'Strange Days'

Perspiration dripped from my face as I held up my hands in triumph. You would think I had come first in a 500-meter dash or scored the winning basket in the championship game, the way I was hollering and carrying on, but it wasn’t like that at all.

Ike’s electric guitar still cut through the air on the last note and my cymbal still echoed long and loud as the crowd of fans, young and old, continued to scream, cheer and clap for my two older brothers and I. I beamed graciously as Jay Leno stepped in front of Taylor’s keyboard and gave us all a thumbs’ up sign.

“Give it up for Hanson, everyone. They were great, weren’t they? Minnie Driver next!”

The studio was cleared from the air and the audience returned to their seats, chattering and laughing away. Jay shook our hands and thanked us, and Chris motioned from back stage for us to follow him out. I collected my drumsticks and obeyed, silently walking behind Ike and Tay until we were safely outside the studio.

I didn’t notice her at first. Maybe I was too wrapped up in my own ego. Maybe I was too tired or drained to even care. But, either way, she was still there. Staring at me with her big, brown eyes.

“Any change, mister?”

My eyes averted from Chris’s back and into her own, and I was suddenly struck with embarrassment, though I never can be sure why I felt this way. A wave of nausea washed over me at the filth she was living in, at the lost, hopeless look in her eyes.

I looked away finally, slowing my pace to dig deep into the pockets of my khakis. I had at least five dollars in change.

But I shook my head at her, shrugging slightly as I continued to make my way past.

“No, sorry.”

She looked saddened…like she had expected me to be a better person than that. I felt mean, insincere, guilty…dirty. But still I walked, meeting my brothers at a corner with no stoplight and not looking back.

“I’ll see you tomorrow!” Chris was saying. I turned to face him, walking backwards slowly, with a stupid, naďve grin on my face.

“Don’t forget the Dr. Pepper this ti-“

The shrill shriek of tires cut through the air like glass, and suddenly, I saw her. As she pushed me backwards, it was almost as if the world had toned to slow motion. I remember falling flat on my back, and while still lying there in a grim daze, hearing a loud, sickening thud.

When Tay finally pulled me to my feet, ambulance sirens were screaming down the road towards us. And when I looked down, there she was.

Still beautiful, even in her grubby clothes and rotten, filthy shoes. Still beautiful, even in death.

I choked back a sob and fell to my knees beside her lifeless, twisted body. Tears streamed down my face and into my open mouth as Taylor placed a comforting hand on my shoulder and lowered his voice sympathetically.

“There’s nothing you can do now, Zac.”

I raised my cloudy, blurred eyes to him and shook my head angrily.

“I didn’t even know her name!” I cried out passionately. I placed my hand on her cold cheek and my own tears slid onto her face, making her seem more alive and less like a pale, shattered china doll.

And the lyrics to my own song echoed madly through my head, driving me to the brink of insanity. The words that my brother had uttered sweetly no more than ten minutes ago. I closed my eyes to the pain and anguish I was seeing before me, and mumbled them to myself, almost delirious with guilt.

“I didn’t know her but I know why she died…”


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