The morning after the ridiculous stake out was like waking up with a hang over, but not as head-aching.
“It’s the last day of school! Gerard’s leaving for Davis!” cried Mark at six thirty in the morning. Having three hours of sleep was quite dreadful, but after a shot of saturated, caffeinated espresso; it felt like I slept for fifteen hours. Scrambling on clothes and gathering a quick get-up for Amie from Cap’s empty room was hard business, especially because two unsuspecting grown ups can easily be awakened by the tramping of feet and whispering in the hallway.
We left the house at seven, avoiding the confusion of parents and an unplanned sleepover. The sun was bitter warm today, especially at seven in the morning. The sun was beaming high in the sky, and it began to heat the earth. The sky was empty as the sea, yet full of planes and birds. Something was not right, however. The day seemed to breeze by as quickly as it came.
School was six hours of boredom, naked walls filled the school, and chairs were stacked in the back of the room. The desks were left untouched to the side of each room. We sat on the floor, listening to each teacher’s dramatic last-lecture-of-the-year lecture. It was sad to see the teachers’ faces. They loved their kids, but the kids did not love them. To the students, teachers are just instructors to educate a subject. With no emotional bond between them, students just disregard teachers like trash and leave until next year to obtain new trash. But to the teachers, their students are everything. Especially Mr. Richards; every little sentence, phrase, letter, essay, and research paper has been left for him to read, understand, and enjoy. It was his way to make friends, because students unintentionally express their voice, opinions, and deepest thoughts.
Mr. Richards did not give a speech. He only said,
“For some, you will have one more year with me. For others, you will continue your high school endeavors with other teachers. I bid you all farewell for the time being and have a good summer.”
Lastly came the most crucial part to the day, giving our good byes to Gerard. School ended early, leaving Carlson Train High saddened me, and I would miss the devotion to work. Escaping the bubble of education was quick and easy, however. I turned back to the school and gazed at it for a few seconds, just to see it one last time before the summer sensation. Some part of me wanted me to go back and stay there, but it was this feeling which that I just ignored.
Two thirty in the afternoon and the five of us were already stripped and in the water. Gerard had his car on the parking lot a couple feet away from the bridge. He said he had to leave soon, whenever soon was.
“I have to move everything in and settle before school starts. I have to apply for a job there too,” he explained to us. Everyone else usually leaves in late August but I guess he had reasons. It was hard for Ingrid though, she was quiet while Mark and I teamed up to take down Gerard in water wrestling.
An hour had passed, and we got out of the crystal clear river. “Well, it’s time,” he said, putting on his shirt and shaking his pants dry. The summer heat basically soaked up our wet clothes. We all were huddled in a circle. He approached me and gave me the biggest huge I have ever had.
“Take good care of them, okay?”
“Okay,” I agreed, but I did not know what he meant exactly. I think he trusted me the most because I was the oldest of the rest besides him. Since he was leaving, the responsibility to sustain the group and keep it alive was mine. “You coming back for vacation?” I asked him.
“Not for awhile,” he sighed. It was not a direct answer, but a relative answer. He did not want to admit that he might not ever come back, since Davis was ten hours away. He then turned over to Mark and embraced his sobbing body. I could see Gerard trembling alongside Mark. No one in their right mind could stop emotions from getting to them when people around them are displaying emotions.
“I’ll miss you, Gerard,” Mark coughed out between crying. He held on tighter. His masculine body became visible as his shirt stuck to his back right where Mark embraced him. Gerard patted his back.
“I’ll miss you too, buddy,” he said, voice shaking. His movement grew slower and shakier. “Well you have to let go of me sometime, or I will suffocate.” Mark eased up and backed away from Gerard. Gerard then patted his shoulder and said, “Be good.” Mark nodded his head, tears still dripping from his chin. He then moved to the next best friend, Amie. They hugged too; Amie was not as emotional as the rest of us, seeing that they have only known each other not more than a month. Nevertheless, emotions rose through both of them and they expressed them as clearly as possible. “You know,” Gerard began, “You’ll have a really great time next year with the three of them.”
“Have a good time in Davis, and don’t forget to visit,” she said. Amie was on her toes while embracing that tall man. They ended their emotional contact and he moved over to Ingrid, who stood to the side of the group, facing down at the bright, hot, cement ground. He almost tripped over himself while moving toward her, catching his balance before his weight shifted.
“Whoa,” he muttered as he regained his posture. At last, within seconds I might add, he was next to her. She jerked backwards, trying to get away from him. He took a step closer to her, but she just took a step back. “Hey, come on,” he said sincerely. She looked up at him, glaring at his face. Palm met face in less than a second along with a loud smacking. His face was turned in the direction she slapped him. “Ugh!” he cried and backed up, rubbing his left cheek to ease the stinging acute pain.
“I’ve been dreading this day from the moment you exclaimed you were heading to Davis,” she cried with anger. Her face was cherry red and tears ran down her face like a waterfall. It was not “I do not want you leave” anger, it was sort of mixed feelings of hatred and discontent. “You did not even ask me what I thought of it when you were accepted. I didn’t even know you applied! What makes you think you could do this to me…”
He was silent with a guilty face. Being too fast and too forward with his future led Ingrid to believe that he would have nothing to do with her. She stood quiet too, looking down at the ground again, trying not to look into Gerard’s saddened eyes. “I’m sorry,” he finally choked out. The silence grew longer as the day seemed to have been stopped by time. Gerard kept a straight face while Ingrid’s loud sobbing ached through my ears. “But it’s my life. I can do whatever I want.”
He struck her cold and deep, freezing her body like being frozen in liquid nitrogen. “I don’t get it,” she cried; however, she had an understanding sorrow look rather than a confused blunt look. Whatever the case, she rushed off up the bank of the river, clutching her face. Amie let out her hand before Ingrid ran up the slanted ground, but did not attempt to catch her. She was posed in the stance but kept an eye on Ingrid as she ran up the bank and ran in the direction of home. Amie glared at Gerard, laser eyes piercing through his head. She ran up, chasing after Ingrid.
Mark shook his head and stomped at the cement ground. “This was supposed to end happily!” He shouted at Gerard.
“Not all things end happily, only fairy tales end happily. Those suckers who believe happy endings will happen to them, they must realize that the reality is not what it seems to be. The world is a terrible, terrible place; but as humans, we make the best of it.” Gerard did not hesitate to say those words, which angered Mark more. Mark ran up to Gerard and pushed him down. The force of the impact threw Gerard to the ground a couple of feet away from where he stood.
“Go to Davis,” Mark sneered, and ran off after Ingrid and Amie.
Gerard stood up. I did not move from my position. Time seemed endless as we stood there, fixing our gazes at each other, the ground, the sky, the water, and the bridge. Gerard began to tear up, but none ran down his face. He was using every once of his mental and physical energy to hold it back. He looked away from my eyes, in attempt not to show that he expressed painful, sad emotions. The grass turned into a sickly yellow color, from lack of being watered. I never cared until now; peering closer, I could see the grubs squirming from under the thicket. Nothing was in the sky. Only the stream of two white clouds which trailed from a jumbo jet flying west could be visible and the sun was shining as brightly and as scorching as can be. The crystal clear water reflected sunshine into my eyes. When blinking, I could see my retinas imaging the exact still picture of flowing water. The bridge was also fascinating, as cars sped by. One man in a white Land Rover glared at the two of us, labeling us as part of a gang.
“Well..” He said, anticipating a punch or a push down from me. He was waiting for it, expecting it, pleading that I do it and run.
“What?” I asked bluntly.
“I’d never expect you guys to understand, not one of you. But I guess you proved me wrong.” He looked away, starring at the rushing water drifting down the city. Another few minutes passed by, silently. He finally looked up to me. “Ingrid and I run very different lives, you know. Davis is my dream; you have to know, Quet. Nothing should relinquish my decision on entering there next year.”
He paused again, noticing that he tripped over words and paused to calm down. I often nodded, the only action I was able to do at the time.
“Quet, I want you to tell her that I love her. However I do not think that she and I will ever see each other again. Like I said, we run very different lives. I am an honor student, raised by a rich, kind family. I’ve been accepted to Davis, Los Angeles, and even Stanford. I was occupied by educational endeavors and she had been focusing on her parents. I do not blame her so for trying to resolve their problem but it is their problem. She had no extra curricular activities, no volunteer hours, barely achieving the minimum to pass each of her classes… Our… We… cannot be together. It is inevitable, and I’ve ran hundreds of scenarios, but I just don’t think that she and I will have a future together.”
I stood there, shaken, incapacitated by the words which have entered my ears. How could I ever tell Ingrid what Gerard told me.
“Maybe… Going to Davis was a bad idea. It’s my dream, but I have plenty of dreams.” He looked down and shook his head, massaging his forehead with his palm.
“Dreams come only few in a lifetime,” I said encouragingly to him.
“You want me to go?” he questioned me.
“No, I did not say that,” I said.
“Are you telling me to stay?” he asked me again.
“I did not say that, either,” repeating myself.
“Then what the fuck kind of advice was that?” he hollered at me, flailing his arms around.
“You are taking the advice, take what you understand of it,” I murmured.
He approached me slowly, and patted me on the shoulder. He smiled a “thanks” at me and left the bridge. From afar, I heard the ignition of a car and then came a honk. I looked up to the bridge to see Gerard drive past the bridge.
“I fell down and lay where I stood, staring at the river blue sky. If the world turned upside down, I’d fall into a river,” I said to myself.