by Shaylee Scranton
I look like shit, I muse at my reflection in the shiny, crow-black walls of the mega high-tech elevator. I’m wearing my favorite black sweatpants from state volleyball, with the colorful lettering down the right leg, alongside my state track hoodie, which is grey with miscellaneous green writing adorning it. My hair is in a messy bun; I think it’s cute, others probably find it sloppy. I look like, and quite frankly am, the actual epitome of trash.
My ears pop from going downward so fast, and soon I reach the ground floor. I pop my jaw out to relieve the pressure from my ears; I’m sure I look normal and completely not mentally handicapped when I perform this action. Stepping out of the elevator, I ask myself if I’m really okay with this.
Maybe it would be best to wait until tomorrow night when I can ask someone to accompany me.
You’re in Australia, for God’s sake! When are you ever going to have a chance to go out on the town all by yourself again? A voice in my head encourages me and soon I find myself outside the sliding doors of my gargantuan hotel, and the doors slide shut behind like massive jaws, vomiting me out onto the streets. My stomach gives a vicious howl, and I’m reminded of the primary reason I’m even out here in the first place.
Pie Face. I step inside one of the many eating establishments and see if there’s anything worth my time. I scan the rows and rows of pies: beef and onion, chicken and broccoli, beef and mushroom… my eyes settle on a chicken and garlic one, and also a noodle salad that looks like it might be edible. Being the savage glutton I am, I also splurge on a baby chocolate pie, the size of hockey puck. I sit down and I eat. My eyes wander out onto the bustling street.
Almost every single human who passes by has somebody. “Adorable” teenage couples, holding hands and giggling as they walked by. What fools… they’re just asking for heartbreak. There’s a mom, dad, and two kids. A friendship between a black man and an Asian man, or maybe they’re more than that. You can’t tell very easily these days. All of these people of different races and gender have someone. Someone to laugh and hold hands with, someone to joke around with, and here I am: eating cheap fast food by myself, debating whether or not I want to finish my salad, which more or less tastes like putrid, stale vinegar. Occasionally, I do see someone walking by alone. But it’s usually a man and I imagine his hungry, predator-like eyes. He’s probably sizing me up, looking to prey on a fresh meal, me, a lonely, pathetic looking girl.
I leave the establishment, my gut churning with uneasiness. Maybe I should just go back to the hotel, and forget about this stupid expedition and call it a night. But I keep going. I head deeper and deeper into tourist territory. I keep seeing them.
You know you gave up on romantic love a long time ago. I know it’d be nice to have Marlee or Sidney around because they’re your best friends or Mom and Dad or somebody. But you don’t need anyone but yourself. You should know this by now. I feel like a turtle. I want to recluse back into my shell and be alone. Alone by myself, with my thoughts. I don’t even know why I came out on these wretched, stupid streets with these stupid sheep that follow the crowd and can’t figure out how to do anything by their stupid selves.
I pull back into my shell. Maybe the town isn’t for me. Maybe I’m not meant to be in a world like this, where you have to be with someone. Where independence automatically corresponds to being lonely and pathetic. I guess even the mighty leopard can shrink down to a turtle if she is trampled, suffocated, and choked by the sheep.
I keep crawling along, among all of the pathetic people. My thoughts strangle me and make me feel like a microscopic amoeba until a melody fights to find its way to my ears. “Middle,” by Bipolar Sunshine. As soon as the notes hit my eardrums I look for the source of my newfound savior; it’s a line of ‘eco cabs,’ little chariots pulled by strong able-bodied men. With one glance at their gleaming muscles and their neon-green bikes, the turtle comes out of her shell and becomes the leopard again. She struts with a newfound confidence and pride past those cabs. She prowls down the sheep-filled street until she gets to the edge of city limits, and it’s the edge of it for a very good reason.
The city gives way to nothing but a giant expanse of water. My eyes are alight with the stars that reflect from its hazy, iridescent depths. Overjoyed, I take off my flip-flops and sprint to the water. Down here, people are about as frequent as elephants. I look out at her and her majesty, and put my feet in. That’s it. No more, no less. I have a bikini on under all of my clothes, but I stop here. I don’t need to go further. I made it to the ocean. All by myself. I’m so proud that I have done what I have done. Something those sheep could never do, not like this leopard can.
I stare into the cold blue depths, smelling the salty air and feeling the autumn- like breeze before leaving it all behind. I had made my mark. On my way back, I finally see another leopard, a woman who’s probably in her 30s, yammering away on her cell phone. I walk along the sidewalk on the right side of the street, and when I pass by a Baskin Robins, a woman hands me a cup the size of large bouncy ball. It’s a free sample of wildberry ice cream, and I devour it. I’m en route to my hotel, but something stops me again. It’s another song. “Wildest Dreams,” by Taylor Swift. Only it isn’t Taylor singing it.
I look to the other side of the street and there’s an attractive short, pink-haired girl with a style that I adore. Clad in black with a brand of guitar exclusive to Australia, I’m fascinated. I sit besides a plump woman with her children, and I can’t help but be fascinated by the girl with the guitar. I wonder if she’s bi or lesbian; she seems to fit the stereotype. While I’m listening, a bronze-colored man with dark hair and a beard walks up behind me. I look over my left shoulder at him, and smile.
“She’s good, isn’t she?” he says in a fluid Australian accent. This surprises me. I had expected him to have a Middle Eastern accent by, judging by the way he looks.
“Yeah. She’s pretty cute too.”
“So, where are you from?”
“America. I have the accent, or at least I think I do.”
“Awesome! What are you here for?” he inquires.
“Just here with a giant track team, competing at a track meet here.”
“And you’re all alone out here, by yourself?” a look of concern, or maybe pity, temporarily washes over his face.
“Well… of course. I think it’s okay to be alone sometimes. You don’t always have to be with somebody to enjoy life. You can be perfectly happy by yourself.”
I flash him a cordial smile, and he gives one back. The cutie with the guitar finishes her routine, and I leave my bronze-colored acquaintance and go up and talk to the talented singer. Turns out she has a boyfriend; so much for the stereotype I placed on her. I buy her EP for the hell of it and I’m finally ready to head back to my hotel when yet another song hits my ears. I cross the street to the right side, and am in front of a Cotton On. It has some cute clothes and I almost consider; after all, I had spent most of my summer working at Cenex so I’d have money if something like this came up. I decide against it. I walk away in my baggy sweats and oversized hoodie, all while “Love Myself” by Hailee Steinfield pours enthusiasm into me. I couldn’t think of any song better to describe the leopard that I am.