An old, stubby, glitter-shedding, sandpaper textured, bright pale-yolk colored pencil. Clumps of glitter wedged in between the cloth of my sweatpants as I continued twirling the little scribbler. I never knew how to spin a pencil, but the circles were slowly smoothing out with every twirl. The air was humid and I could tell my glasses were fogging up.
Squinting through my clouded vision, I inspected the sparkling-yellow pencil in front of me.
“What’re you doing?”
A small girl’s voice broke the silence. The pencil fumbled in my hand, momentarily blundering my rhythm. Before long, my focus was back on the pencil. It started twirling again.
My head was in place, but I felt my eyes drift down under. They wandered for a while, but eventually fell on a stone wedged in the ground. They stayed there for a while.
“Can you hear me?”
I didn’t look up, but I could imagine them more than well enough. She pushed her lips forward in annoyance, pouting. Her off-white, sequined-patterned shirt rippled in the wind and glimmered in the sun. Sweat moistened my face, but my glasses cleared up a bit. She showed no signs of humidity. She was ten and I was eighteen.
It seemed as though she gave up on catching my attention, now preoccupied with the ants by her feet. She overlooked them, swinging her feet over the ledge she was sitting on. I was sweating in my starchy gray shirt and athletic leggings. I could feel the heat creeping from the pavement through my shoes. She was humming some upbeat song. I remember she had told me it was her favorite song, but I forgot the name. It was out of tune, childish humming, but it had a tranquil feel to it. Her legs swayed and bounced off the stone ledge to every other beat. A woodpecker knocked on a nearby tree and a few goldfinches chirped a midday serenade. It was summer, now.
It wasn’t all beautiful, though. A shriveled worm dried on the pavement. A small pond revealed a murky, slimy green layer of algae from the harsh rays of the sun. The smell was subtle, but it seemed to get worse the more I thought about it. My eyes were still on the stone. There was something that gravitated my attention towards it.
None of it seemed to bother her. A refreshing breeze flowed through her hair. She had her hand resting on the stone ledge she was sitting on. I’d imagine how hot her hand would be, yet her face exposed nothing but a calm sense of serenity. She smiled her bright smile. I could feel it.
At some point, I had stopped twirling the worn pencil. The sparkles struggled to reflect the blazing rays shot down.
She grinned and the sun backed up her smile. She was ten and I was eighteen. She was beautiful and I was horrid. I wanted to apologize for all my petty past actions. I wanted to tell her I repented and I was sorry and I wanted to start over, though our relationship never ended. It was a desperate plea for my consciousness. I opened my mouth only to reveal excessive saliva and a sad attempt at words. The sun was grueling. It was embarrassing and I hated everything at that moment. I hate my decision for visiting you here; I hate myself for my childish mistakes; I hated the sun and the weather; I hated the dead worm on the road; I hated the pencil which had cast its sparkles onto me; I hated the smell of algae. I hated it all. At that moment, I hated everything. I hated everything but her.
I gathered my humility in one swooping breath and exhaled the fumbled thoughts. I gathered my words of remorse and ran through my apology script one more time. She pitied me just as much as I pitied my pitiable, repenting self.
At an impulse of every emotion, I decided to look up and face her. My eyes drifted to the ledge she sat upon. My saliva-filled mouth opened, and finally I–
“You know I’m dead right?”
The pencil suddenly looked a lot more worn than it did earlier. Maybe I spun its sparkles away. I looked back down at the soiled tombstone. The sun and pollen worked together to fog my lens again. I don’t know who, but someone was definitely playing with the thermostat. It was truly a disgusting sight. At first it was just a bit of sweat, but then more came. That sweat streamed into tears. It was hot. We were outdoors and I had a pollen allergy. That’s it, really.
I don’t like thinking about you because I can’t tell what I’m thinking of. I’ve thought this before but, maybe Alzheimer's feels like this. Sometimes I scoff at that; other times I stay silent. Every once in a while, I reminisce about you and our elementary school desks placed next to each other and your water bottle cluttered with emoji vinyl stickers and our exclamation mark filled text message conversations and our shared confusion during math class and how you were always a high-five away and within snack-sharing range and how you were extraordinary at crafts and your cool hairstyles. I have an imaginary little voice in my head that I can’t hear. It doesn’t have a set form; all I know is that I associate it with you. I can’t see it or hear it, but I can tell what it’s thinking, since it belongs to me. I feel like I’ll get a nod or a passive sigh of pity if I bring you up, as if I’m not over you. I can’t say that I am, but that’ll prove that imaginary voice right. You’re still ten and it had been eight years.
I’m sorry for borrowing your pencil and never returning it.
Can you come back now?
Keila Jalinous is a current sophomore who lacks any credentials to boast here. As the middle child, she has a younger brother and older sister. For some reason, she is considered the mature one of the three by her parents. She enjoys browsing through Wikipedia articles she will never fully read and printing violin sheet music she will never fully play. She also has a frequent habit of keyboard slamming. This is her first publication.