Updated: Jan 3
His eyes slowly closing, the lids jumping back up, his hands not working properly. Rafael Valentine, a nine-teen year-old college student sits on a blue, queen sized bed with the laptop in his lap as the only source of light. The only thing on-screen being a PDF file with the words “The fundamentals of color theory” visible in big times new roman text.
“The fundamental of color theory… the fundamentals of color theory…” Rafael repeats these words in his head, trying to scroll down the document to get past the cover. He tries to keep his eye lids from shutting down, for his fingers to actually do something more than flutter over the small touch pad.
He diverts his eyes from the screen and looks around his room, looking for anything to distract himself with. “May the force be with you.” That might have been the twentieth time that night that he read the line glued on to the wall of his room. Imagining the two lightsabers beside it turning on, he lets his mind dawdle as he slowly pivots his eyes back into the laptop’s screen.
“Just scroll down the page a bit more, that’s all I have to do… Just gotta do it.” He says while inhaling the air around him.
Throwing his hand into the night desk on the side of his bed, Rafael clutches his Samsung galaxy S10 smartphone and drags it with him to bed. Putting his thumb on the center of the screen, the digital clock reads: “1:07am.” He unlocks the phone, swipes left and promptly opens the “Gallery” app.
He scrolls down to July 21, 2011. Only one picture was taken that day, a photo of two kids, a girl, and a boy in a park. The girl looks to be thirteen, brown hair, green eyes and a colorful shirt that reads, “She believed she could, so she did.” The other kid is a thirteen-year-old Rafael who seems to be quite happy with the girl’s arm around him.
Rafael’s eyes don’t move away from the picture. His retinas don’t move an inch, his facial expression doesn’t change. A feeling of sheer awe overtakes him. His attention is completely centered around the picture. That focus is broken upon hearing the creaking sound of a door opening.
“Rafael why are you still up?” A female voice asks.
Diana Valentine, Rafael’s twin sister walks into his room. Rafael bounces of his bed, not expecting to hear the voice of his sister. He unwillingly moves his sight from his phone to his sister leaning on the door.
“Can’t sleep without sleeping pills.” Says Rafael.
“What are you talking about? There are still some pills left.”
“Yeah, but the melatonin’s don’t help me at all.”
There was a certain air around Diana, a doubtful, unpleasant atmosphere that could reached Rafael. She looks up at the roof and sighs before looking back at her brother.
“Could you at least try the damn melatonin? You know you can’t fail your exam tomorrow if you don’t get some sleep. Not to mention that you’ll keep me up at night with whatever the hell you do at that hour.”
Rafael looks back to his phone, to July 21, 2011. Trying to avoid eye contact with Diana.
“Fine. I’ll try the melatonin.”
“Thanks. And also, please try not to do anything stupid.”
“What makes you think I will?”
“Call it a hunch.” She starts to close the door. “Well anyway, good night.”
She leaves, closing the door to his room.
“Good Night.” He says.
Getting up from his bed, Rafael puts the phone on his pocket. Walking away from his bed, before he opens the door, he takes out his phone and scrolls down to July 21, 2011.
The kitchen is completely enveloped with darkness, a lite glint from the moon coming from the single window, lightens up the light switch in the hallway. A big shadow goes over it, hiding the light for a second. The light switch is turned on, the hand of Rafael appearing under it. The light bulb slowly illuminates the whole room as it turns on.
Walking towards the medicine cabinet, Rafael trips on his pajamas and would have hit the floor if he hadn’t reacted on time and put his other foot down. He looks down at his feet, the Darth Vader pajama pants he has worn since middle school are completely torn up from constantly being stepped on. Rafael rolls up the sleeves so that it almost reaches his elbows and gets up.
Rafael opens the lower medicine cabinet, there were only three pill bottles sitting there.
Rafael’s empty sleeping pills, his sister’s allergy pills and the bottle of strawberry flavored Melatonin that Diana bought for him. Rafael takes the Melatonin and hold it in his hand.
His eyes skim trough the label on the back, and then again on the front. He puts the melatonin bottle back in the medicine cabinet and sticks his hand in it. Making sure to check each corner, trying to see if he might have left something behind. He feels the dust that had been accumulating on it for some time and does not feel any extra bottles.
He takes his hand out and rubs all the dust off in his clothes. He picks the melatonin bottle once more and holds it. Rafael’s hand starts to cramp up. Taking two pills from the bottle, he holds them, feeling the weird tingly texture of the pills before chewing and swallowing them.
The cramping in his hands starts to swell up, his teeth agitated from the melatonin, a small noose feels like it’s being formed in his throat. The stress of not studying for the exam tomorrow had started to build up.
He reaches for the glass cup that he keeps next to the sink, opens the fridge, and serves himself a cup of water. As the liquid goes down his throat, his hands starts to relax, his teeth feel normal and the noose loosens. He puts the glass back on the sink and walks out of the kitchen, turning off the light on his way back.
Rafael, eager to study, sits down on his bed, taking the laptop and placing it on his lap. “The fundamentals of color theory.” He read the title of the PDF and almost immediately, his face changes from one of eagerness to discontent. He closes the window of the PDF and shortly after, puts his laptop back on sleep mode.
He gets up from his bed taking his laptop with him, putting it on the desk on the side of his bed right next to the Canon EOS rebel 18-55mm lens camera that his parents gifted him.
Rafael enveloping the sheets around him. As he laid down, staring at the ceiling, he reaches for his phone and opens the “Gallery” app. He pays all of his sight to the girl in the picture. Her brown her, green eyes, red lips.
“1:12am.” Taking his vision away from the picture, he stares at the digital clock on the top right corner of the phone.
“1:12am… 1:12am… 1:12am…” Rafael stared at the time until his eyes slowly closed, his hands loosened, and his consciousness faded.
The sound of the dribbling basketball and the park’s strong winds pierce Rafael’s ears. It had been a while since he had last come to the park from his childhood. The luscious greenery was extremely photogenic, and the calm nature of the estate made it the perfect place to look for a good picture.
Rafael walks through the walkway with camera in hand. A picture of a bird’s nest, kids playing basketball, Rafael was going through all of the photo that he had taken that day. Glancing at them with a look of distaste.
He takes his camera and puts it back on his hip. Walking down the linear path, he sees the same basketball court from earlier. A woman was sitting in the bench in front of it, watching the kids play. Rafael couldn’t see her face, but the image of her observing them play was to Rafael, the perfect image. Rafael quickly takes out his camera, focuses on the girl and takes the shot.
The sound of the camera flash alerts the girl. She looks back at the source of the sound in bewilderment.
“Oh sorry.” Says Rafael “I just saw you looking at the kids and I thought the photo was too good not to take.”
The woman looked to be about nineteen years old, she looked shocked and surprised upon seeing Rafael behind her.
“Rafael?!” said the woman.
“Do I know you?” He asked.
She gets up hastily and walks towards Rafael. Standing right in front of him, Rafael was able to get a really good look at her. She had short brown curly hair that barely covered her ears. Bright green eyes covered by glasses. A few freckles on her cheeks and a colorful shirt with no text.
She stands in front of him, blushing, trying to open her mouth to say something to him.
“Do you remember me?” asked the girl. “My name is Amidala Rodriguez. We used to go to middle school together.”
Rafael steps back from her a little. Feeling nothing but sheer disbelief, he looks at her without answering.
“Amidala!” said Rafael. “Of course, I remember you, we used to hang out all the time. How long has it been?"
“Like six years maybe? Long time no see right?”
“Yeah.” he said
“Listen Rafael, I don’t really have the time right now to talk, but I would love to see you again. Maybe we should try to catch up sometime. Here, you should have my number.”
Amidala takes out her phone, Rafael does the same and the two quickly exchange contact information.
“Well, it looks like we’ll be seeing each other.” Says Rafael.
“Yeah, I guess so.” The sound of a text tone can be heard coming from Amidala’s iPhone. “Oh shoot, I gotta go. See you around.”
Amidala walks towards the opposite side that Rafael was walking, waving goodbye to her old friend. Rafael smirks and does the same.
He strolls up to and sits on the same bench that Amidala was sitting on.
“I can’t believe I finally found her.” Rafael thinks to himself as he takes out his camera and looks at the picture that he just took of Amidala. He admired ever part that he could, her beautiful colorful shirt, her hair covering her ears.
“Finally, after so long, I think I can finally be happy with her.” He takes a deep breath, turns off his camera and looks at the kids playing just like she was earlier. “I guess, this also means that I won’t have any more dreams where I meet her.”
Taking out his phone, Rafael opens the “Camera” app. With a huge smile on his face, Rafael takes a photo of his real-life camera showing the picture of Amidala. He opens the “Gallery” app and looks at the date. “December 14, 2017.” That was the day that he saw her again.
Rafael hastily gets up from his bed in the middle of the night. Breathing heavily, hyperventilating, He throws his arm to his night desk and grabs his phone. “1:45am.” He only barely saw the time, as he unlocked it and swiftly opened the “Photos” folders.
“A picture of Diana… the vibrant colored picture of a nearby mountain for the contest... Some random photos from the nearby botanic garden…” She wasn’t there.
He puts the phone on the night desk and goes back to bed. He faceplants onto his pillow and breathes in deeply. His hands shaking, he takes his fist and smashes it onto his pillow. Closing his eyes, he rest his hands, trying to stop them from moving. But his consciousness stays with him.
Reaching for his phone, he looks at the digital clock. “1:46am.” With nothing else to do, he stares at the Revenge of the Sith poster that he has set on his phone. His sight going through each of the characters. Anakin Skywalker… Obi-Wan Kenobi… Yoda… Padme Amidala… He instantly turns off his phone.
He digs his face onto his pillow. Grabbing it violently. He closes his eyes and begins to let go of it. Rafael stopped moving, he was making sure not to shift his body. But once again, sleep didn’t come. He reaches for his phone. “1:47am.”
When he went to his pillow once more, there was something bothering his eyes. When he got up, he realized that his eyes were dripping, and the liquid was staining the pillow. He wiped his eyes and immediately noticed the tears in his arm. His breathing got heavy and the noose in his throat formed once more. Still in disarray, Rafael gets up from his bed and angrily paces out of the room.
The kitchen light switch reflects the moonlight coming from the kitchen window. A big shadow overthrows the light, hiding it for a moment. A smaller shadow passes through the light switch, and another does the same.
The light switch is flipped up, the tense hand of Rafael appearing under it. He sprints to the medicine cabinet, the same three pill bottles still standing there. Moving all of them aside, he sticks his arm to the bottom, checking every corner of the container. The loose feeling of dust overtakes him, spiders have probably been there before. At the end of it, he found nothing but emptiness.
He takes his arm out of the cabinet, still breathing heavily. He shakes off the dust in his hand, the tension that he felt earlier still there and so was the noose in his throat. He takes the glass cup, opens the fridge, and serves himself water. As he gulps down, he can feel the noose loosen, the tension gone.
He brings himself to the kitchen counter, putting one elbow on it and his hand up to his forehead.
“What the hell kind of dream did I have to piss me off this much?”
Taking out the phone in his pocket, he scrolls back down to “July 21, 2011.”
“You know, if you had a social media, you could probably stalk all the cute girls that you like.” A high pitched and all too familiar voice rings in the head of Rafael. Every time she told him this, Rafael usually always answered with some form of sarcastic response. Rafael thought of this as he continued to look at Amidala’s short brown hair.
With his laptop in his desk, Rafael sits down on the office chair he found on a thrift store waiting for his laptop to power on. After waiting about two and a half minutes, the laptop booted up and google chrome was opened.
The first thing that he typed in the search bar was “Instagram.com.” A log in page opened, asking for an email address and a password. Rafael wrote “Totallylegit@gmail.com” and filled in the ten-character password. An account under the name “Fred Alfred” opened.
Clicking on the search bar, Rafael wrote the name “Amidala Rodriguez” and a small text box with many results popped up. He scrolls through each one of the Amidalas. None of them fitting the description of the one that he knew. Until he came across one.
“Amidala Rodríguez Velázquez.” “Food goes best with friends and laughter.” “Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine – Mario Fernández.” Reads her bio.
Rafael gets closer to the screen trying to look closer at the small profile picture of the long-haired blonde girl with heavy make up on. He scrolls down on her profile and instantly his eyes are barraged with a multitude of colorful photos from different angles of the same girl.
He looks through each one of her pictures. Photos of her at the public pool, selfies of her driving and pictures of family gatherings. It seemed like she uploaded every day. Out of all the posts, there was one that stood out to him, a set of pictures that were uploaded over two years ago.
It was a series of photos of Amidala in her youth, mostly photos of her and her family. There was one picture that stood out to him. It was a photograph of a thirteen-year-old Amidala with a shirt that reads “She believed she could, so she did.” Wrapping her arm around a young boy.
Rafael looks at the post in disbelief, brushing his eyes while looking at it. He very quickly opened Amidala’s direct messages. He puts his wrist on the edge of his laptop’s keyboard and begins to type as fast as he possibly could.
“Hey Amidala, I know don’t know if you remember me. My name is Rafael Valentine, we use to go to middle school together and and we where really good friends and I wanted to know if you were interested in meeting again sometime. DM me back if you want to meet up.”
He steps back from the keyboard. He didn’t even bother reading the message, he didn’t want to. There were probably countless typos and inconsistencies that would take away all his self-confidence. He takes his finger and hovers it over the “Enter” key. But he can’t bring himself to do it. As Rafael has his finger in the air, he hits his desk with his fist and gets up from the chair. Rushing out of his room in the familiar angry pace.
A shadow hastily walks by the light switch, leaving it to the light of the moon. The same shadow picks up the glass cup next to the sink, opens the fridge and fills it to the brim with water. His arm is trembling, his throat felt completely tied up and his body wouldn’t stop shaking. Trying to keep the liquid from spilling, he slowly takes the cup up to his mouth and starts to chug it down.
Taking a step forward, an excruciating attack of anxiety hits him when his feet get entangled and his body hits the floor. The sound of breaking glass ringing through the whole house.
He looks down on his Darth Vader pajama pants, they had unrolled themselves. In frustration, he rolls them back up, slightly tearing through part of it in the process.
“Piece of shit.” He whispers to himself.
He crouches down, picking up each individual piece of glass that he could find on the floor. He takes all the pieces and throws them down the garbage can with shaking arms.
Getting back up, he looks behind him, the silhouette of a woman appears before him which gives him a near heart attack. The silhouette flips the light switch, removing all the darkness from the room.
“Rafael, what the hell are you doing?!” Diana Valentine stands in front of him.
The anxiety running through his entire body starts to loosen slightly upon the sight of his sister. “Oh uh… Nothing…I’m not really doing anything.”
She looks at him dead center, barely taking her sight of his. She breathes deeply and brushes her eyes with her fingers. She walks up next to Rafael and takes a glass cup from one of the kitchen cabinets.
“You know Rafael, I know you’re probably not gonna tell me. But is there a specific reason for why you can’t sleep at night?”
He turns around, avoiding his sister’s eyesight. Looking at the big moon outside the window, he listens to the sound of a fridge opening and closing.
“No… just stressed out cause of the exam tomorrow.”
Diana gulps down half the glass. Dumping the rest of the water on the kitchen sink. She brushes her hair back and leans on the kitchen counter, looking at her brother.
“Rafael, I don’t know if you remember the time when we were in middle school there was this girl named Amidala, do you remember her?”
The giant moon outside of his window seemed to get bigger as his eyes opened wide upon hearing her name.
“Amidala… no I don’t think I remember her.”
“Well, there was this one day when that girl Amidala got stuck up a tree during recess. I remember she was crying a lot. And when I saw her, I didn’t waste time waiting around for something to happen, or for a teacher to come. I went straight up, put my climbing skills to the test and got her down from that tree, no hesitation.” She says.
Rafael turns around and looks at his sister in confusion.
“What’s the point of this story?” he asked.
Diana breathes deeply, taking the air around her.
“Nothing… forget about it. Just, remember that if you don’t do anything with your life, you’re not gonna look back on it fondly. You’re gonna end up carrying that weight with you wherever you go.”
Diana walks away from Rafael, pulling her hair back from her face along the way and shortly after disappearing into the corridor.
Rafael looks around him once more, at the plants his sister used to decorate the place, at the pictures of him and his parents. He feels the noose around his neck to loosen, his arm stops shaking and his hands feel free once more.
Rafael sits back in front of his laptop, the same message he wrote earlier still there. His eyes go through it once, twice and a third time. With his wrist, he takes his index finger and slams it against one of the keys of the laptop.
He wasn’t too sure of the key that he just hit, he wasn’t even sure if he had hit the correct one. Brushing his eyes with his fingers, he clicks on the wireless mouse a few times before closing his laptop, the last thing visible being the empty message feed between him and Amidala Rodriguez.
He gently goes to bed and throws the blanket over him. He reaches for the phone in his pocket and looks at the digital clock. “2:00am.” His eyes start to feel heavy, the noose in his neck gone, his tense hands loosen.
“2:00am… 2:00am… 2:01am…” Rafael drifts away from consciousness.
The luscious greenery, the sound of the basketball dribbling. Rafael never thought that he would actually come back to the park from his childhood. As he walked down the stairs leading down to it, he scans the location, looking for something.
In his hand he held multiple pieces of paper. It was the score for the test he had taken that afternoon.
It looks like he never really had anything to worry. But the exam was the least of his worries as he folds paper and puts it squarely on his pocket.
Taking out his phone, he opens the Instagram app that he had downloaded temporarily, he starts to hit every tab that the app has, looking for something specific. Still not understanding how the app works, he puts the phone back into his pocket after not finding it and decides to rely on his memory.
He walks down the stair case with camera in hand and walks through the sidewalk. He does so until he sees the thing that he was looking for. A couple, sitting on one of the benches, watching some kids playing basketball in front of them.
Rafael walks up behind the couple and takes a deep breath. He remembered the words of his sister and repeated them to himself over and over again as he started to speak.
“Wait… Amidala Rodriguez! Is that you!?” said Rafael.
The woman with the twin bun hairstyle that reminded Rafael of princess Leia looked back, not expecting her name to be called out and especially not from a weird man that she didn’t recognize.
“Don’t you remember me.” Continued Rafael. “We went to middle school together. My name is Rafael Valentine!”
Amidala continues to give him a weird look. Trying to make sense of the situation. Until her eyes opened wide and she has an epiphany.
“Oh Rafael! Of course I remember you!” She gets up from the bench and walks up to him, giving him a hug like in the old days.
“Oh, it’s so good to see you.” She looks at the man that she was sitting next to. “Christopher this is Rafael. We were good friends in middle school. Rafael, this is my boyfriend Christopher.”
Rafael and Christopher shake hands.
Rafael changed his view to Amidala, she was very different to how he remembered her, she had long blonde hair that reached her hip, her green eyes were covered by blue contact lenses and her face was covered with makeup and glitter. Enough to make Rafael squint on the sight of her.
“My god, how long has it been?” asked Amidala.
“I don’t know like, six or seven years maybe. How have you been doing?” asked Rafael.
“Oh, you know, just getting through life, taking classes, going to sleep early, busting my back studying.” She says this with a type of enthusiasm hat Rafael hadn’t heard before. “Oh, but what about you, how are you doing?”
“Oh, not much, just mainly following my passion for photography.”
“Oh, you’re still doing that photography thing, you know you’re going to have to get a real job one of these days.” Amidala chuckles to herself.
“Oh yeah… I guess so.” Rafael awkwardly chuckles with her.
“Regardless, what are you doing now?” She asks.
“Now?” Rafael stops talking to think for a moment. “I was thinking of going to watch the new Star Wars movie on theaters.”
“Really? You like Star Wars?”
“Yeah, I’m a big fan.” He said.
“You know, I’ve never really liked those movies.” She says.
“Yeah, the special affects hurt my eyes, I think the acting’s terrible and it’s everywhere. It’s kind of like sand when I think about it.”
“Yeah that makes sense.” Whispered Rafael.
“I’m sorry?” she asked.
“Welp it was nice seeing you again Amidala. Hope we’ll see each other again someday.”
Going back the way he came; Rafael walks away from her while waving goodbye.
“Oh… bye.” Says Amidala.
Marching away from her, he unlocks the phone in his pocket, opens the “Gallery” app and heads straight to July 21, 2011. Holding his thumb over the picture and pressing the “Move to trash” button, Rafael looks at the picture that defined him one last time.
“I guess I won’t be needing this anymore.” He says while pressing the “empty trash” button.
Working his way up the stairs, he looks back one more time at the park of his dream and at Amidala sitting with her boyfriend laughing from some video their watching on a phone. He thinks back to the words of his sister: “Just remember, if you don’t do anything, you’re gonna be carrying that weight wherever you go.”
Rafael continues to go up the stairs of the park. The feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction overtook his body. His throat no longer felt tied, his hands were completely calm, and his arms stopped shaking. He had finally achieved it; the weight had been lifted.