I was always oblivious to the things you never were; it was a recurring problem between us. I never noticed how you brushed your hair this morning, slaving over those rich dense curls to make them seem more fluffy and neat. It never really occurred to me that there is that much of a difference between using this blue eyeliner you love and the black one you keep for special occasions. I had to wait until you told me, and even then I just pretended to understand because I saw how much it meant to you.
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I waited for this letter the entire year, and when it finally came I was so nervous, I couldn’t make myself open it. It felt like my entire future was neatly tucked inside the bloated yellowish envelope, waiting to jump out and swallow me whole. So I did my house chores and homework and played the computer while it was resting in my back pocket, pretending to be forgotten.
Time literally slowed down, flexing and stretching ruthlessly, forcing me to live through it painfully slowly. I had just opened my eyes from a confused blink to see his hand, raised over his head, holding a pair of shiny metal keys. They jingled loudly in slow motion, the vibrations reaching my ears with significant delay. His eyes stared at me blankly with a cold, uncaring gaze. His lips pursed slightly into an awkward smile, as if he knew me and just asked to say hello. His entire face shone brightly, trapped between fat droplets of water that smashed against his forehead and dripped down his impressive nose majestically; one after the other they hung from the tip of his hawkish nose, dangled for a while, then dropped to the floor, exploding. The hand moved closer, arching, covering the distance between us like an orbiting planet on a collision course.
I had no time to blink again, just stare back, forcing my brain to process faster. The pair of keys approached within his outstretched palm, crushing rain droplets into thin moist plates. These floated on his skin, making it sparkle, drawing my attention away. I stared at it for a long timeless moment, amazed, as the image rushed towards my face without warning.
Everything slowed down to an almost complete halt, the entire street went silent, shocked out of its usual buzzing sounds. Something just happened, something surprising and quick, something that even within this unlimited stretching of time took only a fragment of a second. I didn’t know what it was, or where it went and why it came. What began to be obvious, however, was the throbbing ache on the left side of my face, just above my jaw, just next to my ear, just below the rim of my glasses. It would eventually become a dark ominous mark, which I would pretend to take as small payment for what could have been much worse. But at that moment, it was still just a little red, and a little wet, and a lot painful.
I later learned that I wasn’t the first to have had this unfortunate incident in the middle of a busy street, with this particular hawk-nosed man and a pair of sparkly metal keys. There were other women like me, all in the same area, who he attacked without much cause only to run away immediately after. These women, like me, were likewise graced by an inexplicable expansion of time while their brains stressed to understand reality.
Maybe we were given this insight because time, with its infinite existence, knew that sometimes reality is just inexplicable.
My mother always told me great snippets of wisdom. These types of phrases you blink at in confusion at first, trying to understand if you heard wrong or if she’s just talking weird, but later in life come back to bite you. Usually in a good way, and you can actually hear the coin drops in the back of your mind. “Chuh-ching!” Gotcha.
I was so excited when I came to bootcamp that I was immediately labeled as one of those “greenies”, who walk around all twitchy and proud, as if a stick is permanently lodged in their back-side and a permanent grin plastered on their faces. The type that had this extra “oomph” in their salutes. I admit, I was “poisoned”; that is the term we use for people like that, the overly thrilled ones, the ones who follow the regulations to the letter and then some, as if the green uniform seeps into the blood stream and poisons your mind into soldierhood. Aye aye, sir, they do.