The hollowness in her eyes was deafening. And the buzzing in my ears rang like the feedback mics blast when you get too close.

Suddenly my chest tightened as if the ribs decided to close in. Every breath felt like a struggle, like a thousand pine leaves were simultaneously rubbing on against my raw flesh. Or like a thousand fire ants were eating away at the goo and the meat, snapping their little shiny black fangs, tearing apart the tough muscles together and working their way through the juicy pulp. Oh what a feast they must be having!

I tried to draw a long breath to compensate, but my nose wasn’t cooperating and I dared not to open my mouth because I didn’t want her to think that I am about to speak.

That was when she rescued me. Just like the first time in first grade, when she extended her hand of friendship.

“Here,” she said. I drew a long breath.

“Here,” she handed me the papers.

I noticed the inflection in her voice. She trembled but she did her best to hide it. Not from me though, she could never hide it from me.

I glanced at the papers. She was fair.

She has always been fair.

“Look,” she said, “I don’t got all day. Sign the papers.”

Suddenly I couldn’t breathe again. There was something about this that felt unfamiliar. I couldn’t exactly pin point it but there was just something, something that felt amiss. the pain sharpened. She felt uncomfortable, foreign, strange and so distant, as if she was walking in a fog that I could not see through. She was away, far from me, and all I could sense are the cold air between us and the tiny goosebumps on my skin.

“Isn’t this what you wanted?” she asked.

It was. It was what I wanted, but …

“Just sign it then,” she pushed.

I started to scratch myself as if I itched all over, as if I had a severe allergy to the air or the words she spoke. I twisted my shirt ends until they wrinkled, and I just couldn’t manage to roll my sleeves up the right way so they wouldn’t become undone. My fat fingers were swollen with sweat, slippery and hot, and the worst was that no matter how I tried, I could not wipe them dry. Instinctively, I looked at her.

Here, let me. I thought she said.

I extended my arms, like I used to, so she would fix my sleeves. She had a way with those sleeves. She would always roll them in such a fashion so that they would never fall unless if you wanted them to.

Here, let me, she did not say.

I looked a fool, with my arms extended.

I must’ve reddened with embarrassment, shot up with flame.

But I caught a glimpse of a half smile, a stolen laugh on her face.

And I found myself saying, “let’s give this another shot,” before I had a chance to think about what I had just said.

I caught myself not caring.

“Let’s give this another shot,” I pushed.

“What about the papers?” she asked.

I looked down on my lap. There laid the papers, the black and white words of my broken promises, the promises she delivered, and the freedom I thought I wanted. I thought I wanted.

And I asked:

“What papers?”


edited 3/11/12 @ 14:19


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