The Creek was a recently-abandoned restaurant on the edge of our sleepy downtown. The Falls restaurant reportedly sank all of their budged into constructing a fake creek which ran behind the restaurant lined with patio seating, but couldn’t get enough people to come in and eat to support their pricey project and lease and the restaurant went under in just a few months. Some high school kids figured the fake creek would be a good place to sneak off and smoke weed and it became THE place to smoke weed and hang out.
I would like to tell you I was above obsessing over a place where “cool kids” went to “be cool,” but I can’t, and for the lamest reason ever. I was in love with a girl named Jameson Harris.
I had gone to school with Jameson since Kindergarten and I will break the cliché of saying, she may not even have known I existed. I actually knew Jameson fairly well. My mom and her mom were casual friends from work so we were at some of the same adult family gatherings. Plus, last year her mom had me tutor her for a while when she found out from my mom’s big mouth that I had a rudimentary understanding of web design.
The six Wednesday afternoons which followed were the best of my teenage life. I was able to stretch a shaky understanding of HTML and CSS coding into six separate hours of lessons peppered with bits of non-tutor-related conversation which made my heart stop. Jameson was single at the time, but I never made a move. I just stared at her long hair which somehow wasn’t red but wasn’t brown at the same time. I just watched her listen to my explanations and then answer with a simple “yes,” with a touch of a lisp and admired the outfits she wore each week.
Now Jameson was no longer single. Shortly after our tutoring sessions, she fell in with David Kim. A cliché might tell you David was the big, blonde, strapping type so many movies have taught us is the guy your dream girl goes for, but that was not the case. David was a small guy who wore thick-rimmed glasses, read books, and had tattoos too complex to explain in one sentence. He was actually kind of the guy I wish I was at times and he wasn’t easy to hate, which made things a lot harder.
Visible in the living form, I would have been petrified to stroll into The Creek on a Friday night, but those nervous, self-loathing shackles no longer called my wrists and ankles home. I was free to observe what these “cool kids” were actually doing. I walked around the dark corner of The Falls restaurant patio and laid my eyes on The Creek for the very first time.
Sprawled across the rocky shores of the little fake creek were sleeping classmates of mine, each lying on their back, eyes up to the sky. I stopped in my tracks. Forgot they could not see me for a few moments.
I pressed on, moved just a few yards from the first body. A quick first glance pulled at my heart. These kids didn’t really seem to be sleeping, they were lying completely still, not breathing, essentially dead.
I knelt down to the first body I came across, a girl with hauntingly straight long black hair and a perpetually sad face, Kara Rettig. We had been classmates off and on since the two of us were five but had never really talked to each other.
I bent down and softly placed my hand upon her wrist. I looked for the pulse my 8th Grade health class taught me to look for. I didn’t feel one.
“What are you doing?”
I jumped straight up in the air. Probably the highest I ever had in my life. Probably enough to dunk a basketball as a 5’9” white kid.
I landed and whipped around to see Jameson’s freckled cheeks and pursed lips staring back at me. She blinked her soft blue eyes and I jumped back again.
She could see me?
“Michael?” Jameson asked, the slight gap between her two front teeth seemed to punctuate her question when her mouth broke into a smile.
I hesitated for a moment. She COULD see me.
“Uh…uh…uh,” I couldn’t get a response out.
“You snorkel?” Jameson cut off my stammer. “Look.”
Jameson pointed into to the cluster of those on the ground. Her finger led about three bodies into the fray and identified her body, lying still on the ground.
“Uh… yeah,” I confirmed.
Jameson nodded her head with what I took as at least slight impression.
“Is that okay?” I immediately regretted my insecure question, sure that it wiped away that fresh impression.