Beneath the Surface
What you see, what you hear, what you believe, never really is true, because truth gathered from the surface is never truth. It is an amplified shell that bares no depth of character or emotion, no humanity or honesty, no kindness or trait that you could with all your heart believe to be true. Truth is not seen through the barrier that mankind sets between people.
There is a distance between two souls tarnished by that barrier that is specifically designed to keep others away. It is man’s greatest weakness to be so proud, so unwilling to strip away the shell, to allow the world a glimpse into their lives and the secrets that hide within it. The world is filled with people of different shapes and sizes, of all types of personalities, linked together by a cord.
We see what we want to see, we see through ignorant eyes. We aren’t truth, or honesty. We are misunderstandings, and confusion and loss. We see the shells we try so hard to keep. The world spins on its axis, speeding through the days, as the difference between right and wrong diminishes and the lines between good and bad blur. Unawareness of what is truly there, of who people really are, sets it all in motion. Things and events are set in motion, like a cataclysmic avalanche. Misunderstandings and circumstances affect the world around us, transferring pain from person to person, through the cord like an avalanche threatening to destroy everything in its path.
There’s more to people than we initially know. That is the general idea, so based on the facets of society, so bound into concept and theory of life, and yet an idea not applied to society at large. Why are we so blind? Why do we allow the misconceptions shape the way we are perceived? Why do we start the avalanche? Why do our actions define who we are? Influence others so dramatically? Why do we hurt those we never realized we could?
May 21, 2011 SENIOR PROM NIGHT, Arietta Sorminn stood staring at her reflection. Her green eyes glazed over her flawless skin and her cascading blonde curls. Her jade silk dress flowed down her back, clinging slightly to her curves, showing off the best of her body. She stared intently into those eyes that every girl admired, and couldn’t see anything. No emotion, no shadow of personality that could categorize her as a person. At times, Arietta thought of her life as a jewel encrusted box with no way to open it. A sumptuous box, maybe – any girl at Pleasant Hill High would kill to have it. If only they knew it was also a box that was hollow inside, one from which there really wasn’t an escape. She knew what Jeff saw when he looked at her; she also knew what the rest of Pleasant Hill High saw, if only she could, too.
Arietta ducked into a sitting position, facing the wall length mirror. She tried to see it. She was Arietta Sorminn, the girl every guy wanted. But all she could see beneath the painted face she planned to show the world was a vast emptiness that ached with every second she ignored it. She knew what was expected of her, the way she was supposed to act, to be. She was supposed to be graceful and proud like a jungle cat, a fierce leader. She was supposed to act like she was the most beautiful girl in the world and was the only one that mattered. She was supposed be perfect in every way and be the girl every girl wanted to be. She loved being loved. She liked watching eyes follow her down the halls; she liked the way she could tell guys were jealous when they saw her with Jeff. But they didn’t know her, not really. And honestly, it seemed no one ever would.
Arietta looked around her room with its alien expensive bed spreads that magically change every night, the rugs, the flat screen TV and the intricate bedside tables and felt a sliver of anxiety chase down her spine, racing away her unease with any even worse feeling of dread. Who am I? She thought repetitively, Who am I? She pushed herself up from the tiled floor, eyes focused on the carved glass lights brandishing the walls. Her stiletto heels caught in her dress, and she came down hard on the floor, hitting her knee against the tile. She began to cry. Despite her promise to herself, she began to truly cry like she did every night.
*********** Eugene Maxwell is a good guy. Ask any girl at Pleasant Hill High and you’ll receive variations of that answer. And Eugene is okay with that. There are a lot of worse things you could be called. But really it’s an oddity for every girl to have nothing but positive things to say about a person, especially when that person is a guy. But there it is and it’s not a surprise. Eugene had never dated anyone at Pleasant Hill High and that could probably be one of the main reasons why he’s so widely liked by the female population. The fact that Eugene liked make-up and they thought he was straight might have had something to do with it. Too bad the males made it a point to bully him. Eugene stood at the foot of his bed, facing his mirror, applying a bit of eyeliner to his eyes, only enough that won’t be noticed, and a bit of blush to highlight his cheeks and dark hair. His tux clung to him in all the right places, just enough that won’t seem too conspicuous. His eyes were alight with a newfound assurance, a sort of peace that he wasn’t used to. An assurance that no matter what had happened in the past, he wouldn’t be who he was. His bedroom door flew open and his mother barged in, smacking the door against the wall. Her hair was unruly, the red curls floating around her face like a halo. She was dressed in the most overstated blue dress that looked like it could be worn to address the queen rather than just for a night at home. “You’re going to be late!” she said reproachfully, a dangerous glint in her eyes. Eugene hesitated, blocking the make up from his mother’s view. “I’m ready. I’ll be down in a minute.” His mother stared at him, as if wondering if he could be trusted to be on time, when his father walked in all smiles and intimidation. He was the splitting image of Eugene, only older and rougher around the edges. He walked in from the lavish foyer into his son’s room in a suit, carrying a glass of wine. “Still not ready son? If I didn’t know any better, I’d have it was your sister getting ready for Prom. What’s the hold up?” Eugene cringed internally. “Like I said, crazy obsessive parents, I’ll be down in a bit” “Good, man. Be sure to take good care of your date. We haven’t met her, have we? Be sure to introduce her to us soon.” his father said. “You know, that’s how your father and I met” his mom said, sidling over to his father dangerously close, a sort of daze crossing her face. “So suddenly the room seems a bit too crowded. I’m out of here. Make sure you love birds leave the front door open tonight. I think I’ll leave melting to death to the wicked witch of the west.” Eugene joked, half walking, half sprinting out his house to his car, his heart breaking with every rushed step.
*********** It was a warm night. The kind that made you believe summer might actually come sooner rather than later. It was a night filled with expectations, hopeful. Arietta stood by the curb of her street, waiting. Her shoes digging into the flesh of her feet like a cage, restricting and merciless. In no time at all, Arietta had polished herself to pristine condition after her breakdown, into the girl that everyone expected she was, into the girl she wasn’t sure she wanted to be. A limo pulled up in front of her. Sleek and long, and just as lavish and proud and predictable as everything was in her life. A long-stemmed lily stuck out from one of the wind- shields and she instantly knew it was for her. Jeff stepped out the door of the limo, leaning against it in that carefree way of his. Just as he did the first time she met Jeff, he made her mind whirl. His hair was the color of night, satiny and tousled. He had the face of a bad angel; proud, beautiful and mysterious, and blue eyes, dark as the night sky in heaven. He was wearing a tux, simple black and white, perfect. Much more fitting than that football jersey. “You still mad, Ari?” he asked. “Are you still an idiot?” She asked pointedly, but she could already feel the edges of her mouth curling up. Jeff pushed away from the limo and came up to Arietta, encircling his arms around her. “Ouch. But I guess I deserved that. I know I can be a bit mean sometimes. But you know I love you, right? The edge of his mouth curled up in a lopsided playful smile and her heart leapt to her throat. His eyes raked over her, making Arietta feel as if she were walking on cloud, untouchable. She nodded. “But you still suck.” She joked and smiled. Calm fell over Arietta as he pulled her in towards the limo. She couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t happy. She couldn’t remember the tears and the fights. She couldn’t remember the days when life seemed impossible. She couldn’t remember why she could have ever believed she wasn’t blessed.
*********** March 20, 2011 Jeff Linville had always been popular. Always the go to man, for beer. Always the coolest guy in school. Jeff Linville was also always a horrible person. He ducked around the bush outside Pleasant Hill High School to check if the coast was clear. He stood up, brushing dirt from his trousers. Lexi Alabaster stood up too, straightening her skirt. “That was fun. It always is. Maybe next time you can invite, Ari and we can have a slumber party.” She said pointedly, winking. “She can’t know.” He said immediately, cringing away from her. “Oh okay! I won’t say a word” she said, a playful smile on her face. “See ya” And she disappeared around the bush and back into school. Jeff was about to leave when he heard a rustle. He looked up and up on the roof, horror on his face stood that closeted gay that wears the eyeliner. “What are you looking at?”Jeff said defensively. “Nothing” That’s what he said. Nothing. Jeff tackled the guy and pushed his knee up his face. “You tell no one, you hear me? Or I’ll kill you, you gay boy. You’re a freak and you know it.” he said getting up and pushing Eugene against the school wall. “I’ll destroy you. You can’t tell anyone, understand? The boy nodded. And ran. Jeff sat down on the curb of the street, and began to sob. He didn’t mean to hurt, Ari. He loved her. He loved her so much. He always did this. He always destroyed what he loved most. He never cried like that before. Not when his mother got drunk and told him he was the reason his brother killed himself. Not when his father’s belt slashed against his back every night. Not even when every night he tried to sleep, he heard his brother cry. He cried for hours. He cried till there were no more tears to give, till the pain ebbed away to darkness.
*********** Arietta kept her knives in a jar under bathroom sink. She thought of slashing her wrists a bunch of times. Many actually, but she never had the guts to do it. She hated her life, who she was. Sometimes there was a part of her that believed the thought that maybe if who she was became common knowledge, it would be easier. But the practical side of her , wondered what would happen if they truly knew- that some mornings it was hard to get up from bed and put on a brave face, that she was tired of being who she was, that the more she overlooked it the harder it became to put on someone else’s smile. She was a fake, who knew all the right people and dated all the right boys but still a fake and she knew it. Arietta jumped up from bed and down to the kitchen, eager to spend some time with her mother, something she had never done before. She crossed the threshold into the kitchen and saw a note tapped to the fridge. Sweetie, Have to work. Gone to Italy. Be back in a month. Love you. Mom. Arietta threw the note across the room and sank to her knees. She didn’t cry. She couldn’t. She had no more tears left. She grabbed a knife from the sink and slashed a cut down the length of her thigh.
*********** March 21, 2011 PROM Sue Hayworth stood by the punch bowl at Pleasant Hill High’s Senior Prom blocking it from the rest of the student population. Her eyes roamed over her classmates with their way-too-short dresses and their boring tuxes as they danced to monotone music and raw repetitive beat, daring any one of them to tell her to move. No one did. Her heavy military boots tapped the floor, which could have been mistaken for her actually enjoying the music it weren’t for the sour expression on her pierced face. Her blue hair flowed down her back, making her pale face seem even paler. Add to that the frayed black jeans and skull and cross bone tee and Sue Hayworth was a badass and she knew it. As always, Sue went stag to these kinds of things, that is, when she actually bothered to show. Her institution loving parents were shocked. Their delinquent daughter at Prom? Perish the thought. No one ever expected Sue Hayworth, the most unapproachable girl of the Senior Class, to go to an event widely respected as a crucial part of the high school experience, considering everyone knows that Sue is anti-institution. That’s exactly why she had to. The lights in the room danced across the walls in rhythmic continuity. Red to purple to blue and then red again. Like reflected balls of light bouncing off the walls and hanging in the air, suspended for a moment, before it fades. Like the fleeting colors of a rainbow, brief but compelling. The bodies danced to the beat, the colors blending in with the sharp movements. It was chaotic, yet oddly comforting. There was a time when senior prom would have been the highlight of Sue’s life. In another lifetime, it might have been. In another lifetime maybe, maybe before her world had fallen through the cracks. All eyes were on Arietta Sorminn and Jeff Linville, Pleasant Hill High’s power couple, who’d just been voted Prom King and Queen. Little miss perfect strolled down the dance floor, arm in arm with her boyfriend, all dolled up and perfect. They were perfect. They had perfect lives, perfect families, perfect everything. The hate and disgust churned inside Sue like knives aching to kill. Ari’s perfect hair flowed down her perfectly symmetrical body forming as abyss where her heart used to be. She hated their authority. She hated them with all her heart. The confetti swirled around them, enveloping them, trapping them in a moment. The confetti fell down Arietta’s shoulders like stars coming loose. “Hey yo, Goth Girl! You Hear? Ice Prince and Princess just got promoted! Did you expect it?”came the insufferable chatter of Pleasant Hill High’s very own gossip train Eugene something. “Oh no, really? Gosh that is such a surprise!” Sue said in as much annoyance as she could conjure. “Why don’t you just take a hike, idiot?” Sue watched the boy recoil and pull out a gun. He pointed the gun at me, but he missed. His hands shook. He shot Lexi Alabaster, the school flirt and from there it was chaos. It was a blur of movement and screams, rattling the room, like a supernova. Then fell Arietta and then Jeff. Bodies kept piling up as the blood gushed down the floor. It was death and gore and pure hatred. People stumbled to leave the room. Sue was pushed against towards the doors. Sue got out, but not until she heard Eugene say. “I can’t bear it. I can’t bear it. You deserve it. All of you. You deserve it.”
Submitted by: Fajar Azam
North Carolina, US