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just a picture of a cloud
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It was clear that Raina was waiting for him to have a look, but Johnny didn't move towards it. He didn't really give a shit about the planets, truth be told. He knew what he'd see, if he looked through that lens: some little red circle, and if he wanted to see Mars he could find better pictures on Google. The stars he liked well enough, but he liked them better lying on his back, half-buzzed. What he mostly liked from these trips was Raina's company, and she was ruining it.

Her face was a shadow, but he could hear the coldness in her voice. All the joy and excitement that had been bubbling out of her was suddenly gone, like someone had turned off a tap.

"Hey, it's... I mean, ya ain't gotta be like that, Raina." He turned his body to face her, hands thrust into his pockets.

"Not everyone's gotta go be like a rocket scientist or whatever, y'know? Like I get that you wouldn't wanna do things how I do them, but hey, you don't fucking have to, yeah?"

He tried to keep his voice calm, though he could feel himself growing more and more agitated. Inside his pockets his fingers tensed and untensed. This was something he liked, something he cared about, and she was runing it.

"It's not so easy bein' me, y'know? It's pretty fucking hard, actually, but ya know what? I'm good at it. And I like it. Just because I'm not doin' what you'd do doesn't mean what I'm doin' ain't worthwhile, yeah? Like I've got stuff goin' on. I've got plans, y'know? After schools out this year I'm gonna call up my brother, head down to Texas and y'know, get some stuff goin' on with him there. Help him out with whatever he's got goin' on, and ya know what? I'm fucking lookin' forward to it, and what the fuck else do I have to look forward to? What, ya think I should stay in school? Apply to some fancy college to go off and be some genius, and the money will just... materialize? Ya really think that's what I should do, Ray? I mean I'm really askin' here, is that what ya think I should do?"

Johnny took a step closer, so he could make out her face in the dimness.

"I mean I can do it, yeah? If you can look me in the eye and say 'Hey Johnny, I genuinely think this is what's, like, the best thing for your future' then I can stick around, I can apply for shit and whatnot. But it's not, and it's bullshit and you know it, so don't like, pity me for knowin' my limits, yeah? Every fuckin' year half the kids who went off to college come back with like a quarter of a degree and like, 20 grand poorer. At least I'm smart enough to know not to waste my time, so do not fuckin' pity me for that."

He realized he was breathing heavily, almost panting, and he stepped back a little. Turning to the side, Johnny fished his cigarettes from his pocket, put one in his mouth and lit it. He was sure he'd gone too far, said too much, crossed a line. He didn't want to look at her face, not wanting to see whatever might be there. Instead he looked down at the telescope.

God, please don't let her cry, he thought.

He realized he was frightened of what he'd done, frightened of how much he might have changed things. It was fucking stupid: they weren't even friends, really, it wasn't like there was anything to change and besides, this shit had been hanging over them for a while. It wasn't like he hadn't known what she'd thought of him, what everyone thought of him. He was pathetic. He was going nowhere and he didn't care, and they were right. Johnny Ray McKay didn't care. He was happy with how things were. Things were hard enough already, but he got by, so why should he bust his ass trying to make things better when he knew it wouldn't work?

His dad had been talented, really talented. Not like some of the pretentious assholes in Johnny's school who called themselves "artists", his dad's paintings had actually looked like shit. He'd been amazing, and look where he was now. Some lazy drunk fuck in a trailer with a wife who hated him and a useless son.

Johnny wasn't talented at anything. What chance did he have?

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Two Breaths Walking · Memories from the Past