It didn’t happen all of the sudden, it sort of crept in just like how the clothes in my bedroom pile up. Colors became brighter, sounds were more audible, and everything tasted delicious. It felt like something was waking up inside of me. When I started to feel it, I had no idea what to make of it. Everything I knew and understood completely shifted. For a few days, I kept to myself and tried to understand what was happening to my bubble of a world. Approaching my mom about it was out of the question because for some odd reason I just knew that she wouldn’t understand.
The first hard hitting experience I had was when I took my dog Goldie on a walk about three weeks before graduating high school. There I was, loosely holding that brown leather leash, surrounded by hundreds of lower middle class homes. I had been in that scene a million times before and it always felt so familiar. But that day, the houses almost looked like they were tired, bored, and distant.
Then, I came to a sudden stop because my heart started to race. “Hold on Goldie,” I said, more for myself than to her, and Goldie responded obediently.
I closed my eyes, put my hand up to my chest, and let out a long sigh. That sigh felt unnaturally good. Once I opened my eyes, I looked up at the sky because it instantly caught my attention. The clouds were swirling. From what I could see, there must have been about a dozen clumps of white clouds, rapidly twisting and mating with each other. It was shaped like a whirlpool but it moved within itself like a winding snake. It was the most bizarre yet beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and it all appeared out of nowhere.
I whispered to myself, “Oh my god.”
Then panic started to take over. My eyes scoured the street for someone to share this with, and I eventually spotted an older man, watering his dead grass, hoping to revive it.
“HEY! LOOK! LOOK UP!” I screamed while running towards him with a finger in the air and Goldie catching up from behind.
The man put his hands over his eyes to shield the sun, and squinted at the sky.
“What is it? Where?” he asked, slightly annoyed.
“Are you kidding me? Everywhere! Look at the swirls!” I yelled.
“I don’t see it.” he said matter of factly, “Hold on, let me get my glasses.”
“WHAT? You don’t need your glasses, it’s huge! You can’t see that?!” I said with disbelief.
I heard the front door of this man’s house open and my eyes veered away from the sky for a moment. A girl just a couple years older than me darted out the front door, effortlessly hopped over the garden of baby hydrangeas and came right up to the man. Her mouth moved quickly, spewing words of some Eastern European language without once glancing at the clouds. Once she was finished speaking to who I assume was her father, the man glared at me, chucked his hose to the ground and muttered while walking inside, “God damn kids.”
Before I had time to tell this girl what was going on, she said, “Alright, relax,” and pulled me and Goldie to the side of her house. The area surrounding us was overflowing with flowers and lawn ornaments arranged very ambiguously. “Don’t be scared,” she said in a comforting voice. She had straight blonde bangs and she smelt like she was just cooking. Her blue eyes, veiled by long thick eyelashes closed for one moment and she began again, “You feel weird, right? The colors, the noise, the smells?”
“What? How do you-” I stammered.
“Look, I need you to listen to me carefully, okay? You want to sit down? Let’s sit,” she said without waiting for my answer. We settled down on a patch of limp grass and I thought about how sad they must have felt. Then she started again, “Things are only gonna get weirder. This happens, you’ll get used to it, you might love it, and then you’ll change again.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? Who the fuck are you? What about the god damn clouds, do you see them?” I said.
“I’m Jessie, sorry,” she said and gazed dreamily at the sky, “Yup, I see the clouds. They’re gorgeous aren’t they? They’ll move like that as long as you’re in the current”.
I shook my head and said, “Current? What??”
“The current, “ she said, pronouncing each word slowly. “I mean, that’s what I call it but I’m sure others have their own name for it.” She plucked a dandelion that was nearly neon yellow near her foot and caressed the petals. I felt a strange comfort when she did this.
“You’re in a ‘new world,’ per say,” she began, “It starts physically. You’ve already experienced the vivid colors and the sky, obviously. That’s one of the first things we all see. That’s how I knew you were changing. So the colors, the smells, the sounds – Oh, have you listened to any music yet?”
“Uh, no. I mean not today,” I replied.
“Oh man, you are in for a treat,” she said quickly while squeezing the juices from the stem of the flower. “So anyway, once the physical changes happen, then you move on to the mental changes. I don’t want to spoil things for you but you’ll see. Everyone around our age feels the current in some way, it’s just more subtle. They’ll feel more emotional, more open, more energized, but for others like us, it’s heightened. You’re going to think about things that you’ve never thought of. You’re going to feel so much emotion that you’re not going to be able to handle it sometimes. And your mind is going to stretch so far that your possibilities are actually endless. You can fly, you can stop time, you can do whatever you want as long as you can think of it and you truly want it.”
The thought caught my attention, “I can fly?”
“Yeah, I mean of course, you have to work at it though, it’s not going to just come. I can barely do it. And of course, you have to be fucking careful about it. Once someone outside the current becomes suspicious, you lose it.”
“I don’t get it, why me, why you?”
She shrugged. “I mean, why do some people start balding in high school? Why do people like watching golf? Why is the world round? I don’t know, just happens.”
I sighed. “I can’t, I can’t do this. We have to go to the fucking police. Or the fucking doctor”. I threw my hands up, “What are we doing right now?”
“No, no, no. Don’t you see it? This is incredible. This is our world. This is our secret. We’re in this together; we share this beautiful thing, youth.” She bit her lip and said, “Besides, anyone outside the deep current doesn’t get it. They’ll think you’re on drugs.”
We sat in silence for a little. I appreciated that she gave me some time to soak things in.
“Why does this happen? How many of us does this happen to?” I demanded.
“Who knows?” Jessie shrugged. “I know about three people who are deep enough to see the clouds. One of them is even deeper than us. He’s at a mental hospital.” Her voice trailed off but she quickly recovered. “Don’t dwell on the details, trust me. Look, I have to get inside.” She started to get up and dust off her jeans, “Can you meet me at the Willowbrook Mall tomorrow at noon? I’ll help you.”
I nodded and attempted to ask her more questions, but she was too quick with her next thought. “Oh you know what, I didn’t catch your name,” she said while walking backwards up the porch.
“Kyra,” I said.
“Cool. See you tomorrow,” and she was gone.
That next day, Jessie led me to the food court in the Willowbrook Mall.
We sat near a Blimpie at a small two-person table off to the side. She told me to stick my tongue out and lick the air. I felt ridiculous doing it, but then, I tasted it. I tasted the oily Chinese food, the hand sanitizer that was poured on a child’s hands, the spearmint gum on the bottom of the table, the cologne on a hefty Italian man. I tasted all of it from the air.
Jessie smirked and looked up at me, “Pretty incredible, right?”
My mouth was wide open, and I could even taste it just from breathing. “I don’t even know what to say. I mean, kind of disgusting but yeah, definitely incredible,” I laughed.
Afterwards, we sat and people-watched. Just from observing for twenty minutes, I felt every emotion I’ve ever experienced; compassion, desire, confusion, rage, and everything in between. I had never looked at strangers this way. They all had their own stories.
When Jessie chuckled, it took a while to remember where I was. “What?” I said defensively.
Still smiling she said, “Nothing. You just remind me of my first few days in it and it’s nostalgic. Lately I’ve been feeling strange. I’m twenty-two now so I’ll probably fade away from it soon”.
The thought of her leaving the current startled me. “Wait, so what happens after the current?”
Jessie looked down and played with her phone. “Who knows? Maybe there’s another current that we don’t know about. Maybe there’s a different current in your thirties or forties. All I know is that this slowly fades away and you forget it. I only know because I’ve watched someone fade from it. It was disappointing, to be honest.”
The mall started to mute as our minds both went into deep thought about those last few words.
After a few seconds she asked, “Can I give you some advice?”
“I’d appreciate it,” I nodded.
She looked down, then up at me with seriousness. “Just take it for what it is. This feeling, don’t over think, don’t dive too deep, don’t lose yourself, cause that’s the other side of all of this. When you’re young, your emotions are polarized. You feel so much and maybe that’s why some of us do unexplainable things like commit suicide. And the possibilities are endless, yeah, but you can’t go around shooting people. That’s not how it works. Don’t get lost in it.”
At this point, I think Jessie was speaking to herself.
“And you know what, that’s a waste because being young is fucking great. Yeah. You know, sometimes I feel so emotional for no damn reason that I feel like crying, right there in the middle of class, in the grocery store, in the car. It just comes and goes. But it’s not necessarily bad, sometimes I feel like crying because I’m so happy. I don’t know why, but I don’t care, because it’s fantastic, because you feel something. And sometimes I feel so liberated as if I’ve been sleeping my whole life and I’ve finally opened my eyes. There are no limits, no boundaries; nothing can get in your way if you want it be like that.” She had been looking around at the mall this whole time but now she looked straight at me. “Whatever it is, being young is something like a miracle because you can feel your soul physically moving, as if it’s waking up. That’s why it’s the most beautiful thing in this world. You feel alive”.