The Raven and the Wren, Part 2 (edited)

Somebody had once told me that a heart is too heavy to carry alone. Though light and full of hope and high aspirations at first, each passing tragedy or disappointment makes the heart laden with grief. At some point, the weight becomes nearly unbearable, and we come close to complete collapse. However, if we have someone to lean on, they can help us carry our burdens, at least for a little while. We weren’t made for loneliness, that person had said to me; that’s why we seek out the companionship of a friend or the understanding of a family member.
I always thought it strange that Raven and I found each other the way we did. We were both lonely, misunderstood children, though for our own reasons. While I was quiet and unquestioning, he was wild and combative. Though I had never seen his outbursts in person, I heard about them all the time—the way he shouted in class, or the way he bit the teacher. Raven was in and out of the office constantly. I never heard the end of it: timid little Wren Winters, friends with troublemaker Raven Beckett. If it wasn’t our classmates pointing out our unlikely friendship, it was our teachers. You’re such a good girl, they’d say to me, why are you friends with someone who gets into so much trouble?
Honestly, I didn’t know what to tell them. Raven was an entirely different person around me: imaginative, witty, pensive, even a little sad. The few days he was able to go to recess, we would take turns on the swing set. He was always insistent that I had my turn first. After I sat down on the seat, he’d pull me back, maybe crack a little joke, before pushing me forward. We had a competition going for a long time to see who could swing the highest. He always said that I went higher, but I’d always disagree with a laugh. I didn’t even like the swings. I just liked the way I felt when I was with him.
Though that was most of what our friendship was to begin with, I began to learn more about Raven as he talked to me on the swing set. Apparently, his family was a wealthy bunch, full of lawyers and doctors and politicians. His mother and father, a couple of aspiring doctors, encountered trouble establishing a private practice for many years. They moved a lot while Raven was still young, so he never got the chance to make friends or get adjusted to school. Still, he was intelligent in his own right; he often told me of the many adventures he had gone on while reading books well above our grade level. I couldn’t help but admire how much he already knew or be jealous of what he had that I didn’t.
I had told him a little about my life, as well. My family was of the lower-middle class: my father was a manager at the local grocery store, and my mother worked from home. I always had what I needed, but not always everything I wanted. Though there were many times that we were strapped for cash, my parents always put on their bravest smiles for me. They were much more open about their troubles to my older brother, Hawke, however. He was everything I wasn’t—popular, athletic, wise beyond his years. Even though there were only a couple of years separating us, Hawke seemed decades older than me. He often ignored me in favor of his friends, but in a way, I think he took pity on me, too. Perhaps he knew that I just wanted to be like him.
Despite our differences, Raven and I had somehow found each other. We were opposites: a well-groomed, rambunctious boy and an awkward, ugly duckling girl. While I struggled to read loud enough for the class to hear, he was trying to cut a girl’s hair in the next room over. When I sat quietly and ignored the critical remarks of my classmates, he stood up and shoved one of his bullies into a wall. Where I was weak and timid, he was strong and outgoing. Perhaps, then, we weren’t exactly opposites; we were complements, two sides of the same coin.
But more importantly, we were each other’s best friends. I mentioned this fact to him as I took my seat on the swing set. It was almost the end of third grade, about a month before summer would begin. I couldn’t help but blush at how casually the words “best friend” had rolled off my tongue. It was a term I had rarely, if ever, used, yet that made it all the more special. Raven, with a little laugh, just took the chains of the swing in his hands. He pulled me back.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Wren,” He said with a smile.

I swung forward, gripping tightly onto the chains of the swing. “Even though I’m weird?” I asked. When I fell back toward him, Raven took the swing and held it in place, his hands just below mine. We locked eyes.

“Who said you were weird?” I had never heard such a tone of fierce austerity come from a child before. Frankly, it caught me off guard. For a moment, I trembled, stumbled over my words. Patiently, he waited, his expression eventually softening. I swallowed.

“Uh, e-everyone. People s-say…” I bit my lip. This particular topic had never come up before. I wasn’t sure if I wanted him to know just yet that I was “that girl.” Perhaps he already knew. I just couldn’t quite say it aloud to him, maybe because I couldn’t say it aloud to myself. Heaving a sigh, I said, “People say that I don’t ever talk… that I can’t talk. They make fun of me for it. That’s why I’m weird.” I dropped my gaze down to my shoes. Raven was silent for a long while, as if deeply considering his options. Then he pulled back the swing again.

“Don’t worry,” He said, “They’re wrong about you.”

The next day, Raven was sent to the office for getting in a fight with four boys in the classroom next-door to mine. He had heard them speaking poorly of me, and he pushed one of them into a wall, eliciting a scuffle. From what I was told, it took three teachers to stop the fight, because Raven kept going after the other boys admitted defeat. Raven was sent away to a different school for the rest of third grade, but I was never made fun of again.

The Raven and the Wren, Part 1 (edited)

I had never seen such a sad kid before. While the other children were chasing each other around and running rampant on the playground, he sat beneath the shadow of an oak tree, gazing almost enviously at his classmates. He wasn’t crying, but it was apparent that he had been—his eyes were reddened, and he was compulsively wiping his nose on the sleeve of his shirt. With a fixed expression of anger softened by rejection, the boy glared out at the world with the bravest face I had ever seen.
Back then, I was nothing much to speak about. I was a horrifically plain little girl with not much in terms of especially redeemable qualities. My mother used to dress me up in these hideous, ill-fitting dresses that seemed to accentuate the worst features about me, like my masses of freckles and the wine-colored birthmark on my right shoulder blade. She’d tame my wild mass of hair into a ponytail most days, fully exposing my mud brown eyes. On top of my less than admirable physical traits, I was almost cripplingly awkward in social situations, with nothing interesting to contribute in conversation. That said, even in elementary school, I lacked the self-confidence necessary to even speak. I kept largely to myself and often played alone at recess.
That day, when I was sitting in my usual spot under the slide, I saw that boy and I felt this need to go to him. Perhaps it was the fact that he was the new kid, or maybe it was the pitiful way he looked when he folded his arms across his chest. I just had to do something to help him out, even if it meant making myself look foolish in the process. After all, this boy didn’t know that I was the infamous “quiet girl” that the other kids made fun of. Maybe he’d give me a chance if I offered the same favor to him.
I climbed to my feet, picking up my pair of plastic dolls from the playground’s wood chips, and carefully approached the boy. He didn’t look at me as I walked up to him, instead training his dark eyes on something far off in the distance. For a moment, I reconsidered my decision—maybe I should just go back to my usual place and mind my own business. He’d get better eventually without my help. Then the boy sniffled again, and, to my surprise, he let out a soft whimper. I frowned; now I felt obligated to help him. I had always been sympathetic to a fault. Even then, I ached when I saw other people hurting. Stopping before him, I looked down to meet his face, though his eyes were still stubbornly facing away. I just hoped that he would let me help him.
Still, I was uneasy. I felt small, anxious. I held my dolls tightly to me, and I’m sure I was visibly trembling. It took quite some effort for me to even mutter a simple hello. At last, the boy looked up at me, his brow furrowed in frustration. He honestly looked like he was annoyed that I was within his immediate vicinity. When he didn’t return my greeting, I cleared my throat, much like my father did when he was about to speak. “W-why are you sad?” I managed to ask, though the question was shaky and very unsure. The boy, scowling, turned away from me once more.
“You’d just laugh if I told you,” He returned. Laugh? My mother often said that I didn’t laugh much. Dad always noted that I just seemed like an unhappy child. I suppose I had a reason to be… namely low self-esteem coupled with being the victim of bullying. Truthfully, I just didn’t laugh at people; far too often, I was the one being laughed at. The boy’s suggestion that I would hurt him in such a way was a bit jarring, but I didn’t press the subject.
Instead, I inquired softly, “What’s your n-name?” He didn’t even pause before responding,
“That’s why everyone laughed at me.” I wasn’t really sure what to make of that. Of course, I knew how judgmental our fellow classmates could be, but it seemed to be almost too low for a bunch of elementary school kids. Well, I thought to myself, maybe it wasn’t too low for just that reason.
Unsure of how to proceed, I glanced down shyly at my shoes. “W-well,” I stammered, “My name is Wren.” The boy met my eyes once more. His exasperated look had finally softened a bit, his anger giving way to vague curiosity. Seeing that this approach was working, I followed up with, “L-like the bird!” The words were a bit careless, almost like I was spitting them out at him. I couldn’t help but blush at my awkwardness.
I used to like my name. I thought it was pretty and feminine with a sort of tomboyish charm. Hearing other people say my name used to be one of my favorite sounds in the world. Then I asked my mother what “Wren” meant. She showed me a picture of a chubby, ugly bird—a wren—and told me that she had always admired the wren’s song as a little girl. My mother had hoped that I would take after what I was named for, and I did. I just happened to emulate all of the bad traits of dreadfully dismal creature.
Telling my name to other people turned out to be quite the struggle for me after that. I was always afraid that everyone else would realize that I was as stupid as the bird I was named after. Even then, as I stood there before that boy, I felt a deep regret about revealing that my mother took my name from an ugly little bird. However, he didn’t laugh; he didn’t even crack a smile. He came to his feet, and, looking me straight in the face, he said,
“My mom named me after a bird, too.” His dark eyes flicked down to the ground. The boy shifted a little bit, visibly unsettled, but he pressed on. “My name’s Raven.” Immediately, he winced, expecting me to be like all the rest. But I wasn’t like them. I simply gave a sigh of relief. He and I had something in common.
“That’s not a funny name,” I noted. Raven seemed shocked that I would suggest such a thing.
“Y-you don’t think it’s girly?” He asked. Admittedly, it was a strange name for a boy. I had never known of any men named Raven, but oddly enough, it was fitting for him. With his black, feathery hair and dark eyes, he reminded me very vaguely of a crow. I shook my head in response. Raven gave a little crooked grin. “You’re not like the others, then.” He stepped toward me, hand extended. “You’re the first person that’s been nice to me. You wanna be friends, Wren?”
Something about hearing him say my name, without any indication of judgment or condescension, was appealing to me. I had never really had a friend before, and we were both in need of a little company for now. I wasn’t certain how long this would last, or if it would even be a real friendship. We just needed each other, and back then, that was enough. Though my body was still shaking, and I was still unsure, I said, “Y-yeah. Let’s be friends, Raven.”

Update! 6/10/16

Hi all!

Firstly, I’d like to apologize for the massive hiatus I took. School really keeps me busy, and in between that and my muse not working with me, it gets really hard to write. But hey–that’s what this blog is for, really! I’d like to exercise my muse as much as possible, and hopefully I will get the chance to do so this summer.

I’d also like to give a warm welcome to any new followers! I really appreciate the support, you guys. I’ll try not to disappoint from now on by taking massive breaks, hehe.

So the newest, uh, news is that I’m in a summer course: anatomy and physiology I. It’ll last up until the end of July, then I will have literally all the time in the world to post for you lovely people. Until then, pretty much all of my time will be consumed by studying for this class, so I’ll try to make about two posts this month, be it an addition to the ongoing series I have (Moorley or *gasp* Raven and Wren!), a short story, or perhaps even a little poem. In July, I will try to start churning out at least one post a week. Please, send me angry messages if I don’t follow up on this promise (but, really, not too angry. I’m sensitive sometimes.)

In addition, I’ll also be editing up R&W, because I’m kinda not digging the flow. When this happens, I will be removing those posts and reposting the edited versions. Keep an eye out! I’m thinking you all will like where their story will eventually end up 🙂

On a totally unrelated tangent, I am currently working on a project with a group of people, and we may be in need of some team members. Without going into too much detail, we’re looking at an RPG that has some heavy music elements and multiple branching story paths. We’ll be needing some extra team members on this project, as it is super ambitious and will require tons of work already between five people. If you’re an artsy or technical kind of person, or even if you’re interested in some script writing things, be sure to drop a comment with an email address. I’ll be sure to share some more details about what the game will be about and what we’ll be looking at in terms of workload.

Finally, be on the look out for a certain experimental partner to certain experimental story about colors in the near future 🙂

Thanks for reading!

The Aspirant Writer

Welcome to Moorley, Part 4

“Sleep-walking?” I repeated. Sam, with a look of consternation, glanced over at me. The uncomfortable smile he once bore was now an awkward frown. “How does one even sleep-walk that far? Your house must be at least a couple of miles from the park.” He dropped his gaze, now admiring the curvature of his half-empty beer bottle, and shifted in his seat silently. I could see that he was searching for an answer—his concerned expression showed that much. After a long while, Sam just heaved a great sigh.

“I don’t know,” He replied. “You can bet it takes a hell of a lot of strength out of my legs, though. I come back home and all I want to do is prop my feet up a while.” He chuckled a bit but quickly fell silent when he saw that I wasn’t as amused. I pressed my lips together, waiting for further comment. Finally, Sam said, “I really don’t know, AJ. This town’s been weird ever since that night.”

“That night?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“What are you talking about?”

A pause. “Don’t you remember?”

“No.”

“Hm.” Sam stared through me. “I suppose it’s better like that.”

He got up, swayed a bit, and cautiously swung over to the porch railing. Leaning against it, he looked out toward the street. In addition to cigarettes, he now smelled of alcohol. I felt bad for him. I still remembered when he was just a little thing and how he always swore that he’d be an astronaut. Something had happened in the years between, and now he was a worn, scruffy orphan with nothing but this rickety old house to his name. I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe his changes were a result of that thing I didn’t remember.

“So,” Sam began, with the ghost of a smile, “Your parents happened to call the morning after you took your big trip.” Surprised, but nonetheless a bit amused, I replied,

“Ha ha ha. Funny. What did they say?”

“They said that they were waiting on a call from you. Something about you taking a plane and coming back here for no reason. They seemed a little bit concerned, but they said that you told them you were staying with me, so they weren’t too worried. I just said you had jet lag.” I glanced over at him. There was no way that I could have taken a plane—I distinctly remembered going to bed that evening and waking up in the middle of the park. Noting my confused look, Sam continued, “They’ve checked in every so often after that, buuuuuut… I stuck to the story. I kinda figured that maybe the plane thing isn’t exactly true.”

“No,” I said distantly, “It’s not.” Without missing a beat, Sam replied,

“Well, damn. Do you remember anything about how you got here, then?”

“Not a thing.” I got up and swung over to stand next to him against the railing. The air was cold and thick with apprehension. “I just… woke up there in the park. Don’t know how I could have gotten here and not remembered it.” Sam shrugged impassively, took a last sip of his beer.

“I told you,” He muttered with a sigh, “Things have been weird. Me sleep-walking, you appearin’ out of nowhere… Hell, I feel paranoid lately. Like I’m being watched.” His eyes cut over to me. “Maybe that’s just because of all the sleep I’ve lost, but I dunno. Once I get my life together, I’m leaving this hellhole town and all its bad memories. Maybe then I’ll feel better.”

“Unless it sucks you back in, like it did to me,” I whispered. Sam cracked a smile.

“Hey, don’t be crushing my dreams this early.” He turned, presumably to take his empty bottles back inside. After a few steps and the creaking of an opening door, he was gone for the moment.

In the time he was gone, I thought about just taking the next flight home and forgetting about this whole mess. There was no sense in continuing to humor whatever strings of fate had guided me back to Moorley. I wanted no further part in waking in the woods, walking in my sleep, or wasting time on worrying about the specters of the past. This town was no place for me, anyway, with its sleepy houses and run-down streets. Yet, still, it chased me. Perhaps if I just fled altogether, the town would leave me be.

But in a way, I craved the mystique. Something about this all seemed strange yet familiar. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but the pull of the town and the way Sam seemed to dodge my questions about this place—that made me wonder what was going on underneath the surface. There was a mystery to be solved, answers to be uncovered, and I would never feel quite right with myself if I just left these questions here with the rest of my memories. Deep down, I needed to know. Something within me just wouldn’t let my curiosity be satiated.

With that thought in mind, I stared down the street, towards the park, wondering what secrets it may hold. The sun was high in the sky now—it must have been around noon. Back in my childhood, we would all go to the park around this time, given that it wasn’t a school day, of course. We’d all meet up under the park sign and walk the trails, past the playground, over the bridge, down the creek side. There was a little pond, a “lake” to us kids, and we’d sometimes take a dip inside. Sam would probably remember all the times that Sonja would push us into that pond without warning. All of us would always get irate, especially Z…

Who?

I felt a pang of remembrance, like a stinging pain in my temples. For an instant, I was back in Moorley Park, surrounded by a tangle of trees. It was night now, with the stench of rot hanging in the air. I could feel a shiver of dread run up my spine. My shaky breath was like mist when I exhaled. When I looked up into the trees, I saw him again. Within the branches was that black-cloaked figure, ghastly and almost ethereal in the moonless dark. He descended from the trees, twisting and flicking like a fleeting shadow, and he stood to gaze at me. Slowly and deliberately, he raised his finger to point past me. I turned, almost against my will. When I looked back, thousands of pairs of eyes were watching me from within the darkness, unblinking, unrelenting. My body burned with a horrific, searing nostalgia that I couldn’t place. The sounds of the forest rose like a scream, loud and crisp and debilitating. Within the cacophony of noise, I heard a symphony of whispers, pulsing like a heartbeat:

“HE’S COMING. HE’S COMING. HE’S COMING.”

Then I was back on the porch, trembling and staring into the sun’s glaring light.

[Untitled]

Nobody really leaves.
That’s just a lie that
we tell ourselves.

You’re always there,
like scars and brands
scattered on my skin.

Nobody walks away.
That’s just a dim hope
that we never let die.

You’re always there,
like a wound that
never really closes.

Nobody means “goodbye.”
We all stay, even if
we linger as ghosts.

You’re always there,
like dark nightmares
and bittersweet thoughts.

Nobody separates.
We all carry a piece
of someone with us.

You’re always there,
a memory that I will
never begin to forget.

Everyone remains,
and the shattered pieces
lie where they fell.

Welcome to Moorley, Part 3

After a brief pause, Sam swiveled his chair to face me. He was an imposing figure, with toned muscles and a stern face—nothing at all like the cute, almost pixie-like boy I remembered. His lack of sleep was evident: the bags underneath his eyes were a stark contrast to his rather sickly pallor. It appeared that he hadn’t shaved in several days, as his beard was beyond thick stubble. Sam put his cigarette aside and, thankfully, popped in a breath mint before rising to meet me. It was strange to see such a tall man before me, when I had seen him before when he was just a boy. Sam smirked half-heartedly before approaching me.

“What were you doing in the park last night, AJ?” He asked. Despite the breath mint, the stench of smoke still clung to him. I had difficulty opening my mouth to answer,

“I don’t know why. I just showed up there.” Sam blinked, though he didn’t looked confused. He took me gently by the arm.

“C’mon, let’s head outside. We need to catch up.” He escorted me out of the front door and to the porch, where he sat me down in a lawn chair. The seat creaked in a dangerous manner as I sunk into it. The table between us, a little round thing that was no more than three feet tall, was covered in rust. Even from here, I could still smell the scent of cigarettes. With a little pause, Sam questioned, “Beer?”

“It’s ten in the morning,” I replied.

“Right. Just me, then.” He cracked a half smile before slipping back inside.

As I waited for him, I looked out toward the street, toward this town that I had left so many years ago. It was exactly like I remembered it: a weary little place, full of rickety old buildings and washed up dreamers. Moorley was the place to go when you had nothing left for you. Here, you could just get some dead end job, earn a modest living, and live in a small, leaky house that was too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. Even when I was young, this place meant little to me. I dreamed of greener pastures, of tall castles and rolling seas. We had moved from this decaying town to the ocean side, and I’d forgotten all about this place. Yet here I was, lost and alone, in Moorley.

Sam stepped out onto the porch, a couple of beers in hand, and sat down across from me. He cracked open one of the bottles before taking a careless swig, which he held for several seconds before placing the beer on top of the table. Glancing over at me, he paused, an unsure look written on his features; then, with an awkward sigh, he said softly, “I didn’t think I’d see you again, AJ.”

I delayed my reply for a moment. “I didn’t think so, either, Sam.” We looked out across the street. A silence passed over us, and in my bones I felt an uncomfortable chill. The freshly fallen leaves rustled listlessly on the lawn, the only noise that filled the quiet void. With a glance back toward him, I prodded politely, “So, what’s, uh, been going on with you?” He appeared hollow, almost haunted. Then, after composing himself, he began,

“Well, ah, after you and Sonja left several years back, things kind of took a turn for the worse. Didn’t have any of my friends left, so I, um, got in a bad way. I got involved with those idiots from the middle school that thought they were tough shit. They got me into drugs and alcohol, so I ended up partying a lot, tryin’ different things. Kinda funny, though, how quickly they turned on me once I got popular real fast. Didn’t like me bein’ better off than them, I guess. They started harassing me around sophomore year. Came home with a bloody nose about every day of the week.

“And you know my mother—she always was so sensitive about these kinds of things. She’d cry every time I came around with blood on my face. She always said that she was afraid that I’d end up like my deadbeat dad. I kept tellin’ her I wouldn’t, but y’know, I got hooked on cigarettes and on alcohol when I was still a kid, basically. I didn’t have much of a choice. So here I am, struggling in school, getting beat up about every day, addicted to drugs… One day, I just decided that I was gonna drop out of school, too. My mom couldn’t handle all the stress. She became lethargic. Didn’t get up or do anything. Then, a couple of years ago… she died. Left the house and whatever money she had left to me.

“I’ve been trying to turn it around since then. It’s not easy, but I’ve made some progress. I used to spend the whole day stumblin’ around in a drunken stupor, but I’ve cut back to only five beers a day, at maximum. I only smoke about half a pack a day. I even started this job at the diner a few months back… gonna work on getting a high school diploma, too. It’s just gotta wait a while. Especially now.” Sam, who had been staring off into the distance for some time, finally looked back over at me. He was misty-eyed. “What about you?”

I nodded a bit, replying, “I’m really sorry that all happened to you, Sam. I know you’ve had it really hard all of your life, but I’m so happy that you’re working to make it better. If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.” I smiled. He only nodded back. Taken aback, I said quietly, “Well, for me…

“My parents just kind of got up and decided to move one day. I don’t really remember why. So we moved all the way to the New England area, where we got this house by the ocean. I made a few new friends, not many. You know that I was always weird when it came to meeting new people. Anyway, I went to a little college with plans to become a web designer. Business is a little slow right now, so I’m still living with my parents… but in about a month, I had an interview scheduled with a company.” I paused. I felt bad that I had succeeded in the areas that Sam had drastically failed in, so I decided not to pursue the subject further. Sam took another sip of his beer.

“Heard from Sonja lately?” He questioned. I shook my head—I hadn’t heard from Sonja since I had moved away from Moorley. Sam stared back out toward the street. “She’s doing pretty well, last I heard. She’s a photographer… does papers and magazines. She moved away, too, probably somewhere near you. I think she said she was in New York.”

New York, I thought, only a hop, skip, and a jump away from where my parents had moved to. It was quite possible that we had crossed paths at one point. How strange it was to be back in the place where it had all began, so many years later. Even stranger was the fact that I had no idea how I got here. Perhaps strangest, though, was that I found myself in the company of an old friend. Another silence passed over us.

“So,” Sam started, setting aside his now empty beer bottle and cracking open the second one, “No idea how you got here?”

“None at all.” He stared at me, gauging my expression. I’m not sure what he intended to find.

“Well, when I found you, you were in the middle of the park. I’d seen you fall all the way down that steep hill on the other side of the creek—you know the one. So I run over, try to wake you up, but you’re obviously disoriented from the fall. You pass out. You and I both know that that park is full of some freaky witchcraft crap, so I pick you up and book it to my house. You were out for two days.”

“Two DAYS?!” I exclaimed. “And you didn’t take me to a hospital? Didn’t even contact my contact my parents?”

“Nah,” Sam replied with a small chuckle. “I got good at playing doctor because I was beat up so often. You’re fine, right? Nothing to worry about.” I was half-inclined to give Sam a piece of my mind, but another thought occurred to me. It settled over me as a deep-seated sense of fear.

With a little stammer, I asked, “W-what were you doing in the park, then?” He only smiled.

“Yeah, well, I dunno, either. I’ve been sleep-walking all the way there for a few weeks, now.”

Don’t.

Don’t.
Don’t tell me there’s an “us.”
Don’t look me in the eyes.
Don’t ever make a fuss.
Don’t perpetuate lies.

Don’t.
Don’t you dare begin.
Don’t even argue with me.
Don’t burn into my skin.
Don’t drown me in this sea.

Don’t.
Don’t say there’s a chance.
Don’t say there’s a “we.”
Don’t cast that loving glance.
Don’t do this to me.

Stained Glass

Isn’t it nice to find yourself
In the guise of a perfect stranger?
Or perhaps in the form of
An imperfect acquaintance?
You weren’t quite my other half,
But you were a half nonetheless.

We discovered ourselves
Behind stained glass walls.
Our first words were muddled
With ambivalent formalities,
Ill-conceived pleasantries,
And half-hearted assumptions.

Yet we drew patterns in those walls.
I believed the glass that separated us
Was perhaps not a wall at all.
And when the words gave way at last,
I saw that you and I belonged,
Perhaps not together but never apart.

And yet–

We were halves of an incomplete whole,
But in those days, we were enough.
For all our walls and our downfalls,
Our sins–we were enough.
When time stood still,
We were enough.

A Discussion of Introversion

This is truly an extrovert’s world. From social circles to education to careers, extroversion seems to be prized over introversion. We are told to speak up, be open, and interact with others. Such traits are prized in the job market—employers love candidates who are eloquent and persuasive. If you don’t fit into the mold of a friendly, outgoing socialite, you’re somehow different, but not in a good way. Many often imagine introverts as loner shut-ins that hiss at the sight of sunlight. Supposedly, introverts can’t hold decent relationships with other people or succeed in their jobs because of the “fact” that they’re loner shut-ins or because they’re otherwise “socially awkward.” How, then, do introverts possibly function? How do these weirdos succeed?
I assure you, we introverts get along just fine.
Let me just preface this discourse with this: I know that not all extroverts view introverts in such a negative way. I also realize that I cannot speak for all introverts in the world. This letter is purely a discussion of my perspective as an introvert and how I live in a society that prides extroversion.
I have always been a strong introvert. Though this manifested as shyness when I was young, I quickly realized as I grew older that socializing was not my strong suit—nor did I want it to be. Interacting with other people for long periods of time wore me down. I fit very neatly into the classification of an introvert: I gained energy from within myself, not from my surroundings like my extroverted friends did. To put this into context, instead of socializing with my peers to be contented, I would read a book, write, or study to make myself content.
This is not to say that introverts completely avoid social interaction, however. In my experience, while I kept largely to myself, I made quick friends with those whom I shared the same likes and dislikes. I could keep up a frivolous conversation with a stranger perfectly well; I could lead and make my ideas known in any group projects assigned to me. Even so, as a typical rule, I did not and do not actively seek out new friends in my classes or in other public places. I am more than happy to keep to myself unless spoken to, in which case I will more than willingly engage in friendly dialogue.
One might ask, “Well, what, exactly, do introverts do, if not socialize?” To that person, I might say that we reflect. Whether it be about the daily trifles or life’s great mysteries, I am in a constant state of thinking and perceiving. While my peers might be conversing with each other nearby, I would be staring out of a window, watching a crisp oak leaf flutter to the sidewalk. While a group of rowdy students passes me by on campus, I would just press my headphones a little more snugly to my ears, getting lost in the swell of music. While other people go out at night and make memories to last a lifetime, I sit at my desk and write, drawing from my own perceptions of life.
There is nothing wrong with either of these lifestyles. An extrovert could have more emotional depth than an introvert, and an introvert could have more worldly experience than an extrovert. It all comes down to how one lives their life. If an extrovert wants to go out and make as many friends and as many memories as she possibly can, than more power to her. If an introvert desires to stay in and draw from his own intellectual and emotional energy, then good on him. We all desire to get the most out of our lives while we’re still living. Some people choose to do so with others. Others want to do so alone.
And that’s okay.

Welcome to Moorley, Part 2

When I was young, I used to play alone. My parents, not by blood but by choice, were still a bit new to their job; they weren’t really sure what to do with a child that refused to socialize with others her age. Loneliness didn’t bother me by any means. I was simply more self-sufficient than my peers. Instead of making friends with the children down the street, I played quietly in the family den, making up wild scenarios for my stuffed animals to enact. I found the toys’ ever attentive ears comforting, so much so that I could not bear to box them away years afterward.
The few times I was thrust into a social situation with other children, I used my stuffed animals as a crutch. While they ran about the playground, I sat at the outskirts, serving tea to my toys. I didn’t’ particularly care that the other kids seemed to have more fun. I was consumed, more often than not, by the world I had created for myself and my silent friends. My parents let this behavior fester for a while, believing that perhaps as long as I was enjoying myself, it was fine.
Yet when I entered school, I quickly found myself behind my peers. It wasn’t that I was dumb—in fact, I often excelled in areas such as reading and arithmetic. I was just silent. Even when teachers pressed me to answer questions during class, I found myself perfectly mute. The environment around me, I suppose, was more oppressive than I was used to; instead of spending my time pretending to be somewhere else, I was forced to interact with kids I didn’t care for. The school staff seemed particularly concerned with my antisocial behavior, but my parents begged and pleaded, “Just give her some more time. She’ll adapt.”
I did. One day on the playground, I sat alone on the swing set, my stuffed bunny beside me. Two children approached me, a boy and a girl. The boy, trailing behind the girl, was Samuel. He had a head of flaming red hair and grass green eyes. He was well known for his boisterous personality and rather explosive outbursts, but he was friendly enough. Regardless, when people saw a flash of his blue jacket, they knew trouble was on its way. The girl was a pretty, dainty kind of thing in appearance: Sonja Maria. With dark copper hair and soft, almost black eyes, she was the type of girl that others tended to envy. However, her appearance belied a certain commanding energy. Sonja was a force to be reckoned with in every sense of the word.
And there she was, approaching me. I was frightened of Sonja, to be honest. Once, I saw her pin down a boy twice her side after he muttered some derisive remark. She was suspended for two days. I was nothing to speak of, on the other hand. People knew me as the scrawny bookworm girl who still lugged around toys. It was an apt enough description. These two kids approaching me could have easily subdued me. I just gulped and gaped at them in a terrified silence as they stopped before me.
“Hey,” Sonja greeted, her tone light, “You’re Ava Juliette, right?” The reply I would have come up with got stuck in my throat. I stared at her, inarticulate for a moment, before I realized I didn’t have to say anything. Instead, I offered a single nod, the movement tense.
“Sonja,” Sam protested quietly. She pushed him gently before continuing,
“Do you want to play with us?” The offer itself, though more than genuine in execution, put me on edge. I had no reason to trust either of them, but here they were, anyway, talking to the bookish girl. Perhaps they bore no ill will. I glanced over at my stuffed rabbit for support, but all it offered was an empty sort of silence. I gulped, looking back at Sonja. Her dark eyes showed nothing but kindness. Uneasily, I stood from the swing, taking my stuffed bunny by the arm.
“S-sure,” I stammered, not sounding at all sure. Sonja smiled a sort of knowing grin, almost as if she had anticipated that response. Sam, in the mean time, was beginning to look antsy, like he wanted to return to his play before recess was over. I stepped toward them, feeling a bit exposed, but nonetheless relieved for a few friends. They both smelled like smoke—Sam, of cigarettes; Sonja, of fire. In a gentle gesture, Sonja took my hand.
“We’ll be best friends. I promise.”

When I awoke, the stench of cigarettes was overpowering. Before I could even open my eyes, I found myself in a coughing fit, no doubt trying to rid my lungs of the ashes that seemed to hang in the air. As my eyes stung with tears, I tried to take inventory of my surroundings. I was in someone’s home, tucked into a twin-sized bed with dust-covered sheets. It looked to be a child’s room, most likely belonging to a boy—the walls were covered with posters of baseball and football players, the floor littered with sports balls of all types. At the foot of the bed was a dinosaur-themed toy box, neatly packed and covered in a fine layer of dust. The desk across the room, however, was not so tidy; drawings and papers were strewn about in some incomprehensible fashion. Hanging from a hook nearby was a dead giveaway: a blue jacket.
“Sam,” I said softly. I climbed out of bed, feeling a dull ache in my muscles from the night before. Compounded with the memory of meeting Sonja and Sam, last night seemed to be a disjointed dream. Even being there in Sam’s home felt surreal, like I was not in my own world anymore. I knew that I should have contacted someone, perhaps my parents; I lived alone, but they deserved to know what happened. Still, the mystery unraveling before me was begging to be solved. Why was I back in Moorley? How did Sam find me? What was really going on?
After wading carefully through the cluttered room, I opened the door out into a wood-paneled hallway. It smelled even more strongly of tobacco in the main part of the house. The odor was near suffocating, but I tried my best to ignore it. As I passed further down the hall, I took note of the pictures adorning the walls. It appeared that generations had lived in this home; pictures dated from the 60’s all the way to today were hung on the massive walls, filling every inch of space. It appeared that the further I moved into the common area, the earlier the dates. I wondered who else might still live in these walls, and who else may come to live here in the future. Either way, I thought to myself, it must be nice to know where you come from.
As I stepped into the living room, the miasma of smoke became its strongest. Eyes burning with tears, I covered my nose and mouth with my hands, trying to power through it. For at the end of the living room, facing away from me, was a young man with a mane of wild red hair. He was undoubtedly the source of the smell; a spiral of light smoke floated upward from a small white object in his hand. Immediately to his right was a small table with an ashtray on it, overflowing with spent tobacco. He did not seem to notice my entrance. Instead, his attention was affixed to something outside the window, something that seemed to take domain in the trees.
I dared not move any closer than about seven feet away, for the odor was so strong. Instead, with a touch of uncertainty, I called out, “Sam? Is that you?”
He did not move to face me, but he simply said, “I see you’ve met him, too.” Him? Sam must have meant the strange man in the black cloak. I told him that I had seen him in the woods. He was quiet for a moment. He took another drag of his cigarette. Then, with a deep exhale, he said, “He said he’d come back, that day. And he sure as hell did.”