You would see through the fence, the empty streets in which he strolled along. The streetlamp hovered over him, illuminating one side of his face. You knew it was him. He dressed like a boy, but every piece of clothing he had on was lazily slung over his body. He had a lollipop stick in his mouth. And was that a bruise on his face? You couldn’t tell. Every street he stepped foot on was as empty as his demeanour, unlike your neighbourhood where chatters were always heard from somewhere in the distance.
You resided in the livelier parts of town. Everyone wore masks here, and that’s why you despised it. You lived a comfortable life, always pampered, always reassured. The catch was that you were expected to achieve great things, that you have no excuse to stoop down because you were just so fortunate. But you knew that happiness here was a distorted reality, unsure if the creatures behind the masks were even human at all. You temporarily leave late at night, when the yearning for authenticity was at its peak, knowing you wouldn’t survive a day if you left forever. You often felt that no one seemed real, except for the boy you saw in the lonelier parts of town.
He was there everyday, doing nothing but pacing. You sometimes questioned if he was real, since the metal wiring of the fence only allowed you to see bits of him at a time. The sound of his boots being dragged across the gravel was very real, though. His shadow was there, and so were the lollipop sticks, empty soda cans and cigarettes that he had left behind, the cloud that diffused when he sighed into the cold air. You were sometimes tempted to call him, but you weren’t sure if he’d hear you from the bottom of the slope. All you could do was stare, and soon he became your source of escapism.
The sole gesture of looking at him initiated daydreams, you longed to be engulfed in the hands of his universe, you liked how different his aura was. Your escape became consuming, you put no effort into fulfilling the responsibilities you were born into having. Your world was filled with instructions and expectations, in which you needed to repeatedly study in order to perfect. But your perception of his world was ambiguous, a universe completely unexplored, in which gave you the opportunity to learn instead.
Your goals aren’t just a reach, they’re impossible. The closest you got to it was when your fingers slipped through the fence, lingering in the atmosphere that was colder than yours. You admired the insidious solitude, the harsh freedom on the other side. But there was always an unspoken burden at the back of your mind. You were constantly unsettled because your life was being timed by an hourglass, that led to being convinced that this pleasant escape felt wrong and wasteful. The pressure from its existence was so immense, you just wanted to experience something beautiful that doesn’t necessarily benefit society or your future self. You were expected to work vigorously now, to live comfortably and happily when you retire, but you truly just want to live happily everyday.
The pressure to avoid feeling regretful as you cripple into your old age is paradoxical to the philosophy you wish to follow now, but that’s what kept the hourglass mindset intact. You hated that you felt this way, but you let your world win, because you wanted inner relief. You convince yourself that the happiness composed by beautiful moments is only intensively sought out for because it’s not easy to grasp at all. Setting your mind towards your monotonous duties, you tried to smile. Happiness is now, not a destination, as they say. Throughout the life you’ve moved on to, you find yourself once again questioning whether these unachieved, still masked feelings would expire, whether people could ever differentiate whether their positivity was genuine or a fraud.
Oh, that boy? You stopped anticipating his arrival, instead turned him into your aspiration. You wanted to one day go somewhere forbidden, to not worry about consequences, to be liberal for once. You wanted to be the one running through the nights, chasing youth, wreaking havoc only in your own mind.
But that was until you saw him again, not through the fence and below the slope, but in your town, laughing within his group of friends. That’s where your hopes shatter. You felt an overwhelming disappointment, to see him painted in your world’s colours rather than his own, for he was just another that lost his individuality, or never acknowledged it. His mask was sculpted beautifully, though. At least that was something to admire. Perhaps the world is just the same for everyone, and that it was romanticisation that kept you sane whilst your hourglass kept running, everyday coming closer to an end. A wasted youth.
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