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Life Trade – Maya Krolik '23

Harper Moreno is born March 18, 1990, in a hospital in Boston. The same day, the largest modern art theft is committed just a few miles away. His parents inherit a comfortable life, never having to bite nails over bills and raise their son preparing for the worst. Harper’s father works a traveling job and Harper forgets the feel of his scratchy beard, the color of his hazel eyes, and the sound of the gentle heartbeat of his watch. That watch is to someday be his. His mother becomes the primary guardian and juggles a nursing shift. Harper never has any more siblings. He is his parents’ one shot that they aim into the dark. By age five, he can multiply and divide and by the time of Clinton’s second inauguration, his teachers recommended him to another school. He is by no means a genius, but rather his parents plan his every day to the minute with studying. Harper likes to be praised, so he complies. Outside, not much happens.

Harper is a scrawny kid. His tendency to choose the library over the field earns him a couple of bruises, which is a secret he takes to the grave. He has a fair complexion and does not stand out in a crowd. His eyes, although normally reserved, shimmer and widen with excitement. He is told to eat more. He learns that at the equator, the surface of the earth moves at nearly 1,000 miles per hour. He imagines a car going that fast. He then remembers that this would be impossible. He returns to his homework. Working pleases his parents.

When Harper is 10, his father comes back. He is fired. And angry. Harper feels truly scared for the first time in his life. One night the situation escalates and the police are called. He cannot remember anything besides his vow to never get married. He works harder, remembering the satisfaction that he was once able to bring. Outside, not much happens.

In high school, Harper shifts into high gear. It's a new millennium, a new school, and new opportunities. He makes his first lasting friendship with Curtis Wright. Curtis would look nearly identical to Harper if only Harper had freckles and wore contacts instead of his usual bulky glasses. They eat lunch together in silence, perfectly understanding each other. They never discover any common passions, goals, dreams, desires. That is fine with Harper. The Columbia Shuttle explodes at the start of the second semester. Curtis seemed to not only be silent but to absorb the sound of his surroundings the next day at lunch.

Harper applies to 13 different colleges. His parents want him to be a surgeon. They want him to ‘save lives’ and ‘help those in need’ and get money. This means Harper also wants to be a surgeon. He gets accepted into all of them, and even receives a few scholarships. His parents do not argue for a week and Harper almost cries himself to sleep. Even though all of his tests are over, he is strongly encouraged by his parents and jealous peers to keep on working. Curtis is less lucky and only gets into his last choice for an undeclared major. He shrugs it off but does not come back to school the next day. He is found with a toppled pile of textbooks and shoelaces missing. Outside, not much happens.

Harper was busy with other matters. Obama is elected and Harper heads off to school. His roommates leave dishes uncleaned and beer bottles littered everywhere. Their parents pay under the counter for a little piece of paper denoting that their children are not failures, but otherwise do not interfere with the party lifestyle. Harper burns in silent rage every time he sees his roommates. He sees a student in the back of his lecture hall and his heart skips a beat thinking it is Curtis, but when the student looks up, their eyes glow and they high-five another student and Harper lowers his raised eyebrows. Harper's parents live in different apartments now and his dad has found a new job. Harper wonders if he should care. Everyone else seems to care when their parents get divorced. He graduates six years later at the top of his class, bags under his eyes and stone-faced. His family sends their congratulations and his cousins are told to be just like him when they grow up. They are told that if they work hard, anything is possible.

Harper moves to Vancouver, Canada to work at a children's hospital. It seemed fitting to move to another country. New location, new job, new opportunities. He spends his days looking at various X-rays and scans, never fully leaving the darkness of the scanning rooms. His parents, now fully divorced and satisfied with the extent of his education, want him to settle down permanently. Harper waits another six years. He then breaks his only promise and gets married to Eloise Hayes, daughter of a senior chairman of an Oil Company he could not care less about. They both understand each other in the sense that they do not talk much about themselves and Harper is reminded of Curtis.

His mother dies a sudden death in a car accident. Harper remembers his youth with her; she was strict and unforgiving, but she also wanted the best for him. Everyone wanted the best for him. He remembers the look of satisfaction on her face whenever he would come home with a ‘noteworthy accomplishment’ and wonders where he can find that look now. He takes a long walk at Stanley Park, leaving his wife behind. He crosses halfway across Lions Gate Bridge.

It is well past midnight by now. On his left, he can feel the vastness of the Pacific sending battering winds towards the city on his right. Below him is where the two meet: a common ground.

Outside, not much happens.

Art by Annika Haagensen '22


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