So I couldn't sleep at 2:30 and I came downstairs and wrote this all in about two and a half hours. I feel like I'm most productive at this time of night. Enjoy this little story thing~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ From what I know, it seems children aren't allowed to complain about anything. â€˜Cause if they do, and their parent finds out, they take it personally, as an insult almost. Like their parenting isn't good enough for this child, so they have to complain about it. Hardly anybody would keep their kid if they didn't have to, and nobody would keep a kid who complains if they didn't have to. Parents just don't like to be parents, it's a fact. So naturally, if their kid complains, they're gonna do what they can to stop it, so they don't feel insulted. And then they usually spit out some overdone line telling their kid that "There's always someone worse off than you." I'm sure by now you're wondering just who I am, and how dare I waltz right in here making accusations about parents. I must have had one messed up set of folks to be saying such strong negativities towards all fathers and mothers. So I suppose I should introduce myself; I am Howard F. Trams, or as I'm better known, the someone worse off than you. Would you believe me if I told you I didn't actually have any parents? Truth is, I don't and never did. I was brought up my brother, or at least I think he was my brother â€˜cause we look the same. We both have dark skin, the same olive green eyes, and we even sound alike. I never learnt his real name, but he let me call him Trams. So I guess if having the same last name makes you related, then we were. I met Trams when I was just four years old. I can't remember much before he came along, just that it was lonely and confusing. I don't even know how I survived without him, a four year old certainly couldn't cook, and if I had a family before him I hope I would remember them. But I don't remember anything. What I do remember is the night we met. I was lucky that the snow from the few days before wasn't entirely black with dirt and gasoline from cars and grime from other people's shoes. It didn't taste too pleasant going down, but even at four I knew I needed water to survive, and I knew that right now the snow was the only way of getting it. I must have only scooped about three or four handfuls of snow but already my fingers were getting numb. I didn't know about months back then, but thinking back on it now, it must have been December, â€˜cause I remember seeing lots of pretty things behind the glass of stores that I couldn't get at. I remember people walking by without so much as a glance towards the boy eating snow on the curb, and I remember wishing desperately that somebody would glance at me, that someone would offer me something to make my stomach stop howling. At age four I knew loneliness better than anyone. It was odd how unsurprised I was when someone finally did stop and notice me sitting there in the streets alone, eating dirty snow. We stared at each other for a long while. He seemed like he was having a hard time believing what he was seeing, and even at my young age I could tell he had troubles not too different from my own. His eyes, so similar to mine, seemed worn out from recent crying, and he had one hand on his midsection almost as if hoping that by resting it there long enough his stomach would forget it was begging for food. We stared at each other for a long while. "Howard F. Trams." I said to him. It was my name, I knew that much, though I wasn't exactly sure how I knew it, and I most certainly didn't know what the F stood for. He blinked a few times then silently picked me up and started to walk away. I didn't protest, because I didn't feel the need to. A complete stranger had just picked me up off the streets and was walking away with me and that seemed perfectly fine. Maybe it was because I had been hoping for a kind person like him to come along, maybe it was because I knew we both were having a tough time, or maybe it was because I was so tired that I fell asleep in his arms before I even had the chance to do anything. And that was it. After that things just sort of happened. Trams took me to his house, which was little more than a shack downtown with a few beds, a stove, and some broken things. The house had been abandoned I think before Trams came along, and I guess I could relate to it in that aspect. Trams had of course done his best to fix up the house. He found candles and some blankets and was always asking me if there was something I thought we needed for the house. I never could think of anything so he usually just brought back what he thought we needed. Trams taught me everything I know, which is funny â€˜cause he never talked a lot. He was always quiet unless you spoke to him first, and he constantly had a surprised, almost confused look on his face. It seemed to me like he didn't believe in real life, since he would sometimes stare at something for hours like he was waiting for it to jump up and dance. All my life I felt that Trams didn't belong in this world, but I was glad he was â€˜cause I didn't have a clue how to survive on my own. I needed Trams more than anything in the world, and I knew there was one thing that he needed more than anything in the world and it wasn't me. It was his velvet box. The velvet box is what I always think of when I picture Trams. It was about a foot tall and wide and he had it on a strap so that he could carry it around with him wherever he went, not that he ever went anywhere. I knew to call the soft stuff on the outside of the box velvet because he told me that was what it was, and he even let me feel it once. But other than that one time he let me feel it, I never got close to that velvet box. Trams didn't ever put it down, not even for one second, but I knew that if I had something as amazing as that box I wouldn't put it down for one second either. Trams didn't want me to know the secret about his box but I found out anyways the night I couldn't sleep. I hadn't yet fallen asleep, but I seemed to be teetering around the edges of it. If it weren't for the candle Trams lit, and the swear word he whispered when he accidently burnt himself on it I probably wouldn't even have opened my eyes. And when I did open my eyes I didn't make any noise â€˜cause I wanted to see what Trams was doing this late at night. I was confused at first when I saw him there without his velvet box, but then I noticed that he had set it on the floor, and that the top of it was opened up. I could see a little of the inside, but it looked just like the outside and nothing special. Trams had an armful of rocks. I almost thought I was dreaming when I saw Trams sitting there with his rocks and his velvet box, since it didn't make any sense to me at the time. I wasn't sure why he began to carefully place the rocks into his box, or why he seemed so casual while doing it. I began to wonder if this happened every night when I was asleep and I just didn't know it until now. When Trams had set all his rocks into his velvet box, he closed the lid for just a second, then opened it back up again and reached his hand in. I expected him to come back up with the rocks again, but he instead pulled out a fair sized loaf of bread. I knew that loaf of bread, it was the same loaf of bread we had every morning for breakfast. It never occurred to me that Trams had to have gotten the bread from somewhere, and since he didn't work during the day I should have been suspicious about its origins. But I had never questioned it. The bread was always there, always good, and that's just how it had been. Next, Trams pulled a cooked ham from the velvet box. This was the ham we had for lunch and dinner, the ham that must have come from somewhere. In his final act, Trams grabbed the jug on our tiny, broken counter, and dipped it into the velvet box, and I didn't have to wait to know that when he brought it back out again it was full of the water we had every day. Once I learned the secret of the velvet box, it was hard to decide whether things made more or less sense. I began to wonder things about the world, I started to question everything I had ignored my whole life. I was consistently interrogating Trams about every little thing, though I veered away from anything that might lead him to believe I knew about the velvet box. I began to learn, and I knew that was what I loved to do most. I soon realized that the only thing more exciting than learning things from Trams was learning things on my own. I was around fourteen now, an exciting age, and I was old enough to walk around the city alone during the day. I loved to observe people, and though I never approached anyone or asked questions I found I could tell a lot about someone just by studying them for a short while. Some people I would see more than once, like the girl with the curly blonde hair, or the man with the red bicycle. It didn't take long for me to begin to recognize most people, though they never noticed me. Most days I would walk around and see the same faces, and the same faces would not see me. I loved to explore the city and would do it every day when I could, but I had to stop everything once Trams got sick. It started as a little cough that would sometimes stir me in the middle of the night, but nothing too drastic to halt my number one mission of learning. Then it progressed into something worse. Trams had a hard time keeping his food down, and he sweated so much it made me sweat. It eventually got to the point where he couldn't get out of bed. Trams was weakening with every day but he always assured me that he'd be fine, and he encouraged me to go out in the city each day like I always did and leave him to rest. I never listened, though, and I stayed with him near his bed up until his very last day. I remember that last day more vividly than I remember anything else in my entire life. Trams' cough was terrible that day, and he couldn't even move his arms enough to feed the velvet box. I had begun to collect the rocks a while ago, though Trams never let me put them in the box and made me leave the house or close my eyes when he was going to. But today he asked me to do it and I obeyed. As I went out to gather the rocks for our velvet box, I could hear his coughing from inside the house. I winced every time I heard him hacking away, and I hurried my fastest with the rock gathering. When I came back into the house Trams' eyes were shut and I panicked for a second until they opened and his olive green irises looked up at me and my pile of rocks. He glanced towards the velvet box, lying static on the floor. Trams coughed as I nervously approached the box. I couldn't believe how fast my heart was pounding when I put my hand out to open the velvet box. I had wondered what this would be like for most of my life and I was finally going to find out. I expected something spectacular to happen when I lifted up the velvet lid, and was almost disappointed when I noticed the inside was a complete mimic of the outside. Trams' violent cough made me remember what I was doing. I tried to be careful as I placed the rocks in the box, but Trams' coughs were getting worse and worse and I started to rush. He had vomited now, and was breathing heavily, so I shoved the rest of the rocks in quickly and shut the lid. I glanced once at Trams and he was looking at the ceiling almost as if in a trance. I didn't open the box and I continued to look at Trams, waiting for him to cough or breath. He didn't. Tears were waiting for their cue as I said his name once with no response from him at all. I stood up, leaving the velvet box on the ground and shook Trams' motionless arm. It was already cold with death and I began to panic. The stench of vomit coated the sheets and clothing that covered Trams but I ignored it and leaned close to him, hoping desperately that he would say something. I could almost make out a word trying to escape his lips, trapped inside his mouth, unable to make it out before Trams passed. I knew the word was box. It had to be. It was the one thing Trams needed more than anything in the world to survive. Of course he wasn't dead; he just couldn't survive without his box! The idea was insane, but I didn't even bother not to believe it. I was too busy grabbing the velvet box from the floor and placing it on top of Trams. For the second time in my life, I opened the lid of the velvet box, and I was not prepared for what happened next. Before the lid was fully up, the light from within the box had already blinded me, and it had taken a few other senses away with it. My sense of time, of place, of everything was all gone and had been replaced with this bright, pure light. I don't know how I managed to close the lid of the box again, or if it was even me who closed it, but when the light backed off the velvet box was shut tight. And Trams' body was gone. I must have wept for hours on the spot where Trams had died. I was so confused and so plagued with grief that I didn't know what to do with myself. I eventually managed to get myself up and decided I had to leave. I had to leave this city behind since there was nothing left for me now. I would take only two things with me, my memories and my velvet box. Using the strap attached, I slung the box over my shoulder and headed out the door for what I thought would be the last time. I knew it was December because there was snow on the ground and the windows of stores were filled with things I would never have. I felt alone as I trudged through the streets I used to explore every day. I saw familiar faces and they didn't see me. Nobody looked at me, nobody could have any idea of what my life was like, or what things I had experienced. They never knew Trams and they never knew me. Feeling a pair of eyes upon me as I walked down the streets was something I was unfamiliar with. I glanced towards a curb and saw something I will never forget. I saw a young, dark skinned boy with olive green eyes eating snow on the streets. I could do nothing but stare and I knew that he would do the same as well. So many things were in my head at once that nothing was at all, and I put all my energy into staring at this one child whose name broke the silence after what seemed like a lifetime. "Howard F. Trams."