01; meeting

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IT'S ABOUT WHAT'S
IN THE MIDDLE

❝ IT'S ABOUT WHAT'S IN THE MIDDLE ❞

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It was 580 steps to the convenience store on Barnes Street. The air was crisp and the leaves tumbled, swirling delicately from their branches to the dampened grounds. It was muddy even on the sidewalks by those who had trailed before, marking clear imprints from the soles of their shoes. My flats, which were a solid white as I left the porch, now had specks of mud splattered along the edges, the tips untouched, still glistening through the jet black of the night.

Counting my steps was a habit I'd picked up in my early days when I would walk the path to the familiar corner store. It created a numbness in my mind, something like a buzz, to help flee unwanted thoughts, things that I preferred not to think about–such as living in a small town In Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the east side of the tracks, where stepping out of your house unaccompanied is seemingly the most dangerous thing you could do. You may or may not have some Soc ride their mustang past, splash muggy water at you and curse you out, and you may or may not be jumped by some hoodlum greaser asking for your wallet. Violence was reoccurring, not half of the events taking place were published in the daily newspaper. Luckily, I'd never been physically hurt by either side of the tracks. Sometimes, I thought maybe physically and emotionally had some sort of a connection. One time, I was hiking back from the five and dime some summer evening, and a Soc hollered at me as they rode past in their showy mustang, and it felt like I'd taken a blow to the chest, although they never laid a hand on me. It was living with what-ifs, a rivalry between the social classes – which was what I longed not to fret about, be it even fleeting seconds, as I counted my remaining steps.

It was frigid, to say the least. I wore a flimsy jean coat with sheer gloves, the tips of my ears felt as if they had frosted into fine crystals. I'd underestimated just how much warmth the dead of the night could steal from one, as I wrapped my frail arms around my body. I thought maybe, along with the tips of my fingers and ears, the branches and the minuscule blades of grass were kissed by the icy lips of jack frost, and when I clasped my hands together I could almost feel it melting, creating a subtle warmth. I wished I had worn earmuffs. I had gotten some for my sixteenth birthday but foolishly had forgotten them at home–something I did quite often. It was yet another lousy habit I'd developed at some young age.

I could see my breath, barely, as I curled my lips and blew outward, the condensation rising into the cool fall air. I wished I had worn a larger coat, or maybe a scarf to rid my exposed neck, but I didn't plan ahead; I never did.

I found it was something amazing, the way one hour the sky could be composed with trickles of nearly every color from the rainbow. How it looked soft and felt as if staring at it long enough, I could reach up and swipe my finger across, smear the contrasting hues of orange, red, and blue together into one large rendition of The Starry Night. It fades away quickly, right before your eyes, and just when you think you could do it, touch it, it's overcome by darkness, nothing more than an empty void. Something so dead, so lifeless.

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