It has been almost a month, since Al went from being an excellent student to an unemployed couch potato. She couldn't say she was bored, but there was really not much she could do. She usually just sit around all day, watching whatever is on TV, or doing the occasional designing projects--which don't come very often either. She began to have this plentiful of spare time, and that means, she began to have the opportunity to reminisce.
That day, her thoughts wander few years back, about a long conversation she had over an afternoon walk in some strange town with not-so-strange man. No, she was no Julie Delpy and he was no Ethan Hawke. But the situation came very close to the one they shared. Come to think of it, the voice... the deep and heavy voice, resembles much of his voice.
"People are strange, you know," Al strolled down the street in her loose white top and worn-out jeans. It was warm that day.
"Strange how?" he asked. He was texting, but it was as if he was so ready to get involved in this conversation as it started.
"I mean, we are socially-induced creatures, right? So there's no way we can live without one another. We will need our friends, our family, and all of our actions depend on their actions and their thoughts, their point of view. Even though we declare we don't care about what they say, even not caring is a response of society's expectations toward our traits, right? We desperately need other people to justify our very existence in this world," Al's eyes wandered toward an ice cream stall across the street.
"Yes, of course. Social-constructivism. I exist because everybody says I do." he sneaked his phone into his jeans pocket.
"Exactly! But the strange thing is," Al paused. "...we get really tired of each other sometimes."
Her legs made a right turn, despite the fact that she didn't know where she was going. But he didn't seem to mind. He would have enjoyed getting lost, if that means he could spend more time with her.
"If I were to make up a disorder to explain who I am, I would say I'm a compulsive competitor." Al chuckled. "Like, I have this huge urge to satisfy myself by being better than everybody else. Even a tiny reward like a simple compliment would be my booster. You know what I mean?"
"Some might say you're an overachiever." He smiled gently.
"No, that's the point. I'm not. I don't come top in class, I don't excel in every subject I could put my hands on--hell, I don't even put my hands on much subjects. But I have this constant need to do great in things others can do okay. The need to be praised, to look good. It's... exhausting."
"Aren't we supposed to feel the way you do? I mean, us youths, who have this big burden on our shoulders to do better than our predecessors did?" he brushed her hand a little, to make her know they were turning left.
"If we are, I think it's sick," she said. "You know, I used to have these terrible nightmares in which I am an assassin or an outlaw, or something, just running and running and running like something was chasing me. But then I came to this alley, a dead-end, with brick walls around me... and there was a person. That person was kneeling in front of me, I couldn't see the face clearly. Then I reached to my back and the next thing I knew I was pointing a gun to that very face. And I pulled the trigger. Just like that."
"That's pretty haunting," commented he.
"Yeah, and I always woke up sweating and my heart was pounding hard. Like I was really running, and the gunshot I heard really came from my gun." she could feel the nightmare creeping up to her vividly.
"Maybe every one of us has this sort of reality we always would want to run from. I have this dream of running, too, every once in a while. And I'd like to think it's normal. Because, face it, life's full of shit. It doesn't always come around the way we want. Sometimes it even goes, thousands of miles from what we expected it to be," he walked slower, like he was deep in thought. "I think we are entitled to run away sometimes. Calm ourselves."
"But what if, it's not the reality I'm running away from? It's the dream. The ideal world created by society?" Al spoke in a soft voice. "What if, I'm running away from society itself? From my friends? It's like, I am in fact an outlaw because I didn't do what their ideal norms expect me to do?"
"Then the best you can do is try. When you get really tired, then you outcast yourself. Re-prioritize. Create your own comfort zone, and succumb to it. Until you're ready and you'll start from scratch." he shrugged. "Though as cruel as it is, the world doesn't wait for you to get back on your feet."
"Yes. So this is what I do. Alone. Because nobody else can feel what I feel, and I have no right to expect otherwise. All we can do is take care of ourselves."
They came to an intersection. It was getting dark and it got pretty quiet. Out of nowhere, Al felt a hand holding hers. He murmured something she couldn't make out, then he guided her across the road.
Al sighed. The sun felt gentle on her face. She planted her feet into the short grass below. She shut her eyes, reliving every scene once again. She was running. With him. She opened her eyes.
And there he was.