Sitting outside under the star filled sky had never felt so good for Mark. His parents were fighting again. Like all fights it usually ended up with his mom storming out of the house and finding some kind of temporary salvation at a friends house. Sometimes she’d call the next morning, but usually she just stumbled back home, drunk, into the waiting arms of her husband. Only to have it happen again in a few days. Weeks if she was lucky. It was always an argument over the stupidest things, Mark thought. Somebody would say something in the wrong tone of voice which just might set the others attitude off balance, causing a catastrophic event of chain reactions. Ridiculous ways of handling things, when you’re supposed to be loving.
It’s not as if his parents were abusive to each other. Fights just usually consisted off some yelling, and moderately harsh words. There were times when he thought they might get into a physical fight, but it never happened. He knew his dad to be generally calm and willing to take whatever was dealt to him. His mother, on the other hand, was always the one pushing and looking for the reasons.
It had become almost regular for Mark to crawl out his bedroom window and onto the roof of his house. He’d sit up there alone for as long as he felt like it, sometimes laying down and spending the entire night up there. He found peace and beauty in the way the lights of far away buildings mixed in with the natural light of thousands of stars.
His house was more or less in the middle of a town, just outside of the real city. It was still pretty large though. Plenty of houses and businesses stretched out as far as one could see. Mark was just glad the huge office buildings and skyscrapers were saved for the city.
In this Suburban recluse he found a lot of time to think. Mark was one of those guys who didn’t quite know where he was going in life. He kind of just dropped the oars and let the tides of time steer him wherever they wanted. Only a few weeks remained in his last high school year and he already knew that college wasn’t for him. He pitied the kind of people who lept right from high school into some sort of further education. These types of people are the scared ones, the ones who think that College immediately equals happiness and success. It really doesn’t. Even success doesn’t boil down to happiness. Happiness is something you build, and it doesn’t come in pre-packaged college courses, or busting your ass at some job you realized you hated a long time ago, and that it’s too late to change. Besides that, Mark was never a real outstanding student. That’s not to say he was dumb, not at all. He produced slightly better than average marks, but behind those numbers was a mind that no one else could touch or tap into. It was his and it was an incredible thing. Most of Mark’s time, instead, was spent doing the one hobby he actually loved. Drawing. He’d sketch and draw just about anything that captured his attention. From the morning skyline to the neighbours cutting the grass. He’d find a simple beauty in almost every object he sketched.
Almost like photography, he had an incredible visual mind. He could see a face or a perfect setting and wait until he was home to begin a sketch. Chances are it would be identical to the real thing. The human mind is far from perfect, memories can fade. Most people tend to forget trivial things, the simple things. The happy things, while the horrible things are often pushed to the front of the mind.
Mark was quite the opposite. He felt nothing was trivial. Not a thing in this world can happen without it somehow affecting you. An incredibly brave way to feel, for sure. And he felt it, every minute. It sometimes felt like a huge weight strapped to his back. But he carried it.
Tonight though, he felt free. Free of the things that tried to tear him apart.
He flipped through his art book, passing finished black and white sketches of buildings, birds, clouds and so on. He found the page he was looking for. Sketched out in heavy black lines was the face of the only person he wanted to see at the moment, Julia. Mark looked up at the stars again, wondering about nothing in particular, he then glanced down again at the unfinished sketch, grabbed a pencil from his pocket and closed his eyes. He put his pencil to the paper and began.
At this time, not more than 3 blocks away Julia Gilde woke up from bed suddenly. She glanced at the clock sitting on her desk, 1:32 AM. She laid her head back on the pillow and glanced at the roof, and then at the clock, and then the roof. It happened every so often. She’d wake up in the middle of the night and wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep until early morning. She’d gotten past being frustrated, and sort of just stared into nothingness with a half smile on her face.
Julia was the type of girl who would never really get frustrated over silly things. She’d always seem to remain calm and in control. Even when she never really felt it. An admirable quality to possess, as anyone might tell you.
She eventually got out of bed, turned on the light at sat at her computer desk. She stared into the empty monitor for some time. Julia was an immensely beautiful girl; her large, amazingly blue eyes were often the cause of such claims, along with her unique looking cheeks and light coloured lips. Her hair was naturally blonde, but hardly anybody knew, it was always either dark red or Jet-black, it sometimes changed daily, at the moment it happened to be jet black.
She looked at her reflection. She’d never truly felt beautiful or at peace with herself, hence the changing hair colour. It wasn’t as if she hated the way she looked. She had learned to deal with it, and was probably the least shallow girl anybody could ever meet. She just often wondered why she was the way she was.
Her mind was often busy with the complications of everyday life, often these thoughts and complications were of the fact that in less than 2 weeks she would be leaving for college.
The thought made her excited; yet at the same time, it pained her. All she had ever known was right here in this town. She didn’t have a whole lot of friends, but the ones she did have were going to be impossible to leave, she often thought.
She’d often look at herself in a mirror, or in this case her computer monitor and often say to herself “I’m not ready to leave” “I’m not ready to move on”. She just didn’t know what to do.
Getting up from her chair, she suddenly decided to catch some air, go for a walk. She threw a light sweater on over her tank top, and found a pair of jeans.
Mark’s pencil stopped scratching at the paper; he slowly opened his eyes, squinting first, as if he was afraid of what he’d just created. He’d sketched Julia before, but he never could seem to get it right. Not to his standards. He wondered if a beauty such as hers was even possible to capture with a simple pencil and piece of paper. Once his eyes were fully open he looked down. He ran his hands over the paper, brushing away some debris. He didn’t really know what to think.
There she was before him, a portrait of her beautiful face. He looked up at the stars for what seemed like hours and then down again, and added the small mole under her left ear.
He stared into the eyes of his pencil creation.
Mark had known Julia for just over six years, back in junior high. He could remember the first time he saw her. On the first day of school in grade 8. The hallway was so crowded and he desperately wanted to find his first class and get it over with.
He finally found the right room and took a seat near the front of the class and put his head down in his folded arms. This would become common practice in the daily life of Mark. It was kind of like hiding from what he hated. From what he feared.
The classroom continued to fill up with other kids and they all took a seat. Mark eventually sort of tilted his head a little upward and looked at the entrance to the classroom. He peered through his fingers; out of a space so small it was hardly noticeable. At the exact moment he focused on the door frame a girl walked in, smiling. Mark let out a short gasp at the expense of her beauty. Her hair pulled back in a tight ponytail and eyes that absolutely lit up the world before her. It seemed to last an eternity, Mark was enthralled. This, little event would go on to be one that he’d replay over and over in his head for years to come. He didn’t know it at the time, of course. But that day his life changed.
Julia stepped out on her front porch and closed the door as quietly as she could. She was surprised by the coolness of the night. Goosebumps covered her arms. It was not particularly cold, but stepping out of a warm bed and into the night was a shock to her system. She thought momentarily about going back in, but recalled why it was she was outside in the first place and stepped forward.
It seemed amazingly light out, she thought and looked skyward. The sky was full of stars and a bright moon shined down on her, painting her a pale white. When she made it to the sidewalk she reminded herself she had no particular destination, she turned left and walked a few steps and began noticing the darkness. Her back was to the moon. She looped backwards and began walking the other way. She didn’t know why, but it felt more comforting, a lot warmer. She uncrossed her arms. And kept walking slowly, trying to avoid the cracks in he sidewalk, but not putting too much effort into it. She smiled at the thought of such games.
Her mind wandered.
She began to wonder about Mark. Not long ago she had told him about how she’d be leaving. She could remember the look on his face. One of bleak sadness. Not real sadness, something more profound, she thought. She had waited for him to say something. To tell her to stay. She wanted a reason. Mark said nothing. He never did, he only thought. Eventually he let out an “oh” and nothing more And so they had sat in silence.
That night she had went home angry. Angry with him for being the way he was, but even angrier at the situations she had to be in. angry at life in general. Nothing seemed to be easy for her or anyone she knew, and she had cried tears of confusion.
Julia shivered at the thought and crossed her arms again, tightly hugging herself, she walked on.
Mark flipped through a couple of pages in the sketchbook and then set it aside, he uncrossed his legs and leaned back. The roof felt warm on his back and he let out a bit of a shiver. He began thinking, about nothing in particular, really, but like always, his mind went to Julia.
Before high school they had known each other, but never very well. He adored her, passing her in the hallways or receiving a quick smile was often the highlight of his day. But over the first months of high school they had began talking. He often sat outside the school on a bench in the morning, trying to delay the day as best he could. He always rested his chin in his open palms and just looked at the ground. People always passed him, he never paid attention.
But that one day, he remembered. A cold day, Julia had sat down next to him. At first he got a little frustrated that someone had decided to sit right next to him, as opposed to one of the 6 other large benches. He prepared to give the culprit a bit of an icy stare and then slowly moved his head up and made eye contact.
“Well hello to you too” said an obviously amused Julia before doing her best impression of his stare and then smiling that beautiful smile.
“I…oh” said Mark, returning his eyes to the ground.
“It’s alright, it’s okay, you want a sip?” she asked.
For the first time Mark actually looked at her. He could see her bright red hair under the hood of her jacket.
“well?” she asked again and held up a cup.
‘Hot chocolate, and it’s cold out here” she finished.
“No…thanks” was Marks Answer.
“Come on, I see you here every morning, I brought this for you. I swear, you won’t get my cooties or anything” said Julia jokingly, cocking her head to the left and smiling. Mark gave a shrug and then took the cup from her still outstretched arm. “Thank you” he said re-adjusting himself so he could sit up and drink. He took a small sip.
“This is good,” he said giving her a quick glance. She was smiling; she hadn’t stopped smiling since she had sat down next to him. “I know,” she said. Moving closer to him without noticing.
Mark noticed. He took a bigger sip. “So, how are you?” she asked.
“Oh, you know…school…not so great,” answered Mark with a half smile.
“You don’t like it?” she asked, in a tone that indicated she already knew the answer.
“Right…” he said.
“Well you know, it’s not the greatest place to be, I can understand that, but at least it’s something to do. To stay busy, maybe make some friends. That, is the only reason I’m here” she remarked.
“That, and I kind of sort of want out of this place. I always think about how badly I want to be someone or something, and I know it starts with me. It starts here, and so I work toward that. You must have some goals. Who or what do you want to be?” came her question. Mark looked at her in silence, watching the warm air from her lungs escape her mouth and mix with the cold air between them.
“I don’t know” Mark finally said.
“It really isn’t something I think about” “Why?”
“I asked you first” she said softly
Mark looked at the cloudy sky, then at the ground.
“I always get this feeling, that no matter how hard I try or how hard I work, it really is for nothing. I’m taking my time with life. I’m taking it slowly, because any other way would probably kill me,” he said, nodding
“I understand perfectly. I think it might seem like we see it differently, but I can understand exactly what you mean. It’s just that…I’m kind of scared of life…you know” Mark nodded as he set the empty cup down next to her
The bell rang for classes to start. “Chemistry” she said with a smile.
“Sitting here,” he said, returning the smile.
She pushed up her sleeve and looked at her arm, and then she looked at him. “Maybe, you know, if you don’t really mind…I could sit here…with you?” she said Mark wasn’t sure if it was a question or a statement, but all the same, he felt his heart skip a beat.
“Mark?” she asked.
His heart skipped another.
“I…yeah, I mean. Okay, if you want to miss class” he stammered.
“I can’t help it” she said “you’re just such a bad influence” again came the smile and again Mark felt the butterflies.
“It’s only one class. And since you drank my hot chocolate I was thinking maybe you could do the right thing and buy me one, I’m freezing”
“I can do that” said mark as calm as he could.
And so they had left the bench and walked to a café.
Mark could remember that entire conversation. Every detail, every little gesture she had made, every smile, the way her face was coloured bright pink from the cold. The way the grass was covered in a light morning frost. It never left his memory. He wouldn’t let it.
He found it funny how friendships are formed, and how relationships develop. From that day on they bonded on so many levels. He would often walk home with her, sometimes she would reach out and grab his hand, squeezing it hard. He loved that, and prayed she’d never let go.
They did many things. To Mark it didn’t matter what, he was just glad to be spending time with her. It meant the world to him. When she was near him, there was no other place he wanted to be, no other person in the entire world he needed.
Mark sat up now. A gentle breeze made the pages in his book flutter and turn over. He looked to his side and saw the picture of Julia.
She was sitting on the curb now, under a single, lone looking streetlight, kicking the pebbles on the street while sorting through thoughts and memories.
High school, she remembered. It seemed so long ago to her. And Mark, he seemed so distant. They had not seen each other since She had given him the news. She wanted to talk to him, to sort things out, but she didn’t know how to go about it.
Her mind wandered to another night. Mark and herself were at a friend’s house amongst some other people, just hanging out. They were watching a movie. She had been sitting next to Mark, who was on the end sort of leaning over the edge of the couch with his feet up on the table.
She leaned over against him and put her head on his shoulder before grabbing his hand. It felt so right for her to do; she didn’t question it at the time. She was comforted and so was Mark. She felt the flutter of her heart and closed her eyes.
Julia continued to think. Mark and herself had never truly been a couple in the true sense of the word. They spent so much time together and she enjoyed it completely, every moment filled her with this feeling of absolute joy. It was a feeling she couldn’t explain and only felt when she was around him.
But not a true couple, she had never told her she loved him. He had never told her. She sometimes wanted to. So badly, but she was scared of wrecking what they had.
And so she got into other relationships. She didn’t know why she did it. But she’d find a boyfriend and keep him separate for Mark. She wanted something more, and used that as an excuse, but they never worked out. She wondered how they made Mark feel, and wished he’d sometimes say something, but he never did. Not once.
Julia got up off the curb, her eyes shined with tears. She started walking; she was going to Mark’s.
Mark was alternating between counting stars and sketching away, he focused his eyes on the old church just across the street. It was more like a castle, he thought, it was cracked and worn all around, but Mark found it strangely compelling.
He brushed the hair out of his eyes and looked up for a while. He heard a sound but didn’t think much of it. He heard it again. It was probably his mom deciding to come home. He glanced at his watch.
2:48. Which seemed quicker than normal. He sat his pencil down and crawled toward the front of the house slowly. He glanced down and saw Julia and almost stumbled right over the edge, catching his hand on the sharp metal edge of the roof. “Jesus” he half yelled.
Julia looked up and saw Mark inspecting the damage on his hand. She got that feeling of scared excitement in the pit of her stomach. Mark returned the gaze on Julia. For a while they said nothing, he admiring the beauty on her slightly befuddled face. And she, admiring that it takes quite a lunatic to be sitting on his roof at 3 AM. She smiled.
“can… I come up?” she asked.
“Well…yeah, just…let’s see. Okay, yeah, come around back and climb onto the deck”
Julia opened the gate to the backyard and made her way to the rear of the house. Mark’s head was spinning. He stood up and walked to the back and looked down. “Okay, just, be careful, climb up onto the rail, I’ll help you”
She did and placed her palm in Mark’s outstretched hand. He pulled and helped her up.
They stood and looked at each for what seemed like forever. The moonlight casting strange light and shadows on their faces.
“so…why are you…” she began
“At my house at this time of night” he finished.
She smiled. Mark didn’t, he could detect the sadness on her face. Just barely, but it was there.
“…Couldn’t sleep,” she said quietly “and you?” she asked, a little louder.
“Well, pretty much the same thing, I guess. I needed out of my room” he said, looking into her eyes.
They both walked to the front of the house, their hands still attached. Julia sat first, Mark followed.
“Beautiful” she said looking skyward.
“I know,” said Mark, not looking at the sky, but at her.
Their hands unlinked.
“How long have you been out here?” he asked her.
“I don’t even know…” she replied. Giving a slight shiver. “How about you?”
“Not long enough to forget why I came out in the first place” he said, slightly annoyed at the reason.
Moments passed. There was silence.
“I’ve been walking around… just been thinking so much” she said, looking straight ahead. “About?” he asked
“Everything. School. Life. You…us…” she trailed off.
“Yeah, it happens, believe me.” He said, not knowing what else to say. “I think about you too much” he said
“Define too much” she asked, smiling again
“Well I guess I really can’t. It’s not too much. There is never too much.” He said while looking forward.
Her heart felt light again
“So, in all of your thinking, and walking, did you come across anything of any sense or reason?” he asked
“Hard to say” she replied rather quickly.
Silence again. Both of them seemed deep in thought.
“Why are we the way we are?” asked Julia, finally
“Us, as in you and I, or people in general?” he asked
“Us” came her answer.
“We’re kind of lost, I guess” he started “Things sometimes seem so simple and easy on the surface, but they really aren’t. Nothing is” he finished. Julia nodded.
"I need to…Well there are things I wish you could know” she said.
“Is sitting on a roof at 3 in the morning not the setting you envisioned when you thought about telling me these things?” he asked, teasing her.
“You can tell me anything,” he added.
She turned to look at him. He brushed the hair out of his eyes and glanced at her, and then forward again.
“I know’ is all she said.
The silence took over.
Her eyes began to travel to the stars, and then down to her untied shoes, and to her side. She saw Mark’s sketchbook sitting precariously on the edge of the roof. She leaned forward slowly to grab it. Her arm stretched out as far as it could. Mark’s eyes followed where her hand was going. His heart started pumping. He had forgot all about his book.
She had it in here hands and brushed it off before asking, “What is this?” Mark looked at her and said nothing “Can I…” she asked.
Mark again said nothing. He’d never been more nervous. Nobody had seen his drawings. Nobody knew they existed.
He shrugged his shoulders.
Julia carefully opened the book to the first page. She gasped. “Oh my…wow…did you?”
“Uh, yeah” Mark nodded. “It’s just something I do when I’m bored’ he added.
“These are amazing!” her eyes were as wide as they could possibly be.
She continued flipping, slowly, taking in every detail of every picture in the book. Past trees, buildings, animals and cars she was in complete awe. Mark said nothing. He looked away.
She stopped flipping and made a funny sound. Mark eventually looked over at her. Julia had tears in her eyes and her hand to her mouth while gazing down. She started sobbing. Mark followed her gaze to the page. There was the sketch of Julia.
His heart almost jumped out of his throat. How could he be so stupid? He thought. “I’m sorry,” he finally said without knowing what else to say. He was embarrassed. Julia wiped the tears from her eyes with one hand, but kept the other against her mouth, still in shock.
“You…this is..” she started
“It’s you” he replied.
“I’m sorry, look, just…” he said reaching for the book.
She moved it away from him.
“Please, I’m sorry, I…” he began, before giving up and putting his head down.
She looked at the page even closer, at every stroke and line the pencil had made. She ran her hand over it.
She had never seen herself in this way. It was truly amazing. “This is…incredible,” she said, taking a deep breath in.
“I…could never really get it right.” He said, “I think it’s impossible to do with only a pencil and paper… There is so much to you… So much beauty. I could never capture it all, or make it all work the way it does when I really look at you. He said, looking at her face and feeling that empty feeling in his chest.
Without a word she leaned in and hugged him, her arms wrapped around his neck. He could feel her heart beating against his chest.
Memories and thoughts of him flooded her mind. She began crying again.
Mark felt the tears in his eyes. He closed them tightly and wrapped his arms around her, giving her his warmth.
The truth is, that in this moment the two of them had never felt closer in all their lives. Every problem seemed to disappear. Every word they had ever exchanged seemed to mean even more. Every single second they had ever shared became a gift that would never be topped, except for the next one after it.
They remained like this for some time, the cold air closing in around them.
Finally Julia pulled back slightly, her arms still around him. They looked into each other’s eyes. Julia rested her forehead against his, looking down slightly. Her heart fluttered. So did his. Like a million butterflies that could have easily lifted them away if they hadn’t been holding onto each other so hard. She pulled back again and looked into his eyes.
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you,” replied Mark without so much as a blink.
She leaned in again and kissed him, Mark sure didn’t expect it, but returned the kiss in the same moment. A quick kiss that meant the world to both of them. It anchored them.
Julia sniffed and wiped the remainder of the tears from her eyes and brushed the hair from the sides of Mark’s face. Mark did the same. “What…does this mean?” he finally asked, filled with joy and excitement and even uneasiness. She squeezed him tightly. The uneasiness disappeared.
“It’s love. It’s what I’ve always felt for you. It’s what I’ve always wanted.” She said “I don’t know what it means, or what happens now, and it doesn’t matter. I’ll live in this moment just as long as I have to” she finished, with a serene quality in her voice.
Mark hugged her tightly. Tears forming in his eyes again. He’d live in the moment too.
Hours passed and they remained in each other’s arms, not a word was said. Nothing had to be said. The future lay ahead of them. A future that was not without it’s questions. Most of which had no answers.
Neither of them was bothered by it. The future was theirs, questions could wait. They were in their world. This solace could not be touched.
Written and Owned by Dan Chubaty 2004