Julia and Something (?)

Just a note: I know someone named Julia and another person with the surname Shea, and I want you to know that it has nothing to do with you, it just has a nice ring to it.

Julia snapped her book closed and stared out into nothing. The band on the small stage was probably still playing, but if it were not, she would have had no idea. Sometimes she did not think about anything at all except the farm in Vermont from which she had come; since she did, she saw little beauty in the world.

Suburbia wasn’t all bad. She could sit in parks on cool summer days like this one, and listen to bands playing as she read. Julia Shea had decided she would become different when she came to Chicago; she would see things as an artist would, and try to find the small specks of wonderment that might exist there. Might. Every time she would look at something, she tried to think of a sentimental, poetic way to express it in words, and maybe write it down if it was any good. Usually she thought it was.

The band had stopped playing, and Julia Shea finally noticed. She stood up, but you could hardly tell, as she was very short. “Vertically challenged,” she’d call herself, and find it rather amusing and clever, though really she thought it wasn’t a challenge at all. She thought it made her more unique than the tall, tan models that strutted their way down runways, looking perfect. “I think I’m weird and I like it, because nobody else is.”

Most people thought she was a ‘poser’ if she ever tried to explain this. One of them, for example, was me. I never said anything, though I was tall and thin and it hurt to be antagonized. My looks had somehow given her an excuse to draw attention to herself as usual, and I didn’t like it.

“Julia, go get your brother,” her mother shouted from a few feet away.

And, having been once again ordered without a word of thanks, the girl made her way across the park to find the younger version of herself, who she pitied, knowing that one day his fate would be the same as hers. Julia smiled and wrote it down on the notepad in the pocket of her jeans. She had to un-tuck the tie-dye shirt, which she had worn to send a message to the “normal people”- that she didn’t care what they thought. Nobody seemed to notice, which she pretended was delightful.

She slowly made her way to the playground, and noticed a startlingly red-haired young girl with a hard expression on her face. Most people would have thought it to be blank, but for some reason the girl was deep in thought.  She looked beautiful. Julia stopped and stared. For the first time, she actually felt something meaningful about something she had seen. She wanted to write page after page to try to describe what she had seen and then could have torn it apart, because this moment, for some reason, did not serve the purpose of convincing herself she was special.

Julia Shea went to bed that night feeling confused.  She had always thought she was different from everyone else, that she was unique, and significantly more intelligent, too. The sight of that little girl had somehow made her see that she was completely false.  The girl realized she was no different from the others. She had seen her first glimpse of reality and wanted to keep it to herself. For the first time, she hadn’t made a discovery that was made for the world’s opinion. She fell into a deep sleep.

She hardly knew what she was doing when she awoke and compulsively walked out the door of her bedroom in her pajamas. She felt herself opening the front door and walking away without closing it like she always did, just in case the cat or her baby brother ran away.

At the park, the girl was there, just as she had expected (for some reason which even Julia herself did not know).  Hiding behind a tree, still not dressed in street clothes, Julia asked herself what she was doing. Why, the girl decided, is a useless word, because when something happens, the ‘why’ no longer is useful. Julia Shea reached into her pocket to pull out her notepad and write this down, but discovered its absence. That was when she realized how insane this subconscious plan was and continued to hide.

The only adult at the playground had turned and Julia sprang. She grabbed the redheaded girl from behind, one hand around her arms and one over her mouth, picked her up, and ran. The girl’s father turned back and saw Julia, but he was too late to see her face or direction. The little girl didn’t struggle as much as expected as Julia carried her away, and she was also very light. Julia had become a kidnapper without a cause.

“Why did you bring me to your basement?” asked the little girl. She didn’t sound especially curious or scared; she simply wished to know. But consider this- if it were so simple, why did I need to explain her tone? I believe it was necessary- that is one of the strangest things about people. The most simple things about them seem the most extraordinary.

“I- I really don’t know.” The little girl seemed to be expecting more with the way her eyes stayed still (you would think I would only mention if her eyes moved, but yet again…!) “I suppose I just wanted the Something in you.”

“Something?” The girl said nor did anything else; she sat on a pool table calmly, unblinking.

“You are very special. Something must exist, right? You think so hard. I’ve never seen the Something in anyone else.” She had wanted to say “anything”, but somehow she decided it would be rude. Why did Julia care about rudeness when she had kidnapped a child? Julia thought in the third person as usual, longing for her notepad.

“Why, Julia, that’s absolutely ridiculous. Everyone thinks, or at least everyone should. I am the default- why does that interest you so much?”

Julia had locked the basement door with the girl in it and gone back to the park. The man was no longer there, and it was empty. Sitting on a swing, Julia wondered if being so thoughtful was really the default. She wondered if maybe the girl was the only ordinary one, and that was Something itself. She also wondered if something was ordinary and also alone, could it be ordinary at all?

Julia Shea released the girl from her basement, and she had run away.

Three days later Julia was in a cell somewhere in the world, and she had all the time she needed to decide, but whether she did or not does not matter, because nobody would ever know.

I don’t blame Julia for wanting something genuine in her life; anyone may make the mistake of wishing more than anything to be part of Something.

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