He stood in the midst of it all. It was a white room. A white winter wonderland. It was difficult to see, as though enclosed in an ice cube. Frostbite. His fingers were bluer by the instant, starting at the tips. Except, it was visible. He was visible to the eye…
The silhouette of a man. A man who was no taller than the teenage boy’s 5’8 height—
“Wait!” The teenage boy pushed forward, his breaths vapored into puffs of clouds. “Come back,” he croaked.
But it was he who was the one distancing away, not the silhouette. He lunged forward but came to an abrupt halt. He was stuck. Somehow, somewhere in the white frosty air, his feet were sucked into the ground…the white floor. An invisible force field was amongst him and the unknown man—
“Wait!” he called out, stretching out his hands that were suddenly sucked into the light—
A blaring light.
He squinted as the light made its way through the white storm, forcing him to look away—
His eyes shot wide open, awakening from the dream. He wormed his way up, giving the mattress a few chipmunk squeaks. The closed curtain drapes and door blocked out any form of lightning from the bedroom. Until the lights flickered on.
Matthew Jimmy Smith: the boy’s name from the dream. His name. He also was not a boy, but a teenager in the midst of puberty. Height: 5’8 (with a possibility of another growth spurt). Acne: check. Body type: lean…ish. Mood: moody. The childhood paintings on the walls also said differently with squiggly letters of the names Matt and even Matty. There were a few in bold too. He had thick wavy hair like a rock-n-roll drummer. But now, his neck length dark brunette locks decided it was best to puff up like a hot air balloon. Big hair like Dee Snider—one of the many band posters that were displayed on his cream-colored walls. Kurt Cobain, Alice Cooper, and Angus Young were on the neighboring posters.
Matthew…Matt…Matty, the boy with countless identities dropped his hand from the bedside lamp. He rubbed the sleepy crust and boogies from his eyes. Half asleep, the dirty piles of clothes on the floor were still visible…ish, bringing that god-awful stench into the bedroom. Like a fresh pile of cat shit in an indoor litter box—with the windows shut.
Puberty checklist: does not care.
Matthew…Matt…Matty chucked the camouflage comforter and the matching black and blue bed sheets off his body. He wore his gym shorts and T-shirt that displayed the IVY HIGH SCHOOL, HOME OF THE POISON logo. His T-shirt stuck to him like honey. He pulled the center piece away from his chest…It now made sense. That god-awful stench…The case of B.O.—
“Jesus!” He turned his head away, dropping his T-shirt that clung back to his skin, sticky from the heat.
He wiped the last remains of saliva from his mouth and climbed out of his full-size bed. But, life would have been easier if his daddy long legs were not caught in the midst of a storm—
Left and right. He moved his legs left and right. Right and left. After a few kicks, his legs broke free from the tangled bedsheets, pushing him off the bed. He went straight to the floor with a loud THUD. The wooden floors gave an eerie haunted house creak…outside of his bedroom door—
“What was that?!” a girl with a husky voice said (still in the process of womanhood).
“He’s up!” It was a boy’s voice, also in the process of puberty.
Matt perked his head up. Beneath the doorway—that small crack—shadows huddled closer to the door. The giveaway was the golden doorknob twisting and turning, rejecting their entry—
“Matt?” it was the same girl, followed by a few KNOCKS.
“Maybe we should let him—”
“LET ME DO IT,” the boy interjected the other girl. “Like THIS.”
The door jolted at every BAM BAM BAM. Two drumroll fists against the door…not a pretty picture.
“DON’T CALL ME WOMAN!”
Matt dropped his head and let out a chuckle: ‘Typical.’
He reached for the closest piece of clothing on the floor—dark gray gym shorts, clueless if they were clean or not (probably not). “My children,” he announced, “My children of the corn. Please don’t fight! I’m a comin’!” He gave a thumb ups to the Jimi Hendrix poster on that last part, breaking out into opening verse for “Hear My Train a Comin’.”
But as he neared closer to the door, footsteps trampled away—the shadows were gone from the doorway crack. “What the—guys?” He flung the door open to nothing but the little amount of light that streamed through the hallway windows. It was the last bits of another orange, yellow, purple and pink sky summer evening. Beauty. But it was still muggy and hot as a motherFUCKER.
Matt dabbed the beads of sweat from the four corners of his face. “This fuckin’ weather…”
The lights zapped out, revealing the hint of glow from the corner of his eyes…
An aisle of picture frames formed a lighted walkway for him. Matt made his way down the pathway to only discover that book lights were attached atop the frames, making the faces visible in the pictures. Right to left. Left to right. It was a walk down memory lane. There were photographs of himself as a toddler with curly light brown and tints of golden locks. In others, he was a young boy with brown spiky hair that either had burgundy, blue or green gel at the tips. His soft olive complexion had also gone through its own transition: minor in the earlier days and severe around middle school days (the ones where he frowned). Not to mention his teeth! They had a story of their own too. He was a metal mouth and gave his best toothpaste commercial smile in the sixth and seventh-grade school yearbook photos…with red braces that looked like a pool of blood. He caught a glimpse of his present day “tanner,” but still so awkward, adolescent self.
Descending the staircase, the pictures became a mix from the day July 1st as the candles indicted on the thirteen different birthday cakes. At two, he sat in the highchair. At seven, he was crouching like a hidden dragon by the cake
The trail of photographs came to a stop as he arrived at the dining room archway, where it smelled like fresh out of the oven bakery rolls. “Happy birthday to you…”
And there they were…the four of them. His seventy-six-year-old grandmother, Lucia, and his three childhood best friends, Jamie, Derek, and Lisa. The four of them stood behind the oversized chocolate chip cookie that sat atop the wooden oak table for six. Atop the birthday “cake” was two sparkling numerical numbers: 1 4.
The chandler was turned up a notch and added a simple, almost angelic, touch as the four of them hit the high note. They were not the BEST of singers. Derek’s voice cracked at some point and faded off by the time they had reached the end. Matt busted up, cry-laughing. He had too. It was typical. Typical Lisa as she sang her heart out. Typical Lucia as she watched the other two, laughing too. Typical Derek as Typical Jamie elbowed him. Her words were readable as she mouthed to Derek, “Shut. Da. Hell. Up.” Only, Derek dropped to his knees and spread his arms out like an eagle ready to fly…
“And many more on channel four…”
“And a big fat lady on channel eighty,” Lisa joined on in.
“Happy birthday, Matty.” Jamie gave a smile.
“Make a wish, sweetheart,” Lucia said and gestured to the cookie cake.
“Remember,” Lisa chimed in, “always keep your wish a secret. Don’t jinx that shit—”
Matt gazed down at the chocolate chip cookie, which was seamlessly well-designed. An icing cutout of a basketball that was outlined in black and white frosting sat in the center. Stars were scattered everywhere from top to bottom, sketched out in brown frosted syrup. Colored sprinkles and M&M's of all sizes aligned with the crust—
It immediately took him back to three-weeks ago: there were these machines sitting underneath the banner, “CLASS OF 2006. CONGRATS GRADS,” that sputtered out confetti onto the graduates. Matt caught a few of them in his hands. Most were designs of tiny size caps and gowns and the big ol’ ‘06’ and ‘2006.’ Jamie had a few stuck in her curly hair. She only curled her hair on special occasions. Matt removed the one piece that had drifted onto her cheek. It was a red snowflake. She smiled at his intrigued expression. She pulled him in for a hug. He dropped the piece of confetti, gripping her back—
Back in the dining room, his eyes were already closed. He leaned forward and the calligraphy words at the bottom of the cookie in sky blue frosting, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! WE LOVE YOU, was just inches from his T-shirt—
“Here,” she said. Then, he felt a piece of his loose T-shirt, against the side of his body, pull back. He knew it was her. That voice…
It was that moment in darkness (literally), his heart picked up and he asked, “Thanks,” instead of stating it. His cheeks grew hot. He clenched his fingers into tiny boxing gloves—the only thing that sped down his pulse. His lips shaped into a perfect O. He inhaled and held his breath for a moment because all he wanted to see in his world of darkness was them…