Dedicated to the great thinkers of our time
By: Ethan Warlick
1 we are clouds
We are clouds Once there was a story. A story about a boy. A boy who was. The Camera
Have you ever witnessed an indication of being? An indication of some sort of connection in this world? I experienced it once during the Dark Side of the Rainbow, which is when you listen to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon while watching Wizard of Oz on mute. The music seems to fit perfectly with the movie even though no one admits to meaning for it to happen. Ever since then I have searched for another indication, another reason, another sign that we are doing something right and not just creating bullshit and everything that happens really matters. Another indication that there is a reason, a reason for being. I’ve tried. I’ve tried A Streetcar Named Desire with The Doors’ self titled album. I tried Titanic with the Beatles’ White Album. And I tried Fight Club with Nirvana’s Nevermind. So far... Failure. With a slight sigh, Martin reaches behind the small silver camera, which he records his thoughts on, and switches it off. With the camera turned off, he turns his thoughts off to the world and only thinks to himself. Martin always thinks, whether he really wants to or not. He thinks it an interesting concept, a thought. The fact that each thought can last but an instant, yet they form together to create our entire lives. A thought; every individual one means something different and differentiates our lives from others. The boy, who is almost nineteen years old, thinks about the world often. He thinks the world strange through his unique perspective. He thinks people very odd, yet he seems to be drawn to them. Sometimes Martin wonders if he is the only one with these thoughts, and it is this thought that leads him to use his camera to capture them. Each individual one is different, yet they all combine to be the strange boy. Martin believes that, if he captures all of his thoughts, he will be able to better understand himself, better understand the world, and maybe even find someone else to understand him too. With a quick press of the same button used to turn the camera off of record, his thoughts begin to flow outward once more. We are all looking for a connection, something that shows us that it belongs, that we belong. Then, we all look for that one to show the connection to, just to know that someone else knows it exists. I think that we are all so different, yet somehow the same. 2 we are clouds
…We are all searching. All searching for… The camera clicks and Martin realizes that his tape is full. He sighs, as if abruptly interrupted in the middle of telling an old story. His thoughts are shut off from the world and again turned inwardly. With a flick of his wrist, he opens the compartment from the camera and pulls out the filled, small black tape. Grabbing a pen and a small piece of white labeling tape from the desk behind him, he places it on the side of the black tape, writing the word Searching on it. Before finishing the label he curiously turns back to his desk and opens two cupboard doors which are stacked full of his tapes, each with a different title or a number to differentiate them. Looking at where he left off in his Searching section, he adds the number 12 to the new tape and categorizes it into his thoughts. It wasn’t until Martin was sixteen that he began recording his thoughts, before then his mind was bombarded with them all. Sometimes Martin enjoys his hyperactive thinking and limitless imagination but other times they lead to wicked headaches which he used to get on a daily basis. When they wouldn’t go away and common over the counter medicine didn’t help, his parents decided to try another way to cure their son’s headaches. They took him to a psychiatrist. Since he was only in the third grade, Martin has been going to these doctors who try to relieve him from his pain. Over the years he has seen almost a dozen different psychiatrists and has been prescribed numerous medications. This isn’t to do with any of the professionals not being able to help the boy, but because Martin has always been shy and skittish and never discusses his thoughts with anyone, not even his parents. They knew he had an overactive imagination but never thought Martin’s way of thinking different from any of the other children. An imagination is something that most children have but for some of them it goes much further than just make believe. Some people live in their imagination much more than reality and this turns to an actual belief. Enveloped in his own thoughts, Martin goes further than living in reality and playing in his imagination. He tends to live in his imagination and only seems like a visitor to reality. His parents began to notice a difference when Martin started elementary school. All of his classmates would run around and play together but he always wanted to be alone. Even back then it seemed that his thoughts were taking over. But what would a boy be over thinking about? Not even aware of the world outside of his home or small town and his mind already exploding with ideas that even grown men fathom from time to time. It was his elementary school teachers who informed Martin’s parents of his differences, and this led them to search for help. At first they tried to be his therapist and would ask him questions about what he thinks about and why he likes to be alone. They asked him how he feels about school and what he enjoys about life. These questions began to make the child’s thoughts stronger and deeper. It also began to shut him off from his parents. They noticed that Martin would not speak to them about anything 3 we are clouds
anymore, so they stopped asking. They stopped trying. If only the doctors and professionals would have stopped asking as much. Maybe then Martin would not have begun to think more deeply when he was only a child. Maybe then he would not have been wondering why everything is. Maybe his headaches would have vanished and never come back. Maybe Martin would have been just like everyone else. But these maybes only create more thoughts, so Martin tries not to think about maybes. It was not Martin’s parents that bought him the camera though. It was actually one of the many doctors that he has been through. The one doctor that has actually been able to get to know Martin and not just ask him the same questions as everyone else does. The first psychologist that he met with, as opposed to the many psychiatrists, is an older man named Tom White. Dr. White has been with Martin ever since he was fifteen and has lasted longer than any of the other doctors. The camera was a present from him for his sixteenth birthday and has changed Martin’s life completely. Through their many conversations, Martin has told Dr. White about his headaches and over active thought process. He told him that the only way to get rid of the headaches was when he slept, and he could only sleep when he was completely exhausted and could think no more. White had decided to try to get Martin to release his thoughts by giving him a couple of journals to write in but his thoughts were too quick for his hand and would frustrate him to the point that he would rip all of the pages out of them. When Martin opened the box, sitting in his chair in Dr. White’s office, on that birthday, he felt an overdue sense of relief. It wasn’t the fact that he had always wanted a way to express his thoughts, but that Dr. White had made a connection with him and had done something that other people would not do. He took an interest in this boy and tried to help him. It was the trying that overwhelmed Martin with compassion and caring for Dr. White, because he knew he lived in a world where many people never try. Never try anything. Looking at the small camera, standing as tall as him, on top of the tripod he bought with some of his birthday money almost three years ago, Martin thinks about all of the thoughts he has told it. How it has become a bridge, a medium between his ideas and the world. How it has cured him of his headaches. But Martin also thinks of how he has yet to share them with the world, with anyone at all. He thinks about how he wants more than anything to find a single person that he would show them too. He has never met anyone that made him feel that they would understand him or his thoughts at all. Not even Dr. White, even though he got him the camera those years ago. Even though he still asks whether he uses it every time they meet. Martin thinks about Dr. White and wonders whether he will ask about the camera at their meeting today.
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It is marked by a large red X on the calendar hanging in the kitchen. Martin got the calendar from the community college that he attends in his home town. When he was growing up, his dad would joke about having a calendar of the college that Martin would go to in their kitchen, but he always figured it would be marked by the dates that he would be coming home from college to visit. The news that he would be staying home past high school came as a surprise to Martin’s parents when he told them half way through his senior year that he did not know what he wanted to do. His dad said ‘you want to go to college like everyone else’ and his mother would try to compromise by saying things like ‘most people don’t know what they want until they go away to college’. Martin’s not knowing was different than other peoples though. He felt that if he were to go anywhere and try anything he would miss out on where he really was suppose to go and what he really was suppose to do. He would think his way into believing he had found a college to attend, but then as soon as he began believing, he would think of all the ways it was wrong. When his dad would ask him ‘do you know what you want to do yet?’ he would answer, ‘I’m still searching.’ Martin had no idea, still has no idea. He thinks about it and still doesn’t know what he is supposed to do. Now it’s everyday conversation from his dad whether he knows where he wants to go, who he wants to be. Martin continues to answer, ‘I’m still searching.’ His mother doesn’t mind though, she already has gotten use to taking care of both boys at home and doesn’t mind still doing it. Sometimes Martin wonders if his parents have found what they want in life. He wonders if they found that connection that he searches for. He wonders if his mother is truly happy or if his dad really wants him to leave. But wondering just creates more thoughts, so Martin tries not to wonder, at least when he is not in front of his camera. There is a big red X on each page of the calendar, because Martin meets with his doctor every month, which is less than he used to. When he first started meeting with him there were four big red X’s on each page, but Dr. White made the decision that Martin needed to experience the world more and would say ‘a young boy should not be stuck in this office every week’. Though this was his decision, it still has yet to happen. Martin is afraid to experience the world because he is afraid it will let him down, or worse, it will be the end of his thinking. Even though he wants desperately to understand the world, it scares him to not question it anymore. It is all Martin knows how to do, to question the world, to think. It has never been his goal to stop his thoughts, only to control them and be able to use them instead of them using him. This is what he hopes to accomplish through the meetings with Dr. White. The doctors’ office is in a tall building on the edge of town, only ten minutes from Martin’s home. He has been coming to this office for almost four years, driving himself in his used blue car, which he got the
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same day as the camera, for the past three years. Being a patient for so long Martin has noticed that every session has begun the same way. The door to Dr. White’s office is opened by another patient and Martin watches silently as the person shyly leaves, as many people want to be discrete and find the fact that they are meeting with a psychologist as a handicap or something to be looked down upon. Martin doesn’t think this though, not with Dr. White. The meetings with him are much more like visiting an old friend. Someone that knows all of your stories yet still loves to hear them told. After a few moments, a voice shouts out of the office saying, “Martin, I can see you now.” The office is a small room with wooden floors and tribal artifacts surrounding the walls. There are two large windows on adjacent walls, allowing sunlight to shine in for most of the day. A wooden bookshelf, filled by hundreds of different colored and shaped books, stands on one wall next to a small table holding a tall glass of water and some small cups. On top of a rug that Dr. White says ‘came all the way from the heartland’ are a small wooden couch and chair facing each other. This is where Martin feels comfortable and confident about speaking his thoughts, second only to being behind his camera. This is where Martin meets with his old friend. Dr. White stands in the corner of the room, as always, next to the small table, filling his cup with water from the glass. Though he is a doctor, he never dresses like any of the ones that Martin has met. He always wears loose fitting short sleeve button up shirts and light or dark khaki shorts. His slicked back hair is grey with a few white strands and his skin is always tanned. He told Martin that he went to a college on the east coast, not too far from where they are now, and immediately became a beach bum, spending as much time outside of classes and studies to himself on the beach. He would sit alone on the sand with a couple of books, from school or for leisure, and would read them as the tide would drift from high to low. Martin liked this because, though he doesn’t read too much, he does enjoy solitude and feels a bond between Dr. White and himself. “Hey Martin,” he always says. Although their sessions are similar, he still thinks that everything is meaningful and when Dr. White says, “It’s great to see you again,” he genuinely means it. “It’s good to see you too, Dr. White,” Martin says, sitting in the middle of the couch where he had first sat between his parents when meeting with the doctor for the first time. When they left the session that day Martin’s dad said things like ‘he seems like an old hippy’ and ‘I bet he wants us to try organic medication’ and his mom asked him if he liked the doctor more than any of the other one’s that he had been taken too. Even before he found that first connection with Dr. White, he had felt a sense of understanding in the man. Instead of asking him a lot of questions, like the other doctors did, he had actually talked about the weather and popular music and teachers that they both hated, his in college and Martin’s in high school. He didn’t talk to his parents about the ways to change their son; he talked to Martin about who he was.
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Before sitting down in the chair, Dr. White examines his book shelf, repeating ‘Martin, Martin, Martin’ as he navigates his finger through the titles. He stops on a small yellow book and begins to pull it out from the others, but pauses and asks, “You’re still not a reader are you?” After Martin quietly replies, “Just for school,” Dr. White pushes the book back into place with the others. “Shame,” he says before sitting down in the wooden chair across from the boy he has become so fond of. Martin looks at Dr. White questionably, and then looks down at the small black journal on the rug in front of his chair. “Right,” the doctor says, before leaning down to pick up the journal and opening it to a fresh page. “So,” Dr. White says, settling into his chair and peering at the unique boy, “How have you been Martin?” Any of the other doctors he has met would receive the silent treatment from Martin, even with the ease of this question, but he simply nods and replies, “I’ve been pretty good. How have you been?” Another reason that he likes Dr. White so much is that he can ask him questions too. Throughout his history of doctors, Martin has only known a handful that would respond to his questions, and the only one to respond genuinely is Dr. White. “Well, I think I’ve been pretty well,” he says, insinuating the correct grammar he has used. “Yeah,” Martin replies, “well, I’ve still been pretty good.” “Of course you have Martin,” Dr. White says with a smile on his face. Throughout their many sessions together he has discovered many unique traits about the boy, including the fact that even when he has done something wrong, he does not change it because to Martin, from what the doctor can speculate, everything happens for a reason and to change it would be wrong. Martin only wishes that his professors at the community college would understand this. “Have you seen any good movies lately?” he asks, as they discuss this topic a lot. Martin loves film and Dr. White can relate with this because he too is a huge movie buff. “Not any new movies, I feel like everything coming out recently has been lacking… substance. But I did watch A Streetcar Named Desire for the first time a few days ago.” “Really, that is a classic film. Based on a really good book, like most of these movies you like. Did you just watch it or did you try to sync it with music as well?” It was Dr. White that introduced Martin to The Dark Side of the Rainbow and he has seen the boys interest peaked by the combination of movies and music ever since. “Yeah, I did actually. I listened to The Doors debut album.” “No way!” Dr. White exclaims with excitement. “A Door Named Desire, that is awesome.” They both laugh at the title he has given it. “I guess Brando really ‘broke on through to the other side’ didn’t he? Did he start yelling ‘Stella!’ during ‘The End’? I bet that guitar solo made him look like a badass.”
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“No,” Martin responds between his laughs, “It didn’t fit. It didn’t connect, nothing has yet.” “You’ve tried others? Like what?” Dr. White asks. “Come on, let ‘em out.” “I’ve tried Titanic with The White Album and Fight Club with Nevermind.” “Have any of them worked?” “No,” Martin sighs, wishing he could say that they did. “Nothing has connected.” “I guess they really don’t make movies like they used to,” Dr. White says jokingly before noticing how it is much more important to Martin than he had thought. “Well you keep searching Martin, you’ll find the connection.” As the session continues, Martin thinks about how much it means to him that someone else knows about connections in the world and notices that he is searching for one, for anything. He thinks that Dr. White must have also been on the search for some sort of connection at some point in his life. He wonders if he found it or gave up. Maybe he found something else, something that he is trying to navigate Martin towards through the sessions. Something that will change everything about his perspective of the world, how he perceives life. It is Martin’s hope that this is true that allows him to reveal his thoughts and ideas to his old friend. “I want to ask you about your sleeping habits,” Dr. White says. “What do you dream about?” “Dream about?” Martin wonders aloud. “I don’t know; I can only sleep when my thoughts calm down and by the time I’m that exhausted I don’t know if my brain has the power to dream.” “You’d be surprised by the amount of power your brain has Martin. Can you not remember any of your dreams?” Martin thinks about what Dr. White has asked, trying to recall the last time he remembered a dream. Unable to think of even one he says, “I don’t think I dream.” “You’re a dreamer Martin,” Dr. White quickly says. “We all are; some of us just have a harder time remembering. I ask about your dreams because of your interest in thoughts and finding a sort of connection in this world.” Martin thinks about dreams and wonders why he does not remember the last time he had one. He thinks it strange that he hasn’t even noticed that he has not dreamed and wonders what it is that he dreams about. “You’ve probably read some books about dreams, right?” Glancing over at his large book collection Dr. White answers, “I’ve read many books on the topic.” “What did they teach you?” Martin asks, thinking that if he is able to understand dreams more he can remember his own.
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“Honestly, I think half of what I read about symbols meaning certain things in all dreams to be total bullshit,” Dr. White replies. “Because everyone has their own dreams, their own thoughts, memories and ideas, so everything must mean something different to different people. If you think about it,” he continues, closing his journal and beginning to have a discussion instead of just a doctor session with Martin. “Our thoughts, while we are awake and interacting with the world and others, are altered based on the world and others. Our dreams however, are all of our thoughts, ideas and memories interacting with each other within our own bodies. This is the reason that dreams can be so important, they can seem to mean nothing to us when trying to connect them with the world and others and what we see but once we think about the connection between them and our own lives and experiences, it is then that we can begin to understand why we feel the way we do, why we are the way we are.” “So our dreams are a way to find a connection between our thoughts?” Martin asks. “You must search for that connection, Martin; if you really want to find one in this world you must be able to recognize one inside yourself.” Martin wonders if this is true. He wonders if there is any way for him to actually find a connection inside of himself. “So how can I start to remember my dreams Dr. White?” “From what I’ve read,” he says, “If you keep a journal and begin jotting down random things that you can remember, over time you will learn to remember more. Now, we both know how you are with writing your thoughts, so we may have to find another way.” Before Martin can even think of another way, Dr. White says, “How about the camera. Do you still have the camera I got you?” Martin hasn’t told anyone about his obsession with venting his thoughts to the camera, not even his old friend. He thinks that it will make him uncomfortable to be able to use it again and desperately needs to use it. He cannot even imagine going back to how it was almost four years ago; back to having to control all of his thoughts and ideas inside of his head. The thought of the headaches he would get briefly brings Martin pain, but before giving into these thoughts he says aloud, “I do. I do use the camera. I use it a lot.” Surprised by his response, Dr. White inquires what he uses it for. “I speak my thoughts and ideas onto it,” Martin says. “I have many tapes of my thoughts, of my ideas. I haven’t shown them to anyone or told anyone about them.” “I won’t tell anyone,” Dr. White says, “Doctor patient confidentiality Martin, remember? Only if I feel that you will harm yourself will anyone ever know what we talk about.” Martin pauses, briefly thinking back in his life to when that may have applied. Before letting his thoughts take him back to his childhood he says, “Do you think if I began to say what I remember from my dreams onto it… Do you think I might start being able to remember them?”
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“I think it’s worth a shot,” Dr. White replies. As he starts to think about the tapes Martin has told him about he asks, “Are you just making the tapes for you, or is there someone you think you’d want to show them too?” “I’m afraid to show them to anyone,” Martin says honestly, “I’m afraid to find out… I’m afraid no one will understand.” Dr. White examines the boy he has known for so long, who has gone through so much. “You’re a very brave boy Martin, we both know that. Your life hasn’t been the easiest, but right now you not only want to find this connection, I think you need it.” Martin hesitates, wondering if he should have told Dr. White about the tapes at all. He wonders whether there really could be someone that would understand them, that would understand him; someone that is searching for a connection too. “But, how do I find someone? Someone like me? How do I find someone else that is searching?” “Everyone is searching. But just like how everyone is a dreamer, many don’t know what they’re searching for.” Dr. White hunches his back and leans closer in his chair, smiling at the unique boy. “Keep your head in the clouds, Martin. Keep your head in the clouds but don’t be afraid to notice the other heads in the clouds. They’re up there with you; you just need to look for them.” Martin wonders if there really is someone that keeps their head in the clouds too, instead of grounded to the confines and limitations of this world as so many people seem to be. After the session ends and Dr. White says ‘good luck’ and ‘call me if you need anything’ and ‘I’ll see you in a few weeks’, Martin walks out of the building and into the bright world. He marvels at the clouds floating over head. Martin thinks about Dr. White as a cloud like himself; freely floating above the world, questioning everything as they drift. He thinks about other people in this world and wonders whether there really are other sky travelers like him. Others thinking about why things are instead of just accepting them; others searching for a connection that could be similar to his own. He thinks of these other clouds and wonders if they exist, where they are, or if he truly does travel the vast blue skies alone.
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The small community college that Martin attends is inhabited by students who his dad calls ‘the underachievers’ of two high schools, the one that he went to and its rival school in the next town. It isn’t that he is an under achiever, it’s just that Martin hasn’t found anything that he thought was worth achieving. Sports have always seemed meaningless and academic clubs and groups are just kids with trivial knowledge to him. In fact, Martin thinks that school is just that; people that have lived longer filling children’s minds with random facts and trivial information, the same random facts and trivial information that they were told as children by people that had lived longer than them, and so on. Martin doesn’t want the world to just be random facts; just trivial information accumulated by other people. He thinks about life and wonders whether we are living our own or just picking up where others left off. He thinks that there are things in this world worth learning, worth searching for. That there is a reason for life other than just preparing for death; other than handing all of the unfinished deeds left at the end to another, for them to continue until eventually, they hand it to someone else. He thinks that there are things that are meant to be learned, but he won’t learn them in school. Not at the small community college filled with students who his dad calls ‘the underachievers’. Martin thinks about the students, those that he drifts through in the hallways and sits with in class, wondering if they are really under achievers or just those that have yet to achieve. He thinks that everyone has an achievement in life, something that every body searches their entire lives for. Maybe under achievers are just like forgotten dreams. Dr. White had told him that everyone is a dreamer but it’s harder for some to remember. Maybe they are just like the thoughts that we have but cannot grasp. Maybe they are just clouds that have not discovered it yet; able to drift anywhere and everywhere but, because they’re unaware, remain motionless in the small town. Sitting in the back of his classroom, next to a small window, Martin wonders how he will recognize a cloud. He wonders how he can recognize someone that is drifting through life, wondering why, searching for an indication, searching for a reason. He thinks about how that someone would look, thinks about how they would sound. He wonders if he will be able to feel a connection suddenly or if it takes time to understand whether someone is worth connecting with. Scanning the room, of twenty or so students, all he can see are blank stares and fake smiles. He listens to the room but all he can hear is ‘I can’t fail this class again’ and ‘I want to enter the film contest after Memorial Day weekend’ and ‘she is such a slut’ and ‘I can’t believe he said that to you’. He thinks that that someone who he is looking for would be genuine, and not concern themselves with random pieces of unimportance. Martin thinks himself naive for beginning to think and even believe that he could find that someone, especially in a classroom in the small community college in his home town. He turns his attention to the window, gazing at the large and small clouds that gently move across the sky. He watches as the gusts of wind move some smoothly, allowing them to drift with ease, while others sweep the light blue canvas, leaving pieces of themselves scattered. He wonders if he would be 11 we are clouds
happier up there, with them, instead of in the classroom with these people. With people that concern themselves with random pieces of unimportance. He thinks that he is a misfit among people, wondering if he may have been meant to drift above instead of walk below. Martin peers at the students outside, on their phones, sitting on the benches and walking to and from class. Instead of noticing the phenomenons above, they only concern themselves with their own lives with their heads far away from the clouds. The few people that Martin does see looking up above from the benches only question whether the drifters will ‘block the sun light’ or ‘make it rain all day’. They don’t wonder where they have been or what they have seen. The people don’t wonder whether they have been watching over them or if the clouds even notice them at all. He wonders if a cloud has ever noticed him, ever recognized him as being different from everybody else. He wonders if one could notice him, if it could ever accept him. Accept him more than anyone else has ever tried to. Accept him for being the unique boy that he is. After his class ends Martin goes outside and sits on an empty bench next to a large tree below the small window. He stares up at the mystic beasts as they drift in and out of view, wondering if they recognize him for being different from all of the others that have sat and stared at them. He stares up at them wondering if they too are staring back down and noticing him. He imagines one drifting away from the others, and slowly floating down to him. He imagines it understanding and accepting him and taking him away from the strange world that he has mistakenly been lost in. Martin imagines them all recognizing him as a fallen cloud, accidently misplaced but now returned to where he has always belonged. As he stares and imagines, Martin spots an odd cloud out of the corner of his eye. Instead of disappearing into the distance like the others, it seems to be gusting upward. Looking at the cloud he notices it vanishing and being replaced by another, drifting upward underneath it. Following the chain of bizarre shaped clouds he realizes that they are coming from the end of the cigarette of a girl standing next to the bench. He hesitates and looks away from her, feeling awkward that he has been so deep in thought with someone standing so close to him. Martin finds that sometimes when he is deep in thought, in his imagination, sudden things in the world around him seem to make him extremely anxious and wary. He wonders how long she has been there and why she is standing next to his bench when there are others that are empty. “You can talk to me, you know?” the girl says suddenly. “You don’t have to be nervous.” Confused, Martin slowly turns back towards her as if he had not seen her standing there. “Excuse me?” he says quietly. “I recognize you,” the girl replies, pulling the cigarette back up to her mouth and inhaling it until the tip is burning brightly. Martin examines the pale brunette, wearing a black blouse and blue jeans and
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carrying two books, unsure of how she would recognize him. Being the observer and hyperactive thinker that he is, he is confused that he cannot remember who she is or where she may recognize him from. The mysterious girl slowly exhales the smoke from her mouth and continues, “I recognize you, from school.” As he looks behind them at the community college she says, “No, not here. Not even High School I don’t think. It was middle school.” Martin is surprised that she remembers him from such a long time ago and wonders why he doesn’t remember her at all. “It wasn’t in class though,” she recalls, “we sat together at silent lunch.” Martin says nothing, still trying to figure her out and wondering why she has approached him. “It was much like this,” she adds, regarding his silence. “I’m sorry,” Martin quietly says, for lack thereof anything else to say, “I don’t remember.” “You don’t have to apologize for being human,” she replies, before finishing her cigarette. He watches as she flicks the small ember off the end and puts the butt into her jeans pocket. She walks around the side of the bench and sits down, facing him. “I guess you haven’t changed much, have you?” “Have you?” he asks curiously, not understanding what she means by change or whether it is a good or bad thing. “Yeah,” she says quickly, “I smoke more cigarettes now.” Noticing his disappointment and that he is actually being sincere she changes her answer. “I mean, I read more books now,” she says, holding them up. Without a response, Martin watches as the girls eyes slowly drift up toward the parade in the sky that he had been watching. For just a moment, in silence, the two students sit together and watch the giants float overhead and into the distance. “So, why don’t you talk?” she asks still watching the clouds. “Because,” Martin begins. He usually doesn’t enjoy small talk, especially with people he doesn’t even know. He doesn’t enjoy all of his thoughts being concentrated on one conversation, especially when it is about his lack of conversation. The fact that he is comfortably sitting with the girl, watching the travelers, allows him to actually be honest with her. “Because, I always have this list. This list of like, all the things that I could say.” “Yeah.” “Well,” he says with his head in the clouds, “I guess I never know which one to pick. I’m always afraid that I’ll choose the wrong one.” She takes her gaze away from the sky and looks towards him saying, “I think the most important thing is that you actually pick one, Martin. That you actually make the choice.” “You remember my name from middle school?” He asks surprised by how much she knows about him.
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“Well. I guess back when all the other boys were picking the wrong things to say, I remember you chose the right thing. You said nothing.” Martin is astonished by the strange girl sitting next to him on the bench. He wonders what she means by him not changing since middle school and wonders whether it is good or bad. He thinks that since he has not changed it means that he is still the same as he was so many years ago. He thinks that it could mean that he has yet to accomplish anything worth changing him since then. Martin thinks about chances and choices; whether taking a chance and making a bad choice is any worse than never making a choice or taking a chance at all. “Well I’ll save you from having to ask my name,” she says to the shy boy. “My name is Cheyenne. And I’ll even save you from having to ask if you can get a late lunch with me. Yes, you can.” He is impressed yet nervous about her assertiveness, unaware if she is anything like she has been at the bench or if she is just another motionless cloud; one of the many forgotten dreams like those students in his classroom. “But,” Cheyenne continues, “This time it can’t be a silent lunch, okay?” Martin thinks about all of the things that have already happened in the day. He thinks about finishing his searching tape, meeting with Dr. White and discussing him looking for someone else with their head in the clouds, and now meeting Cheyenne. He thinks of how he seems to always be looking for a connection but never thinks about what he would do if he actually began to find one. He wonders where they are and how to find them but never wonders how he will actually connect with something, with someone. “So,” Cheyenne says, standing up from the bench. “Which one are you going to pick from the list. From the infinite list of what to say?” Martin thinks of all of the things he could say. All of the things he could say to remain comfortably silent on the bench, with his head in the clouds. He thinks about politely saying that he isn’t hungry and going home to make a new tape and flow his thoughts outward. He thinks about all of the things he could say until he stops his thoughts for a moment and just says, “Okay.” He stands up and walks with Cheyenne away from the bench and towards his car in silence, but a comfortable silence. Though he doesn’t know her, she doesn’t seem like any of his classmates with blank stares or fake smiles. She doesn’t seem like any of the people that say everything that they think, but actually waits to say things with genuine substance. Martin watches as she pulls out another cigarette and, after denying her offering of one, lights up as they get into his small blue car and he drives away from the school. She directs him how to get to the restaurant, road by road, with one leg up in her seat and her cigarette arm out the window. As the stations on the radio start to phase out she turns it off and they ride in silence, the comfortable silence that he hasn’t been able to experience around anyone else. Before even realizing it Martin leaves the small town and drives into the next town, where half of the students at the 14 we are clouds
school are from. He hadn’t even thought that the reason he didn’t recognize her was because after middle school she went to the other high school. She never knew the high school Martin. Never knew the boy that never tried out for a sports team or had really good grades or had a lot of friends. Cheyenne never knew the boy that kept his head in the clouds when all the other boys had their heads in their pants. The boy that kept his imagination when everyone else seemed to lose theirs. She never knew the high school wallflower that was never plucked off of the wall; she doesn’t know that he is still that boy, just graduated. “Have you ever been to Jones’s?” she asks. “No, I don’t think so. I don’t really come this far that often,” Martin says, wondering what Cheyenne thinks of the fact that he doesn’t leave his town often, if ever. “Are we almost there?” “Yeah, just take a left on Main Street at the next light and it’s on the right.” As they turn onto Main Street, Martin see’s a small sign that says Jones’s on a brick building with a small gravel lot next to it. He parks next to the brick building and Cheyenne puts her finished cigarette butt in her pocket with the others from the day. She leads him to a back door saying, “This is how the regulars go in.” Martin thinks about where he is and that he has never been here before. He’s not a regular, he doesn’t know if he should go in the back door or if he should go through the front door just for the first time, or if Cheyenne comes enough for it not to matter. He slowly follows her into the nearly empty diner, which is old and small, with only a couple booths and tables. A boy, clouded by steam from the grill, stands behind the bar, which is long and leads to a large kitchen area that takes up most of the building. Martin sits down at a booth across from Cheyenne, noticing her gazing across the restaurant at the tan boy with short dark hair behind the bar. He thinks about what he is doing and wonders if he had started believing it would only be him and her eating or if she just didn’t tell him about the other person, the boy working at the diner. “Who’s that?” he asks, wanting to silence his thoughts before starting to get a pain in his head. Wanting to know if she knows him, or is with him. “Connor,” she simply says. Martin starts to wonder if she had even noticed that she didn’t mention a Connor or anybody else eating with them. He thinks that she may have just needed a ride back into town and saw a boy staring at the clouds on the bench. Before he can think of anything else Connor approaches them and sits at the booth, next to Cheyenne, placing two burgers in front of them. Before asking if Martin wants anything to eat, the boy has a huge bite of burger in his mouth and starts nudging Cheyenne with his elbow. In between bites Connor asks, “Who is this?” “This is Martin,” Cheyenne answers before taking a bite of her smaller burger. Connor looks at Martin and notices how confused he is but before saying anything to the curious boy, he stands up from the booth and walks behind the bar into the kitchen.
15 we are clouds
After a few seconds he returns with a basket of hot French fries and an extra burger. He sits down and slides the burger over to Martin, holding out his hand. “Hey Martin, I’m Connor. I’m Cheyenne’s older cousin.” Martin reaches out and shakes Connor’s hand, relieved that they are cousins. “Nice to meet you, thanks for the burger.” “No worries,” Connor replies, picking his back up. “But you got to pay for the whole meal,” he continues before taking another big bite of the burger. Cheyenne starts to laugh. “Shut up Connor,” she says nudging him with her elbow, “You don’t have to pay for anything Martin. And you’re only older by four months; I’m still more mature than you.” “No the fuck you’re not,” Connor says with a mouth full of food and some falling out onto his plate. “Obviously I am! You’re so nasty,” she yells at him as they all start to laugh. Martin laughs with them and tries to remember the last time he felt the way he does around people. The sense of comfort which he only tends to feel when he is alone. He thinks it completely odd that he feels this way with two complete strangers. Two people that don’t even know him, that were never obligated to be kind to him or to care about him. Two people that look so natural and sincere, not like the students in his class, not like the forgotten dreams. Martin notices Cheyenne’s smile as she laughs at Connor for jokingly smoking a French fry, as if it were a cigarette, and actually blowing out steam because it is still so hot. He notices that it isn’t one of the fake smiles that he sees so often, but a real smile. He notices that the cousins don’t talk about random things of unimportance. They don’t ask him small talk questions or talk about things that don’t matter; even though they have never met him before, they seem to be exceptionally comfortable and honest with him. “You haven’t even told him how we started living together, have you?” Connor asks his cousin. Looking back at the curious boy he asks, “Do you want to know how I started living with this girl?” Before Martin finishes his burger, Connor has told him the truth of how he started living with his cousin and her family. He told him that he had been living with Cheyenne and her parents since they were both ten, ever since his mother could no longer take care of him and finally went to a hospital to get help. He has told Martin that he remembers when he was too small to even lift a gallon of milk and he had to make his own cereal because she was never around. He tells him how he remembers spilling most of the milk onto the floor and down the counter that he would stand on, but wasn’t afraid of getting in trouble because he never did. He said he remembers when she was home, he would always see her asleep on her bed with all of her toys on the table next to her, or what he had thought were just her toys. Before he realized what was happening, he was living in his uncle’s large house with his aunt and cousin.
16 we are clouds
Connor tells Martin that it wasn’t until he was thirteen that he found out what his moms toys were actually for, and by that time she wasn’t in the hospital anymore and his aunt told him that she was traveling the world, looking for herself. “But don’t worry,” he says, noticing how tragic his story seems to Martin. “Because when I moved in with this weird thing,” he says nudging Cheyenne, “and her family it was like I was finally home. I’m not upset at my mom or anything, that’s her fucking life. I have mine to live now.” Martin thinks to himself about the story he has just heard, about how honest Conner is and how much of a struggle he has had. He thinks that he has always considered his own past a struggle but never had to deal with anything like his parents having an addiction. His parents aren’t perfect and don’t fully understand him, but they’ve never left him and he loves them for that. They may not try anymore but Martin loves them for still being there. Connor stares at the silent boy and says, “he doesn’t talk much does he,” to his cousin. “No, he’s a thinker. I like it, it means he doesn’t talk too much,” she replies, staring at her cousin. “There are some things that you wait to tell people, not the first time you meet them.” Cheyenne is worried that the story has made Martin uncomfortable but he actually enjoys knowing that Connor is being honest instead of just talking about random things of unimportance. “And of course you like our house Connor, because when you moved in it became your house.” “Don’t be lame Chey’. Don’t be mad that your parents started buying me some stuff when I moved in; I was a troubled child and it’s not like they couldn’t afford it. They didn’t want me to grow up to be insane in some hospital because of it.” “That doesn’t mean they had to put an aquarium in our house for you to practice underwater hockey, which you don’t even play anymore!” Martin watches them talking back and forth to each other as if watching a tennis match. He wonders what underwater hockey is and whether Cheyenne is being serious or if they always bicker like this. He thinks it strange that the cousins have been so honest with him and wonders if they act this way around everyone, or if they recognize him as being different. “Maybe not,” Connor replies after eating a few more French fries. “But at least we have an indoor pool, isn’t that cool?” “I think that’s cool,” Martin quietly remarks, interjecting their argument. Cheyenne and Connor look at the strange boy almost stunned that he spoke or has anything to say about what they are talking about. Martin wonders if he spoke because they were being honest with him, because they were being honest and he noticed their sincerity; a sense of sincerity that is rare. Smiling at her cousin and the boy with his head in the clouds, Cheyenne announces, “Let’s go swimming!”
17 we are clouds
The Aquarium in the Sun
Martin follows behind Connor’s old red car as the cousins leave the diner and lead him through the town, towards their house. At the first stop sign he watches as they light cigarettes in the car ahead of him and reach their arms out of the windows, as if giving it wings, before turning off of Main Street and onto the back roads. Following close behind them, on the badly paved roads, he thinks to himself about the two strangers in front of him, that he has just met, and thinks about the sense of comfort that he feels. The comfort that he felt saying ‘okay’ to eating with Cheyenne, how he felt leaving town and going to the old diner and meeting Connor and listening to them talk, the comfort that he hasn’t felt in a long time. He thinks about how calming it feels to just do something, anything. It has been such a long time since Martin has just done something, such a long time since he has had anyone he wanted to do something with. He thinks about how easy it was for him to make friends and how many he had as a child. He was a very fun boy to play with and always came up with the best stories and games. However, once his thoughts started to bombard him and he couldn’t stop them, he slowly stopped talking and playing with anyone. Having so many thoughts almost felt like an eternal conversation to Martin and he couldn’t handle being around others at the same time, so he started keeping to himself. His parents noticed this, which is why they kept trying so many different doctors and prescriptions. They wanted to cure their son, to make him normal. They didn’t realize how entranced he was by his thoughts and how the doctors questions and medicine only led him to think more and need to be alone. Eventually, Martin’s parents stopped trying to find a doctor to prescribe him and started looking for someone just to listen to the boy, to be the one person that he could talk to. This is how he met Dr. White. As he turns off of the back roads and onto a long gravel path behind the old red car, Martin wonders what his old friend would think about the cousins, what his old friend would think about his new ones. He thinks about how the doctor had told him to look for other heads in the clouds and not to be afraid. He remembers him saying how brave Martin was. He can only imagine that he would say the same thing about Connor if he would have been at the diner listening to his story. He thinks that his old friend would be proud of him for doing something, just trying something different in a world where most people never try anything. Connor suddenly starts to speed up until his car darts away, down the path, causing a cloud of dirt to embody Martin’s car. He slows down, not being able to see anything ahead of him, and waits for the dust to dissipate. Finally the dirt settles and Martin can see a large yellow house, surrounded by open land on one side and acres of trees on the other. The house stands tall, looking almost four stories high, with three large circular windows on top of the oddly angled roof. Martin thinks of how it looks less like a house and more like a unique structure that 18 we are clouds
families would drive from miles away to take pictures of. As he starts to drive again, he thinks about the peculiar house that stands in the middle of the empty land and acres of woods, in the middle of nowhere. Martin wonders why it is there and thinks it almost as confusing and misplaced as himself. He watches as Cheyenne and Connor get out of the old car, in the middle of the circular gravel lot in front of the misplaced house, bickering at each other again. He slowly parks behind Connor and opens his door to hear Cheyenne yelling, “That was fucked up Connor, and he could have gotten in an accident.” She storms over to Martin continuing, “Are you okay? My dumbass cousin likes to do some stupid shit sometimes!” “No, don’t worry about it,” Martin says, not wanting to make a big deal about it. “I’m fine.” “You see,” Connor shouts as he flicks his finished cigarette onto the driveway and walks up to the front door. “He’s okay. He’s quiet but he’s not a pussy Chey’,” he jokingly says as he unlocks the large door and walks into the house. “He does some pretty stupid stuff sometimes,” she says, picking the cigarette up from the driveway and putting it in her pocket with the others from the day. “But he means well, it’s just that he has a different sense of humor. If he ever says anything or does anything you don’t like…” “Really,” Martin interrupts, “It’s okay, it’s not like I’m not used to joking around or anything.” He fakes a smile, knowing that he has never been funny or really ever joked around. He can tell from Cheyenne’s face that she knows his smile is not sincere but she accepts it anyways saying, “Okay, come on. Let’s get in the pool.” She leads him through the door, into a large room with a hanging chandelier in the center and a tall abstract painting of the moon on the wall. Cheyenne keeps walking through the many open rooms of the house without giving the tour that he expected she would. Martin tries to keep up, marveling at the tall ceilings and abstract paintings of stars and solar systems and suns on many of the walls. He notices the emptiness of many of the open rooms that they walk through, having only a few items and unopened boxes in them if anything at all. “How long have you lived here?” he questions, wondering why so many things are still packed up. “Or are yall moving?” “No, we’ve just always had things to still unpack. I’ve lived here all my life,” she says, continuing to walk. “On this land at least. My parents and I use to live in a smaller house you see, but right before Connor came to live with us my dad was left an inheritance from one of his aunts. A large inheritance,” she says, emphasizing the amount that he was left. “Funny thing is he didn’t even know her to well. He says that he was the only child on that side of his family so he was the only one for it to be left too. He doesn’t even know how she had so much money. “ Martin wonders, staring at the paintings and wooden floor, how someone so wealthy and successful never had her own family. That the woman must have been dying when she realized that all of her accomplishments would be going to someone that doesn’t even know how she got it, someone that doesn’t even know who she was. 19 we are clouds
“Since my dad didn’t want to move away from this land they decided to build a new house where the old one was,” she continues. Cheyenne stops and turns to the quiet boy, who immediately stops and stands still behind her. “You think it’s crazy don’t you? The way the house looks.” He looks at her confused, wondering whether to be honest or to pretend that he hadn’t thought how strange the oddly shaped house was too him. He thinks of all of the things that he could say but then she starts walking again and says, “You see, my mom is the creative type, and she has always been infatuated with the sky and the stars and the sun and space, as you can tell by all of her paintings. That’s why it looks like this. My dad let her design her perfect home, not knowing what that really meant. But he is always doing things for her. He loves to keep my mom happy, so he let her design it the way she wanted it. It wasn’t until we started moving in that we realized it was way too big for us. We can still barely fill all of the rooms, as you can tell, but we’ve never been a family to buy a lot of stuff, not even with the inheritance. My parents still have their jobs in fact, and Connor works and all of our cars are used. The biggest difference since then has been living in this house and them traveling a lot, which is what they are doing now. Anyways,” she says, noticing how side tracked she has gotten. “So when his mom was getting worse and had to be taken to rehab, my parents let Connor come stay here, with us,” she says, pointing up towards the skylights in the high ceilings, “in the Sun.” Martin looks up towards where she is pointing and sees the last of the days light cascading into the house through the large windows on the angled roof that he had seen earlier. He imagines how the yellow house must glow during the day, with the light radiating throughout every room. He imagines how the peculiar and misplaced house must shine brightly and realizes that Cheyenne’s mom designed the house to be the Sun. He comes to a stop, standing beside Cheyenne in front of two closed sliding doors. Cheyenne smiles and looks at Martin saying, “Welcome to the Aquarium,” as she slides them apart, into the hollow indentions in the walls. To Martin’s amazement, he walks into a dark room with a large glass aquarium tank on the far wall. Astonished, he slowly approaches the water tank, spanning almost ten feet and standing about eight feet tall, imagining it being able to inhabit dozens of fish or a shark or even a larger animal. He softly runs his hand across the glass as if to make sure that it is real and not just part of his imagination. After standing in a silent awe, that even the most talkative person would find themselves in, Martin whispers “wow”. “Back whenever Connor first moved in,” Cheyenne says looking at the amazed boy in front of the large tank, “my parents wanted to do something big for him, something to make him feel home and take up his time so he wouldn’t think about the past too much. I guess he had seen someone play or talk about it at some point because the first thing he asked for was a pool to practice underwater hockey in.” “What is that?” Martin asks, still staring at the aquarium. “I’ll show you what underwater hockey is,” Connor says, walking into the room in his bathing suit and holding an extra pair for the curious boy. He hands the extra pair to Martin and grabs a black angled 20 we are clouds
stick, about a foot long, and a little black puck from beside the tank before climbing the wooden ladder attached to the side. Martin watches as he dives into the tank and quickly sinks until his chest is on the bottom, in front of his spectators. Connor places the puck on the floor and slowly starts to maneuver it across the bottom of the tank with the angled stick, demonstrating the sport. He pauses in the middle of the demonstration, looking towards them, and gives two thumbs up before launching to the top of the tank. “So,” Connor says, panting and floating on the top of the water, “Are you going to get in or what?” Martin turns around towards Cheyenne, wondering if she is going to swim, but she is gone. He looks around the room curiously for a few seconds before the closed sliding doors glide open once more and he sees her walking in, already changed into a black bathing suit. He watches as she walks past him towards the ladder and slowly climbs to the top before gracefully diving into the pool. She majestically floats into the water with her long dark hair flowing behind her body like a shadow. As she slowly falls into the deep water, he watches her in the large glass tank and thinks of how she looks like a ballerina inside of an old snow globe that has just been shaken and has no fake snow left in it. He thinks about Cheyenne and wonders why she had approached him at the bench earlier. He wonders if she had felt a connection or just recognized him from middle school or if she was just staring out a window like he was, gazing at the parade of clouds as they drifted into the far distance. Connor leans over the edge above him and yells “come on,” as he splashes water down onto the entranced boy, laughing at him for staring at Cheyenne. Martin quickly leaves the room to change, embarrassed that Connor had caught him staring at his cousin. He puts the bright blue trunks on over his underwear and opens the sliding doors back open. When he walks back into the dark room, with the sky blue swimming trunks on, he sees Connor and Cheyenne floating on the top of the water, waiting for him. He slowly walks across the room and starts to climb the ladder, noticing how much taller the tank seems while climbing it than it had when he was standing in front of it. Once he reaches the top, Martin slowly steps into the tank and sits on the edge of the ladder with his legs in the water, looking into the large pool. He thinks about how long it has been since he has been in a pool and how he has forgotten how embarrassing he thinks his swimming looks. As if noticing his hesitation to get into the water, Cheyenne yells, “Five!” Connor and Martin look at her, confused, until she continues and yells, “Four!” Connor smiles, understanding what she is doing and joins in, looking at Martin and yelling “Three!” with his cousin.
21 we are clouds
Martin looks at the two of them, counting in unison, and remembers the sense of comfort that he feels around them. He remembers how brave he has been today, from meeting new people to going to new places and now doing new things. As they yell â€œTwo!â€? Martin launches off of the ladder and sinks into the deep water. He continues to sink, as if letting go of everything that has been keeping him from being able to. Letting go, he drops until his back finally lands on the bottom of the tank and he opens his eyes, revealing all of the water around him. He watches as Connor and Cheyenne dive into the water and swiftly swim over him, close enough for him to feel the water pushing off of their bodies, before they swim back to the top. Before launching off of the bottom of the aquarium, Martin smiles. Not a fake smile like the students from his classroom or like he did to Cheyenne in front of the house. Pushing through the water, Martin wonders how long it has been since he last had. He thinks of how long it has been since he felt happy enough to smile a real smile.
22 we are clouds
Confessions of a Misfit
Emerging from the deep water, Martin breathes in heavily and floats on top of the tank, feeling an overdue sense of relief. With his eyes closed, he imagines himself drifting in the middle of an ocean, all alone to his thoughts. He imagines finally being able to relax and wonder and thinks of how much he has always wanted just that, to relax and wonder. He thinks about how until today, that would be the only place he could feel comfortable, other than in front of his camera or in Dr. White’s office or with his head in the clouds, but now he has found people that he is comfortable to be around. People that give him a unique feeling, a sense of understanding. A belief that they could actually understand him and maybe even accept him. Hearing and feeling no one in the aquarium with him, Martin opens his eyes and looks around, discovering that he is floating in the water alone. He thinks about how much he has always wanted this, to be alone, until today, until he finally found people to be comfortable around. Looking across the dimly lit room he sees Cheyenne and Connor sitting on a couch and chair next to a small table in the corner. He watches as Connor picks what appears to be a small box off of the floor and sets in on top of the table. He sees Cheyenne looking at the box and then turning towards him, watching the boy gazing at them from the top of the tank. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to Martin,” she says softly and genuinely. “You can stay in the aquarium if you want.” Martin wonders what she is talking about, what she thinks he wouldn’t want to do. Looking at them curiously, he steps onto the ladder and climbs out of the tank. He slowly climbs down until he is on the floor once more and walks towards them cautiously, dripping water onto the wood. As he slowly walks across the room, Martin thinks about what he may not know about Cheyenne and Connor. He thinks of how the sense of comfort that he has felt has made him think that he knows them even though he really knows nothing other than how they came to live together and how Cheyenne’s parents were able to build the large house and why it looks like a Sun and why they have an empty aquarium . He realizes that he knows nothing more about the strangers that he feels so comfortable to be around, nothing more than a few random facts and trivial information. Martin sits on the end of the couch, leaving distance between himself and Connor, curiously gazing at the small wooden box on the table in front of them. The box is filled with engravings of plants wrapped around each other and blossoming strange leaves and flowers. He watches as Connor slides a small hidden wooden panel out of place, unlocking the box. As he slowly opens the top, Martin looks into the mysterious box, seeing a pack of cigarette rolling papers next to a bag of what looks like grinded herb. “Don’t think you have to do anything,” Cheyenne says from the chair across the table from him, worried that he will feel uncomfortable around marijuana. 23 we are clouds
Martin looks at her, wondering if she knows he has never smoked or done any drug before, other than the medicine he has been prescribed by his psychiatrists. All of the pills that were suppose to help him but only caused him to focus on his thoughts even more. He thinks about how he has never told anyone about the pills or the doctors, other than his old friend who he thinks already knew. "Sometimes it is nice to relax your mind after a long day," she says genuinely, trying to make him feel a little more comfortable. “This helps.” Fascinated, he turns his attention back to Connor and watches as he places one of the long thin papers into his palm and piles some of the grounded herb into the middle of it. He folds the paper over until the green substance fits from end to end. Connor naturally rolls all of the paper around it before licking the outer piece, sealing the joint. Martin watches as he gazes at it in his fingertips, inspecting his work. Satisfied, he pulls his lighter up to one of the ends and ignites it, steadily rotating the joint in the flame. After a few seconds, the paper catches fire and he blows the ash off of the end before putting it to his lips like a cigarette. Connor swiftly inhales the thick smoke, burning the end paper to white ash. Martin notices as his brow begins to drop and his posture settles on the couch. With lungs filled with smoke, he pulls the joint away from his lips and exhales a large cloud which rises high above them in the room, remaining there for a moment before vanishing into the air. Examining the relaxed boy holding the joint, Martin wonders how Connor feels. He wonders what has changed in his mind within the few seconds since he had lit it. After taking one more drag from the joint, Connor passes it to his cousin. “Have you ever?” he asks, exhaling smoke in between his words. Without even looking at him, Connor senses Martin shaking his head and slightly chuckles at the inexperienced boy. As he watches Cheyenne smoothly inhale, Martin asks, “What does it feel like?” “Can’t describe it,” she replies honestly. “It kind of makes everyone feel different things, yet it does the same thing to everybody, if you can imagine that.” As Cheyenne blows odd smelling clouds into the room, he thinks about how she has described it and how he understands more than she could possibly know. He has always believed that everyone is unique and different from each other yet we are all connected by the same purpose in life. He has always felt that we are all searching for the same reason, a similar connection, but we discover them differently. “What I can say is that you’re a thinker Martin, and in a way, it changes the way you think. Not as much what you think about,” she continues, “but alters your perspective of everything you do think about.” He wonders how she knows he is a thinker. How she must recognize him as being different, not only because he is quiet, but because she can hear how loud he is on the inside.
24 we are clouds
Looking at the joint, that she cautiously hands out to him, Martin thinks about his perspective of life. He thinks about the unique way that he views the world and perceives everything and how it has made him seem so different from other people. He thinks about other people and how he has always wondered what lens they see the world through and how it makes them seem so different from him. He thinks about what she has said about altering his perspective, wondering whether it will change his outlook, or perhaps even expand it. Reaching for the joint, he wonders if it could expand his perspective of life, whether it could help him understand the world, understand other people, and maybe even understand himself. The ember burns brightly as the smoke slowly flows deep into Martin’s chest, filling his lungs with a warm sensation that he has never felt before. He watches as the white ash at the end of the joint begins to curl over and break off, dropping to the floor and bringing the flame closer to his face. Worried that he will burn himself or cough and be embarrassed in front of the cousins he quickly pulls it away from his lips and immediately releases the cloud into the room. Unlike how he had expected it to be, Martin doesn’t burn himself and only coughs a little. He thinks about the smoke and how it had been warm in his chest but not the burn that he thought he would feel; instead it was much more of a soothing comfort. Cheyenne examines the deep thinking boy, wondering how long it will take for him to notice the newly awakened consciousness. After a few seconds she asks, “How do you feel?” Martin thinks for a moment, wondering whether he feels anything different, whether he thinks anything different. Not noticing any changes in his thoughts he asks “How would I know if I was feeling anything?” “You don’t feel anything yet,” Connor interrupts, grabbing the smoking joint from his hands. “Not if this is your first time,” he explains as he blows the remaining curled ash off and continues to smoke. “You see, for me and Chey’, it happens a lot quicker than it will for you. We feel it in about the first ten seconds, because we smoke pretty often. This happens because we know what we are going to feel, we know what to expect and it happens a lot quicker if you know what to expect. But you, you don’t know what to expect so you can’t just know when you feel it, when you’re high.” Continuing the rotation, Connor hands the joint to Cheyenne and continues. “It’s a lot like taking any medicine, you don’t really realize that it’s working or what it feels like until it starts working. Like, have you ever been prescribed anything before?” Martin’s mind starts to drift as he thinks of all the medicine he has been prescribed and how he has never told anyone about the doctors and the diagnosis’ that he has had over the years, but some sense of honesty floods his head and brings him to quietly answer, “Yeah.” Thinking that he has never been this open around anyone, including the psychiatrists that he has seen, he wonders why he feels right to tell them. He thinks maybe it is the sense of comfort that they have
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given him with such honestly, the same feeling that the warm smoke has given him in his chest. “I’ve actually been prescribed a lot of different kinds of medicine,” he continues quietly. “You don’t have to tell us anything that you don’t want too, Martin,” Cheyenne says, still wanting him to feel comfortable with them. Though he hears her sincere words and thinks about how he has never told anyone about it other than his old friend who he thinks already knew, the soothing comfort causes him to continue. “I started going to see a psychiatrist when I was in the third grade and have been prescribed a lot of different pills since then.” “Like what?” Connor asks, receiving a glance from his cousin. “Well, my first psychiatrist immediately diagnosed me with ADHD because he said ‘my attention is active but not always coherent with where it should be’.” They all laugh at his impersonation of an old doctor before he continues. “I started taking a low dose of Ritalin first. That lasted until my next doctor decided to raise my dose and it seemed to change and keep rising since then.” He gets handed the joint from Cheyenne and slowly inhales another cloud, this time much more naturally, before blowing off the ash and handing it to Connor. “How many psychiatrists have you been to see?” Connor asks. Cheyenne glares at him for being so direct but stops when she hears Martin snicker. He starts to remember that they don’t know how many doctors he has seen or how many pills he has been prescribed. He remembers that they don’t know any of the problems the many doctors have labeled him with over the years. “Yeah, not too many; just a couple,” he jokingly says. “After the second old doctor I went to a younger man with a handle bar mustache and long hair in a pony tail.” Thinking of the description and remembering the odd doctor from so long ago, he starts to laugh again. “He decided that I should take another prescription instead, Adderall. I’m not really sure why I switched, something to do with me not being as hyperactive I think, but it wasn’t that. By then it was just that all of my hyperactivity had gone to my head and I wasn’t really playing with anyone anymore, just keeping to myself. Anyways, that doesn’t matter because my fifth psychiatrist switched me to Vyvanse because my medicine was ‘too short term’ or something.” “So this is your first time smoking weed,” Connor says laughing, “but you’ve been a meth head since elementary school.” Martin laughs with Connor while Cheyenne grabs the almost finished joint from him and slaps him in the arm before joining in the laughter. “Yeah,” he agrees with the small amount of breath he has between his laughing heaves. “I guess I’ve been on drugs for pretty much all of my life.”
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As they continue to laugh, Connor says, “Its okay, I’ve been to see my share of doctors too. Her parents thought it would help. They wanted to put me on all that shit, some anti-depressants and this and that.” Martin’s mind drifts as he thinks about how he had not told them about his other prescriptions. He drifts and thinks about the other diagnosis, which he cannot bring himself to talk about, given to him by his eighth doctor. He thinks about the stern woman and all of the things she had said to him that still frighten him to recall. Noticing that he has stopped paying attention, Martin suddenly drifts back to listening as Connor says, “so finally her parents stopped taking me to any doctors, which is when I started to self medicate.” “When did you start smoking?” Martin asks, getting handed the small joint. Not knowing what to do with it he hands it to Connor who grabs it by the corner and smokes as the ash gets closer to his fingers. “We were fourteen,” he says looking at Cheyenne. “Over at my friend Philip’s house when he told me he had heard his mom talking about how it helps her deal with stress. He told me that he had taken some from a bag in his mom’s room because he knew I was having a tough time and thought it would help.” Martin smiles, overly fascinated while thinking deeply about the story. “We made a bowl out of a soda can and smoked it out in the woods.” “And it helped?” he asks, wondering if it had helped him get over his past. “Yeah, it helped. It still helps.” “It helps,” Cheyenne says, “until you start doing it too much. Smoking just to smoke and not even to relieve stress or to enhance your life, not having any moderation at all, that’s whenever it becomes an addiction,” she says while staring at her cousin who laughs. “You’re right. And I am addicted,” Connor snickers while admitting. Cheyenne continues, “Using it to enhance your life is good but misusing it and smoking just to be high takes all of its purpose away,” she says looking back at the curious boy. “Use it for the honest reason that it exists and you’re not abusing it.” Martin thinks about how honest his thoughts have become, wondering whether the newly awakened consciousness is to blame for his sincerity; the sense of comfort which makes him feel that he needs to be honest about himself and who he really is. Looking at the cousins he wonders who they think he is, he thinks of how he has not been honest with them as they have been with him. He has not been honest about how he is different than everyone and doesn’t fit in. The strange boy hasn’t been honest about his unique perspective of the world and how he finds people to be so odd, yet still is drawn to them. “I’m sorry, I am not who you think I am,” he says honestly. “I don’t play sports; I’m not in any clubs. I am not gifted with being able to make people like me. I didn’t have any friends in High School, and I don’t have any friends now. I am a misfit,” the deep thinking boy confesses. “I don’t fit in and I’m sorry for not telling you how different I am before letting you be so kind to me.” 27 we are clouds
He looks at the two strangers, stunned from what he is saying, and continues, “I think differently than everybody else, about things that people don’t think about, about things that I shouldn’t think about. I don’t fit in with anyone, and I’m just a misfit.” Martin sighs and the room grows quiet. Suddenly the two cousins start to laugh uncontrollably at what he has said and Martin slowly looks up at them, confused as to why they are laughing with each other. “What?” he asks quietly, wondering why they haven’t found him strange and told him to leave. “It’s true, I just can’t fit in.” “You think we do?” Cheyenne exclaims. “You think that we fit in?” Connor gives Martin a friendly jab in the arm saying, “You are such a fucking weird kid Martin, but so are we.” Confused at how friendly Connor is being with him, Martin looks at Cheyenne curiously and sees her smiling back at him. “We are misfits,” she says, “All of us. But even misfits fit somewhere.” “Yeah,” Connor adds, “who would have known that misfits fit together?” Repeating what they have said in his head, Martin looks at Cheyenne and then back at Connor, who is putting the joint out on the table. He drifts into his thoughts and thinks about everything that has happened today to lead to this. He wonders back and thinks about the cousins being so honest to him earlier at the diner. Honest enough to make him feel comfortable to come to their house, to jump into the aquarium in the sun. To make him feel comfortable enough to smoke with them and to reveal that he has been going to see doctors since he was in the third grade and to tell them that he is a misfit. He drifts in and out of his thoughts wondering if he truly has found people who are like him, who are actually worth trying to understand. As he thinks he begins to notice that his eyes are extremely relaxed and wonders aloud, “Why is my mouth so dry?” Cheyenne and Connor look back at each other and start to laugh again at the stoned boy. Martin watches them laughing together, as natural and sincere as they had been earlier, and starts to laugh with them, not knowing why and not able to stop.
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The laughing boy watches, through his low and dry eyes, as Connor packs everything back inside of the small wooden box and stores it underneath the table next to a stack of towels. Cheyenne stands up from her chair, grabs one of the towels, and wraps it around her body before walking towards the doors while saying, “I’m going to get changed and get you some water.” After she leaves the room Connor stands up and says, “Get changed and come to the kitchen,” while handing him a towel from under the table. “I’ll heat something up to eat,” he says as he leaves the room too. Martin sits on the couch, alone in the dark room, and thinks about how tranquil his mind feels and how it has never felt this way before. Instead of having to fend off headaches, he comfortably sits with silence around him and inside of him. Instead of his head being filled with multiple thoughts at a time, he notices that his attention drifts slowly through them without disturbing them at all. Instead of feeling the need to be alone, because everything about the world seems to just add to his already troubled mind, he feels calm and peaceful with control over his thoughts for the first time ever. The serene boy stands up; changes back into his clothes, and then leaves the room, walking back into the large and open rooms he had been in earlier. As he slowly walks through them he thinks of how much darker it has become since he had first walked into the house. Looking up at the sky lights above him, he notices that they are now filled with only a small amount of moon light. Amazed at how late it has become, Martin thinks about how long he has been away from home and how much time has passed without him realizing. Hearing faint voices ahead, Martin starts to see a bright strip of light in the distance. As he follows the voices, he reaches his hands out in front of him to feel for any walls or boxes, continuing to walk towards the light cautiously. His pace slows even more as the light grows until, finally, his fingertips settle on the wooden frame of a door with the strip of light spilling out from underneath it, at his feet. Martin opens the door and is suddenly overcome by the bright light. He quickly puts his arm in front of his face, shielding himself from the intense glow. Once his eyes adjust he sees the two cousins, changed back into their clothes, working in a large kitchen. He watches as Connor pulls a trey with three small burgers and a small stack of French Fries, from the diner, out of the oven. He walks over towards the table that they are standing around as Cheyenne holds a glass of water out to him. “Here, drink this,” she says before he grabs it and quickly drinks the whole glass, curing his mouth of its dryness. After they all sit down in silence, the three rapidly start to devour the delicious meal. As Martin eats his burger in just a few bites, he thinks about how it is the best tasting burger he has ever eaten, even though it tastes exactly the same as the bigger one he had earlier at the diner.
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“Do you think you’re okay to drive?” Cheyenne asks Martin, curious whether he feels overwhelmed or if he has gotten use to the new feeling. “I can drive and you can follow behind me to the edge of town if you want.” “I should be fine, I don’t feel bad. I actually feel pretty good,” he says. “My head is extremely relaxed.” Martin watches as Connor stands up to wash the plates and cups in the sink and listens as Cheyenne gives him directions back to his town, the same directions that she had given him earlier but this time in the opposite order. While he repeats the directions back to her, to make sure he remembers them, Martin thinks about the great distance he has come today. He thinks of how he had started his day with thoughts of finding a connection, a reason for being. How he had gone to see his old friend and talked about not being afraid to discover them and now he is with people who give him a sense of understanding, an indication of a reason, a sign of real a connection. “Are you going to be able to remember that?” she asks while walking towards the trash can. Martin watches as she empties her pocket of the cigarette butts saying, “because when it comes to directions every little part matters.” Throwing the butts into the trash she continues, “doing little things for a bigger purpose.” He thinks to himself about the concept of a thought; the fact that each thought can last but an instant, yet they form together to create our entire lives. How every little part matters, how every little thought is part of the bigger purpose of life. He thinks about the choices he has made, like saying okay to eating with Cheyenne or jumping into the aquarium or walking over to them from the water tank. He thinks how even though they were all small choices, without any of them he would not have the sense of comfort that he has now; the calm feeling from the belief that everything is connected and has led him to this moment. After Connor warns him ‘you’re going to assume that every car you see is a cop’ and ‘don’t worry if you start to get paranoid’, he leaves the kitchen and goes to his bedroom. Cheyenne writes her number on a small piece of paper and tells him ‘call me if you get lost’ and ‘drive safely’ and ‘good night’ before Martin leaves the Sun and drives back towards his town under the moonlight. Looking up at the dark sky he notices that there are no clouds overhead or even out in the distance. Wondering why it is that he rarely sees clouds at night, Martin realizes that they must still be there, he just cannot see them. He thinks to himself about how he had thought himself to be the lone traveler in the dark sky until he discovered clouds in the distance. He thinks of how Cheyenne and Connor have drifted into his life and how he has followed them through the day, floating and thinking. He remembers how he had thought that he was a misfit, different from everyone, but as he has learned tonight, misfits fit together. Crossing through the intersection which separates the other town from his, Martin senses that his newly awakened consciousness has given him a different perception of the familiar roads and buildings and stores that he drives by. Somehow, he senses that he sees them differently; still seeing everything that 30 we are clouds
he has seen but now noticing small differences which he had never before. The old and familiar roads and buildings and stores seem livelier to him than ever, as if he was returning to his home town after years of being away. Once he arrives at his house, Martin watches the sky as one lone cloud appears and slowly drifts over the moon before fading into the distance. As he watches it, he discovers that the soothing comfort that he has experienced has changed his sense of reality, his perspective of the world. Unaware of the exact sensation that he is feeling, he can tell that the world seems a little less odd and somehow more appealing to him. Somehow it seems a little less strange and more like his imagination. Inside of his house, Martin’s parents ask where he has been all day and he tells them that he went to his session with Dr. White and then met some people in his class and went to eat at their house and swim with them. From the reclined chair in the living room, his dad says things like ‘I don’t want you spending time with the underachievers’ and ‘you need to keep searching’. While walking from the kitchen, washing a dirty cooking pan, his mom says ‘It’s good that you are being social’ and ‘it will help you get to the next step in your life’. After listening to his dad tell him to keep looking for a real university to transfer too by the end of the semester, Martin goes up to his room and prepares his thoughts to flow outward. He pulls a blank tape out from a small drawer in his desk and puts it in his camera. He presses record but before saying anything he notices that his mind already feels exhausted. Instead of needing to put all of his thoughts from the day onto a tape, like he does every night, Martin turns the camera off and lies down in his bed and, for the first time since he can remember, effortlessly falls asleep with his mind at ease.
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The Dream Theory
Every morning begins the same way for Martin. The thoughts in his head start to compile until his attention becomes aware and, before even opening his eyes or acknowledging that he is waking up, he is overcome by them once again. Usually, once he realizes that he has been asleep, he is quickly back to the over thinking boy that he is; remembering the events of the day before and what he had been thinking right before his mind exhausted and he passed out. However, this morning he is awoken by a small spark in his head. A spark which causes him to recall small things that he had not been thinking about and had not happened the day before. As he wonders about the random things that he recalls, Martin thinks them more closely related to his imagination than reality. He thinks that the absurd and bizarre events that he is questioning are not things that he would experience in the world, only things that he may think of in his head. With this sudden realization, Martin’s eyes quickly open and he discovers that he is remembering some of his dreams. Finding the pieces in his head difficult to grasp and put together, unlike when remembering things that happen while he is awake, Martin quickly sets up his camera and presses record. Okay, okay. So I’m remembering some things, small things that I think I might have dreamed last night. I remember… I’m remembering being in a car, but… but the car seemed huge. Or maybe I was just seeing it from a lower view, like almost if I was the size of a child or a baby or something. I recall wondering where I was going or who was driving but I don’t know, I kept looking up and out of the windows but the sunlight was blinding and I couldn’t really see. I don’t remember what happened next, but somehow I was in a huge, long room but it had no ceiling. It was really bright but I remember there being a lot of doors with numbers on them like a hotel or something but since there was no ceiling the sunlight was still shining in my face and I couldn’t really see anything else. I think I remember being afraid because the light was so bright so I started running. It was like I was running down this huge room or maybe even hallway or something and it seemed like it lasted forever but I just kept running until… I don’t know. …I don’t know. I don’t know what any of this means, or if it means anything at all…
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As though concentrating on the pieces of his dream too hard causes them to disappear, they slowly slip from the grasp of his attention and he cannot remember them anymore. Frustrated, he pulls the small black tape out of the camera and slaps a piece of white label on the side of it and writes the word Dreaming. He quickly reaches for another blank tape, from the small drawer in his desk, and puts it in the camera before slamming the compartment closed and beginning to flow his thoughts outward again. What if I do remember my dreams? What do I think? Do I think that they will help me somehow, or maybe even give me a feeling like I get when finding a connection? I really have no idea why I even care, it’s not like I can grasp my thoughts and memories and ideas in my dreams any better than I can when I’m awake. When I’m asleep all that I can remember are random pieces that don’t make sense, random things that are just… are just meaningless. What if I remember my dreams and they just cause me to stop thinking and wondering what I dream about. I don’t want to stop thinking, to stop wondering; questioning things is all that I seem to be good at. I’m not good at answering them, any of them, just asking and wondering why… Martin pauses the tape and closes his eyes, taking a deep breath as he starts to remember the events from the day before. He recalls the comfort that he felt and the friends that he met and the way his mind felt relaxed when he was going to sleep. Turning the camera back to record he continues. What if my dreams really can help though? What if my thoughts and ideas and memories really do connect differently while I sleep, while I dream? Like Dr. White said. What if the comfort that I felt last night is to blame for me being able to recall them? Does it give me reason to keep trying to remember them, or to try to keep feeling a sense of comfort? Should I finally try to find an answer instead of just wondering why? Still staring into the lens, he reaches behind the small camera and stops the tape, wondering to himself what he should do. As he puts a white label on it and writes What If 9, Martin thinks about his dreams and thinks about what his old friend had told him yesterday. He remembers how he had told him that he thinks that symbols are just bullshit and how they are meaningless but only because we try to associate them with reality. Martin remembers him saying that he had read many books on the topic and wonders if he can help to figure out what the pieces mean. He remembers his old friend telling him that he is brave and to call him if he needs anything. Curious and confused about his new experiences, Martin hesitates from dialing the number that is next to the calendar in the kitchen. He thinks about everything that he has done and wonders what Dr. White 33 we are clouds
will think about them. He has always been understanding, but Martin doesn’t know whether he will think him brave for going with his new friends and trying new things or will tell him that he was wrong to trust them and to smoke and whether he will want him to tell his parents or not. The confused boy finally dials the number into his phone and patiently waits as it starts to ring, thinking of what he will say. “Hello, this is Dr. White?” the calm voice of his old friend says over the phone. “Dr. White, hey this is Martin. Is this a good time or, are you busy. I can call later.” “Martin! Long time no talk,” he says jokingly. “No, I’ve got some time now. How are you?” “I’m doing pretty good, I mean,” he says, changing his answer, “I’m doing pretty well. I just wanted to talk to you about, well… I met some people yesterday. Some people that I actually liked being around and talking too.” “Really!” his old friend says, excited that the boy he is so fond of has finally found people that he likes. “That’s great, where did you meet them, at school?” “Yeah, well no. I met Cheyenne at school but then I met her cousin Connor at a small diner outside of town. But I wanted to talk to you about what happened.” “Okay,” Dr. White says wondering what Martin is going to tell him. “Well, after class I went with them to eat and then to their house and we went swimming and it was really cool but then… well they were across the room doing something…” he stops and thinks about what he should tell Dr. White. He thinks of how his old friend has always understood about his past and all of his faults. Martin continues, believing that he will be understanding about this as well. “I didn’t know what they were doing. Cheyenne told me I didn’t have to but I was curious and… they had marijuana. And I didn’t have to, I wasn’t forced or anything…” “So you smoked with them?” the old friend asks. After a slight pause Martin replies, “Yes, and then I felt really relaxed, like my whole body but mostly my head. For the first time I felt like I could think about what I wanted to and not just constantly think about everything. And then last night… I think I actually remember some of my dreams!” “Really? That is interesting,” Dr. White says. “What can you remember?” he asks.
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“Well,” Martin begins, but then thinks about the small pieces that he recorded and deems them meaningless and unimportant because he couldn’t remember enough. “I started to remember them but by the time I was trying to record them, I forgot most of it.” “Well maybe you will start to remember more. Regarding the marijuana,” Dr. White continues, “I cannot condone any use of illicit or mind altering substances, but I can tell you about its affects. From inhalation it goes from your lungs into your bloodstream and then acts upon your cannabinoid receptors in your brain. These receptors can be found in the parts of your brain which are associated with pleasure, concentration and even thinking and memory. This is most likely what you are experiencing, a different reaction which could be altering your thoughts and memories. This could be changing the way that you are able to recall your dreams.” Martin thinks about the reactions that he is talking about and wonders how he knows so much about it. He starts to think about his old friend and wonders if he has smoked marijuana before. He thinks about him saying that he was a beach bum and thinks that he may have smoked while at the university on the east coast, or maybe even currently. He remembers how his old friend was supportive of him finding a connection. He remembers thinking, during the meeting yesterday, how he must have been on a search for a connection in this world at some point, but he doesn’t know if he found it or something else. Martin wonders whether it may have helped him find the connection or could have been the reason that he gave up, thinking that it could have been the other thing that he found. “Now Martin, I cannot tell you to do anything that is illegal,” Dr. White continues, “But what I can say is that you should maintain your new relationship with your new friends if you are feeling comfortable with them. Continue to be open to new experiences, as long as you are comfortable though. Do you understand?” “I understand,” Martin replies, still hoping that he is trying to navigate him towards something, something that he knows could help him understand. He thinks about his dreams and wonders if he is able to remember them now because of his new experiences, because of the soothing comfort and newly awakened consciousness. “I’m proud of you for finding people that you like Martin, I really am. I think that this could be good for you and finding that connection that you’re searching for but listen,” he says precautiously, “for someone to experience any highs they must experience the lows as well, and this can be hard, especially for those who have already experienced lows. I can honestly tell you that anything that has advantages also has disadvantages, especially anything that is mind altering, so please be careful.” He wonders what his old friend means but before asking, Dr. White continues, “Let’s plan to meet sometime after Memorial Day Weekend to discuss everything though, I’ve got a patient walking in right now.” Looking at the calendar in front of him, to mark the new meeting date, Martin notices that the 35 we are clouds
community college will not have classes on Friday, because of the holiday. “How about sometime early next week, like maybe a week from yesterday. Tuesday morning around ten work?” “Sounds good. Thank you, Dr. White,” he says, thinking of how helpful and understanding his old friend has been and always is. “See you then.” After Dr. White says ‘good luck’ and ‘see you then’ and ‘don’t hesitate to call again’, Martin grabs the red pen, hanging next to the calendar, and marks a large X over the next Tuesday. While getting ready for class, he thinks about his old friend and what he had said. He thinks about what he had meant by experiencing lows and when he said ‘especially for someone who has already experienced lows’. Martin starts to think about the parts of his dreams, which he was able to record, before becoming another one forgotten, and wonders if he should have told his old friend about them. He thinks about the small pieces and wonders how they fit together or how they would form into a dream and what the whole dream could have been about. Wondering if they really are meaningless, Martin decides that he should continue trying new things which make him feel comfortable and searching for a connection within, hoping to be able to remember more.
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