Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday Scribblings: Free

The Sunday Scribblings prompt this week is free/freedom.

When Harvey and I were thirteen we rode our bikes out to that lake. He spent that summer with his grandfather, his house three blocks away from mine. I would see Harvey everyday. Our days on the lake, he would pack a picnic for us. A peanut butter and banana sandwich for each of us, spicy sticks of reddish gum, a Pepsi to share, and two Marlboro reds each, which his grandfather never seemed to notice missing. We would sit in the sandy dirt, our sneakers kicked off, our hair sticky and damp from a late August California sun, for several hours, sometimes silently. I would always bring a book and sketch paper so that I could draw him. He invited me every time but never seemed to need the company.

Harvey would wonder off on his own sometimes. Once, I hiked around the lake looking for him for nearly one hour. I found him, nestled uncomfortably between a brush of blackberry branches, his palms hiding his face. When he noticed me, I realized that he had been crying, his face flush from warm tears. He buried his head against his chest and started weeping again. I ran away, not knowing what to say. I rode my bike home alone that day.

Those summer days were the warmest that I had ever known. We would walk together barefoot following the shoreline. I would skip along without him, a cloth bag draped around my shoulder, searching the sand for treasures. Stones and shells and occasionally, feathers. One distant afternoon, Harvey had wondered away again. I sat against a leaning rock, collecting small stones, one after another, skipping into the water. Stoked by silence, knowing that Harvey could wonder for hours, I fished my fingers through my treasure bag looking for the smokes that Harvey had tucked away for me. I pulled out a little sandwich bag, as always, it held a couple of cigarettes. A neatly folded piece of construction paper sat amongst them, today. I held the cigarette to my lips, lighting it with one hand and carefully opening the paper with my other. I recognized Harvey's letters, sleek s's, sharp m's, barely a curve in his c's. I could feel his rigid air as I read. Alli, You are so close to me. My mother sent me here. She doesn't want me to come back home. I don't want to go away, but... A rush of thick musty air filtered through my nostrils and nicotine tickled my temples. she phoned last night, not asking to speak to me. I heard grandpa say that he wouldn't let me stay. That old bastard wants to send me away too. Alli, you are so close to me and I want to stay but I can't no more. I felt my breath stuck in my chest. At the peek of sunlight, the sand glistened at the edge of the lake. My palms suddenly wet, moistening the edges of the message. I guess they will all have the freedom they need without me. Goodbye Alli. There were two hearts sketched at the bottom of his note, colored in with red crayon.

I sat, starring into the water, my cigarette falling from my lips, scorching a cluster of sand. My eyelids filled with weight, the sound of hallow space filled my eardrums. I found my feet underneath me, following the edge of the water, I ran. Letting his note fall into the lake I shouted out his name. I ran in that endless moment, until the sun set and the water drifted from cool to cold.

At the edge of the lake I rescued my bike while Harvey's rested in the sand. I peddled home slowly, my head dizzied and flooded in tears. Leaving my heart laying in the lake, I never returned to find it.

Harvey was missing and no one found him and no one looked for him.

The summer passed and the sky turned gray again. An early rain dampened our evenings and my memories of late summer had started to fade.

Early one morning, sitting on our front porch, I watched Harvey's grandfather walk up our driveway. With a grim and hopeless glare, he approached me. Without shedding a wink of sorrow he handed a box of books and cards and clothes to me. Some of Harvey's things. They found him in the water. He didn't wait for my replay. I took a seat on the steps again, holding onto the box, I knew that Harvey was the one that was now free.


  1. What a sad story of loneliness, neglect and rejection. You set the scene so well, gave us no clue to the eventualities and then struck us down with what seemed our neglect too at not seeing the signs. A wonderful write!

  2. oooh. How powerful. How sad... How beautifully written.


  3. Dramatic, sad, poignant, annoying - you've got it all in there in a great post. Well done.

  4. Beautiful story, Archna. I love the collections of things, stones and feathers, books and cards. I can taste the sorrow.

  5. Such contrast..cycling into full of life..and then the loss and pain..but you laid out the clues..right from the start..i am glad Harvey found freedom and she had his treasures..Jae