Swinging on my swing rhythmically to the music in my headphones I look down at my sketchpad, gliding each stroke of my pencil carefully and with a pace of care. I never like to press down too firmly otherwise the pencil crumbles and it’s never going to repair unless you can sharpen it again, but sometimes it never does so I don’t like to take my chances. A metaphor of my life really.
As I look back up again at the flowers I catch a glimpse of the park before me and see the children running around, the sound of their shrieks blocked out by my music. Then I pause and look up again, this time to observe as I had a sudden feeling that someone was watching me. Residents never watched me as I visited this park every day and they had just learned to embrace my return to the rusty swing that was even labelled for me. Someone one night had sprayed the seat with the words Freak Seat for me. I just shrugged and sat down. It was normal for me to be called a freak so I was suspecting that it was from one of the ridiculous boys at school, trying to get to me, but I had always been taught to bottle up my emotions as much as I could until I was alone, so that was what I did.
Scanning all of the faces again I see the tiny children jumping around, to the cautious parents of their child’s safety, to the group of teenage girls sitting on the swings on the opposite part of the park to the boy sitting on his own on a bench with a notepad and pen in his hands. There. He is staring at me. When he sees my eyes brush his he smiles slightly, the right corner of his mouth lifting charmingly. It makes me uncomfortable so I look away.
I continue to sketch but something inside me makes me want to look up again but knowing I should resist, I carry on with drawing the flowers. No one looks at me. No one ever looks at me. I’m always the girl that someone ignores when walking past. I’m so wasted away that no one can see me, why would anyone want to look at me? Glimpsing up again I see that he is still looking at me. I look down again.
Shuffling my feet I tap my pencil on my pad, trying to figure out what to do, hoping desperately that my cheeks are not going red from the embarrassment. He must not be a local if he is looking at me. No one looks at me.
My eyes flicker up again to him. By the way he’s sitting I can see that he is tall, his skin tanned lightly and his brown hair cut short but not too much in a crew cut, but enough that it doesn’t sweep across his face. His eyes are big but subtle and his smile is light but dashing. He sits there as if he’s listening to relaxing music but with no buds in his ears, so calm and lean with one leg resting on the other and his back against the back of the bench with one hand holding a pen, and the other on a pad. Is he mirroring me?
I look down again.
Shifting slightly on the Freak Seat I carry on with my drawing.
Minutes pass and nothing else happens and I soon get swept back into my calm nature, letting each sweep of the pencil curl and slant to create this picture, becoming a perfectionist at every stroke; one of my many weaknesses. Slipping out of line on the page, I reach to the floor for my pencil case to retrieve my rubber and when I look up, I see knees. Knees.
I turn my head up sharply and sitting on the seat beside me is the boy, looking directly at me with the same smile as before, his hazel eyes glowing back at me. No one ever sits next to me. I don’t give back the smile and turn back to my sketch. He’s wearing denim jeans and a pale green shirt, showing off the colours of the atmosphere around us. The colours are too bright for my mind as I sit in my denim jeans, and black strappy top with my grey jumper wrapped around my waist. Uncomfortably I pull my jumper on quickly to cover my bare arms feeling sudden heat but refusing to take it off again. Taking a deep breath I rub at the page before carrying on.
Moments pass as none of us move. I can tell he is looking at me still as his eyes graze the back of me as I try to turn away from him. My sketchpad is nothing special, but it is not something I am willing to share either.
The voice is deep but stern, not slurred and unsettling, it’s formal.
I look back at him quickly to see if he is still looking at me and then look away again. ‘Thanks.’ I mutter. I do not understand why anyone is talking to me. When I am in a sense of calm and protection, it is dangerous to try and return me to reality. Every day I wait for this moment to come and when I do, it is bliss and no one tries to get in the way of it. No one.
We don’t speak after that and I just sit there sketching until the picture is done, and then I fold over to the next page and start again on something else, but as I look around at something to draw I turn to the boy who is still looking at me. I look at him for a while too but not trying to smile. I don’t feel the need for pleasantries towards people when you want to be alone.
‘What’s your name?’ he asks me.
It’s a very straightforward question and will not do a great deal to my life if I answer it, but I still feel the need to get away from any sense of socializing. So I ask him, ‘What’s yours?’ instead and see his face turn into a chuckle as he leans back slightly on the swing, looking up into the sky and then back at me.
‘My name,’ he says carefully, ‘is Leo Bourne, and I’m seventeen before you ask.’ He holds out a hand for me to shake but I don’t take it. I don’t even look at it. I just continue to look at him boringly.
Placing the hand back down onto his lap to hold onto his notepad that seems to be filled with scribbled notes of words crossed out and messy, blotchy with ink. ‘And you?’ he asks me, lifting up an eyebrow as he speaks.
I sigh. ‘Kyla Adams and I’m sixteen before you ask,’ I tell him, ‘and I am not one that’s fond of the flirting.’ And with that I turn back to my sketchpad but pause as I see an empty page. There is no escape from this conversation, even if I tried to find one.
Leo laughs beside me and I pull one of the buds from my ear to hear him easer as he chortles at my last remark. ‘I am not flirting.’ He tells me, holding out his hands, one still grasping onto the pad and pen as he shrugs innocently. Well, trying to be innocent.
‘Then why are you asking me all of these questions?’ I say, trying to strengthen my voice but it still slips timidly at the end pitying my reputation.
Leo gives a gasp that sounds as if it is meant to be a laugh but did not quite make it out. ‘I was being friendly, and I thought you could use some company as you’re sitting here all on your own and so was I.’
I pause. ‘So you were being friendly?’
He nods. ‘Yes.’
‘Why?’ I shoot at him.
Again his laugh is a gasp, but I continue to look at him with as much of a bored expression as I can. ‘Because you seem like an interesting person,’ he admits, giving a shrug, ‘you’re sitting alone in the middle of summer, on a swing, sketching I may add, and you look so peaceful that I thought that you would be an interesting person to talk to.’ He smiles at me again, showing teeth this time which are straight.
I consider this for a while, not entirely believing him and the statement he gives. No one ever calls me interesting, especially a stranger. ‘I am not interesting,’ I tell him, looking down at my pad and beginning to sketch. I am not sure at first what I am sketching. I guess it is just something to do, ‘and I was not lonely either. I am just sitting here because I enjoy to take in the views of the world on my own as it is easier that way.’
‘How poetic,’ Leo sighs, almost singing the words, ‘but how come you walk alone?’
‘No one ever choses to take the journey with me,’ I tell him truthfully continuing to look down, feeling no need to look at him, ‘so I’ve chosen to go at it alone.’
‘But doesn’t that get lonely?’ he asks me again, as if I’m incapable of being independent, ‘Always having to travel alone, look after yourself alone, not having anyone to turn to for comfort?’
I shrug. I’m not totally alone. I have my sister and my uncle. I don’t feel like I need anyone else really. My parents died when I was very young and after that I moved in with my uncle who was my father’s younger brother. When I was old enough to understand my uncle told me and my sister that my parents died in a car crash on holiday when we were being looked after by our neighbours, but never talked about them since. I guess it was just hard for him to get over his brother dying and I’m not sure if he still accepts it. They were always together and when you lose someone that close to you, you get to learn how to soldier on, on your own, and I’ve never seen him that able to do so. I see it every day in his tired eyes with bruise like bags shaped under his eyes. But I have. I’ve lost so many people that I’ve just learned to take on my battles lonesome. It means less hassle having to deal with someone else’s views and always having the dilemma to listen to them or not. I do sometimes long for that close comfort, but at the same time I would rather not. Growing too attached to something only means that when it goes, it will pain you more and maybe never heal.
‘No.’ I answer, nibbling at my lip nervously, tapping the page with my pencil again.
I can see he is starting to understand the awkwardness that he has caused me and returns back to his pad as I return to mine, carrying on to sketch what turns out to be my shoe.
We sit there for a while watching families come and go, teenagers in swarms with their newly bought treats from the corner shop up the road, come and then leave again as loud as before. But as we sit here, neither of us say a word to each other, both too involved in what we’re doing.
Minutes become hours and soon the sky starts to darken and I know that it is time for me to leave to get home for my uncle so he does not start to worry. But I can’t. I usually just rise and walk away from the park back to my home, keeping each step as soothing as sitting on the swing. Except this time, it’s different. I have company. One of my ear buds is out of my ear with the cold, night wind blowing past it. I can’t just leave, but at the same time I don’t want to talk.
Folding my pad and pocketing my pencil, I get to my feet.
Leo does the same.
I look at him and smile slightly. ‘I’ve got to get going.’ I tell him quickly, pointing to the road then slapping my hands to my sides again.
‘Oh,’ Leo nods, ‘okay.’ He pauses. ‘Say, are you’re going to be here tomorrow? It was nice.’
I can’t help but smirk. ‘It was nice?’ I repeat.
‘Yeah,’ he nods, smiling to my smirk, ‘see you tomorrow?’
‘We’ll see.’ I shrug and walk away from the swings and away from Leo, keeping the smirk on my face. I’m not sure why I found it amusing. It was most likely the fact that someone I had never seen before found it nice to have me as company, even when we did nothing but sit there minding our own business for hours on end. It was so simple. Maybe simple is nice to him. Maybe. One problem though.
I’m not simple.
This week has been Mental Health awareness week.
Be Aware this week, but please stay aware always. Mental Health of any kind is a powerful condition that hurts many people, and can some times end people.
Be considerate not just this week, but every minute of every day. You never know what people are going through.
To those struggling (UK) you can call the Crisis Line: 0300 456 83 42
Or Samaritans (UK): 116 123
Please keep yourself safe.
If you are from another country google the crisis line number as all states and countries should have one, if not, reach out to a friend or relative you feel comfortable around and tell them the truth about how you feel. Even if you are also from the UK, do reach out to people. They should support you and help you through. My friends and family definitely did.
You can always contact me. I’m here to chat if you need someone to talk to. I know that typing online can be a lot easier for some to get their feelings out.
I’m here for you all, always.