A Frozen Sunrise

A Frozen Sunrise

Marlena Chertock

It took two laughing-fests, a sneaking session and an incredibly embarrassing moment before I saw the sun come up.

Staring up at the ceiling, I wondered if he had dozed off.  It was about five minutes ago that we had said we should probably be going to bed.  So we turned over, pulled up the covers and were quiet ever since.  Except I couldn’t seem to fall asleep.

I was over my best friend Ryan’s house.  It was the summer before I entered sixth grade, and fifth for Ryan.  His mom and my mom had met in college and Ryan and I were friends ever since he was born—I’m a year older than him.

I turned to my side, trying to get comfortable, and glanced at my younger sister on the floor, snuggled up in a sleeping bag that was way too big for her.  As an image of the huge pillow fight we had a few hours ago flashed through my mind, I smiled and giggled quietly.

“Hey,” Ryan whispered, nudging me in the shoulder and pulling me from my dream.  “You awake?”

I turned back around to face him.  He looked wide awake too.  “Yeah, I couldn’t fall asleep.”

“Oh,” he sighed, shifting on the bed, making all these squeaking noises which started us laughing.  We were only ten and nine, so these simple things were amusing.

Our laughter drained and faded a few seconds later until the room was silent.

Seeming to remember something, Ryan suddenly sat up, looking at the window and the night outside.  “Do you want to watch the sunrise?” he asked, his brown eyebrows curling, his mouth twitching upward, as if his whole face was a part of the question.  He looked quite comical, to tell the truth.

“Sure,” I tested, to see if he was serious.

When he slung his legs over the edge of the bed and looked back at me, I knew he was.  He cocked his head to one side.  “Well?”

“Okay,” I said, “let’s go.”

In the short trip from the bed to the door, a wavering feeling was building up within me.  I opened the door and then took a step back.  What are we doing, I thought, we’re going to get in trouble. The feeling had broken through its hold and was now keeping me inside the room.

“Come on,” he whispered, moving his hands in a gesture that said “let’s go.”

I looked from the door to the carpet back to Ryan.  “Are you—” I started to ask, but he interrupted me, taking my hand and crouching to the floor.  I followed suit.

“Alright,” I muttered as quietly as was possible.  If we were going through with it we’d need some of my excellent creeping skills.  Everyone knew I was purely soundless when it came to spy and sneak, that’s where my nickname Silent Feet came from.  The feeling of resistance was slowly evaporating back to wherever it had come. “Like this,” I said, and took a small step, gently pressing down on the floor.

Ryan did the same—except he accidentally put all of his weight onto the floor and a huge creak sounded.  “Sorry,” he mouthed.

We were able to make it to his parents’ bedroom door and then Ryan excitedly whispered, “Almost there!”

“Shh!” I ordered.  But the damage was done and a thunderous noise suddenly came from the bedroom.  My face became stricken.  We were doomed.  Sounds kept escaping from the bedroom, growing more boisterous with each passing noise.

Ryan’s cheeks turned rosy red and he covered his mouth to keep from laughing.  I stared blankly at him, when another exceptionally loud sound was emitted.

“It’s okay,” he whispered, barely able to keep his lips from stretching into a wide grin, “that was just my Dad snoring.”

We couldn’t help but let out a few giggles.  We tried everything: burying our faces in the carpet, pulling our shirts up over our heads, pinching our lips tightly together.  We were desperate to cover our racket.

After a few minutes, our laughter died down.

On the stairs, we sat and slid down on our bottoms.  I knew Ryan’s staircase by heart, so I warned when and where the squeaky spots were, and we evaded any catastrophes.  Until we hit the fifth step from the bottom.

Ryan suddenly started slipping and he fell the whole way down, bumping his bottom on each stair along the way.  He let out a huge chuckle and quickly stood up, busying himself with the front door to stop the laughing-attack.

I reached the bottom of the stairs and waited while he fumbled with the front door.  He finally managed to get the darned lock open and he slipped his fingers around the front door, opening it for us.

Moist summer air greeted us as we sat down on the cool, concrete stoop.  The sweet scent of freshly cut grass floated around, and Ryan softly complained that he was allergic, but he ignored it.  We looked on as the fireflies played and flew throughout the neighborhood, their ends illuminating random spots and then fading into darkness.

As the street lamps fizzled out, the sky slowly transformed from pitch black night to shades of light blues, pastel yellows and soft oranges.

I sat there, recalling the events of the night, and smiled inwardly.  How much better could it get?  Here I was on a summer night, or almost day, stretched out on front steps, sharing laughs and watching the sunrise with my best friend.  Time seemed to be at a standstill, the minutes ticking by ever so slowly, the second-hand turning into a snail, so that I could treasure this moment even longer.  Tick…and then an eternity later, Tock…

It was on Ryan’s front steps, watching the darkness fade into day, when I felt this moment changing from an ordinary, and somewhat humorous, event into a memory that would last forever.

It is five years later and I’m a sophomore in high school, Ryan a freshman.  Every time I close my eyes I can see it all as if that summer was only yesterday.  I can picture the colors, can smell the aromas, can hear the sounds, can see the fireflies playing together.  But now, now I feel a new sensation.  Whenever I think back to this sunrise, I can feel my heart sink.  Deep.

After that summer, I had started middle school, while Ryan had stayed behind in elementary school.  In a way, we were in completely separate worlds.  We were learning things at different times: while I was struggling with pre-Geometry, he was breezing through multiplication and estimating; we were starting our own journeys away from each other; we were separating.

It wasn’t noticeable at first, it was the little things.  Like how Ryan started hanging out with other friends more often than me, like how when I did hang out with him it was awkward, like we didn’t know what to say, like we had never shared such a tight bond.

Now I never go over Ryan’s house and I don’t talk to him except for the occasional, “Hey,” in the hallways.  Even though we go to the same school, it is strange to think about ever becoming friends again.  I realize how ironic it is: ever after that sunrise, as the sun was lighting up the world, our friendship was diminishing.

Along with countless other memories I have shared with Ryan, this sunrise is a frozen moment, a black and white picture I cannot touch.

Ryan was my first best friend.  He is a former friend that I don’t know anymore.  Sometimes I catch a glance of him in the halls, and he looks the same—I know all of those freckles on his face—but I don’t truly recognize him.  I don’t know that person who used to be my best friend, who used to be the one I shared all my laughs with.  A great pang in my heart is triggered when I acknowledge the truth—but I no longer know his life, I’m no longer a part of his life.  We can never go back to that place, that place a long time ago when I knew all about him, when he knew everything about me.

He’s transformed from the best friend that was always there, to that guy on the other side of the hall, that guy that I could tell you old secrets about; secrets that don’t apply anymore.

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