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APRIL 1998 | VOL. 1, NO. 4


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KEVIN RIDOLFI, of Pawtucket, RI, is the creator and editor of Renaissance Online Magazine. He can be reached at kridolfi@efortress.com

 

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Benign Sensations
Part One

KEVIN RIDOLFI

"There's a little black spot on the sun today
It's the same old thing as yesterday"
- The Police

"Waiting for the feeling to subside
Paranoid, I melt into myself
They say I'm to reach inside and find
the broken part of my machinery."
- Queensrÿche

For a fleeting moment, Brett stood alone on the crowded beach in Narragansett and experienced life. The gentle sea breeze smelled salty and warm. The gulls and lemonade vendors sang a hoarse, dissonant chorus. The sun reflected brightly off the water and its heat warmed the back of his neck. Bright sails bobbed a few miles out on the calm ocean. Dug into the damp sand at the water's edge, his toes curled around the coolness. The incoming waves lapped teasingly at his ankles then slowly slipped away. A pleasant, cooling sweat creeped down from beneath his baseball hat.

He felt alive.

Nothing beats those seemingly insignificant and ordinary moments that remind you just how special life is. And how precariously your life really does balance on the steepest of cliffs. Though more often than not, these moments aren't appreciated until you're alone and your life starts teetering on the edge. Then you know, but then it's too late. Brett Rospecht could recognize those moments.

He heard his name called and he no longer stood alone. Rudy, Tim and Mole lay on beach towels several feet behind him. Tim had earned his driver's license the day before--the first of them to do so--and they were celebrating the last day of summer vacation and their new car-granted freedom. Brett walked back to his friends, forgetting how special life is. Rudy slept on his back with black plastic shades hiding his eyes from the strong sun. His chest was already tanning. Beside him, Mole sat fiddling with the portable disc player. He wore a wide brim hat pulled down low and a white t-shirt that was damp with sweat. Mole hated the sun and the beach; he loved his basement entertainment center. Tim looked up from the GQ magazine he was reading.

"What's up Specter," Tim said and grabbed a soda from the cooler. "You waiting for the tide to come in and drown your ass."

Brett sat down next to him and picked out a can for himself. "Just checking out the scenery." He leaned back on an elbow and drank deeply.

Tim belched loudly and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "You want scenery, check out those two over there." He nodded towards the lemonade stand. "They should be on a sign in front of the Visitor's Center, then we'd get even more tourists in Narragansett. By the way, you're getting burnt as hell, better throw on that SPF 9000 you have in your bag."

Instead Brett put on his t-shirt and drained his soda. "I'll give you five bucks if you go talk to them."

"Get your money ready big guy, the amore animal is going on the prowl."

"Ten if you get phone numbers," Brett smiled as Tim walked away.

"You just lost ten dollars," Mole said. "Tim's a winner."

Brett knew that he had lost the money, but he always had fun watching Tim in action. Tim Greene had started at third base for the baseball team as only a sophomore and never struck out at the plate or with girls. He easily could have been up on the Visitor's Center sign himself. He had the tanned, chiseled features and painstakingly tousled hair that Hollywood and girls loved. Brett had decent luck with girls as well, he was just quieter about it. He liked reserved girls who didn't expect some huge flirtatious exhibition. Tim lived for the show; for him the chase was half the fun. He needed cheerleaders in flimsy skirts and clinging sweaters spelling out his name in order to be happy. He needed headlines to read: High Octane Greene Machine Drives In Five. Tim lived a full life and thought he'd live it forever. Even though Brett knew better, he couldn't help feeling small tinges of jealousy towards such a philosophy. No one ever lives forever, but when you're young, death lurks as impossibly far away as the imminent destruction of the sun.

When Tim returned fifteen minutes later, he wore a huge grin and carried two phone numbers and a snow cone.

"You're like money in the bank," Mole shook his head slowly. "That's absolutely incredible. Do you ever plan on leaving some young ladies for the rest of us? Or maybe we should just live vicariously through you."

"Hey, get off the couch and into the game. You have to live life to love life you know."

His head aching slightly from the over-bright sun, Brett slowly counted out ten dollars in ones and


looked down from the ski lift at a pure blanket of man-made snow. With three other Narragansett High juniors next to him, Brett sat alone on a four-person chair lift. The January wind bit sharply even through his thick wool neck and mouth warmer. Level with the white frosted tree-tops, the world looked like a new canvas on an artist's drawing table. Here the world still clutched stubbornly onto its innocence, unmarked by life. Snow seemed to clean the earth, covering the imperfections and setting the stage for a new, more conscious inhabitant. Nature shone bright in its white gown and Brett saw the promise in its beauty. If the politicians in Washington, businessmen on Wall Street, and developers everywhere saw the world as he did, without their tainted and subjective blinders, then there was a chance for an auspicious future.

He felt hopeful.

The lift jolted violently up a few feet then bobbed back down as it crossed over a support. The grind of the wheels and the engines of the snow groomer below began to rape the snow, pushing its innocence into manageable ski trails. With a grunt of gears, the artist had returned to his rented studio ready to make the canvas his own.

Brett could always pick out beauty in nature. He was happiest walking alone in the woods with his camera, capturing memories as they presented themselves. Unfortunately, the gift of appreciation had a darker twin: a corresponding ability to feel deep remorse over the destruction of these natural subjects. He couldn't imagine being so dark-hearted and unfeeling that cutting down an acre of thriving forest to build a stretch mall would be as meaningless as tying his shoe. But more and more everyone forgot that a healthy planet is necessary to sustain human life. People seemed to think that 24-hour grocery stores and plastic plants were the key to a long and happy life. To Brett, people had it in their short-sighted minds that they were miniature gods, free to create without consequence. He hoped awareness wouldn't strike too late.

Rudy tugged on the sleeve of his ski parka and Brett Rospecht was no longer alone on the four-man chair.

"Almost at the top, we have to put the bar up." The four of them untangled their skis and poles and pushed the bar into its upright position. "Great time for nap Brett. I've never seen someone fall asleep as easy as you."

"I was up late packing last night, that's all." Brett pulled his goggles down over his eyes. "Everyone gets tired sometimes."

They pushed off the lift easily and landed on the packed down man-made snow that marked early season skiing in New England. Following the others across to an intermediate trail, Brett felt a heavy wave of weariness roll through his muscles and he struggled to keep up. His legs pulled as if sacks of sand had been tied around his waist. His mind clouded over momentarily and he felt nothing but a drowning desire to lie down. As quickly as it had seized him, the wave passed and he gulped in mouthfuls of cold air. Passing the episode off as a dizziness from standing up too fast, he pointed the tips of his K2's straight down and


decided that he had to be dreaming. Because only a dream could so easily capture definitive beauty. A girl he had never seen before sat three rows over, staring intently at the blackboard with wide brown eyes. Short doe-colored hair framed her delicate face, serving to emphasize her high cheek bones and finely arched eyebrows. Her chest rose and fell slightly with each breath and his own breathing became obvious to him. In the woods, he always had his camera to help him remember the perfect image. Now, for once, his mind would hold a memory more completely than any photographic paper.

He felt elated.

He had no idea where this girl had come from. That seat had been empty for weeks and no one had mentioned an exchange student. She was speaking. Her name was Joy Cravens. She had just moved from Ohio and she looked forward to meeting everyone. She turned and smiled then her head disappeared.

Chemistry formulas and molecular structures swirled into a tunnel of gray. An intense white light shot into his eyes and blinded him. As Brett clinched his eyes shut, a heavy weight pressed down on the top of his head, squeezing his skull and the bright light turned dark.

-------
>>Continued: part one | part two | part three


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"King of Pain" copyright ©1983 The Police.
"Damaged" copyright ©1994 Queensrÿche