A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
BY ALEXANDRA MAXIME ADAMS
She could hear the ticks and tocks punching into the air, pummeled from the smiley face clock, yellow and maddening, that was nailed against the wall directly above her teachers’ desk, each one louder than the other, each one harder than darts thrust against a wooden target. The room was massively humid, just like the bathrooms four hallways and a right turn away from it, the air nauseating from the smell of sweat and thick stenches of perfumes reeking from the sticky girls in the back of the classroom…the ones who were cheating, strategically, while twirling strands of their hair, and believed, pathetically, that they were invisible so long as they didn’t make eye contact with their classmates and teacher outside their perfect little world of four (sometimes five).
She rolled her eyes, while twisting her heavy, red mop of hair into a bun, then felt it crash back down against the small of her back, like a blood-red wave crashing into rocks, her head throbbing from the desperation for a scrunchie, rubber band, anything to pull back the frizzy drape of heat that was making her tank top stick to her pallid skin. She had no interest in cheating on this useless geometry quiz, partly because it was already completed and double, triple checked. To her biggest surprise, she had finished, confidently, ten minutes before the bell, the sound that alerted the students, parched and gazing at the colorless walls, lost in their own, random scramble of daydreams, their minds buzzing with heat as they sat beneath the fluorescent lights, that their freedom was at last returned to them.
She loved that feeling…The feeling that overtook her the moment her heart, which always felt as if the boredom crawling up the puke-lime walls was slowly turning it into a lump of steel, heavier than a stone, suddenly began to dance against her scrawny chest. The way her eyes widened when she realized the ticks and tocks that had tiptoed across the stale atmosphere wasn’t just for mockery, but the sounds of the endless, unstoppable stream of time, and that she only had a handful of minutes before the plump bus driver roared the engine to life and took off. It gave her the utter most joy, a rush of incomprehensible glee that shivered every bone in her body, whenever she pushed herself through the sea of people toward the closest exit doors, the windows always gleaming with long forgotten, afternoon sunlight, which always, on a cloudless day, made the tiled floor sparkle, as if little stars were dancing above the surface. .
However, the smiley face clock was perceptibly running a bit slower than usual. And because of the heat sliding up and down her arms, legs, and boiling top of her head, life seemed, in that moment, excruciating. She glanced over at her teacher, old, worn out, her face like crumpled up tissue paper, her eyes, minuscule and dark, like two dots of black sharpy had been drawn on her papery features.
A fossil, she thought, grumpily, and blew a strand of her red hair away from her eyes, then gritted her teeth, angrily. What kind of a sub is this? The ancient lady, with her thin, tiny pile of grey-feathery hair, sticking up as if it had been glued on by an artless toddler, had fallen asleep, just like a good chunk of the classroom, primarily the football boys. She rested her arms against the desk and laid her head down on top of them, wishing she had taken her mother’s advice and had packed a water bottle, even though, considering the hazy time, it would have tasted like bathwater, rather than the refrigerated liquid everyone needed, the kind of water that was so iced, it made her teeth hurt. Swallowing, she looked down at the wooden surface, the glints of the dimly lit bars of light above, her golden, burned reflection staring back at her.
She could see the doodles, her scribbles she had marked during the history lectures and meaningless, algebraic explanations…..little faces with owl-bulged eyes and thick, oversized lips. She traced them with the slippery tip of her fingers, recapitulating back.
Within seconds of staring at the work her boredom, throughout the course of the year, had created, she suddenly saw herself with tear-swollen eyes, her stomach hurting as if a creature were doing back flips inside of it. Lost in deep, sturdy thought, she studied her desk, her cheek forming a small puddle of sweat against the top of her elbow, and remembered each moment, her heart floating up to her throat.
These were drawn for a crippling reason…they were the faces that had been peeled off of her dreams, the people she had attempted to create, to bring to life ,who might obtain the desire to be with her. The faces that she envisioned would look like with joyful, happy expressions, given to her during lunch each day, from the friends she habitually prayed to one day have. She had imagined, and wondered, during class and had drawn what made her ability to think and concentrate dwindle, what she wanted more than a perfect grade in math.
Gasping, she sat up, the image of her with slouched shoulders, her face hidden within her wild pile of velvet hair, her neck prodded with flying pencils…her chocolate eyes stained with bitter red, vanishing, instantly. She could see the doodles, the smiley face clock above her snoring substitute teacher, the boys in front of her tapping their pencils against their legs and desks, disconnected from the world. Wiping the sweat from cheek, she closed her eyes and tried to focus on the two months of summer ahead of her, her happy place…the place she would immediately sprint to as soon as the bell woke up and roared for everyone to leave. Oh, how she wanted to thrust her desk at the door, in the hopes of crashing it down, and destroying her doodles as well, breaking them into nothing but unidentifiable chunks of wood.
Perhaps it would speed up the endless stream of time, quicken the march of the ticks and tocks, which slid up everyone’s backs, towards their necks, like a warm snake, leaving sticky, unbearable mixtures of emotions behind. A few minutes later, however, as her bony fingers gripped the edge of her desk, something unexpected, and miraculous, happened. In a handful of seconds that she was unable to count, her classmates had sprung out of their desks, cheering and whooping as the bell blasted its sound out of the intercom, the cries and howls of glory, of the reclaim of freedom, burst through the hallways, as if the school had finally gained a pulse, and life was flowing, once again, through it.
The sub gasped and then awoke, wiping drool from the side of her mouth, then in an inaudible, grandmother-polite voice, thanked everyone for a good year and disappeared into the aggrandizing crowd outside, her straw bag swinging from her her chunky arm.
Blowing red hair from her elated eyes, she stood up, rubbed the sweat from her forehead, slung her tattered, forest-green backpack over her shoulder, then, unable to fathom the arrival of this magical moment, began to shove herself into the mob of people outside. Above the hundreds of heads in front of her, she spotted the old laboratory, where she had once done useless experiments using jelly beans, and various liquids that smelled like rubbing alcohol, and to her left, the entrance to the gym she had always found, deviously, an excuse to avoid walking into. She saw the small jumble of girls, the ones that had been cheating, laughing loudly, their voices ringing within the air like a bunch of metal pots clattering together. It was painful, and yet, refreshing for her to hear.
She, with her untamable hair and crazed smile, which brightened her face into an even darker pink, ducked under the tall basketball boys, and bumped, with an added “sorry” under her breath, past the somewhat shorter ones, until finally, she saw open, tiled space, the attendance office to her right, the counselors to her left, and ahead of her, the exit doors.
As she rushed, her arms stretched out, she froze, her eyes scanning the parking lot, the cars, the yellow school bus already beside the cherry tree, ready to consume dozens of passengers. She looked over her shoulder and noticed the students, most of them frozen in different spots of the hallway, saying goodbye, will you be in my class next year, wanna come over to my lake house?
In that moment, as she took in her surroundings, in front of the doors, her hand latched on to the metal handle, ready to push her body out of containment, she could no longer hear laughter, but snarky insults, accusations, gossips, rumors, every filthy thing that had been fired at her, worse than bullets, sharper and far more memorable than a knife, paralyzed her body. Her teachers, who were sipping their iced teas against the wall, the ones who hadn’t believed her when she needed them to. She grinned at the girls, sweaty and excited, who had tried, with every drop of their energy, to convince her that she was weird, that she should take her red hair and get lost!
Finally, she pushed the door open, nodded at the bus driver, who was also sipping an iced tea, and skipped across the parking lot, towards the sidewalk. The breeze, slightly cool, felt relieving against her face, her moist hair blowing past her as if fire were sizzling out of her head, jiggling within the air in flaming, red curls and loops, rather than locks. Reaching the sidewalk, she sprinted forward, punching her fists, which were clenched into little, scarlet balls, towards the cloudless sky in revel, throwing them into the air harder than the ticks and tocks of the smiley face clock hung within the dreadful classroom.
She cheered, scratching the tranquility of the air with her voice, as if she were a wild, victorious Indian, her eyes squeezed shut, her body bubbling with an overwhelming amount of joy as she dashed further and further away from her high school, feeling as though she were about to take off into the sky and get sucked into a tornado of hectic elation. She past the convenience store, her house, her brother already in the front, dribbling and shooting, which gave her heart a little dance. Ignoring the cramps of her stomach, her legs fighting against her consistent grind, she raced through several neighborhoods, all of them colored in green leaves and freshly bloomed tulips, along with a few daisies; the opened doors of summer slowly awakening the remaining parts of the earth that were still asleep. Finally, as she stumbled and panted through several shortcuts, alleyways, and down quiet, unpopular streets, passing by the avoided pawn shops and then the Grocery store, she froze, at last, in front of her happy place. The spot outside of her town, her spot, secluded…quiet.
Gulping air, her chest cramping so much, she felt as if the insides of it were being twisted into knots, she placed her bag down, beside the familiar tree trunk, her initials carved within its bark, then gripped the wire fence. It was sharp against her soft palms and her fingers prickled, slightly, with pain after touching the needle-sharp tips of some jutting out wire. Despite her exhaustion, and her spent body demanding that she would turn around and run, instead, home, towards her bed, after positioning her hands correctly, she began to climb using her aching, stubborn legs. With extreme concentration, as she reached the top, swinging one of her legs over the edge, she gasped, her heart stopping, her knuckles white from gripping the metal bar, frantically.
The wind, suddenly, slapped her face, pushed her backwards, as if it were forcing her down, away from what waited ahead, prohibiting her ability to jump to the other side. Her ears were frazzled from the howling, authoritative tone of the gust, her hair yanked in different, tawny directions. Leave me alone, she wanted to scream, her eyes, reluctantly, burning from the specks of dirt that had been blown into them, emotionless tears trickling down her face, consequently. All she could see, in that moment, were the doodles on her desk, the fictional friends she starved for. She felt the tears she had shed, as the boys behind her poked her back, their teases and taunts louder than the wind’s agony.
She sat there, waiting for the momentary aggression of the wind to die down, to transform back into the adorable, pleasant breeze that had once kissed her cheeks, rather than pinch them, then peeled her eyes, slowly, open. Squinting, she no longer felt violated…but was filled with tremendous energy. The wind no longer twisted her hair, but instead, blew away the voices of her classroom, the voices that had tried so impressively to convince her that she was strange, that she should leave; the faces of those who couldn’t forget her past, couldn’t detect that she had been trying, for so long, to better herself, to stand back up, to grow.
In that moment, as large clumps of damp clouds came into view, smearing deep, somber grey across the once spotless sky, large drops of rain began to smash against her forehead, arms, every part of her. And as she opened her mouth, widely, laughing as a few drops slid down her throat and ameliorated her suffocating thirst, she listened to the wind, as if there was an enormous wolf hiding within the clouds, its cry instigating the rainfall…brewed the storm. Her fears were lifted away from her, her anger, her cursed memories evaporated; the gust, along with the stone-hard drops of cold water against her face wiped her mind clean, crystal. Everything was a blessing.
And in that moment, even though the relentless waves of cold were stronger and more wild than she was, she didn’t care. With her drenched hair no longer a spontaneous shade of fire, but now a light brown, she flung herself off of the fence, her sore fingers slipping away from the metal, her chest pushed up toward the clouds, as if she were surrendering herself into the icy-cold hands of the wind and waited until the soles of her shoes made contact with the sloshing, dirt-ground. And as the mud stained her face from the force of her landing, her white tank-top soaked and stuck to her skin as if it had been glued, she felt infinite. In front of her, was an endless field of dark, delicious green, cows munching sluggishly and beyond them, past the little barns scattered across the landscape, the forest.
Sighing, she took one last glance at the wired fence, at the little tree stump with her initials carved into it…the backpack that once held nothing but the loads of work that came from her hours of endured torment, then, with the rain pelting onto her forehead, dashed away, towards her perfect world of nothing but contentment, unable to contain her strangling desire, nothing surrounding her powerful enough to stop her. Each of the footprints she left behind in the mud, as she blasted herself deeper into the rain, towards the cows, the farms, the forest, was a new doodle. The start of a crazy, yet glorious picture she was painting, a new drawing. Though she was as colorless as her surroundings, her face pale-grey, as if the rain were staining her skin with its color, her hair no longer as bright and overwhelming as the sun, the fire within her heart did not dim, but expanded.
She could taste it, hear it, feel it, her smoking hot potential cooking something inside of her, something that would one day burst and change several angles of the world, her new doodles. Her dreams, her summer rolled out ahead of her, were whisked into the blurred up atmosphere by the waving oak branches, was quivering at the top of the treetops, and chewed within the jaws of the cows, all of whom were watching her, respectfully, as she scampered along their grass, drifting through the space like a ghost. Her future was there, quivering at the edge of nowhere, waiting to be grasped, to be released from its cocoon by the fire, the tremendous sparks and flames of that girl, with the blissful, frowzy mop of red hair and limitless courage. The weird girl ready to release every drop of her weirdness.
Alexandra Maxime Adams is seventeen years old, and she lives in a small town called Garden City, New York where she attends Garden City, High School. Writing has always given her a rush of pure joy and an escape. She hopes to use her creativity to transform her world.