Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On cold nights like this I usually stay in, but times change, tradition breaks. Parties have become stale, drinking proceeded with regrets, and one night stands lost virility. What once was exciting became outrageous. I didn't know how to handle myself anymore, as if I had a fire inside burn all of the old ways out of me. The ashes that remained were being swept away, out of sight and out of mind. I peeked out my windows to see the many others who sheepishly follow the nomad to their car. My room was at the southern corner of Kern Hall, which gave me the best view to see all of the partiers stumble home. On almost every Friday night, Scholars Lane hosts some of the most idiotic individuals. Despite all of the reasons of why I shouldn't go, I went to the party anyway. I got dressed and followed my shepherd.
 The night was long and dark. I tried my best to not shiver; muscles so tense veins began to appear on my neck, the only skin that was exposed. I yelled, “Derek, hurry up! My nipples are so hard their gonna tear through my shirt.”
 Derek quickened his dragging feet. “Yeah, yeah.” His left hand went up and he unlocked the car. “There, better?”
 We all jumped in. It was the last Friday before vacation, to which there were myriad parties occurring. Travis in front, Rane, Alex, Boe, in middle, myself and Kyle in the trunk. Derek hopped into the driver's seat and immediately started the car. The air was so thin steam evaporated from the hood of the car. Merced winters are aggressive, and somewhat bipolar. Merced's sky has a love-hate relationship with the clouds; most nights it is clear and vast, other times it becomes abysmal. It was the latter.
 I looked around while everyone else chattered, trying to contain as much warmth as possible. Rane and Boe, on the outside of the backseats, provided a second barrier for Alex. “Most people hate the middle seat, but, tonight, it feels good, man,” he calmly bragged. Kyle retorted, “Yeah, but I got the leg room you wish you had.”
 The car began to move. We exited the parking lot and soon I saw Tenya Hall fade. The school was the only light source for miles; surrounded by shadows, it was almost welcoming to see it. Leaning on the backside of the seats I faced the shrinking landscape of Bellevue Road. The few houses that boarded long the narrow road were gone as suddenly as they became into my view. Kyle was turned around to project his voice to the rest of rowdy car. I talked, but I kept facing the scene flying by.
 I have walked that road before. It was astonishing. How dark, yet calming that road is. There was nothing fear, however you can't subside the worry. The road's length isn't the issue, the objects on it is what concerned me. When I traversed across it, the headlights had only moments before it gained the attention of the driver. Sometimes they were shocked to see me walking. I could tell by the little swerves they made when they were close enough. I kept on though. The crippling blackness slowed down time while it simultaneously forwarded my watch. No light existed. No sense of direction. Just space and brittle air. That night I had a new appreciation for that road; as dark as that road is, it made what little light that shine that much brighter.
 Now I always have to look back into the darkness. Instead of it coming towards me, I see it as if I am pushing it away. I sit in the open trunk and grin.
 Kyle's voice settles my roaming thoughts, “Dude, she is not going to be there. I see her around school and she always with the same people.”
 The conversation was simulated by a girl who just shows up at parties and no one knows who she is.
 “Okay, then explain how we always see her?” Rane asked.
 Kyles shrugged, “I have no clue. But if she shows up, I will take two double shots back to back.”
 The car erupted cheers and awes. I shook my head and laughed. It was going to be a long night.
 At the party I was a little anxious. I knew little people, even more little knowledge of what to do when not drinking. My roommates scattered into the crowd of the house. I stood around, hands in pockets, blankly glaring at who was here. It was the usual faces that I had seen before. Short guy who is always at the gym, muscle head who also always at the gym with short guy, girl who speaks too loud when she is drunk, and, my favorite, guy who hand feeds compliments to every drunk girl in the place hoping to get some. Yup, same old crowd, same old fun.
 I walked into the kitchen where beer pong was set up. The two teams played and the audience watched religiously. With every sunken small, plastic white ball came a roar of cheers, high fives, and the shaking of heads. I maneuvered my way to the cooler where the beer was being kept. I thought, "Oh, cool. Keystone. My favorite." I shrugged, taking two. Free booze is better than no booze, especially on night like this.
 I walked back out of the kitchen. I looked down for a second, then back up. I saw her.  A girl who I have had my eye for awhile. A girl who struck my eye harder than a hammer to a nail. I forgot the numbness in my hands from holding the beers as it pulsed throughout my body. I, like the beer's taste, was stiff. I couldn't move. I stood soundless for a good five seconds, but it seemed longer. I didn't even noticed that I was smiling to myself till someone bumped into me, bringing me back to real-time. I moved out of the hoard of bodies to a clear space.
 I popped open the beer, drinking it as fast as I could. I threw the empty can in a small plastic bin near my feet. I shivered, shaking my head. My eyes surveyed the room. I had to find that girl. I noticed Boe crossing the room, I chased after.
 His head perked up, looking around with quick jabs; meerkat-like.
 I waved above the crowd's heads, “Boe, over here!”
 He saw me, shuffling his way toward me. “What's up?”
 “Have you seen a girl with a blue dress on?”
 We look around the room. “Gotta be a little more specific than that.”
 “Okay, she had long curly dark hair.”
 He paused. His eyes slowly inspected the room. “Again, gotta be more specific.”
 With a heavy sigh, I replied, “She looks like she is smart.”
 His expression opened, “Oh! You mean, like, someone you would date?”
 “Yes! Have you seen her?”
 “Uh, no. Why?”
 I put my hand on his sweaty shoulder, “You're an ass, keep drinking. I have to get some air.” I rushed to the backyard as Boe faded into the swarm of people.
 Outside I was alone. I opened the second beer. I took my time with this one. There was a brick wall that separated the yard from Bellevue Road. I propped myself onto the brick wall, with beer in hand. Swinging my legs over to the other side, I rested on top. Beer in hand, the noise from the house was slowly drained out by my curious thoughts.
 I have been doing this for two years. Weekend after weekend of doing the same thing: drink, regret it, do nothing. I cannot be any greater than this can I? Have I degraded myself into this mold of emptiness? No. I mean, even emptiness makes you feel sorrow and despair. There is nothing to be felt now. At the rate I have been going, growing was the least of my concerns; drinking and homework. I have the knowledge to pass school, but I don't have the wisdom to function outside of this scholarly institution. Friends? Barely. Grades? Making do. I knew college was suppose to be challenging me, but why have I frayed away from them? Avoiding the issue all together doesn't seem like a way to live life. Seeing Alex and Rane struggle with classes was hard to watch, mostly because of how much hair they pulled out from all the stress. But, they make do. How can someone get that far behind? There is always light in darkness. Even in darkness you have to have your eyes adjust. Give it time.
 A voice from behind me rang, “Hey, party too much for you too?”
 I turned back to see who spoke; I was shocked to see her, nearly falling back as I realized. “Um, yeah,” I mumbled like an idiot, “too much party is never a good thing.”
 She came closer, my heart raced. She turned, and put her back against the wall with folded arms. “Yeah, I know what you mean. I've only been here two years and I still don't get this school. I smiled, “I've been here for three and I probably get as much as you do.” Our eyes met. It was a quick connection, sudden and accidental. Sometimes, accidents are on purpose.
 We continued to talk. I can't say how long we were out there but it was long enough for our roommates to question our location. We didn't go back to the party, no matter how much they begged us. We were content there. Music, classes, bad roommate experiences, were discussed effortlessly. Words and topics changed in a sequence of patterns; nothing was out of touch. The world had vanished when we heard each other talk; the other would listen. The night froze, time paused, and two strangers learned of the other. I had to tell her something.
 “Hey, so I have to tell you something. I don't know if you remember me or not, but, I was in your Lit 135 class over summer.”
 She turned and smiled, “Yeah, I remember. I always thought you were attractive.” She let a small laugh escape.
 “Oh, okay so you do...wait. What? You thought I was attractive?” My throat thickened.
 “Of course. You sat there in the corner and you seemed so mysterious, I loved it. Even now you carry yourself so seriously well. You don't want the world to know of your secrets,” she licked her lips, “I like that.”
 I stiffened. Motionless. How in the world did she even know who I was? I mean, I didn't talk much in that class but when I did I wanted to move the discussion along. I hope I didn't say anything pompous, damn, I said something pompous. I know it.
 “I always you were adorable. Your style, attitude, smile,” it became harder to speak. I opened my mouth but no sound. My body recognized my attempt and forced adrenaline through my veins, “Would you like to walk back to the dorms with me?” She smiled wide, “I'd like that.”
 I hopped down from the wall and helped her down. Through the streets Bellevue came upon us. We looked at each other, then back at the darkness, then back.
 “It's not that bad,” I said, trying to relax her.
 “I feel safe with you.” She gently grabbed my hand.
 We walked into the darkness.
 From what I remember, it didn't seem to take that long; talking helped the process go much smoother. Darkness isn't so much a fear as it is a benefactor. Who wants to stay in the shadows? The absent of light brings out the worst in people; who you are in the dark reveals your darkest monster. She was my dark and my light. In the light we were happy. In the dark we were still happy. I used to welcome abyss, but now I see that I was just trying to hide in it. No eyes on me, no judgment, no false hope, nothing. Just pitch black. Having her in the dark with me shook every doubt out of my head; I became clear. I didn't need to hide in the dark anymore; I wasn't alone in Merced. I didn't have to travel alone into the unknown; I wasn't alone in the dark. She is the person that will make me feel safe in the dark and in the light.
  You see, mercy has a way of being harsh, but redeeming. I went all of this time having no close relationships, then one night the hardships erased. Merced lives up to it's name, and I thank it. For the light, for the dark, for the girl. Thank you, Merced.

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