A Brief Encounter by Dylann Tjahaja

My head aches with the underlying thought of revulsion from those who pass by.

A sea of eyeballs subtly glaring at the huddled silhouette of what appears to be me. Not quite exactly staring, but looking intently just enough to note and judge and recognize the disruption that I inflict. Intimidated by society, I shuffle further away from the chaos with my back now fully pressed against the coarse brick wall to allow the traffic of civilians to flow more fluidly. Bundled up in rags, I exhale deeply, smokes of mist escaping my chapped lips as they swirl through the brisk of the air. The aridness in the inner chamber of my mouth turns sour as the groaning echoes from my stomach crescendo. Gripping the edges of the cloth tied roughly around my blistered knuckles, I quiver in response to the absence of heat. These rags that attempt to provide me warmth do nothing except lay lifeless upon an already lifeless body. A disheveled and dysfunctional sack of meat left to perish on the side of the streets.
Through my heavy-lidded eyes, the strand of rapid walking legs parades unceasingly, blurring my sight, while the sound of mouths shouting into phones slices the morning away. Both sight and sound collectively merge into the chaos of a panoramic time-lapse. On the streets, the mayhem of traffic constructs a disjointed color spectrum as the torrent of yellow-checkered taxi cabs intertwine with the mottled tints of passing cars in flying greens, blues, reds, and blacks. These vehicles that lay inferior to the ever-changing traffic lights continue to leave behind gray smog that plagues the oxygen in the air as well as stain the asphalt with their oil prints. Their glaring headlights and irksome blaring continuously mock the already congested streets – a dissonant orchestra composed by the pandemonium of the city.

Suddenly, the approaching reverberating screech of train wheels coming into contact with the rusted railways above silences everything and transcends the jarring, loud cacophony below. For a few seconds, the world stands still. The panoramic time-lapse of the city pauses. Absolute serenity, only for it to die at the end.

My eyes roll up to witness the sky above as it slowly transforms into somber tufts of wool. With the wool progressively knitting itself together until not a patch of light is visible, the dense blanket of grey would begin to engulf everything underneath. Gradually declining, it starts decapitating the heads of buildings, steadily devouring the abundance of bricks that have been so systematically arranged. On the horizon, the hovering dot in the sky ceases to exist, as it conceals itself behind the billows of wool up above. Nature’s blow intensifies as a hallowing wind gushes through the streets, drifting everything apart. Shuddering, I clutch the blanket tightly as the sudden wind slaps me. The world appears shades darker.

Yet something seems to project out of this darkness. Towards the left is a girl, barely even capable of walking on her own, positioned in the midst of the swarm of workers. Her eccentric, purple skirt alongside her glitter-decorated shirt attract those who pass her – a lavender star illuminating in the celestial shadows of space. Her jagged breaths come to a rest as she finds a balance in her breath and footwork. Behind her, a crowd of suits begin assembling, their satin-fabric sleeves nudging against one another in order to overtake the girl. But despite all this clamor, she remains oblivious to the commotion around her, and instead merely tucks her blonde locks behind her ear.

My eyes trail the route in which she walks in, following the gleaming streaks of her light-up shoes until abruptly stopping in the middle of the road. I glance slightly upwards to be greeted by her pupils glaring back at mine. I promptly bury my face within the blisters of my hands, shielding myself away from mortification. The keen edges of my palm begin grating the layers of my skin, shedding off my outer appearance to reveal nothing but an isolated soul. An isolated soul sitting bare on the streets, rejected from the confines of this society. Involuntarily, my body tenses when the iridescence of her sneakers turns towards my direction, my shoulders stiffening with every forward step. She halts and plants her shoes in the pavement tile in front of me while I begin to lower my shielded hands. Her beady eyes no longer seem to intimidate, yet rather seem to lure me in. Even in the lack of sunlight, they glisten immaculately, as if they were replicas of the earth, bearing all the hope and life that exudes ardently. With elegance, she swivels around as her fingers fish something out of her pocket. A flower. A single fiery red poppy extended towards me. Even without physical contact, its shades of red gradually begin to diffuse into my soul, burning away the poignant coldness of rejection that society has imposed on me. Its crimson color burns with intensity, the radiance even visible in the reflection of her own eyes. The vivid tints of red from the poppy merging with the soft tinges of sage green from her pupils. It was as if I was watching the earth slowly be engulfed in flames.

Its stem feels fresh against the wrinkles of my fingers as I retrieve it from her. Laying it flat, I sense its youth absorb into my skin, its natural aroma permeates the air around me, and its velvet petals caressing the throbbing blisters of my palm. Its aesthetic is far too pristine for the concrete jungle around it. But I keep it.

A fortuitous smile emerges around the cracks of my lips, accompanied by a tear trickling down the edge of my cheek. I look up to find the girl missing, carried away by the spate of civilians. Gone.

I gaze up and witness the blanket of grey suspended above buildings moderately altering into a black sheet of space. Warmth emanated from the lamp lights along the street, its mellow hues radiating across the asphalt on the road. The havoc of pedestrians had perceptibly died down as vehicles lay depleted of energy, exhausted, back in their homes. I lay tranquil, free from the disturbances of the world, until an unanticipated piercing shrill breaks this tranquility. Clutching the stem of the flower, I drop my eyelids, letting the evanescent hymn of train tracks resonate through my ears.

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