By, Michelle Lesseraux
is a work in progress
Abandoned, dirty, deteriorating. A building that has lost its purpose. It might have been an office, and apartment building, a school, but now it takes up space, and nobody cares for it. It has been forgotten and will only be remembered to be destroyed, to make space for something new, for something better. And that's just how everything works, right? Before the building disappears, confused teenagers who think way more than they should wander in and paint their thoughts on the ugly walls and try to make it mean something. "Unsalvageable" one writes, and below there is a painting of two creatures sipping wine and they seem to not have a care in the world because they know that in the end everything is, in fact, "unsalvageable". friendship, romance, youth and beauty and everything in between. Peace, life itself, hope; They won't bother wasting their time trying to be heroes, like everyone else with too much hope for their own good does. I am now 35 years old and the events that happened that night weren't too scandalous but I can never seem to forget it. The friends you choose when you don't yet know how to choose your friends wisely are the ones who you learn from and love and hate the most and it's awful and really cool all at the same time. I go back in time, about 19 years ago. I'm 16 years old.
I'm lying in bed, on the verge of nothing at all. I am uncomfortably neutral and numb and I feel like I've been this way forever. I consider myself stable at this point in time but I guess I try not to think about it because I'm afraid I'll realize I'm absolutely miserable and lonely and just plain sad inside. I am not where I want to be. I am nowhere, and right as my thoughts are getting tangled, I am snapped out of it by a not-so-familiar buzzing noise coming from my phone. It's 11:30 PM on a Thursday night, and I get a text from David. He's cool, I guess, although little shady. "Jen, lucas and i are a block from your house, we'll be waiting outside for you in a sec," it reads. This was not planned. I'm confused and slightly annoyed, but definitely not hesitant enough. Instead of pretending to be asleep I respond with an "okay", and I don't ask any questions, and that is definitely not like me. Whatever "like me" is or was, that's not it. There was no way I could sneak out my front door without my dog barking up a storm. I act on impulse, opening my window, and eyeballing the tree in front of it. I'm not fond of heights.
I find one of my hands on the sturdiest branch in my reach, and of course it isn't sturdy enough to carry my anxiety with me. Even so, I lean my body forward, grabbing with my other hand, my heartbeat in my eardrums. I crawl out and struggle to keep myself up, clinging to the top of the tree, telling myself I'm overreacting. My phone vibrates in my pocket. I slowly make my descent. My feet are eventually on the ground after what feels like a very long time and my legs are slightly shaky, but catching sight of three figures in the corner of my eye, I immediately regain my composure.
"Sorry we called you out on such short notice," I hear Lucas say. "It's whatever," I reply nonchalantly as David gives me a smile and Jen an awkward wave.
We walk in silence to who knows where. I look up at the stars and don't find them too pretty or exciting, and lately I've felt that way about most things I should appreciate. "Uh, Dave, where are we going?" Jennifer asks. He looks back and smirks "I've found a pretty sick place, an abandoned building just about a mile and a half away." And he turns back around coolly, not really noticing or caring about Jennifer's nervous shifting or the fact that his answer was completely disappointing. I roll my eyes at his unoriginality and stop to light a cigarette. Lucas and David do the same. Jennifer is obviously uncomfortable with her nose scrunched up and her hands in her pockets as she walks ahead of us.
I'm getting lazy and irritated, kicking at the rocks at my shoes while I walk. The group comes to a stop. David with that stupid smirk of his, Lucas is calm and collected, Jennifer skeptical and I, well. I'm just there. We're all staring at the building. "That's the ugliest thing I've ever seen," I say, taking a last pull from my cigarette before putting it out. "Are we really going in there? It doesn't seem safe." Jennifer mutters. "Buzzkill." David said that. And Lucas just shrugs.
Turning back has not been an option yet tonight, so of course we find ourselves in the building in a matter of minutes. There's nothing inside. I'm already bored and all I can think about is having to climb up that tree to get back into my room. 12:15 AM. "What's the point of this again?" I ask, looking at David and not expecting any kind of satisfying answer. "What's the problem, Sandra?" he says with an attitude. "This is boring." "You're boring." "Nice one, kid." If looks could kill. The tension in the air could be felt from a mile away and if it weren't for Lucas pointing out a staircase and suggesting we explore, I probably would have left then and there. Jennifer was convinced the building wasn't durable enough and that we would fall through the floor. But no going back, right? The second floor wasn't exciting either. I mean this building didn't even have glass over its windows. It was a giant block of cement with a ton of empty, ugly rooms holding junk in every corner. And I was convinced that this sure as hell wasn't going to keep me interested. But I kept going, lacking anything better to do.
There was a roof. And we sat on that roof, in silence. And the stars still weren't beautiful and I had picked up more disappointment to layer it onto the disappointment I brought directly from home and the weight on my shoulders was heavy but I was used to it. Finding an abandoned house was most definitely not as terrifying or exciting as the movies made it seem and I was mad but I couldn't find a real reason why. It wasn't the house and it wasn't David or Lucas or Jennifer, It was me and I felt like there was absolutely no way to fix that. I took a deep breath and lit another cigarette. I relaxed a bit. "Y-you know, I don't pay attention to the weather usually, but I can kind of appreciate it now." There was a crack in Jen's voice. Her statement was awkward, and it was obvious she was desperately trying to break the ice. I look at her a little weird and Luke nods and David says "See, this isn't that bad." I'm not as tense so instead of arguing I just say, "It's whatever." And I feel kind of okay. David lets out a chuckle and so does Luke, Jennifer giggles a bit and we all kind of find ourselves laughing. It's pretty stupid, but nice. After a while it becomes silent again. "I miss Sofia." It just kind of slips out. Nobody was expecting it, not even me, and I said it. "It seems like it." Jennifer says. After Sofia was gone I hadn't been in school for about two weeks. I came back and separated myself from my group of friends to sit at a table with a bunch of loners I barely interact with, and they were all here, with me at almost 1:00 AM. But Sofia wasn't. And it was weird, because she always had been. And everyone knew that, even those who didn't know much about me at all. But, you know, like a lot of things, I don't really like thinking about it.
They all kind of stare at me, as if they're expecting me to say more. So for the first time, I do. And I talk about how wonderful she and beautiful and funny and perfect she was and will always be and for the first time, I don't cry when I think about her too hard. And I would've never thought these people could look so interested, and I really appreciated the interest. The interest in her and who she was and what she was like and not just the fact that I lost her and there was an appropriate amount of empathy but no pity. And I felt understood. Everyone took turns talking about the ones they've lost and how they are surrounded by people almost constantly but somehow still feel really, really lonely. "I just... As much as I don't want to, I need people. I need to feel like I'm important to somebody." Luke says. And it was as simple as that. We walk back down, and David pulls out a can of spray paint. We all grin, and we leave our mark, and it probably won't be there for long, and probably nobody will see it. But we did. And I know it's late, but I don't really care to check what time it is. And I look up, and the stars are beautiful again. Sofia loved to watch them, and I can almost feel her beside me, looking up. Smiling. And we walk back home. And we are all in silence, of course. Just like we were on our walk here. But this time it's different, this time it's comfortable. This time I'm comfortable. The first stop is my house. I turn around give all of them a small nod and a smile, and they return it and walk away without a word, and I climb up my tree and back into my window with ease. I kind of feel like Sofia has been walking with me this whole time, and it's almost as if she dropped me off in front of my house. It's like I had been holding onto her, and now we're both free.