Her summer in Africa | Krystal Koski

There’s an effortless beauty that surrounds those that sleep; when their face muscles relax and they have no concern for their outward appearance. I wonder if I’m beautiful when I’m sleeping – I wonder if they look at me and admire my face. My lips, naturally parted, are an allure to some. 

Once, I saw a Creature. She was small and timid. I wasn’t even sure that I had seen her since she scurried away so quickly once she met my gaze. I’ve seen her a handful of times since then, but she carries this aura of shame around her. It’s such a shame, she’s a beautiful little thing. 

The Creature only moves at night when the shadows can cover her form. She tiptoes around the kitchen to obtain the nutrients required to survive before retreating immediately. There’s a ticking timer in her head – she does not expose herself to the eyes of others for more than two minutes at a time. Her house was watching her; the walls had eyes and she knew it. The walls would whisper after she retreated, mentioning how horrible she must be if she was always hiding.  

I felt pity for this Creature, this thing that feared being seen by the whispering walls. I was about to depart for two months and I couldn’t bear to leave her behind. For days, I would scout in the shadows, waiting for her to emerge. Once she made her move to the open, she would briefly meet my gaze before hurriedly performing her survival tasks. My only goal was to establish myself as unthreatening. It took some time, but one day I coaxed her into a conversation. 

She couldn’t say much, but the look in her eyes was undoubtedly pain. Her heart was pounding through her chest, I could see the large outline through her thin skin. She practically glowed in the moonlight. She must’ve been beautiful at one point, but I knew no one had ever told her that before. 

After nights of shared glances, I convinced her that she could retreat with me for a few months, to get away from whatever evil was lurking in the walls. Either I had earned her trust or she was desperate to leave because she agreed after half a second of my proposal. 

~ ~ ~ ~ 

There’s a tent pitched in beachy sand. Aside from a few small holes in the bottom, it is in decent condition. It survived the windy nights and scorching days and a scorpion hadn’t crept into the shelter, so there’s not much more to ask for. Inside is a girl, her hand moving furiously across the page of a journal. Which, I should mention, is not a high-quality journal. It’s a simple, leathery material with black geometric patterns etched on the cover. It had been in her possession for a while now (since journaling falls to the back burner in her day-to-day), which explains the massive coffee stain that enveloped the cover. 

She had filled many pages in her little sanctuary, as there was nothing else to do. Sunrise was in seven hours, and there were too many thoughts in her head for sleep to be a possibility. Each day is the same motion in a new place. She wakes, she eats, she leaves, she returns, she sleeps. 

In her tent, she appears to be accompanied by a small, weak Creature. As she journals in the weak light of an LED flashlight, there are quiet whispers between her and her companion. There is fear in their voices, but there is nothing there to hurt them. They are blanketed by the clear dark sky and stars that have never been seen at home. 

The silence of journaling is her respite, as every other waking moment is spent around other people. There is no privacy, as a neighborhood of small tents surrounds her own. Their suburbia did not have blinds over their windows; only mesh separated the inside from the hot air outside. The girl has a lantern and a headlamp, she leaves the latter off since it eats batteries and she’s down to her last set. The former provides enough light to see the page as long as she’s close. 

It is too small of a tent for her to stand up and she has no surface aside from the ground at her disposal, so she opts for lying on her stomach as she writes. She has headphones plugged into her phone and a downloaded podcast she’s listened to six times already is playing as she writes. Occasionally, she glances over her shoulder to make sure there is nothing creeping around her haven. There’s only her companion, watching her silently 

She is having the time of her life.  

And yet there’s a thought in the back of her mind;  she can’t quite put her finger on it, aside from the fact that it is a feeling of unease. Something stirring within her is screaming at her from back home. She writes. She writes in brief spurts, as she is usually too tired to write long, so she goes until she cannot keep her eyes open. 

I wonder why it is she seems so happy. She looks so vibrant and is in her element, but she has never done anything like this before. She scrapes dirt off her legs with a wet wipe at the end of every day; there’s no electricity, and there’s no connection to the outside world. Her phone is just an mp3 player at this stage, and yet she seems so at peace. 

The Creature observes her, thinking of how scared she would be if she were the girl. I would be absolutely terrified of being out in the open, with no way to contact a single soul, she thinks. Her email inbox must be a nightmare. I don’t even want to think about all the things people said to her over text hoping she would get it somehow. I bet they were telling her how bad she is at things back home. She is not going to have a lot of fun checking those, that I can be sure of. 

In the morning she does everything again. When it is time for her routine journaling, she begins to cry. Softly, of course, so as not to alert anyone in Tent Suburbia of her distress – she cannot appear weak. She has to go home soon. The feeling of unease within her is growing larger and heavier in her chest. 

The Creature shook as the girl cried. She couldn’t understand why she was crying but she felt so bad about it that tears fell from her eyes as well. 

Suddenly, the girl realized that some whispers she heard in the walls were about her Creature. All the horrible things she had heard about this mysterious being were about this creature. One time, the walls were so angry that they sat the Creature down on the floor beneath them and listed all the reasons they were a disgusting unlikeable being. Ever since it hasn’t trusted a soul – no wonder. 

The girl shook and cried until she felt like she got stabbed in the stomach. She silently begins to cry harder as she thinks about the poor thing. She fears for it; she pities it. She shakes. She wonders if living ever becomes easier for a thing like that. She decides it doesn’t. She closes her tear-stained journal as she draws this conclusion, crawling on top of her sleeping bag for the night. She will sleep soon, once the tears stop. Until then, she begins to wonder if anybody ever finds her beautiful when she’s not trying to be. She doesn’t like thinking about it for too long. 

She grew angry, but the Creature did not fear her. Something was different than the other anger the Creature had experienced before. The Creature felt seen by the girl; she was less afraid to go home considering she now had an ally in her corner. They lived alongside one another in a sort of symbiotic relationship. She didn’t bother it; it didn’t bother her.  

As they drift off to sleep, I watch and I whisper, letting them know that they are effortlessly beautiful when they are a single unit. Even more so when they sleep.

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