The Pfeiffer Phoenix Presents: A Wanderlust Through the Seasons of Life Pfeiffer Phoenix
Cover photography by Melissa Morgal Selected by Phoenix staff
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By: Luke Donaldson
I knew from the moment I met Darlene that she would leave me; there was something very temporary and transient about her. Her voice and laugh refused to linger or reverberate off the walls of the school’s hallways as much as her peers. Even the scent of her cheap cotton candy perfume seemed to fade far—too—fast. Trying to hold her hand was like scooping up a fistful of sand, as it would slowly slip through the interspaces between my fingers. Her skin looked as if it had been painted with a pale pearl gloss, that was flecked with orange freckles that burst into lovely patterns upon her face. We were eight, and our friendship was not clouded by sexual jealousies or perverted by unrealistic expectations. It was unbridled friendship, love of the purest sort. We were confidants, classmates, neighbors, cohorts and partners in childlike mischief. It was an autumn afternoon with the cool breeze tugging at our exposed limbs, and the woods flanking the neighborhood street resembled an ominous tapestry of wailing scarlet and brick red leaves that seemed to cry out in protest at our carelessness. She followed me closely as we navigated the potholes and weather worn blotches of missing asphalt on our Big Wheels. The daylight was slowly receding and we resolved to end the evening with a race home. I conceded to give her a slight head start, when in truth she was often times much faster. We took off hurling ourselves ever closer to the stop sign that marked both the finish line and the end of the neighborhood before it yielded the right of way to an intersecting highway. I passed her within feet of the stop sign, having not made preparations to stop in order to win Pfeiffer Phoenix 3
I flew straight across the intersection into the resuming second half of the neighborhood. She was close behind me; her dainty legs were flailing wildly about in the air around her pedals as her violent speed had long since made her lose control. Her orange hair was flickering in the wind like a candle burning the last wires of its wick, fighting with all of its might to stay lit for just a moment longerâ€” I turned to see the dump truck devour every bit of her. All I could manage was to find her, now contorted side, and after surveying the situation I closed my eyes so fast and so tightly that nothing came in or out. Even at eight, the permanence of death is all too real. The gargling diesel engine sputtered and hummed as I cusped her trembling hand in both of my own, offering up the only petty consolation I could; my abiding presence in the form of gentle strokes of my thumbs, which continued until the paramedics pulled me away. Even at eight, I was incapable of bringing myself to tell her everything would be alright, children of that age have not yet lost the moral courage to face life head on. I still resent her parents for being unable to bring themselves to confront the calamity. They never left the edge of their lawn. Their sordid gazes observed their daughterâ€™s finial moments at a distance, refusing to accept, refusing to share with her those fleeting seconds. All I heard was the muffled sound of Darlene fighting to take in breathes,
I can still hear her gasps.
The contractions of her crushed diaphragm and the arrhythmic oscillations of her chest act as my metronome; this is my Tell-Tale Heart. I can never rid myself, nor would I, of the memory of Darlene. Pfeiffer Phoenix 4
However, often times I cannot even remember the sound of her voice, or if she even spoke at all. Or worse, if Darlene was just some phantasm; itâ€™s as if my entire recollection of her passes as briefly as the memory of a fading dream. Some dreams are physically painful to pull yourself from. But no dream can make speed bumps incite such a debilitating sickness inside me that I am forced to pull over because I begin dry heaving, oftentimes to the point where I cough up blood. Or that smell, that reeking foulness of diesel, that torments me and instantly sends me back to that moment. Or whenever I hear a dump truck, my body and mind curdle as I fight off urges to run to the window to scan the horizon of the road for the silhouette of her mangled body. I had always assumed Darlene would leave me, but the bitter irony, the cruel and sadistic irony, is in how long she has stayed with me.
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