Transparency in Life

A New Approach

The lights were dim and the drapery was protecting the windows, like a mother bird would do to her fledglings. The ceiling was caked with stains from the rain, and the floor was indented with tiny feet that look unaligned. I just didn’t get it. Why didn’t Grandpa fix this place? I knew that it’s old, but if he lived here for the past four years, why wasn’t it kept neat? The thought of this place being haunted sent chills down my spine. I found the light switch and turned it on with a clunky noise

“Ugh!” There was dust everywhere. If I saw all the dirt from before, it was nothing compared to how it is now. There were chairs overturned, dust piled visibly on the counters and light bulbs, and even spiderwebs across the nooks and crannies of the walls. 

“Grandpa!” I yelled. He’s been short of hearing for nearly a year now, and I had to remember to keep my temper in check around him. Besides, he’s one of the only good family members that I’ve still got. The rest of them were a bunch of cackling witches. Greedy, spoiled, rotten, and egotistical. My parents both had family issues with in-laws and parents, and siblings. Even their nieces and nephews. It was pure torture hanging around them. Whenever I would play with my cousins, they’d make up their own rules as they went, then tantalize me for being a poor sport and sucking at the game. This drove me mad. I never wanted to talk to them after that. 

However, Grandpa was different. He was a gentle soul, full of innocence and kindness even though many of his family members have used him for their own gain, not caring if he was hurt in the process. Whenever I’d get mad at Grandpa, I thought of that. Just thinking vaguely what he went through made my eyes sting and vision turn blurry. I didn’t want to do the same to him indirectly. I vowed to never be the type of person to manipulate and take advantage of others. I don’t know if Grandpa realized what his family did to him. If he did, why didn’t he say anything about it? Did he not want to cause trouble? Or did he think that seeking revenge was bad? Maybe he believed in karma? Or maybe he was afraid? Or just loved them enough not to want to pain them?

“Dominic, is that you my boy?” My face lit into a smile when hearing his voice. I turned the corner into the next room and saw Grandpa. He was wearing shiny spectacles that were on the bridge of his nose, reminding me of the stereotypical image of a librarian. He was dressed in brown fuzzy slippers and a poncho covering himself down to his legs. He had a book in his hand, one that I was unfamiliar with. 

“Hey Grandpa, what are you reading? I don’t recognize that book.” I pointed towards it, inclining my head in the book’s direction. 

“It was given to me by your mother a few days ago. She said it had something to do with people my age.” He shrugged with dismissal. “I wanted to see what she meant by that, so I started to read it. And my my,” he shook his head with an emotion I couldn’t quite discern. Was it a sense of nostalgia, relief, peace, sadness, maybe happiness? Or was it a mix of everything? “It reminded me of how people dream for something” He paused. “And they achieve it.” I was about to butt in my own remarks when he took a breath, almost a sigh, and continued. “They felt even more empty. They made so much sacrifice to get there, but it was still not enough for them. Then they let their emotions control them with the feeling of wanting to go back to their previous life, wishing for that, when before they didn’t want that at all.” The look in Grandpa’s eyes was like the reflection of a chandelier’s light to the other corner of the room. It was there, but still a long way elsewhere, reaching and exploring the bounds of infinity. “They now felt lonely, with no one to share their dreams with. All of what they worked for seemed belittle and ugly in their eyes. The sense of longing returned to them, never being fulfilled because of their past choices.”

He shook his head in a loss for words. I wanted to argue at the notion, saying that achieving a dream is probably the best feeling in the world possible. But remembering what he went through, I decided to keep quiet. But I still pondered on the thought of dreaming and achieving, and wondered if I would look back on this moment and wish I listened to Grandpa’s words. I guess I must have done it subconsciously, because in the future, I had a family, happiness, and loved ones. Sadly, Grandpa didn’t have much of that.

Courtesy of pixabay

A Futile Attempt

‘’How can I help you?’’ A middle aged woman with brown, but slightly dyed hair with highlights was bending over the desk.

‘‘Hi, I’m Alex. I didn’t know who else to go to. I’m here to see my sister.’’

‘‘Name, date of birth, address please…And can you state your full name dear?’’ She was like those librarians who had glasses on the tip of their nose and their eyeballs would almost pop out of their sockets when looking over them. It made me feel nervous.

‘‘Her name is Colina McBride. My name is Alex McBride. We live on 2296 Cherry Street in Yolda.’’ I wondered how she could type with her overly long nails. Wouldn’t that be difficult? Uncomfortable?

‘‘Sorry kid. There is nothing in our system that matches. You sure everything you said was right?’’

I started to panic. There’s no hope anymore. She means everything to me. I can’t lose her. Where is she? I can’t live alone. My breathing turned ragged. My vision got blurry. I ran to the doors. I needed to see my sister.

‘‘Colina! Colina!’’ I yelled and shoved every visible door open in a frenzy. The hospital staff came running over and looking at me like crazy. I faintly heard someone calling security. My legs had a mind of their own. I couldn’t control it. The panic washed over me. I felt as if nothing mattered anymore. I ran upstairs. I heard alarms go off. I couldn’t take this anymore. I went up every flight of stairs. Each door I opened filled me with more anxiety. Where was my sister? No. I couldn’t give up. I saw a yellow sign. I couldn’t slow down. The next thing I felt was a hard hit on the back of my head. I must have blacked out. 

‘‘He’s breathing. Get him to a room.’’ There were faint voices circling in my head. My head felt mushy. I felt like it was filled with fog. I needed to get up. I heard doors closing. I opened my eyes slowly. Too bright, too bright. I closed them again. I put my hands over my eyes and opened them slowly again. I was in a room. In a nightgown. In a hospital. What have I done? I groaned as I got up. I felt a lump on the back of my head. Did I suffer brain damage? Will it heal? Are the injuries serious? Another wave of panic flowed through me. Then I remembered my sister. ‘‘Colina!’’ I quickly covered my mouth hoping no one heard. It was a pain to move. 

I slowly got up and opened the door. The lights were dark. Was no one here? No. Hospitals are open 24/7. Maybe on this floor there were no doctors at this time. I continued my search. Opening the doors. It was 3 more floors before I almost gave up. My voice couldn’t handle it anymore. I haven’t had water in hours. ‘‘Colina.’’ My attempts were getting sluggish.

I reached floor 5. The second door on the right was lit. I crept closer and looked through the tiny opening at the top. It was Colina. At least I think it was. Her face looked different. Pale. Scarred. Lifeless, even. I opened the door and went in. 

‘‘Colina.’’ I whispered. ‘‘Colina.’’ I said louder this time. ‘‘It’s me, Alex. Your brother.’’ Tears flooded my eyes when she didn’t respond. I checked the machines around her, but everything was fine. ‘‘Colina.’’ I tapped her shoulder this time. Was she in a coma?

‘‘Colina!’’ I yelled. ‘‘Please! Please wake up! I don’t. No I can’t lose you too.’’ My voice broke down and I started weeping. After a while, I got up and left. I would be back to the hospital again. But right now, I need some time for myself.

Image courtesy of pixabay

What Could have Been

There wasn’t anything special about my life. It was mundane, nothing too exciting, but it wasn’t miserable either. It was like floating on the water, nothing bothering you except an occasional flow of water through your nose. That was what my life was like. I was getting by, making ends meet. But I was also alone. I had no family members around me. I never knew my parents, and as far as I knew, I didn’t have any relatives I could rely on. I didn’t even have a close friend. Sure, I was friendly with people, but I didn’t have someone who would always have my back. I decided to discard these thoughts and focus on my work.

I worked at a clothing store as a cashier. I was only 18, working for a living. As I was putting some clothes on hangers, I noticed this one guy entering the store. He seemed to be a bit younger than me, maybe 15. He had dark black hair and brown eyes wearing a baggy sweatshirt with jeans. He seemed to not know where he was. Or he was just gawking at the clothes. I couldn’t tell. 

Whatever the case was, he suddenly ran up to me, placing his hands hard on my shoulders, shaking me violently, desperately asking, “Where’s the restroom bro? Please, just tell me!”

It took me a moment to register his question since he appeared in front of me like a bolt of lightning. I replied hastily, “To the right and down the-”. Before I could even finish my sentence, he bolted in that direction, shoes  almost falling down in the process. I didn’t realize that my mouth was hanging open until a coworker asked me what’s going on. I snapped out of it and continued my job. 

Ten minutes passed, and the guy that went to the restroom still hasn’t returned. I haven’t taken my break yet, so I decided to use it to be able to check on the guy. If something bad happened to him, I might be held responsible to some degree. I clocked out and went to the restroom. It looked like no one was inside, but I called out “Hello?” anyway. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a figure move towards me fast. It turned out to be the same guy. His eyes looked red and his hair was a mess. I couldn’t even ask him what happened since he blurted out “I need to leave. There are people chasing me.” I slowly stepped back asking if they were the cops. He said “No. They are just thugs from my neighborhood. Please!” He started to explain the situation. It was very complicated. It turned out that in his neighborhood, there were some shady guys constantly bullying him and trying to force him to be in their gang. Before I could even ask if he sought help, he did, but no one helped him. His parents thought he was just trying to get attention

“I even went to the police”, he said. They tried looking for the guys and did find them. However, they just let them off with a warning, and that made things worse, like really worse.” He started to have a mental breakdown. I managed to calm him down in a few minutes and reassure him that everything was going to be alright. Even though I was hesitant, I decided to take him in and let him stay with me. He was so overjoyed by the news that he hugged me tight and started crying. “Oh, thank you, um” He looked at my nametag and said, “Oh thank you Elizu! Thank you!” He started breaking down and bowing at my feet. I couldn’t help but start laughing at that. But it dawned on me that the shady guys were still out there searching for him. I asked him if they were still chasing him now. His expression turned serious and said, “I don’t know. They were chasing me before I got to this store. Maybe I lost them. But I can never go back.”

“No, you can go back. After we get this sorted out. I’m going to the police.” 

“What? No! You can’t do that, I’ll be in even more trouble.”

“Not if they’re arrested. Have they beat you up before?”

He looked at the ground and faintly nodded his head. At that moment, there was the sound of a chime which meant that someone entered the store. The stranger peeked around the corner and almost yelped in fright. 

“That’s them”, he said shakily.

“Okay, I’m going to call the police now. Hey, what’s your name pal?”

“My name’s Oliver.”

“Okay then. Oliver, hide in the janitor’s closet there while I call the police and distract them.”

He did exactly what I said, and started dialing the phone. I quickly briefed the police on what was happening, and said they would send a dispatch my way.

There were four guys dressed in baggy clothes, beanies, and torn up shoes. One guy who looked like he was the leader asked if I had seen a scrawny guy come in here. I tried to stall, asking what he looked like. For the sake of letting the police get the guys while they were still here, I kept on asking them questions on what he looked like. As soon as they were about to leave, I said “Wait, I think I know that guy. He has an orange shirt with a franchise logo on it, right?”

They looked at me and then started conferring with each other. “Do you know which way he went?” asked another guy. I tried acting apologetic saying that it’s a big store and I was focusing on my work. They started searching the store. I made sure I locked the janitor’s closet and then saw that there were police cars outside. I exclaimed a bit of joy inside my own thoughts, when one of the guys said, “I think I found him.” My face turned pale. No, they couldn’t have found him. I made sure he was locked in the closet. Before I could act, the police entered the scene and I pointed to the guys saying “That’s them”. After the police explained the situation to them, one of the shady guys spat at my feet saying that I’ll regret this. I quickly ran to Oliver, letting him out. When he saw what was going on, he went and spoke to the police. It was about 20 minutes later that my shift was over and I could take Oliver to my place. 

“Hey, I can’t thank you enough man, It means a lot to me.”

“Don’t worry about it Oliver, it’s what friends do.”

He looked at me with a smile, and knew that he was going to be just fine.

Image courtesy of pixabay

Moving Day

“Hey sleepyhead. Wake up, the sun’s already in your eyes.” I groggily turned my head in the direction of the voice. I blinked one eye open and saw it was my older brother, Brian. 

“Don’t tell me today is moving day.” I whined.

“Nooo, it’s not,” he said sarcastically.

I looked out the window trying to take in the scenery one last time. We had such a beautiful view. The shrubbery was alive, filled with waving hands and happy faces, trees with families and friends, and the shade that keeps them together. I have never moved before. I’ve lived in the same place my whole life. When I was talking to a friend of mine a few weeks ago, she was shocked that I never moved. I guess I didn’t open my eyes wide enough.

“Heck, don’t tell me you’re actually going to miss this crappy place” Brian said. I just looked at him. I wanted to say something but my throat couldn’t. Why was I going to miss this place? My life wasn’t anything special? Why did this place still have meaning to me? 

My brother seemed to sense my concern. Even though he was a jerk, I knew he secretly still cared about me. “Were you hoping to get rid of me, ‘cause that’s not going to happen anytime soon, even when I go to college. I’ll still be there,” He paused, then grinned teasingly saying “Watching youuu.” 

“Get away, you creep!” I laughed and he did as well.

Everything was packed from the night before and we were just waiting for the van to pick us up. It’s not like we were moving to another country, just another city since my dad found a better job and found a place for us to live that would accommodate us.

I was stuck in my thoughts when I heard a loud beeping sound from outside. I cocked my head to the direction of the noise, surprised to see my brother carrying my luggage. 

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Are you blind or just stupid? I’m standing for crying out loud” He exclaimed. I quietly smiled and shook my head thinking that he might have changed to a nicer person permanently a few moments before. I wanted to say something like, ‘You’re always starting puberty everyday’ but didn’t have the energy to at the moment. Besides, the van was here. I took my luggage from Brian who looked surprisingly eager to leave. I on the other hand felt conflicted. I still couldn’t place why it felt queer to leave. Did I not like change? Was I afraid? Did I think our situation was going to be worse? I was too caught up in my swirling dilemma before I felt a sharp jolt in my body. Brian was forcefully dragging me out of the room, saying things that were incoherent for me to understand. Maybe I was just tired. I heard bits and pieces. “…not sleep….Stand…Don’t…useless” 

The next ten hours were a blur. I was just dazed. What was wrong with me? Was I getting sick? Was this road sickness?  Snap out of it! My parents and Brian looked at me with a mixture of shock and concern, which led me to angrily blurt out, “What!”

“Um sweetie, why did you tell us to ‘snap out of it’”? 

“Huh?” Based on their expressions, they seemed concerned about my state of well-being so they pulled over to the side of the road with caution and haste. 

“Do you need some water?” said Mother.

“Let me feel your forehead,” said Father.

Brian just rolled his eyes in annoyance saying, “She’s fineee. She just didn’t get enough sleep, that’s all. You don’t need to drool over her tantrums.”

“Brian!” my mother spoke back.

“Hey hey hey hey hey hey,” I said rapidly. “I’m fine. Ok. Just fine. I’m sorry for saying that. I don’t know what happened to me.”

“More like mood swings,” my brother muttered. 

  “Ow!” I kicked him in the leg, glaring at him.

A month passed by. We were in an apartment with a rooftop view of other buildings in the city. We couldn’t even see a hint of green life. I sighed in exasperation, flopping back onto my chair. My brother and parents seemed happy, not even remembering our past life. Why did I feel this way? Snap out of it! And then I screamed.

Courtesy of pixabay

What Did they say?

There wasn’t anything wrong with the dress. It was just a little old compared to the other girls’. The others were preppy and flowy and gorgeous with an infinite palette of colors displayed before them. 

“Alicia” I heard a woman calling out. I turned. 

“We still haven’t received any word from you about your…” She suddenly stopped and looked down at my dress. “What on earth are you wearing?!” 

This grabbed the attention of not just me, but the girls in the building.

“You are up in 10 minutes and you’re wearing this monstrosity of rags?” I looked down, avoiding eye contact. 

“Alicia! Are you deaf or something?” 

“I-I’m sorry, Ms. Patterson.”

“It’s Madame Patterson to you, young lady. Now, I need you to change out of this gray and black dress. The sleeves aren’t even ruffled properly and the quality is poor. Do you think you can win by wearing this thing? Here, I got this beautiful dress.”

I looked up at it, seeing it was mostly yellow and pink. This looked like what I would wear to a recital for a small crowd. It was nothing compared to the one I’m wearing now. I didn’t understand why she was fussing over me, a 14 year old girl. It’s not like it’s a life or death situation.

“Look dear, your parents are paying me, so I suggest you start complying and wear this.”

I couldn’t do anything about it, so I reluctantly put it on. In my opinion, it looked awful. The design of it looked really bulky on me and the bow on it looked like a poorly wrapped present. The theme was Standing Out. But, all the other girls were wearing the same kinds of dresses as the one I was being forced to wear. We looked like a bunch of flowers in the field that were oddly shaped by the wind. I refused to wear this dress. Politely, I told Madame Patterson that I needed to use the restroom. She gave me a questioning look, but I told her, it would be quick. The original dress was still in my bag, so I took it out and wore it underneath the yellow-pink dress. Once it was my turn to go on stage, I’d take the yellow one off and voila!

When I exited the bathroom Madame Patterson looked pleased with my decision (I had no choice)

“I see that you came to your senses, Alicia.” I just stared at her. 

“Well, waddle along,” she said, waving at me to join the other girls in line.

I took a peek onto the stage and saw that there were 4 judges at the beginning of the audience. I couldn’t depict them from here, but I could tell that when the girls came back offstage, they looked a bit sullen. I wondered what they could be sad about.

Ever since I was young, my parents kept on telling me to take up some sort of model or acting career and wanted me to start at an early age. They said that with my silky white hair and blue eyes, I’d be a star. I didn’t feel like a star though. I was always criticized by others to make my appearance “better”. I liked the way I was and didn’t want to display myself in their image. It just didn’t feel right. That’s why I finally decided to rebel against their antics. My dress was beautiful. Even though I know that beauty is a thing that can’t be defined and I find beauty in everything, this dress was unique. It was soft to the touch, with the colors blending into one another, while there was only one shiny silver spot on the bow of the dress. This made it look like in the dark, there is still a light shining. 

Even though I knew there would be a reaction from the industry when I went onstage, I decided to anyway. Their image of beauty was trash. They abused us with diets, mentally depriving us. I had a best friend one time. She was the best actress in the industry, yet she was always complaining about how hard everyone was on her, ranging from her diet, clothing, expressions, leading her to become depressed. She started having an eating disorder and never being able to go back to acting. Her parents believed that this was just a phase and wanted the best for her. But one day, she and her family left. I still don’t know what happened, but I’ve always hated this industry since.

I never made any friends, fearing that I would lose them just like I did with her. I felt a tap on my shoulder. One of the girls was signaling me to go. I lost track of time and I didn’t realize it was my turn. I quickly took off the yellow dress, much to the girl’s shock. 

I took a shaky breath and went on stage doing the same routine we practiced. I didn’t care to look at the judges, not caring what anyone would think anymore. After this day, I would not continue with this, no matter how much my parents would scold me. As I finished my routine, I spotted Madame Patterson. She looked pale and her face was contorted with rage. She grabbed me by the ear and was about to slap me, but she must have remembered that I had to “look good” and couldn’t leave a mark.

“Your parents will hear about this, young lady.” I stuck my tongue out at her and made a fake farting noise. She gasped in surprise. It was really too funny.

After everyone else went, everyone was called on stage to reveal the beauty queen of the pageant. To my shock and everyone else’s, I won. I looked at Ms Patterson with a smirk on my face while her mouth was open like a codfish.

I happily went home to my parents, telling them that I was quitting. When I gave them my reasons, they supported me wholeheartedly.

Courtesy of pixabay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s