Life Eats Us Now
The following day stretched out like an extension of the torment, an unyielding wave of papers and scores. With every answer sheet the teacher distributed, it felt like disappointment was being handed out as well. 63 in Geography, 50 in History, 52 in French.
As the final bell rand, I was supposed to make my way for club activities. I was part of the track and field club, not out of passion or interest, but out of obligation. Every single student was compelled to be a member of at least one club, and I had reluctantly enrolled, initially thinking I might explore it upon entering high school. However, that initial intention had evaporated as quickly as morning mist. In the end, my participation in the club was irregular, and enthusiasm almost non-existent.
Today was just the same. Instead of going to the track, I ended up on the rooftop. It's my hideout, a spot where I can get away from everything and let my mind wander. The sky spread above, a huge stretch of blue that didn't judge me. I lay on the cool surface, looking at the clouds moving, each one like a reminder of how time goes by.
As the sun began to sink, the sky turned into a mix of orange and red, like a stunning painting that somehow reflected the same shades as inside me. I stood by the edge of the rooftop, gripping the railing as if it could anchor me. The abyss of my thoughts yawned before me, whispering suggestions, a way to escape the misery that had become my constant companion.
I shook my head hard, trying to push those thoughts away, to send them back where they came from. Right then, I heard the roof doors screech, and even before turning around, I felt a presence behind me that made me jump in surprise and fear. I stepped back, my heart racing, only to see a girl. She had brown hair that caught the last light of the sun, making it look like a waterfall of warm colors. Her eyes, also brown, were fixed on the distance, lost in thought, like mine.
Everything froze in that moment, my own worries pushed aside as I absorbed the sight. The girl's presence was surprising, yet it felt strangely reassuring. It was like fate had decided to step in and break through my isolation.
"Hey," she spoke gently. Her voice was cautious, as if she didn't want to shatter the delicate stillness.
I mustered a shy smile, "Umm..."
The sun kept sinking, making shadows that blended us with the surroundings. The rooftop, which used to be a lonely spot, now had both of us in a moment of calm together. We didn't need to say anything, the quiet saying more than words ever could. As the last light started to fade, she faced me, her eyes meeting mine. "You know, sometimes looking at the sky makes everything feel a little less overwhelming. What do you think?"
I nodded, my throat feeling a bit choked up. The sun was gone now, leaving a sky colored in deep blues and purples. It was like the world was breathing out, letting go of the day's weight.
"Are you feeling lost?" Her voice carried a gentle honesty, as if she was confiding in me.
"Yep, you look like you're about to let yourself go."
There was a hint of mystery in her eyes. It felt like I could see myself falling apart in the reflection of her pupils, even though I couldn't physically see it. But somehow, she could. "Does it really look that way?"
"Yeah. So, what's eating at you? Can you talk about it?"
"It's not your business..." Is she here to make fun of me too? I'm tired of everyone treating me like this. "Just let me be!"
"Yeah, I understand..." She moved a bit closer, "It's not really my business..." even closer, "By the way, what's your name?" and in a quick moment, she was standing right next to me. The proximity felt awkward. I'd never had a girl standing so near. Without any plan, my legs moved, putting some space between us, while my mouth stumbled over words without much thought.
"W-why do you want to know my name?"
"Don't be so cold, just share it."
"Reol. Reol Wright. Are you happy now?"
"Yeah. And now that I know your name, Reol, I guess you can open up to me as well."
"What are you talking about? Like I said... knowing my name doesn't change anything. Just go away now!"
"I would've left you alone... but what were you planning to do after that? Even if it's none of my concern, I can't think of a reason why you wouldn't be able to share it with me..."
Her words seemed to chip away at the barriers I was trying to put up between us. Walls I had gotten used to creating around anyone who came near. It was the first time in my life... I was experiencing something like this...
"We received some of our answer papers for the last exam today..."
"And you didn't do well in one of them?"
"Well, actually, I did poorly in all of them..."
"That's it? You're feeling down just for that?"
My words tumbled out in frustration, "How could you even understand? You don't know anything about me, except my name."
"I apologize if my words weren't right. But I still believe it's not that serious."
"But it's not just that. It's not like I'm only bad at studies. Whatever I try... whatever I put effort into... I just fail at everything..." These words were a first for me. All this time, I had kept them locked inside, tightly sealed away in my heart. But now... they were pouring out, my words, my feelings, all my doubts, everything. And for the first time, it felt like there might be a way out of all this. I knew she couldn't fix everything for me.
"I'm a complete failure. No matter what I attempt. I have an older brother, and he excels in everything he does. Something I'll never achieve. I still put in the effort. I try my hardest. It gets under my skin when my mother compares me to him. It just fuels my self-hatred even more."
But that's not the point.
I had been bottling them up for far too long. If she hadn't been here to listen, I can't imagine what I might have done. It felt like a time bomb, and she appeared just in time to keep it from detonating. "It's the same for everyone in my class as well. Every single person. They just laugh and grin, as if they have no issues in their life. And just like that, they move on, never realizing how much pain I'm carrying. I despise everyone. I hate them all! I simply wish everyone would disappear! If they can only look down on me, they can just leave me alone! THEY SHOULD ALL JUST BREAK!"
"Are you finished?"
I held onto my shirt, my words all out in the open now. There was a certain relief that came with shouting them out. Even though it hurt too.
"And that's why you thought about ending your life?"
"Yeah! I thought about ending my life because of that! What's the use of living anymore... with a life like mine, a complete failure?"
"So you think all your problems would disappear? Do you truly believe you can discover something in a life you've never experienced before... by abandoning the life that's right in front of you? Without giving it another chance?"
"But I've tried. I've tried countless times. But nothing ever changes... nothing!"
She looked back at the horizon, where the last light of the sun was painting the sky in warm hues. "It's quite beautiful, isn't it?"
"What do you mean?"
"The sunset, obviously. It never does anything extraordinary, just rises and sets according to a predictable pattern."
I followed her gaze, my eyes fixated on the transient beauty. I had witnessed countless sunsets in my life. But this one felt different, an indescribable elegance. It seemed she felt the same way, standing there in silent wonder.
"A life where we just follow the instruction manuals written by someone else... it's really pretty too, right?"
"I don't understand..."
"What you said a little while ago. Yes, they should all break! All those dull notions you've been clinging onto. Because, honestly, who cares? You've seen how uncertain the world around you is. It's your own life you're leading, and nobody else will live it for you. I'm like that uncertain real world too. But even just existing is really difficult. Sometimes I wish we were born in a video game. Just a few button presses and our fate would change completely."
As she spoke, her words seemed to wash over me, each one carrying weight and meaning. "But doesn't that contradict what you were saying earlier?"
"Don't misunderstand. That's simply how the world operates. We can't change that. But what we can do is be patient. Life has no strict rules, it just keeps moving, evolving in its own way as time goes on. So, sketch out the map of how you want it to be, and don't blindly follow what others have for say. Speak you heart out, even if just once! It might take a few years, maybe even a decade, or perhaps just a single day. Just wait until then. And when that moment arrives, you'll enjoy this same sunset again... with a smile!"
In the end, I never learned her name. Once she finished speaking, she departed just as she had arrived – like a breeze. I didn't chase after her. I held onto the railing tightly. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I couldn't help but let them fall. Perhaps, just maybe, as she had suggested, I had been waiting for her presence to rescue me for all this time.
"Reol, I'm telling you for the last time! Come downstairs!"
Mother's voice came from the kitchen. It wasn't something unusual – her voice getting louder whenever she's annoyed – but at this moment, I couldn't quite figure out why. Maybe because I got home a bit late today? Yeah, that might be it...
I went down the stairs, a mixture of curiosity and a bit of worry in my steps. My father was already sitting at the table, lost in the newspaper.
"Oh, hey, Reol," he said, not looking up, just nodding like it was no big deal.
She appeared from the kitchen, her face showing concern mixed with frustration. "Reol, why were you so late today? Where were you?"
"I told you I had club activities..."
She seemed almost shocked. "But do club activities usually go on until after sunset? And it's not like you're so involved in that club."
"Well, it's compulsory for everyone. I don't really have a choice, and I don't really like it either."
"Then why are you talking back to me?" She turned to my dad, as if expecting him to say something. "Honey, don't you have anything to say?"
My father, true to form, looked like he wanted to avoid any trouble. He's not one for talks in situations like this. He usually wants to keep things simple and avoid any fuss. It might not be very helpful to me, but at least it's one less thing to worry about.
"It's okay, maybe he was just hanging out with friends," he said calmly, trying to smooth things over.
"But what kind of friends wander with him around so late after school?"
"Let's not get into that now. Reol, please sit down." So, I did, taking my place at the table, tracing the line of my pants with my finger.
"So, the reason we're all here," my dad's tone changed a bit, getting more serious. "We'll be moving out from this house next week."
I was surprised. "Moving? You mean to a new place?"
"Yes, exactly. I got the transfer letter today. It's kind of sudden – they usually give us a month's notice. But we can't do much about the timing."
It might take a few years, maybe even a decade, or just a single day. Just wait till then.
And when that time comes...