Eli Calderone '22
He’d had a bad day and just needed something to make him feel better. He never intended to be stuck on a bridge in a city he didn’t recognize, hoping that someone would notice he was there. James barely knew how he got here. All he remembered was storming out of his house holding a duffel bag of clothes with his father shouting after him, getting on the train to god-knows-where, and then being woken up by the conductor, telling him that they had gotten to the last stop.
After finding his way out of the station, he’d wandered around the streets for a while, trying to shake himself out of his haze of disorientation. He soon realized that the bustling crowds of the city did not mix well with the anger still buzzing in his head: he needed to be somewhere quiet. Maybe a busy bridge with cars racing by at incredible speeds wasn’t the best idea, but at least there weren’t many people around.
James sat with his back against the railing, the long drop down to the river below mere inches away. He turned on his phone again for the fifth time in about thirty seconds: still nothing. The sun was getting low in the sky. Golden hour. Almost five hours since he left. No one was looking for him, and no one passing by seemed to care either. James got on that train with the thought that he’d get off in a nearby town and his father would be so worried about him that he’d find him and bring him home immediately. He should’ve known that was wishful thinking. Nothing James did was ever good enough for him and he was fed up with the old man’s high standards and constant outbursts of rage. The place James had in that house was gone; it was almost as if he could feel the old photographs, baseball trophies and art pieces on the refrigerator that once belonged to him burning up in the back of his memory.
The cars on the bridge continued flying by as James felt tears prick at the corners of his eyes. He told himself he wouldn’t cry, not now, not later, not even if he sees his father again, never. Instead of letting the floodgates open, he stood up and climbed onto the railing, such that if he tipped too far forward he’d fall straight into the murky water below. He threw his arms out to his sides and shouted as loud as he could, for as long as he could. He shouted until his voice hurt, and even then he kept going. When he nearly got all the shouting out of him, a voice to his right started shouting as well, and he was so startled that he nearly toppled right over the only thing between him and certain death. Next to him was a boy about his age, with long brown curls whipping around his face as he screamed with his eyes closed, both hands gripping the barrier. When he was finished, the stranger looked breathlessly at James with a crooked smile and a glint in his eyes.
“Why’d you stop?” the boy said, still smiling. It sounded like he wanted to keep going, like there was more screaming left in him that he needed to release out into the world.
James stepped down and away from him, reaching for his bag. He’d only been in this city for two hours, he wasn’t about to get murdered now, “I um, I need to go-”
“Oh come on,” the boy stepped down as well. “I know I look like it, but I’m not gonna try to sell you drugs or stab you when you’re not paying attention, calm down. Not everyone in the city is out to get you.”
“Right.” James forced a laugh and picked up his bag, already turning around.
“Hey hold on!” The boy ran out in front of him and James tensed, “Do you wanna talk about why you were just shouting into the air like your lungs would give out or are we just gonna act like that didn’t happen?”
“Couldn’t I ask you the same thing?” James said. The boy cocked his head to the side and raised an eyebrow. James sighed, “Couldn’t I ask why you were screaming too?”
He smiled again, but James couldn’t detect any bad intentions. The boy seemed to be reckless, but in a comforting way, as if he’d sneak you out of your house in the middle of the night for fast food after you had a fight with your parents.
“It looked like you were going through something.” He shrugged. “I wanted to show you that you’re not alone, and that there’s always gonna be someone else screaming into the void next to you.
James stared at the boy, “So you’re telling me that this isn’t the first time you’ve done this? Because that sounded rehearsed.”
The boy gave a light laugh, as if he were recalling a fond memory. “It’s not a common occurrence, but no, you’re not the first.” He held out a hand for James to shake. “I’m Avi, you new to Detroit?”
Detroit. Of course that’s where he was. He’d lived two hours from the biggest city in Michigan his whole life. He really must have been out of it to not make that connection.
“Uh yes I just came in today.” He took the handshake. “James Sparks.”
“Well James Sparks, how about I show you around?” Avi threw an arm around James’s shoulders despite James being a fair amount taller than him. James was still apprehensive, but he was far away from home with no intention of going back. He had nowhere to go, and his phone was at 25%. Avi seemed okay, so why not?
“So what brings you to Motor City?” asked Avi as he watched James practically inhale a hot dog he’d just bought.
James glanced at Avi, remembering flashes of the early morning when he decided he was leaving: his t-shirt sticking to his back with sweat, the fear, the yelling, practically being thrown out of the house with only a bag of clothes and-
“Hey, are you alright?”
“Huh?” James looked up, Avi’s brow furrowed.
“You turned a bit white there.” Avi gave a nervous laugh and brushed a piece of hair out of his eyes. “If you have a tragic backstory you don’t need to tell me-”
“It’s okay,” James figured if he was going to be staying here, he’d better make a friend. “I got tired of putting up with my dad. It was a mutual decision for me to leave I think.”
Avi nodded, “Ever think you’ll go back?”
James was about to reply when he felt a buzzing in his pocket. His father was calling him. Of course. But he didn’t have the chance to pick up because his phone died after the second ring. He took it as a sign and looked up at Avi.
“No,” he said. “I don’t think I will.”

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