A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
BY KAI SHERWIN
The click-clack of the uneven highway is loud. Really loud. The noise seems endless, so to pass the time, I begin counting the sounds. Forty-five, forty-six, forty-seven…With every click and every clack, a feeling of dread reverberates within me. But I’m not crying, even though I had expected to. Instead, a numbing feeling of helplessness has frozen my entire body, leaving only my eyes free to roam the receding skyline of New York City – the place I had called home for twelve years.
The brisk autumn wind is howling outside the thin walls of the van and the sun hides behind a mountain of grey. A rotten banana clumsily rolls back and forth between the side of my shoe and the metal wall. Some previous renter of the van must’ve forgotten to do an “idiot-check” (as my dad always likes to say) so now the fruit has become a lopsided relic from a different era. I pick it up for examination, much to the disgust of my sister. It’s charcoal black, stiff, and shriveled with age. Surprisingly, there is no stench. I can just make out a few lonely streaks of faded yellow – a defiant yet dwindling reminder of the fruit’s once lively past.
Raised voices catch my attention. My parents, for the thousandths time, are arguing about something that doesn’t really matter. I hear my mom repeat the word “insurance”. I think that’s one of those fancy terms that I’m supposed to know, but don’t really care about. In my opinion, no one needs to learn what a word means if it’s unimportant.
Dad notices that I’m watching him, so he lowers his voice and gesticulates wildly. He resumes his normal driving position after staring a few moments at Mom for effect. One hand tight on the wheel with knuckles noticeably whiter than usual, the other tapping his knee to the beat of whatever ‘70s music he enjoys listening to. But there is no music playing. Only the monotonous click-clack of the highway that has made my sister plug her ears with the remnants of a brown Starbucks napkin. We are all sitting like we normally would – with Dad driving, Mom fiddling beside him, my sister chewing spearmint gum, and me staring glumly out the window like I was in a depressing music video. However unlike many car rides before, I feel no intimacy. Only solitude.
It is October of 2001, just a month after those planes attacked the Towers, and I still don’t understand why we are leaving the city. All of my friends are staying there. I think it’s because my parents finally grew tired of my friends. They are always jumping on the couches and spilling their drinks. They’re messy, and I know my parents hated that. I remember confronting Dad to ask why we were moving. He said it was because of what happened a month earlier. Yet, no one else is running away because of a few plane crashes. At first, I was frightened. I wasn’t allowed to go outside without my sister. All I heard was the echoing wail of sirens in the hours and days following that Tuesday morning. But my parents kept reassuring me that the city was totally safe and eventually, I stopped thinking about the planes. Normal life resumed. Now here I am, staring at my hypocritical parents while sitting in a rental van hurtling away from home, leaving me no time to look back.
I start thinking about the future. My parents said we would live in a real house. Not an apartment. The house would be gigantic. Maybe bigger than the White House! We would have our own garage, our own bright red mailbox, and even our own backyard. But how would we get around? Supposedly there aren’t any subways in suburbia. Perhaps we would finally get a car to drive around on the dirt roads, passing large swaths of green land inhabited only by horses and chipmunks.
Excitedly, I start to think more and more. What type of neighbors would we have? I hope there isn’t some ancient couple living next door who always complain about me being too noisy. Our old neighbors once called the landlord because my friends and I were being “rude” while playing tag. I had run down the hallway towards their door to escape being tagged and couldn’t stop myself in time before slamming into the wood. I remember hearing the neighbors rush to the door and throw it open. The grizzled man, speaking in some Mandarin dialect, immediately started checking for damage while his wife gave me a look of pure contempt. In broken English, she told me how the door had been a part of her family for over a century, and how I’ve now ruined it and its legacy. I’ll admit that a few cracks did appear, but so what? No one really cares about their front door, especially if it’s in an apartment building.
I’m becoming sour again. My sister unplugs her ears and notices my mood. I hear her asking if I want a present. My spirits lift; she knows how to pique my interest. I mask my curiosity by only giving a little nod of my head while I continue staring out the window at the dreary sky. My sister is the type of person who loves being surprised. She derives some strange pleasure and satisfaction in the moments leading up to the moment of the unveiling. Her eyes start to glow and she can’t resist eagerly straightening her hair like she’s about to pose for a picture. This time is different. She’s on the giving end and I have to pretend like I will enjoy whatever I’m going to receive. I don’t particularly enjoy surprises. My greatest fear is not knowing what’s about to happen; surprises – no matter how big or small – never fail to agitate me.
I hear her digging around in one of the bags at her feet. She tells me to open my hand. Reluctantly, I open the palm of my left hand, not bothering to look yet. The gift feels hard. It’s probably just some piece of clay that my sister always gives me on my birthdays.
I turn around and see that it’s a small box with a clear plastic front. There’s a kite inside. A green one. I look at it somewhat critically. Kites never worked in the city. They would always get tangled in the wires. I remember one time, I went to the roof of the apartment building so I could get my kite airborne without any trouble. I watched as it shimmered in the golden sunlight and danced in the breezy wind hundreds of feet above. Oh how I wished to be a kite! I yearned to see the world from its point of view. I envied its freedom. For those few precious moments, I was elated. My imagination was running wild. Then a cop barged in and told my parents that kite flying wasn’t allowed in the city. When I was forced to take it down, I was distraught with anger and brimming with disappointment.
But what if…what if the place my parents call “suburbia” has no wires and no rules against flying? What if it has big parks and beaches with no crowds? Places where the lonely wind could befriend my green kite and send it high into the sky – high enough so no one could possibly tell me what I couldn’t do. High enough so we could escape the crushing worry of the world. Hmm. Maybe suburbia will be perfect for kite flying.
Kai Sherwin loves reading and writing literature, blogs for the Huffington Post, acted as the editor in chief of the school’s newspaper, and has published a 75-page fantasy novel. When not reading, writing, or doing schoolwork, Kai enjoys playing basketball and lacrosse with friends.