breathe it in

breathe it in

FADE IN:

My first experience with Magic was when I was 8 years old.
My mom took us to the desert. It was hot and uncomfortable. I hated it. I complained all day РI want to go home already.
We pitched our tents and mom warmed up some ham, pineapple n’ cheese sandwiches. I had been waiting all day – God, those things are deliciously good, especially how mom toasts them.
The sun descends and night rises.
I had escaped into yet another Sweet Valley High novel; in the background, the sound of my brothers playing near the campfire.
At some point, I looked up to the smell of bread toasting and ham sizzling.
And I nearly lost my shit.
There in front of me, all around me, were a million stars. A gazillion of them.
Mom must’ve clocked¬†my surprise cuz she says, “Put your book down and breathe it in.”

You know that song by Coldplay? Look at the stars, look how they shine for you?
One of my favorite songs.
When that song plays, I often think about that moment in the desert; book in hand, ham sizzling, brothers laughing, and pure Magic painted across the sky.
Speechless, humbling Magic right above us.
That was the first time I was certain there was a God.

FADE OUT.

sucks the air thin

sucks the air thin

There’s a silence that’s almost deafening.
The kind where, at a party, the music stops and everyone looks up and says to no one, “Hey, what happened?”
The kind that the body shutters from its piercing.
A Void.

I was turning 16. I wanted a big party; bodyguards, a live band, DJ, pay at the door, the whole shebang. I worked hard; I got my artistic sister to create the flyer, gave them out at my and my brother’s schools. A week before, everyone was talking about it, the word spread quick. The band was known enough to build a crowd, I was in love with the drummer who should’ve been the lead singer he was that eccentric.

I rented a trophy room off a big sports facility, facing a big oval where my brother’s school played footy. The party drew a huge crowd, a long line waited around the bend even until 11pm, an hour before close. I was shocked. I barely knew anyone, and when I did, they were intoxicated and in the throes of what it took to be a teenager at a party in the 90s.

Flash forward to afterward. Mum, bro and sis, and my best friends, with black trash bags and rubber gloves, helped me clean up the evidence. Well, enough to get our safety deposit back.

I must’ve sat down somewhere, took it all in. I hope I did. I’m hoping I popped a squat facing the oval of lush greenery and tsunamic eucalyptus trees. Muscles spent and feet regaining circulation from improper use of heels. A mix of pride and exhaustion. A mix of elation and isolation.

And then silence.
The Void.

How it sucks the air thin.

four, five, eight

four, five, eight

FADE IN: Anne Ferney (18) and Jaquila Gilmore (16) drinking Dr. Pepper:

A: And that’s when her mom started rattin’ around Wilkinsburg going around to people’s houses, “Is my son here?” I am, like, oh my god, I don’t want ever for our family to experience that. You could see in her face that she was scared.

J: My dad. First, he’s the first one to call me. And then my mom called me. And then my best friend called me and, I didn’t know what happened.

A: The news keeps sayin’ they had an Automatic AK and I’m just thinking it couldn’t be an AK cuz they kept hearin’ the shots go off so you know he kept pulling the trigger.

J: How you actually know that, just blew my mind but OK.

A: It sounds like first person let their clip go and the second person let their clip go. They say eight people got shot. Cuz first on the news they say, “Ok, four people got shot.” The next thing you know five people comin’ up dead. I’m like, yo, they just changed from four people shot, five people shot dead, eight people shot, like. And then they brought the little baby out, like, there was kids in that house. And one of the girls was pregnant. Basically, it was six people that died. If you want to be technical.

J: I don’t know who she is, but she was pregnant and she was shot. I’m like, this is cray-zy. I gotta get out the hood, cuz this is too much.

A: My senior year, I’m tryin’ to go to Florida cuz you can graduate with a trade.

 

FADE OUT.

cali teen

bless you

Red tank.
Short denim jeans.
Orange hair growing out from a collision of blonde shades.
Black socks squeezed into matching flip flops.
Old rollie. Used and reused.
Sweet, classic Cali teenager.

Thirteen? 14? 16? No more than that.

She looks nervous, diverts her eyes.
“Can I share the table with you?” I ask.
Thumb in mouth ripping at skin, she nods with eyes drawn away.
Staring off in the distance…

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