Have a Nice Day

The school-bell shrieked. I leaped up out of my chair, picked up my books from the desk, and ran through the gates of my school. Soon my running transformed into a walking pace. My eyes took in the world, soaking up the weather, the smell, the colors. One distinct quality that distinguishes me from others: I sense everything in colors. Aromas, emotions, foods, words… There are only two people in the world that know this about me: my mom and myself. When I see my name, Dylan Regulour, I see a streak of gray. I used to attempt to convince myself that my name was interesting, some days red, others lime green, but it was all to no avail. Everywhere I am, I seem to blend in. Even my teachers often forget my name. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not too shy, and I always try to march to my own drummer. I get very good grades, and I’m content with who I am; it’s just that whatever I do, it never seems to affect or help other people. The A on my math assignment will satisfy me, and my mom will be pleased, but what about the others? What about the people in the world, craving some kind of nourishment, surviving solely off of their tenacity to live? Someday, I hope, I wish, no, I crave to make a difference, to be seen, and to be heard.

I breathed deeply and meandered. Why not? – it was a chilly but warm October day: Yellow…no, I think light orange. The leaves were on the ground under the bare trees – they reminded me of hot chocolate and maple syrup. I saw a group of five of my classmates talking and laughing. Red, the kind of red that you would see in ice pops: artificial and fake. They appeared relaxed and normal, but I could see through that. They were all thinking about what they would say and when they would laugh. They were actors in a show where every word counted. If they messed up a line and didn’t act cool, they all worried that they would be out of their “popular clique” just like that. It’s not that I’m antisocial, – I have nice, smart friends – but I don’t care deeply about what they think of me. Other kids think that they’ll be considered the odd one out if they walk home alone, but I like walking alone. It gives me a chance to think. Another fact that defines me: I like to think, and I’m good at it. Two of the friends dispersed from the group with a planned comment and a final laugh. One of them saw me, waved quickly, and smiled. I smiled and nodded in his direction. Now there were only three gears left of the red, fake machine walking across the street.

Dozens of cars and large trucks clogged Amsterdam Avenue. A rainbow of dull shades of gray, red, and black filled my eyes. There were the vehicles, and then there were the building blocks of society: people, human beings. So many people, going through life and taking it for granted.

“Hey!” A loud, wild shout sprang out of nowhere, interrupting my train of thought. Dark green flashed suddenly in my eyes – the color of shock. My legs involuntarily froze, and I turned my head towards the source of the noise. In a matter of seconds I processed multiple surprising things: The light had just switched to green and cars were driving, the man who had just shouted ran into the middle of the street, and he picked up something. The man looked disheveled, and he was wearing dirty, tattered blue jeans and a solid dark green t-shirt. Now, when I think about the man, I find it hard to believe that the man’s life could have ended right then, just like that. That man, who breathed, had feelings, and lived life like I did, must have known that his life could have been snuffed out as easily as a flame on a candle.

That moment was pitch black: the color of danger. A car skidded to a halt inches away from the man. My eyes took an internal photo of the situation: all of the other people on the sidewalk who were witnessing this event froze for five seconds. Their instincts were not even dull but momentarily dead. Three other cars stopped abruptly, and it was truly a miracle that they didn’t crash into each other. And now I saw. The man was holding a small white dog that was thrashing and squirming like prey that had just been caught in the lion’s mouth and was struggling to survive. The man didn’t look frightened, even though cars were honking wildly, and, on the contrary, the expression on his face was one of pure anger.

“Hey, what are you thinking! Are you crazy?” The man yelled in the direction of a dog-walker who was halfway down the block across the street. The dog-walker appeared to be oblivious. He held a large cup of steaming coffee, and looked nervous. Nervous not in an honest way, but a sneaky, greedy way. Greed: the trait that makes up society, the economy, starts wars, and so many other things. Golden yellow: the color of avarice.

By this point, other witnesses who had seen this as well were starting to walk away, probably thinking that the man was just another crazy person. I saw the friend from the popular clique hurry away. But I knew who this man was. This man was a hero. I couldn’t make out the whole exchange between the man and the dog-walker, but the man was still yelling, so I could hear him even from a block away.

The man yelled, “You have to be more careful…I don’t care, you almost just killed a dog…I just don’t what the hell you’re thinkin’ man, but…” I couldn’t make out the rest of the conversation, but the few snippets that I had heard were enough to allow me to comprehend what was happening. The man handed the dog-walker the dog, and the dog-walker put the leash on it. The man stormed across the street towards me, still muttering to himself. He walked by me, and I needed to think quickly. I could cross the street and get away from this man as my mom would want me to, but I could also follow the man – it was still on my way home – and maybe say something to him. Dark blue: the color of indecision. The light across the street flashed red. No, this man could be dangerous. I would cross the street, walk home, and be happy that I had seen what I had. The blue darkened.

I walked toward the man.

Much more thinking – nuts, bolts, and gears of thoughts whirred and buzzed in my head. Why had everyone else, including me, frozen while this man had risked his life to save an animal? Did he value his life less than others or maybe he loved animals so much? No. There was something special about this man. I’m not really sure how, but I had a sense that there was something unique about him. But how it vexed me. This man just helped another living thing. Why couldn’t I have just looked up and saved the dog myself – I was closer to it than he was. What was I doing following this man? I mean, what was the point? Did I want to tell him something? Of course not. But I inwardly knew that I did want to talk to the man. I just wanted to say “thank you” to let him know somebody cared.

The man was walking too fast. My thinking had caused me to saunter slowly, and the man had gained more than half a block on me. The street light began to flash. I ran conspicuously and wildly towards the street. The man crossed the street casually. There was more running and heavy breathing. Right as I was about to get to the street, the light turned red, and a large bus drove through the street. Light brown: the color of failure and disappointment. All of that had been for nothing. I would probably never see the man again, and I would never get a chance to talk to him. The bus slowly drove across the street, and now I could see the man. He was talking to a woman, and because she looked at her gold watch, I can be quite sure that he was asking her for the time. The woman was middle-aged, wearing designer jeans and an embroidered blouse. She wore a little too much make-up and had a large pearl necklace around her neck. She carried a large, fancy, silver leather bag. I saw the man briefly look around as if he were searching for someone. I had a sudden uneasy, irrational feeling that the man was looking for me. Now, why I am the only one who saw what happened next could be because of fate, or it could be because I observe much more than others. While the man’s right hand gestured, his left hand crawled into the woman’s left pocket, as if his hand were a completely different animal from the rest of his body, and then he took out her wallet.

Oh, the sadistic, ironic humor of life. A palette of blues and greens of fear and indecision swam in my eyes. I knew I should have shouted, but I had even stopped breathing because I was so shocked. The light changed to go, but my legs were still frozen. I was petrified. I thought to myself, Do something Dylan! Make a difference. Shout that the man just stole the woman’s wallet. The light flickered, and somehow I forced my legs to cross the street. This was it. The woman was walking towards me, and I was walking towards her. And then our paths crossed. I looked up at her, and her eyes landed on mine for a second and then flittered away in distrust. Trust. This woman had just trusted a man and given him the time. Now she would have to trust me to tell her the truth about what had just happened.

“Miss,” I said in a soft, hoarse voice. I cleared my throat and said it again louder. “Miss, I…” and then nothing. My heart was pounding so hard that I thought my chest might explode.

“Yes?” Her eyes momentarily glared into mine. She had olive green eyes, and her forehead was a tree with branches and branches of wrinkles from frowning too much. I saw the man strolling down the side-walk in my peripheral vision. The blue was so dark, I felt like I was seeing black.

“Have a nice day,” I choked. I felt like my name had turned brown – brown for failure. I felt worse than not being seen. And then I ran. And I ran hard. Away from my troubles. Away from my conscience. Away from myself.

Oliver Neubauer, Age 13, Grade 7, The Dalton School, Silver Key

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