Reflections

You Are Gone

I see your face everywhere; you are always in my heart and in my mind, but in real life, you are gone.

We don’t talk anymore; we used to all the time, but things changed. I remember what I used to imagine about us. I used to imagine us growing old together; taking you to ball and kissing you under a starlit sky. I used to imagine our kids and what it would be like to have them running around while we were trying to keep our minds sane.

I imagined the night I proposed to you. When you were gone for so long, I would still see your face everywhere. In my dreams and my nightmares. I looked at other people and saw only you, and the pain returned to my heart.

It took me a long time to realize how the dreams of childhood became the suffering of adolescence. It is when we grow older that we see the reality of things, and I realized how much you had changed. It broke my heart more times than I can say.

I realize now that one day we will never see eachother again; I will only see you in my thoughts. You will walk beside me every day when you have not been in the flesh for years; I would think about you and wonder where you are and what places you would visit and the man you would marry; I would wonder if you ever thought about me or if you had ever thought we might have had a chance.

The joy of love lasts but a moment; the pain of love lasts a lifetime.

A.N. Lopez

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Reflections

Change

Wow, quite a period of time since I have last written.

Many things have changed. I am eighteen years old now; an adult. I have applied to college, I am still with my girlfriend, and my world is changing. Changing all around me. I feel less interested in the things I used to love. I am a different man of different values. I am confused and clear-sighted at the same time.

What causes this change in me? What force or power can change a man? His soul? Is it my dreams? My love for myself and for others? Or the absence of love?

In truth, I am unhappy and happy; I am content and discontent. I feel as though I am among the troubled, confused of which movies and TV shows are made. I have clear plans for the world, and yet what do they say about the man that I am? What do I value? What do I sacrifice?

Most of these questions I truly have no answer to. Such answers are beyond my truth. For now. Reflection is needed in order to deal with change.

It has been a gradual change, and not sudden; I don’t write anymore. I don’t socialize. I spend money freely. I handle my responsibilities, but I feel as though I shy away from them. I used to be a workaholic, and now work makes work of me. I am exhausted and tired. From what? What, or whom, has made me this way?

Perhaps many things. High school. A relationship. Thoughts of infidelity. Thoughts of power. Of apathy. Of losing perspective of the big picture and taking a look at the text. Truth shys away from me, and all I see is only that which I open my eyes to see. It is a regrettable admission, but it is an admission. It is the truth as I see it through my eyes.

I am a troubled person. I am not OK. I am not well. I need help. I need change. I need something else in this world. Food loses its taste; love loses its passion. Work loses it vigor, and education loses its worth.

Who am I? What is happening to me? What has happened?

A.N. Lopez

Literature / Poetry

An Excerpt: Requiem for a Man

“Can I help you, miss?” I asked nervously.

She sighed heavily in relief.

“You live on this floor, I hope?” She inquired softly.

“I sure hope I do; got keys, furniture, and rent.”

“Which apartment do you live in? I think Gloria gave me the wrong key.”

“I live in apartment 27.” I walked closer to her and stood in front of the door to my apartment. I pointed my index finger toward the door, and prepared to get out my keys.

“See, my key doesn’t open the door to apartment 25.” She demonstrated that the key would not permit the door to open.

“Did you want to come inside my apartment? Figure it out later? Can’t stay out her alone, and you look exhausted.” I said sincerely.

A surprised look came on her face. She contemplated my question for a moment, and slightly nodded to me in compliance. A small smirk came upon her face. I opened the door to my apartment, and I picked up her trunk with my left hand and motioned with my right for her to go in before me. She proceeded slowly into my living room, and I followed her inside and shut the door behind me.

The small dim of light from the sun was slowly coming in through the balcony window. The rain persisted, and gray overcast clouds covered the New York sky. I set the trunk down by the front door, removed my jacket and belongings, and sat down at my kitchen table. She removed her scarf and sat down on the opposite of me. It was quiet for a moment. The pat-pat of the rain continued, and I breathed slowly in and out, exhausted.

“Thank you.” The woman whispered quietly.

“You don’t need to thank me, its fine. Do you want to get some rest? You can sleep in my bedroom if you like, I’ll stay out here on my small loveseat. I don’t sleep a lot anyway.”

“What’s your name?” She asked solemnly.

“Vincent.” I replied. “And yours?”

“Victoria.” She said. She was staring right at me. I felt some sort of negative vibe within myself that inclined me to not look at her in any way; I stared at the middle of the kitchen table.

“What is your profession?” I inquired.

“I am studying to be a schoolteacher.” She whispered.

“Didn’t answer my question.” I replied.

“Oh, you mean my line of work right now?” She asked. A look of slight guilt came upon her face. “I don’t know whether to tell you the truth or lie to you.”

I looked up at her. I stared into her face for just a moment, and looked back down at the table.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you, Victoria. You don’t have to respond if you don’t want to.”

“I’m a prostitute…” She replied quietly. We both looked down at the table in silence. I didn’t know how to respond.

“Did you want some coffee or anything?” I asked apologetically.

A small grin came upon her face.

“No thanks.” She replied sweetly. “You know, you’re the only man in my personal life that hasn’t judged me the second I revealed myself to be an escort.”

I looked up and stared into her eyes for a moment.

“I am only but a man.” I replied softly. We stared at each other a little longer, and then she got up from the table, looked back behind her toward my bedroom, smiled slightly at me, and continued toward my bedroom. She opened the door and went inside, but left it slightly ajar. I contemplated in silence what she was asking of me. I stared at the ground, and then got up and moved toward my cushion loveseat in the living room. I sighed a heavy sigh, stared at my bedroom door, and slowly fell asleep. I remember the light of the sun was shining dimly through my balcony window, and the rain had stopped. It was quiet, and there was peace.

Reflections

The Boy Who Kissed the Girl

At some point or another, every boy and every man has his morals and principles and ideas on love and affection and marriage tested when a certain little lady comes along and arouses him beyond the point of temperance. One question pops up in his mind: is this right?

This breaks down into multiple levels, but to keep it simple, one must have an idea of what is right or wrong. Who decides what is right or wrong? God? The individual? Society?

In essence, one can look at right and wrong from this point of view: something pleasurable and fun can be not exactly right or virtuous, but something fun and pleasurable does not have to consist of anybody getting hurt, making it not exactly wrong. When a man makes out with a woman who is not his wife or girlfriend or significant other (or perhaps goes even farther!) is it to be considered a wrong or shameful act?

This is something I cannot answer in this reflection: my answer is uncalled for and irrelevant. While that does not mean I don’t have an answer, I ask the reader to reflect in themselves on their own morals and principles. In this day and age, men and women “hook up” and have one-night stands and make out and have sexual relations all the time, spontaneously, with someone they might barely know. Is it right or wrong to do so? That’s up to the individual.

Who formulates this standard of right and wrong? The individual. Who judges the individual and their actions? I would say, in a most certain tone, almost everybody. Some find spontaneous sexual relations wrong and shameful and that one is a “player” or “whore” for participating in such actions, while others may find it to be just perfectly normal and fine and acceptable for men and women to have these relations; note that “everyone” consists of both men and women, for all men and women are different.

Now, for the sake of argument and necessity of evidence and subject, I will use myself as an example to make a point: I am, in a societal point of view, an average, perhaps slightly above or below average male who has hormones and possesses a taste for feminine flesh. I masturbate, hold the door open for women, have thoughts of sexual relations with women, yet respect the space and dignity and feelings and presence of women wherever I go. I treat women well and rarely disrespect one from any sort of sexist or even behavioral standard, and most women I know would describe me to be a “nice, respectful, attractive, and good guy”. Now, a key question must be brought up: if I had relations with a girl who is not in any way romantically involved with me, does this not make me a good guy? Does this not make me a good man?

Interesting question. Another way to look at it would be from a women’s perspective: is a girl who has relations with a man simply out of her desire to do so considered a “whore” or “hoe” or “slut”? Is she considered “easy”? Then again, she isn’t married, she isn’t taken or possess a significant other, and under any circumstances there exists no real reason for her not to have a relation with a man if she chooses. Food for thought, for I predict that an average man or woman in this day and age would call said female as a whore or slut; even my own mother did so, and declared she was also ashamed of me.

So, my point in this reflection is this: women and men have relations simply because they want to. One cannot be judged for having such relations, for its between two people whose feelings do not get hurt, and who have full honesty and truth put forward in the extent of the relations. Whether that be a friends with benefits type of relation or a one-night stand, humans are beings of passion and love and warmth and embrace; don’t deny who you are. It doesn’t make you any less of a man or a woman to have relations with someone…

…as long as no one gets hurt. For when people get hurt, that right and wrong debate comes into play. When no one gets hurt, its not exactly right, but there is no ground for it to be wrong. But when someone’s feelings do get hurt, or when a man treats a woman wrong or when a woman treats a man wrong, the relation is wrong.

A.N. Lopez

 

Reflections

Friend-zoned and its Effects

We’ve all been there before: you like someone, they don’t like you back.

Or perhaps they felt some way about you, you about them, and it didn’t turn into what you wanted it to be because of outside forces or changes in one’s mentality.

Most-often enough you are, what society calls, “friend-zoned”.

Definition of friend-zoned: to be put in a place of being a platonic and non-romantically involved companion when there were, to some degree, romantic feelings before.

This has happened to me countless times, and it probably has plagued more individuals on this planet then anyone cares to admit: its a common and shame-inducing occurrence. People, saddened and angry that things did not work out the way they expected, deny having certain feelings or lie about being ok with just being “friends”. What the hell does that entail, exactly?

A bigger, more important question is how one really does be ok with just being “friends”. With having romantic feelings comes certain romantic desires and ambitions, and with desires and ambitions come certain feelings. Whether they be sexual or romantic and having to pertain to the word, “love”, or whether they be misconstrued perceptions of affection, feelings of intimacy have the power to change the hearts and minds of people. So when this friend-zoned situation comes along, how is it that one deals with it?

I have taken but two routes in my life:

  • The first way to deal with being “friend-zoned” is arguably the more mature, wise, and perhaps more “destructive”; one simply accepts how the other individual feels, and “lets it go”. Doesn’t mean that one stops talking or caring about this individual, but one accepts, both emotionally and psychologically, how the other feels and chooses to acknowledge those feelings and respect their wishes. This method pertains to teaching an individual that one is not the only person on this planet with feelings. However, this can have disastrous and destructive consequences; by accepting the notion that one’s happiness and wishes are more important than their own, one can possibly start to develop a mentality that their own self-respect, self-esteem, and self-happiness come second to others. While this may seem like some selfless and virtuous happening, one cannot help anyone else until they can help themselves. To have no love or self-respect or plain respect for one’s romantic and emotional feelings towards other human beings, one becomes quite unstable, emotionally distressed, and uncertain of what love, relationships, caring, and compassion mean.
  • The second way to deal with being “friend-zoned” is the more blunt, harsh, and unforgiving method(and perhaps the easier “bullet-to-the-head” way as well); one simply accepts how the other individual feels, and ends all contact and association with that person. No more “friends”, no more “buddy-buddy” hangouts; one stops being that person’s friend. Harsh, unforgiving, and merciless, one trades an eye for an eye in a Hammurabi-type of emotional resolution: if you cant be romantically involved, you can’t be friends. This method, tried and tested by yours truly, has its benefits and setbacks: the individual one was previously friends with might be left saddened and put into an awkward, guilt-ridden state, but eventually they will realize that they were most likely the one to have put up the “friend-zoned” wall in the first place; by not being friends anymore, they realize the extent of their actions against the individual, and hopefully do not let it occur again. Honesty and straight-forwardness are rewarded in this world, and in relationships they are duly appreciated.

With relationships and being “friend-zoned” there brings into light the question of, “Can a human (or humans) who had romantic feelings toward another be just ‘friends’?”

My answer to this is a most definite, absolute, and decisive NO. For to lower yourself to a level to believe that your feelings and your emotions can be cast away and suppressed simply for the reward of not having an awkward friendship is heresy and destructive to a human being. I have known it and seen it; I have lost friends, close friends, friends that I would have laid down my life for because of not being truthful in my feelings; because I was friend-zoned, and I tried to tell myself, “Hey, its OK, you can get over it.” No, it’s not OK. It’s never OK. Because in truth, everyone and anyone should have the opportunity to prove themselves in romantic relationships, and people should not lie or be confused or misconstrue how they feel towards someone and then regress on their feelings; there is no justification for such action.

I am dealing with one of these situations currently; there lies a question of whether or not to stop being friends with this person or to talk to them less or simply keep trying and be persistent in your desire to be their romantic partner. Reality and morality come face to face with me here, and I have yet to decide which route I am to take…

A.N. Lopez

Uncategorized

Only Men

“Danny, I’m pregnant.” Samantha whispered; her eyes were pointing toward the ground.

A frosty and shocked silence overwhelmed the room. You could hear the drop of a pin, or the squeak of a mouse without difficulty. Like the world faded away for just a moment. I looked over at my brother Danny; a glazed thousand-yard stare in his eyes. I looked not into his eyes, but into his soul; into his manhood.

He got up from the couch, stared at Samantha for a moment, slowly turned around, and sludged out the front door of the house. Samantha and I sat in the living room, neither of us saying a word.

“He’ll be back. Give him some time.” I declared to her.

She didn’t reply. I looked at her, a disturbed look was upon her face. I saw a hint of shame and regret in her eyes, but I saw more of an emotion that took me aback: courage.

“Will you keep the baby?” I inquired.

She spoke in a whisper, “My mom always told me that a girl believes it takes courage to give up a baby’s life; she also told me that only the strong woman believes it takes courage to keep it, love it, raise it, cherish it.”

I didn’t know what to say; such words struck me to the core of my soul. My younger brother Danny has just walked out of our house at the news that he is to be a father. What words would I give him to make him realize that he would need to be responsible for his actions? I precipitated the notion that I may not need say anything at all: Samantha’s courage would be more than enough to inspire him.

Samantha stood up from the couch, sighed a heavy sigh, and stated she would return tomorrow to hear from Danny. I place my hand upon her face and wiped a lonely tear from her cheek. I hugged her reassuringly, and said that Everything is going to be alright. For once in my life, I think she believed me.

I sat in the living room until after dusk. Then it came around to be midnight. The darkness blanketed the world, and I was accompanied only by the lonely glow of the sapphire-colored nightlight in the bathroom hallway. I pondered and fixated preparations for how I would help Samantha and Danny deal with a child; the situation in my mind was, at most, tenuous. To the best of my ability as a man and older brother, I could not conquer the situation that, in nine months, would become a reality. I needed to talk to Danny.

He came through the front door to find me sitting in the shrouded darkness. Seemed as though he was expecting me.

“Hey, Alex.” He muttered to me. He came in, took off his shoes, and sat down opposite of me. He stared at the ground, and I stared at him; I examined the 16 year-old boy that was my younger sibling; the boy that I had raised alone since our parents died four years ago; the boy that somehow I had to teach to be a man and step up to the plate of fatherhood.

“Danny. We need to talk about this.” I said to him.

“I know. Alex: what do I do?”

“I thought father and I raised you never to ask that question.”

“Father isn’t here anymore, Alex. I’m asking you: what do I do?”

“Do you see the plaque that’s above our front door, Danny? You and I read that plaque every day of our lives before we leave the sanctity of our home. Every morning. What does that plaque say, Danny?”

“Alex, don’t give me this philosophical bul….”

“What does it say?” I screamed at him. His eyes shot up to look at my face; he possessed a look of terror. I tempered myself, and his eyes drifted back to the floor.

“It says: No Gods or Kings, only Men.

“Are you a man, Danny?” I interrogated.

“No.” He confessed.

“Then why is it you perform adult activities? Sex is not for the weak, Danny. Or for the young and innocent and foolish. Sex is for men. Are you a man, Danny?”

He didn’t reply; a look of shame overwhelmed his eyes.

“You are now, Danny. You are a man. You are going to stop looking so goddamn sorry for yourself, grow the fuck up, and take care of that woman and that baby. That is what father and mother would have you do, and that is what I would have you do. This isn’t some game or joke anymore. Samantha is going to keep the baby, and she is going to have the courage to raise it and love it as best as she can. That’s sacrifice. That is a woman. She is going to accept her mistake, forgive herself, and deal with it. I can’t tell if she’ll forgive you, but that’s out of the question. And you need to do the same, Danny. You need to get a job, be disciplined and temperate, and be prepared to become the father of a child; a child who’s life, hands, feet, and heart are your responsibility. That child will grow up, and make something of itself in this world; that child will look back upon its life and say, ‘My mom and dad did so much for me to give me the best that they could’. You know why, Danny? Because you are going to do your best. Its not going to be easy. But I’m here to help you; your 24-year old brother is here to help you. So is Samantha. But most of all: your going to need to help yourself. Can you do that?”

Danny looked me dead in the eye with a fiery passion of tears and emotion. He stood up, looked up at the plaque above our flower-covered front door, and said, “Alright.”

By Adrian Lopez

Uncategorized

Lament

This is an excerpt from a new novel I have begun to write. Comments appreciated.


I

     I didn’t see it on the news. None of her friends called me, and I didn’t hear from it at school. Two policemen showed up at my front door in Antioch. I answered the door on a particularly normal, humid summer afternoon. I saw the police cruiser outside, and the men took off their hats and asked if I was Adrian Lopez. When I replied yes, the tall, bearded cop on the left of the doorway said that there wasn’t any easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it. Your friend Maya committed suicide this morning. She left a death note on her desk: it’s got your name on it.

I was in a state of sheer shock and disbelief. It took my brain a few seconds to comprehend the words that just came out of the man’s mouth. The policemen declared that they would have to take me to her house and have me answer a few questions. I sat in the doorway for a moment; my eyes glazed a bit. And then I followed them to the police cruiser, and I didn’t say a word. I got in the back seat, and I pressed my forehead against the window. The car rocked back and forth as we sped off toward Concord, where Maya’s father lived. I looked up outside the window into the clear blue summer sky, and I could’ve sworn I saw the eyes of God staring into my soul; he was laughing.

We arrived outside of her father’s house in exactly 12 minutes and 13 seconds. That was the longest 12 minutes of my entire life. The bearded policeman opened my car door, and I stepped outside to a funeral-type scene of medical technicians, the coroner, and Maya’s father standing outside the front porch of the house. He looked at me with his swollen, bloodshot red eyes; a look of fury and depression was infused in his pupils. As I approached the house, the plethora of people split from the stone walkway and allowed me to pass onto the porch. Maya’s father, the disdainful and violent man she would always talk about, was a pathetic and unworthy sight. He had short cut black hair, and was carrying a Giants snapback in his hands. He wore a white wife beater T-shirt, and sagged his pants a few inches below his waist without a belt. As I stepped onto the front wooden porch, I turned my head and glared right into his eyes. Not one word was spilled from his lips, but I heard everything he was trying to say.

The bearded policeman told me that Maya’s body was found in her bedroom: she had hung herself. He say that If you want to go inside to see her and read her note, you may do so; but please don’t touch anything, for the room has already been detailed. A look of suspicion and pity was upon his face; I could see it in his eyes. I trudged slowly up the staircase; there were exactly 14 wooden steps, and the last 4 to the top creaked slightly. The walls of the house were painted a pale yellow, and there was a crucifix upon the wall at the top of the staircase. A picture of Jesus Christ himself was on the hallway wall before the door to Maya’s bedroom. It was a picture of him and his disciples at the Last Supper. I glared into the picture for a moment; a sense of sadness and anxiety zipped right through my body. My hands began to shake, and my eyes began to tear up. I was not prepared for what I was about to see.

I slowly creaked open the white door that led to Maya’s room. I closed my eyes in fear of seeing a horror that I could not handle. Once I had the door pushed up against her bedroom wall, I slowly opened my eyes with my hands covering my face. She was hung in the middle of the room from her black leather belt that was attached to the plastic chandelier in the middle of the ceiling. Her eyes were closed, but she was looking right through me. Her crispy brownish-blonde curly hair was banging down the sides of her head. Her lips and skin were pale, and her body was motionless. There was a detesting and foul odor in the room: it was the smell of death. I was overwhelmed with terror, sadness, and rage. I began to cry hysterically, and I slowly slumped down to the floor holding onto my knees. I covered my face with my hands, and rocked slightly forward and backward. I sobbingly spoke the words Why, Why, Why to myself in my fit of emotion.

After a good four minutes, I composed what little I could of myself to approach her pink mahogany desk in the corner of her bedroom. There was a piece of binder paper placed directly in the center of the desk, and written upon it in pink pen were words that will haunt me for the remainder of my life:

 

Adrian,

I’m sorry things went wrong between us. I was wrong to not realize how great of a guy you are. You never betrayed me or lied to me or tried to take advantage of me. You never gave up on me and you were the only one who was there for me when even I wasn’t. I am sorry that I have tortured you for so long. I have neglected you and your love, and I have caused you unspeakable amounts of pain. I am sorry. I am sorry for everything I’ve put you through. This will be the last time I talk to you. I don’t deserve you. I am not good for you. I can never forgive myself for pushing away the one guy who was my best friend: you are my best friend. And I turned you away; I neglected how perfect our lives could be together. I love you, Adrian. I always have. I always will. I’m sorry I didn’t realize that sooner, but I am not going to hurt you anymore.

Love always and forever,

Maya

 

 I stared at the letter for a moment, and I lost it. I started screaming and crying in a state of sheer delirium. Why Maya? Why? I screamed. I’m sorry! I’m so sorry for everything! The policemen rushed inside and pulled me out of the bedroom and out to the front porch. I collapsed on my knees and sat there on the grass. A female medical technician kneeled down beside me and rubbed my back slowly, saying Its going to be OK. Shhhhh she said quietly. I hugged and cried into her shoulder.

After the coroner had taken away Maya’s body, the medical personnel began to leave. Maya’s father shook the policemen’s hands and went into the house, and I had pulled myself together just in time to see the female medical technician get into her ambulance. She waved for me to come to the window. Are you OK? she said. I nodded slightly, my eyes looking down to the street. She took her index finger under my chin, and raised my eyes to meet hers. You’ll be alright, hun. she said. I backed away from the ambulance and she drove off slowly down the street. I couldn’t forget the look she had in her sparkly greenish-bluish eyes. It was a look of hope. I trudged over to the police cruiser, and the policemen and I got inside and began to drive home. I looked through the rear windshield and saw Maya standing in the middle of the street, her curly crisp hair waving slightly in the wind. She had her glasses on, and she was waving goodbye to me. I turned back around, looked out the window, and did not say a word to anyone.

II

     I didn’t talk to anybody for two weeks. My mother called my work and told them to give me time off. It was summer vacation, so I didn’t have to go to school. I just stayed in my room. I didn’t eat much. I didn’t go outside or watch TV or play video games on my computer. I had the window closed most of the time, the blinds all the way shut. I would put on a apple cinnamon candle every night, and stare at it from my bed while it glowed in the darkness. My mother would open my bedroom door every morning before she went to work, and would say she loved me and that she hoped I feel better. My older brother didn’t talk to me much or see me; I think my mother told him not to. I just sat in my room, and did nothing. I didn’t have it in me to do anything. It felt like I was the one hanging in that bedroom. It felt like dying.

One day, I decided to go for a walk. I put on some blue PE shorts, a white plain T-shirt, some black slippers, and started walking. It was maybe 10 o’clock in the morning. The birds chirped as they usually did. The sun and the sky were out, bright and shining. I don’t know how far I walked from my home, but I stumbled upon the Antioch community park. It was a luscious, expansive patch of grass and redwood trees. I followed the white stone pathway to the center of the park: there was a colorful play structure with a sandbox in the middle of the field, a softball field to the far end of the park, and a few metal benches hidden in the shade of the trees. I sat down on one of the benches and listened to the rustling of the leaves; the chirping of the birds and sounds of the wind’s breeze. I watched the flies dance and celebrate in the sandbox. A crow flew onto the pathway to the right of the bench. It croaked several times and stared at me. What do you want? I said. It croaked again, and walked to the left side of the bench.

Maya was there sitting next to me. She was staring at the crow.

“I think he just wants someone to talk to.” She said. She looked at me, the rim of her glasses reflecting the leaves of the redwood tree.

“I don’t want to talk to anybody right now.” I replied. I looked away from her, for I couldn’t bear the thought of staring into her green eyes.

“You can talk to me. I will always be here for you. Always have been.”

I looked at her, a small smile on her face. Her pink, soft lips. Her cute little nose. It brought a lonely tear to my eye, and it slithered down my cheek.

“Why did this happen, Maya?” I asked.

“You should think about that.” She said to me. “I want you to think about that really hard. Where did we go wrong?”

“I don’t know where to start, Maya. Things were complicated between us.”

“If you don’t know where to start, why not start from the beginning?” She said. She stood up from the bench, and looked out onto the field. She put her hands on her hips, her curly hair blowing in the wind. I closed my eyes for a moment, and I felt the window blow against my face. The crow croaked again, and I opened my eyes in a shock. The crow, and Maya, were gone. I was left in the company of my bench, the redwood tree, and the wind.

III

     I first met Maya in 6th grade at Pine Hollow Middle School in Concord. She didn’t look much different than she did now. Still had glasses, the cute little nose, and the soft brown freckles on her cheeks. She had braces, and was about my height. The only real difference was her hair; its more curly now than it ever has been.

We didn’t have any classes together, though I would always see her in the halls. Never really thought anything of her. We weren’t the best of friends in 6th grade; as a matter of fact, we never really talked that much at all. We had been introduced before, but we didn’t hang out or talk very often. I was oblivious to her, and she was oblivious to me. That’s probably the one thing about 6th grade that I regret: I didn’t know who Maya was. I didn’t get to know what type of girl she was, what she was like. I didn’t pay attention to her. I still think about what life could’ve been like if I had. If we had been better friends, things could’ve been different. But life is the way it is, and it was not our time.

I remember a particular incident in Mrs. Kahl’s class. We were in the middle of Language Arts and were about to transfer over to World History when Maya, who was the office TA in 6th grade, came in with a note. Mrs. Kahl was just about finished with reading a passage from the textbook, and Maya came strolling down the aisle toward Mrs. Kahl’s desk in the front of the room. I don’t know how it happened, but a boy stuck his foot out in front of her; she tripped and nearly plowed onto the concrete floor if I had not caught her in time. Some of the boys in the class giggled, and some of the girls sneered and glared. It happened so quickly, and yet it was like I saw it coming. I jumped out of my desk in a flash and caught her with my arms in a hug-like fashion. Are you OK? I said. She nodded slightly, her cheeks red with embarrassment. I smiled slightly, and sat back down. She gave Mrs. Kahl the note, and exited the class in a hurry.

I remember later that day at lunch she came up to me when I was sitting on a green, plastic bench in the quad. Thank you. she said to me. I smiled slightly, and replied No problem. We sat there for a moment, and glared at each other. Her group of friends came along and swept her away. I still remember the glance she gave me when she turned around before they went into the cafeteria.

After that, we didn’t talk too much. I didn’t see much of her for the rest of 6th grade. I always heard about her, though. An occasional rumor here and there about “Maya the weirdo”. Some girls would be talking about how she was a loner and how she didn’t really hang out with anyone. She just sat quietly in class and did her work. I never paid much attention, but its interesting to reminisce about it now. I think in some way, I should’ve paid more attention to Maya. Maybe she was a loner, and maybe she just needed a good friend to talk to. But I was too young and foolish and naïve to pay any real attention to her or anything in the world. I didn’t understand what love or friendship meant. I didn’t understand how valuable a friend could be. I just carried on with my day-to-day affairs, and I didn’t speak to Maya. I didn’t think about Maya. If I was to put it in a blunt way, I didn’t care all that much about Maya in 6th grade. But, as life would have it, things change.