we get to the point where we’re crossing under the Bay, I can’t help but fall asleep too. My head lies gently down on top of Tenshi’s, and my eyes start to close until I see nothing.
For the first time in my life, I could honestly say that things were going completely perfect, and it scared the hell out of me. I found myself smiling for no reason at all and waking up to cute good morning texts from Tenshi with the added less-than-three at the end. Like, I used to think people who like good morning texts and smile for no reason were full of shit. I just can’t believe that anymore because I am one of those people, and I don’t believe myself to be full of shit.
The best thing about being with Tenshi now is that we could talk all the time, and it never got boring, and it never went silent, and when we held hands, we never wanted to let go, and saying goodbye was the hardest part of the day because it meant that we had to wait all the way until the next day to be with each other again.
There was never a moment when I wasn’t thinking about her. At night when I’d go to sleep, I’d dream about her. I don’t know why, but all of a sudden, all of that cutsey stuff that I used to hate and loathe became the tape and glue that held me together. Waking up in the morning wasn’t a pain anymore because I knew that the earlier I got up and the less time I wasted, meant more time I got to spend with Tenshi every morning. Most days we’d just walk over to Starbucks and grab a coffee before she’d walk me to school, but sometimes, when we had more time, we’d go on adventures. Honestly, I’d started missing a few days of school just so we could be together. Her favorite place to go was the roof of her old apartment building. It was tough the first time, when we climbed in the window, and she looked right into the place where she lost him. But as soon as I had pulled both of my legs through, she walked over, shut the door that opened the room to the hallway, and that was that. She put a smile right back on her face as we walked the stairs until we reached our haven, far above the sights and sounds of the city.
The other thing is that kissing with Tenshi wasn’t weird at all. Part of me fully expected that when we kissed the first time, the magic that kept us going would stop there, but it didn’t. Every time her lips met mine, fireworks started going off in my mind. I never wanted to stop, to be honest. My old therapist once told me that I cling to anybody who shows me love and affection because I didn’t feel like I got enough as a child from my parents. I think it’s all bullshit, but who knows. All I know is that when I hold her in my arms, I don’t mind the time going by slow. She fills my life with laughter and wonder and joy.
So we’re lying on top of the roof, and she’s resting her head on my chest so she can hear my heart beating. I’ve got one arm wrapped around her shoulder and thinking about all of this in my mind.
“Your heart is beating so fast.” She whispers to me. I can feel it, too. It’s beating out of my chest. Fast and hard and strong. It makes me feel so alive, and she smiles and lets out a small laugh.
“It beats only for you” I respond, ignoring the fact that it’s the cheesiest line I could think of. Tenshi loves all that cheesy shit too. She says that it makes her feel all gooey inside and that that’s a good thing and to not worry about it so much.
I decide that although I haven’t screwed up, it is quite possible that I will do so because although I have experiences dating the experiences I do have both a.) Sucked, and b.) Ended in complete and total disaster. So after I walk her all the way back to her house, I take out my phone and give my sister a call.
The thing about me and my sister is that we were never really all that close. She’s 4 years older than me, and although we went to the same elementary school, when she graduated and went on to private school for high school, I got thrown in public school. I don’t want it to sound like I’m complaining though because I’m really not. I have absolutely no problem with the fact that I went to public school. She was willing to do the work it took to succeed in a hardworking, high stress environment. I, on the other hand, was not. It’s not like I was stupid or anything and just didn’t understand any of the basic concepts needed to succeed in school, it was quite the opposite. I was smart. Like, really smart, but like all child geniuses, I reached my peak at age 12 and slowly but surely faded into the background. I slept during classes, I didn’t do my homework. This is mainly why my sister and I didn’t get along very well. All she would ever do was tell me how gifted my brain was and how she hated that things that took her months of studying and working on over and over and over again just seemed to come naturally to me, and how she wished that she had that because she could be so much more. The thing is though, and people never look at it this way, but it goes both ways. I envied my sister as well because as much as I wanted to try hard and sit down and study or learn or give a damn about anything, something inside me always seemed to ask why. Why try when I can get along just fine without having to put any effort into a single damn thing? It was a constant battle for me to do anything that I honestly lacked to see the importance in. And she didn’t know it, but I’d trade my brain any day just to have the desire to try at anything.
So anyway, as I make my way back to the apartment, I take my phone out and dial in her number. It rings a few times but then she finally answers.
“Hey little brother,it’s been awhile.”
“Hey, Allison. I was hoping maybe you had some big sister advice for me?”
I went on to explain all the events that had transpired in the months that had passed since we had left Pennsylvania for California. She listed to me and laughed at the funny parts and was sad at the sad parts and seemed like she genuinely cared about everything. I told her about being scared of being with Tenshi because now I had something to lose and that was what kept me awake at night, the fear of losing her. But the other nice thing was that the conversation wasn’t all about me, either. Allison told me all about how she cut off all her hair and transferred out of The University of Scranton and was now going to this really cool art school in New York that doesn’t even really give grades, and she got an apartment in Brooklyn with her *gasp!* girlfriend and how she was so much happier now than she was before. And we talked and talked until I had made it all the way back home. But before we said goodbye, she said something to me that I hope I never forget.
“Dating is fun because you get to do a bunch of cute shit with someone you like and maybe if you’re lucky you’ll forget about everything else” and she laughed and laughed and I laughed too. Because that was the effect of Tenshi. Every single part of that statement just felt right, and it was perfect. Life was perfect.
So I walked into our building and past the elevator for the stairs, until I got all the way up to the 7th floor and into the apartment, and passed out on my bed to dream of another beautiful day to come.
(Don’t let my sister know I chose to make her Allison Weiss in my book)
The thing about me is that I only see things in the most tragic, terrible way possible. Like right now, I’m sitting on a bench and holding hands with Tenshi, and I can’t concentrate on her or how peaceful it is but only on the cold and silence. Goddamn, it’s cold. The fog is so heavy I can feel the wetness on my face. It’s salty and smells like the wharf. Tenshi turns her head and sort of looks at me funny, and then opens her mouth as if she’s about to say something, and then stops. She turns away and stares forward at the seven story Macy’s in front of us and watches the lights on the fifth floor flicker on and off. Her hand grips tightly around mine and even though it’s all sweaty, neither of us lets go. It’s kind of a small comfort, the feeling of her fingers clasped in-between mine. I think she feels it too. I used to think that I knew how she felt a lot of the time, but now I’m just not so sure. I mean, it just feels like I hardly ever even see her anymore. I think she feels that too. She’s started waiting for me on the steps outside school every day, and it helps a bit. Just a little less time I don’t have to spend feeling sad and alone and a little more time I can spend feeling happy and complete. A car passes on the street in front of us and takes us by surprise, with its high beams on and the sound of its engine roar, she jumps up a little from the bench.
“You okay?” I ask, just trying to break the silence. It’s not often that we’re silent. I mean, I am, just not when I’m with her. When I’m with Tenshi, I almost feel alive. She gives me this feeling, that everything might be okay, and if I just believe in it a little bit, it will come true. She’s got me believing that there’s more to life that just going through the motions.
She stays quiet for a second and says “I’m fine.” But I know she’s not. There’s something wrong, and I want her to open up and tell me, but she doesn’t, and I just really wish she would. I go to wrap my arm around her shoulder, and I feel how cold she is.
“Here, take my jacket” I say simply. I lay it around her shoulders and rub the arms to warm her up. She turns her head slightly and smiles slightly at my touch. An electric shock runs through my veins. She pulls away and the smile on her face slowly fades, while her eyes light up like the Fourth of July.
Before I can stop myself, I cup my hand around her cheek, pull her close and kiss her. Not like a little kid kiss where it’s just a quick peck on the lips, but a true, real kiss. And she starts kissing back. And her hands are around my neck and I pull her in as close as I can and for a moment, everything stops. I swear to god, the world around us vanishes, and it is just me and her in this sweet embrace for an eternity. I have been on dates and I had kissed other girls, but nothing had ever been like this. Nothing could have prepared me for the moment when I realized that I was in love with Tenshi Kyoto.
After that day, everything changed. I was never without Tenshi and she was never without me. We hadn’t had any notable adventures (though we had an amazing lunch at Joe’s Crab Shack, where they dance to YMCA every 45 minutes), and we were just generally happy. I really had no reason to complain at all. If this was as good as it gets for awhile, then I’m okay with that.
Then, school had to start. The weird thing about Tenshi is that she doesn’t go to school. I guess she was homeschooled and finished early and is holding off on going to college and lives at home with her parents. She tells me that she does it for them, staying home. She figures that they really can’t handle having another child leave early and she couldn’t do that to them. Some days she goes out and explores and gets to live. Some days she stays at home all day and reads.
One time I saw her room. Only from the outside, it was covered, from floor to ceiling, on each wall, in books. It’s like she never needed to paint the walls. She had an abundance of construction paper she used to cover the books, and would re-arrange them and re-cover them to decorate her walls. It was beautiful. When I saw, each wall had the books arranged so that they were each a brilliant white feather with tiny black speckles. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. The coolest part, at least to me, was having the freedom of changing her walls whenever she wanted.
So anyway, school started and I kind of hated it. I was new and my school was huge and there were over 900 kids in my senior class, which is nearly twice the size of my class in Pennsylvania. Moreover, my classes were dull, each class had at least thirty kids and my teachers were dull at best. My classes were difficult and challenging and I had loads of homework, seeing as I had 8 classes a day, as opposed to only having 4 classes a day in Pennsylvania. I hardly ever had free time and I was always tired. I never got to see Tenshi.
Sometimes when she was out an about she would send me pictures of the things she saw. I would often get pictures of the golden gate just after the fog had lifted, or the metal heart at Union Square Park, or more gigantic rundown buildings, from the outside, of course. She had even taken to taking pictures of strange people she saw in the city. Once I got a picture of a lady who was easily in her fifties and had butch cut, blue hair.
One day, she found this guy who had orange hair, like, naturally orange hair, but, he had the craziest huge afro. She had kind of taken to stalking this guy on days where she was bored. In all honesty, it was pretty funny. On occasion, I would whip out my phone in class and take pictures of the bare white walls of my classroom so she could see my view too. School was pretty depressing.
But, luckily, most of my weekends were free. We would often meet early in the morning on Saturdays and spend all day together. We walked as far as our legs would take us, which became increasingly further and further. We spent a lot of time down at Pier 39 where we could Get Sourdough Bread Bowl New England Clam Chowder, which was absolutely to die for. San Francisco Sourdough is amazing to begin with. One time I almost won an iPad playing one of those stacker games at the Pier.
I think what I enjoyed most about Tenshi was that things were never weird with her. I could talk to her and that was really important. I always used to think that the reason that I never really talked a lot was because I never really had a lot to say. I was wrong. I was able to actually get comfortable enough with her where I could start to open up and be myself and just talk. When I first met Tenshi, I would pride myself in being this excellent listener, but as of late, I found out that I was doing a lot less listening and a lot more talking, and I loved it. Everything I was never able to say for the first 17 years of my life was finally coming out.
And that was just Saturdays. On Sundays I stayed home and watched football with my dad. I was a huge San Francisco 49er’s fan and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. Before now, I had never lived in San Francisco, or any part of California for that fact. I guess the only ties I even had to the Bay Area was that my mom grew up in Piedmont which is just outside of Oakland. Nonetheless, I was a 49ers fan.
So essentially, Sundays were off for me and Tenshi. I mean if we had an early game we would hang out afterwards, or if we had a Monday night we decided we would hang out Sundays too. All in all everything was going great. I was finally happy. My parents were happy for me too.
I could never introduce Tenshi to my parents though. She was scared to death to meet them and I was scared to death to introduce her to them too. I never met her parents either. She talked about them a lot though. I guess they were pretty close.
My parents and I were getting a lot closer too and it was pretty nice. We were talking more and more and they were starting to get to know me and I was getting to know them too. I feel like we were finally starting to resemble something close to a family for the first time in a long time.
One day in early October, Tenshi sent me a text at about 11:30 at night. It was a picture of the heart at Union Square Park again and underneath, it said “Meet me here now?” I changed out of my pajamas right that second and into a pair of heavy jeans, a long sleeve shirt and grabbed my jacket and keys. My parents had been asleep for quite some time by this point, but I still made a point to sneak out really nice and quiet so that they wouldn’t accidentally wake up and hear me.
Once I had made it out of the apartment, I went to the elevator and waited for it to come up and get me. I grabbed some leather gloves out of my pockets and slipped them on so that my hands wouldn’t freeze outside. In the few short months that I had been here, I had begun to get used to the weather but when it started to drop below 50 at night, it was cold. Especially when the fog was as heavy as it was tonight. Once the elevator reached the bottom floor, I stepped outside and made sure to be quiet because the building manager lives right outside the elevator door and gets angry whenever someone is loud about closing the elevator gate or slams the door on the way outside.
As soon as I walk outside, my face starts freezing a little bit. I throw my hood over my head and pull my shirt up a little bit to cover my mouth and nose. I walk at a fast pace down to Sutter Street and turn without crossing as to avoid running into traffic. It takes me about two more minutes from there to get to Union Square Park, so I stop and wait at the heart for a few moments. I don’t see her at first and so I start to walk up the steps and that’s when I spot her.
She’s sitting at the bench where we ate our ice cream after we visited her old apartment building. She’s bundled up quite a bit, and I can’t even really see her eyes. I walk over and sit down silently next to her. She doesn’t make a move, not even a sound. It’s as though something has taken over her and I don’t know what to do or say. So I don’t. I sit there silently next to her. Her hand creeps slowly until her fingers are clasped in-between mine. And we sit there.
Eventually, it’s not just us that are silent, but as time passes, the world around us becomes silent too.
“Do you ever wonder what it would feel like to fall?” It’s almost dreamy, the way the words fall from her lips. The sun beats down hard on our skin as we lie on the roof of the building. I think about her question long and hard.
“Falling is probably one of the scariest things in the world, not even just the actual falling part, but the feeling that you’re about to fall. The feeling you get right before you fall. I think that’s actually scarier than the actual fall. Right before you fall, you still can stop yourself, but sometimes you don’t want to, you’re not sure if want to hold back. Sometimes the scariest thing is that more than anything you want to jump and spread your arms and pray you fly. Either way, I’m still scared of falling because I don’t think that I’ll ever fly, no matter how much I wish I could.” While I speak, I’m scared out of my mind, my heart and head are racing, but I probably speak more calmly to her than I ever have since we met.
She whispers to me, “Are you scared?” She pauses, and it is silent for a moment.
“More than you can imagine.”
And then it is quiet. We lay there for a while with our hands held tight and our eyes shut. We listen to the sounds of the people walking and the cars driving below us. It’s a nice cool day, and it reminds me a lot of fall in Pennsylvania when the leaves turn to fire. I don’t think the leaves change here, and if they do, it’s not like it would be a big deal. In my entire month here, I have seen 2 legitimate trees. There’s the one from the zoo, and there’s one growing in the sidewalk that you can see out our window.
We lay there for only a little while longer before we get up and start our walk down the stairs. We make our way to the third floor when she stops. She walks slowly over to one of the apartments. She pushes the door open slowly, and I follow her. I see the faded number 305 on a small silver plate on the door. When I enter I am immediately taken aback. Unlike the others, this is the only apartment that is completely empty. There was nothing here. No dressers, no mattresses not boxes or chairs. Nothing. Not even hangars in the closet. Tenshi looks out the window at the fire escape and the ground below. It overlooks the opposite side of the street than the side that we came in from. She just stares out for a few minutes before saying anything.
“This was the first place we lived when we moved to the city. I was really young, maybe only two or three. We’d been here for only about a year when it happened. I had an older brother; he was four years older than me. One day, when my dad was at work and my mom was next door talking to the neighbor, I guess he decided it would be fun to play out on the fire escape. He was leaning over the edge looking down at the ground when mom walked in the door. She saw him and screamed and he got scared, and jumped a little. He fell over the rail and he…”
Her voice trembles and a tear rolls down her cheek, and I know that she can’t say the next word. She pushes back against the wall and falls to the ground.
“I remember the ambulances coming and mom crying, and I was crying too because the sirens were so loud. Dad came home early from work and he was crying, and he held mom in his arms and mom screamed into his chest. We moved away right after that. I don’t think they could handle living here after that.”
At that she bows her head down and cries silently. I move to sit next to her and wrap my arm around her shoulder. She throws her arm across my chest and pulls me close and cries hard into my shoulder. We sit there for the longest time and she just cries. And I let her. Because I honestly have no clue what to say or do. She just cries and cries and lifts her head only to reach into her purse for some tissues to blow her nose into. And then she cries some more.
Eventually, her sobbing settles down into a gentle soft cry. She stops gasping for air and I wonder if she’s even breathing anymore. Then, she breathes in deep, blows her nose one more time, lifts her glasses and wipes the last tears from her eyes and is finished. And for a while we just sit there in silence, enjoying the beauty of a close embrace between friends.
“I could really use some ice cream,” she says. I get up on my feet and lower my hand to help her up too. She grabs her bag and takes may hand.
“Come on, we’ll go get some ice cream. I could really go for some too.” I try to feign a smile so that she thinks that everything is okay even when it isn’t. She tries to smile back, but I know she isn’t really smiling. Her eyes are all red and puffy still from crying, but she tries to smile anyway. We make our way back to room 202 where we came in and go out the window to the fire escape. She lowers it down and steps down and I follow. We quietly raise it back up and make our way back to Gough Street and walk all the way to Walgreens on Powell and Sutter.
We walk in and it’s packed. We end up having to turn right as soon as we walk in and walk all the way to the back and then over to the other side of the store and to the front to the frozen foods section. They have quite a horrible selection of ice cream. She takes a drumstick and I grab an ice cream cookie sandwich. I pay for us and we walk down 2 blocks and we’re right back where we started, at Union Square Park.
They’ve set up an art show at the park so we walk around and look at everyone’s creations whilst eating our ice cream. Eventually we come to an abstract painting of a man crying and all of his tears surrounding him to the point where he’s about to drown. The piece is called “An Ocean of Tears”. We both look at it for a long time in silence, and then Tenshi starts to talk.
“He’s why I wear the wings, you know. So I don’t fall like him. So I can fly.”
She takes a bite of her ice cream and that’s that. We end up finding an empty park bench and finish our ice cream without saying too much more. Honestly, there’s not really too much to say. And some things are just better left unsaid.
I pull out my cell phone to check the time. It’s nearly 5:45pm already. I tell her this and she says she had better be on her way home soon, that she was going to walk and it would take about 45 minutes. We say our goodbyes and she gives me another hug. But this time it’s different, instead of being energetic and embrace as hard as we can, she is gentle and rest her head on my shoulder. There’s something so much more different about this time than there was the last time we said goodbye. Things between us had changed, and I wasn’t sure if it was for the better or not, but I prayed it was.
“I’ll text you later. I had a good time today and I’d like to go on more adventures with you.” She smiles a more conserved smile this time, but none the less every bit as real and true as before. I smile back.
“I’d really like that too. Text me later and maybe we can plan something for tomorrow morning?” She nods in approval and starts her walk up Powell Street and I sit back down on the park bench. I close my eyes and shut out the world for a few moments so I can seal the memories of today in my mind forever. The sun rising from the roof in Japantown, to the warm embrace before saying goodbye. And then I think about her smile. Just her smile at the end, before she left. I think about how it warmed my chest and heart up like the coffee from this morning.
I open my eyes and get up. I decide to walk over to dad’s office and see if he wants to grab some dinner. He’s leaving just as I arrive and I jog to catch up to him and I give him a hug. A big hug, too. My family isn’t the best at showing love to each other, but I really do think that deep down inside, there’s a reason why I never left. Because I love them and the love me and I’m not stupid enough to throw that away.
We end up walking home to pick up mom and we head out to a Mexican Restaurant and for the first time in a long time, we have a nice, happy family dinner. It’s a nice change from the usual ritual of heating something up in the microwave and then sitting in front of the TV for half an hour and considering it “family time”. We even stay and order dessert and coffee, which is like a big deal, because mom never lets us order dessert when we go out.
It’s probably the nicest family experience we’ve ever had and I love it.
Dear Macy Dawson,
I had this idea
That I could write a poem,
Because you are a poem reading kind of person.
And much to my dismay,
I am not much of a poem writing kind of person.
I wanted you to know
That despite my best efforts
I still think,
Still dream about you sometimes.
I also think that you should know,
I realize that “I’m sorry”
Has lost its meaning from me to you,
No matter how much I really do mean it.
But I don’t want you to think for a second that I ever stopped
The entire next week is silent. I hear nothing from her at all. I don’t see her. When I walk around the streets during the day, I look for a feather. I walk far away from home. I go down to the wharf. There are lots of feathers there, but they’re from the gulls and pelicans. No angel feathers fall from the sky for me to see. I walk down to Market St. and into the mall and the out the other side to Mission. Still nothing. After three or four days I stop looking. After five I stop going out.
On the seventh day at about 4 in the morning, my phone starts going off. I lazily turn over in my bed and look at it. “New Multimedia Message” flashes across the screen. I open it and see a picture of me eating a gigantic oatmeal raisin cookie and then another picture of the metal heart at Union Square. Underneath is a message that reads “Be here in 15?” I type back “See you then” and throw on some clothes as fast as I can. San Francisco is a notoriously cold city, and I’m fairly certain it won’t be very warm at four in the morning. I grab a sweater and some gloves and my keys and leave a note for my parents saying I went on a walk.
My apartment building is kind of creepy at 4 am. All the lights in the hallways are on and it reminds me a lot of a hotel. I remember when I was a kid I used to run as fast as I could down hotel hallways and it made me feel like I could fly. I decide that this is neither the time nor place to do that again. I really wish I could though. I decide not to take the elevator because it’s old and loud and settle for the stairs. It only takes about 3 minutes longer and the walk to Union Square is less than that.
The walk is quiet and cold. The city is dead. The fog rolled in heavy last night and I can feel it on my face. It’s cool and salty, like the ocean. I can only see about 5 feet ahead of me cause it’s pitch black and there are no cars driving yet. I get to the bottom of Mason and turn left on Geary St. I walk a block over to Powell and Geary and walk in to Starbucks for a Tall Cappuccino. I wait for a few minutes there figuring I have some time to kill considering I’m early. After sitting alone in Starbucks for about seven minutes I decide to walk twenty feet to the big metal heart and wait for Tenshi.
I sit up on the concrete platform and sip my coffee. It burns my tongue and throat, and it makes my chest feel like it’s on fire. I consider this feeling one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s like the heat breathes new life into me on a cold summer’s morning.
I end up only waiting for about 3 minutes for her. She shows up at exactly 4:15 and notices me sitting drinking my coffee. I offer her some and she gladly accepts. She smiles and hands it back to me. She looks different today. Her hair is tied up in a bun and she has pencils in her hair. She’s only wearing a thin long-sleeve shirt and some jeans, and I wonder how she hasn’t frozen to death yet. It’s got to be like, 50 degrees out right now.
“So what’s up? Why’d you want to meet so early?” The question had been on my mind since I was awake enough to have enough energy to really think about what I was doing. I think if I had been fully awake at four in the morning when she told me to meet her I never would have agreed. In all honesty, it is pretty crazy. Nobody is awake at four in the morning in San Francisco. Nobody, except the people who work at Starbucks.
“I wanted to show you something,” she starts “Somewhere, actually. Come on, it’s just a few blocks away.” Without thinking I get up to follow her. It’s probably the stupidest thing I think that I could do. I mean, I’ve only been in the city for about a month, and I kind of know my way around, but not that well. San Francisco is a big place. And blindly following around someone who is basically a stranger is not a smart idea. But as Sergio De La Mora once said, “You must always risk in order to go farther than you thought you could and achieve what you thought was impossible.” If there is no risk, you never have the chance to attain the impossible.
So I follow her. I follow her until we get to Geary and Jones. This is pretty much the edge of the Tenderloin District, and the TL isn’t the greatest part of town. My dad even said that I shouldn’t walk through the TL unless I wanted to get mugged. I stopped for a second and Tenshi just kept on walking for about 10 seconds until she noticed that I wasn’t walking with her anymore.
“What are you doing? Come on just follow me.” I think about it for a second and think back to Sergio De La Mora and decide to take a risk. I start walking. I figure it can’t be any worse than the rest of the city at four-thirty. We walk all the way to Gough Street which is right on the edge of Japantown. We turn left and walk down a few blocks until we get to Fulton Street. Tenshi turns quick into an alleyway.
“I need for you to give me a boost up this fire escape,” she says. “There’s an open window on the second floor and if you can just give me a little boost I can lower the fire escape and we can get in through it.” She seems calm and collected and I am neither calm nor collected at the idea.
I scream at her in a whisper.
“You want me to help you break into this place? Are you kidding me? This is breaking and entering! This is so illegal!” She looks at me like I’m crazy or something. I honestly think I might go crazy. This is easily the crazies think I have ever been involved in.
“Don’t worry about it James! This place has been completely abandoned for at least like, 4 years. It’s completely safe! Nobody knows and nobody cares.”
I take a step back and take a good look at the place. It is a bit run-down and there are no visible lights coming from inside. I decide that I’ll give it a try. I move to give Tenshi a boost so she can climb up the fire escape. She lowers the escape quietly and I follow her up and we crawl into the window.
“It’s so beautiful,” She says in a dream-like voice, “Like this whole building has just been sitting here unused for all this time. Waiting for us to come and explore.” It’s pitch black, but I don’t have to be able to see to know she’s got a smile on her face. I can hear it in her voice. I hear it in every word she says.
Out of nowhere, a light appears. I see she has a small flashlight in her hand and is looking around. My first thought is that the place is repulsive. It smells musty and moldy and it looks even worse. The wallpaper is falling off the walls exposing the sheetrock underneath and the carpets are all stained and dust covered. The entire place is dust covered. It’s like the entire place was completely abandoned, the people who lived here didn’t take their belongings. On a dresser likes dust covered pictures of someone else’s life. All the appliances are there too, an empty refrigerator, an oven and stove whose wires have been chewed and exposed by some rats. We learn that the bad smells come from the bathroom where there is a mold buildup in the sink and shower that could probably kill someone. All in all, this looks a lot like an overpriced San Francisco studio apartment.
We make our way out to the hall and look into the other apartments. Each different for the last. I mean, if you took everything out of them, they’re all exactly the same, but they all still have everything in them. Mattresses, dressers, pictures, the dressers and closets are empty; TV stands no longer hold TV’s. It’s all got a science-fiction feel to it. Like you can step out of the hallway and into someone else’s life. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.
We work our way up twelve stories looking through each floor. When we finish our tour of the final floor, Tenshi takes my hand and pulls me up the stairs. There’s a door at the top with a sign that reads “Do not enter roof without permission.” She ignores it and pushes the door wide open. She quickly slips off her shoe and sticks it in-between the door and the frame so it won’t shut and lock us it. By now it’s about 5:30 and the sun is just beginning to rise. She grabs my hand again, a little more lightly this time, and pulls me towards the edge. She sits down, facing east, legs hanging off the side of the building, twelve stories high. She gives me a little tug and I sit and throw my legs over the edge too. We look down and watch the early commuters walking and driving on their way to work.
We sit there, hand in hand for the next hour and look out to the horizon. Twelve stories high, we get a beautiful unadulterated view of the sun rise.
I awoke to the closet thing I had to a familiar face in this city.
“Hey,” She began, “looks like you bumped your head a little.” It is at this point that I realize that I am lying down on a sidewalk and it has become even more apparent that I have run into a tree. Also I’m pretty sure that I’ve broken my iPod.
“Uhm, yeah, I think I might have possibly run into this gigantic tree in the middle of the sidewalk.” I attempt to get myself up and into a sitting position. My head throbs from being hit twice. The first, I’ve surmised, was the front of my head hitting the tree. The second was my head hitting the concrete sidewalk. I was able to get myself sitting into a pseudo- Indian style sit, with my right ankle tucked under my left leg, which was lying near flat on the ground.
That’s when I see them. Wings. The white dove wings stretched tight across her back. I remember. The white feather. Her wings.
“You’re the guy who had the giant cookies and overflowing cup of lemonade right?” She asks me. She already knows the answer. She must remember from before. So I smile.
“Yes,” I respond, “I am the guy with the giant cookies and overflowing cup of lemonade. I saw you when you walked in? I really liked your glasses. And your wings. Those things are pretty kick-ass.” She smiles at me. Not one of those little fake smiles girls give with a guy is trying to impress them and what they said really wasn’t smile worthy or even funny, but a real smile. Like ear-to-ear, bigger than her face smile. So big it makes her eyes squint until they’re closed. And she laughs.
“Come on,” she starts, “Let’s get you on your feet.” She helps me get up and I lean against the tree for a moment, trying to put myself back together. I notice a gleam out of the corner of my eye; I quickly jerk my head towards it, which causes an immense amount of pain to shoot up my neck and into my head. It makes me shut my eyes hard. I pause for a moment, and then open my eyes again. I see that the object is in fact, my iPod. I move slowly towards it and pick it up. A couple of scratches on the back, but it appears to be fine. I tuck it away in my pocket and realize that my headphones are still in my ears although they are attached to nothing. I quickly take them out and wind them around my hand and tuck them away in my pockets too.
“So, it would be really great to know your name. I mean, you know, it would be nice. To know it.” It comes out a lot more awkward than it sounds, and it already sounded pretty awkward to begin with. But she smiles, that same smile form before, and it’s like she doesn’t even notice. If she does, she doesn’t care.
“Tenshi,” She says “Tenshi Kyoto. It means ‘an angel’ in Japanese. My dad named me. He always tells me that I’ll always be his little angel.” I tell her it’s a funny name, and she laughs again. Kind and small.
She asks me mine, so I tell her. “It’s James. James Thomas. Plain and simple. And really, really not weird.”
I say the “really, really” part pretty fast. I actually say the whole thing really fast. It’s just the way I talk when I’m nervous, except I’m really not that nervous right now. My head just hurts a lot. And like by a lot I mean it is physically throbbing and I think I am going to either stroke out or vomit. So while we walk and make small talk I really hope that it is the former that happens because the last thing I think that you’d ever want to do in front of a girl is vomit. At least that’s what makes the most sense to me.
“I think that it is quite possible that I have a concussion.” I say. And then, I kind of like shuffle/sprint to the nearest trashcan and throw up my cookie and lemonade and three bites of an overcooked hamburger on a stale bun with some warm ketchup on it. It strangely tastes better coming up than it did going down. Tenshi walks over towards me with a bottle of Sprite. I drink some to get the taste out of my mouth.
“Sorry if it’s warm, it’s been sitting in my bag all day.” I hadn’t notices before but she has this really awesome like, purse/backpack/dinosaur thing that she wears on her back. It’s really just a backpack in the shape of a dinosaur, but it is probably the single coolest thing that I’ve seen the entire time I’ve been in the city. It is definitely the most interesting thing in the zoo. I hand the bottle back to her but she stops me and says I can finish it. I realize that she probably doesn’t want to drink my puke sprite so I keep drinking it.
We manage to find our way all the way back to the party hall. I’ve finished my sprite and I recycle the bottle. I grab a cup of lemonade and 2 more oatmeal raisin cookies. Finding Tenshi in the party hall isn’t too hard considering that He and I are the only people in there anyway. The 90’s pop music has stopped playing. The caterers are starting to clean up but they leave out the cookies and big jugs of lemonade out and that makes me happy because I realize that Tenshi and I got through 2 cookies and a cup of lemonade pretty fast so I can grab us some more before they clean that up too. We talk about the bad food and the terrible quality of the zoo and why the company would waste so much money on a caterer when all of the hotels have really nice restaurants attached to them and they could get them cater the event for free.Eventually she has to leave, and so do I. Before she goes, she takes out her phone and takes a picture of me eating my gigantic oatmeal raisin cookie and I scrawl down my number with a sharpie on a paper towel and give it to her. Then she does something that I’ll never forget. She looks at me, an gives me a big hug, and squeezes tight and it hurts my back and neck so much, but through it all, I’ve got one of those smiles on my face. The gigantic, ear-to-ear, bigger than my face, smile.