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Broadcast Journalism - Full Year

The Blue Blanket

Alex Brennan

The winds rustled the crisp autumnal leaves on the path before me. It was a path that I had walked before, though times were different. I was seventeen then, coming off the heels of a nasty breakup. A good friend of mine took me out stargazing in a nearby clearing, where I would discover the damage of an extinguished candle’s conflagrations. That was the last time I would see Giovanni Moretti.


I think about Gio a lot; I think about the lessons he taught me, the memories we shared, and the life that was never lived. I understand why things fell apart, but that understanding will never gift me the ability to fix things. As I returned to this woodland path, the memories surged back. The blue blanket, the glistening stars, the sweat on my left palm- it all returned in vivid collages of the psyche. Once filled with hearty echoes of laughter, these woods silently observed my pensive strides. I continued down the path, but I hesitated at the sight of a cobalt patch in my peripheral vision. I navigated the bramble and stumbled upon an all-too-familiar clearing.


This can’t be real, I thought. How could Gio’s blanket be here, in the very spot that we once shared all those years ago? My mind raced for a solution. Could he be here again? Is he thinking about me? My heart then dropped. Could he be here with someone new?


My instinct was to check and see if he was nearby. Surveying the nearby landscape, I searched for any semblance of human life.


“Gio?” I called. “Gio? Are you there?” I hesitated to say anything further. At that moment I began to panic; Do I want to see him again? What if he’s mad at me? If he didn’t appear, could I relax or would it push me further over the edge? Both paths bound themselves to chaos- either option could destroy me. It felt as if the thorn bushes surrounding the glade had coiled themselves around my heart. For better or worse, the only answer to my calls was the rustling of woodland creatures in the orange-brown brush.


I returned to the center of the clearing where the blanket awaited. I sat down, then lowered my back to the blue plaid. My hands reacquainted themselves with its soft fleece, and I rested my eyes. It wasn’t long before I was interrupted.


“Yeah, no, that one just hits different.” I jolted up off of the ground. It was the same voice that had haunted me for years. The same voice that would sing over certain songs on the radio on my late-night drives. The same voice that cracked as it told me that it was fine over the phone.


He sat beside me, a product of time and memory. His soft brown hair danced in a light evening breeze as he gazed at the starry skies. There was a certain glint in his eyes; one of pure astonishment and joy. He gently rocked back and forth, arms around his crossed legs. The rusty foliage that I had just ventured through had been replaced with lush greenery and the previously-barren tree boughs were bursting with leaves. The scenery could have been pulled from a Van Gogh painting, but it all faded into the background. How is he here? Is this a dream? Am I making this up in my head?


“G- Gio? What’s going on?” I laughed in scared bewilderment.


“What?” he asked. He looked puzzled by my question. “We were just talking about Cyndi’s album and then you just like, spaced.” He laughed.


I knew the content of the conversation; I wasn’t questioning that. I was questioning how I managed to find myself reliving our shared moment. I followed along with the script; I had thought about these conversations too many times to forget how they played out. He wore a familiar outfit: a sage green quarter zip and jeans as blue as his eyes on the morning we met.


“Those are cute jeans,” I commented. I awkwardly punched his shoulder in a playful attempt to see what would happen, as I still wasn’t entirely sure if I was dreaming. Full contact was made as he was knocked off-kilter— this strange dreamscape was as real as could be.


He blushed a bit and thanked me, saying that they were his favorite pair- the proper crossroads between comfort and style. His words were delicate, failing to hide the dorky excitement behind them. When Gio spoke, it was as though a golden retriever was running up to you with a new tennis ball in its mouth. Our game of fetch came to an end as Gio lowered his body and lay back on the blanket beside me. I followed suit, bunching up my jacket and placing it behind my head as a pillow.


Silence hit. It wasn’t an awkward silence; more of a mutual understanding. The skies glittered with starlight, gleaming down upon us. The deep blue skies blanketed the lush greenery that surrounded us. Before I knew what was happening, my heart stopped. A finger slipped around mine. Before my mind could react, our palms clasped together. My heart felt like it was wriggling out of my chest. I knew this moment was coming, yet I still could not prepare myself for it. It was the single moment in time that would intoxicate me for years to follow. No words were spoken in the following minutes— a simple brush of a finger on the back of the hand would communicate excellently. A glance to my left would reveal a smug grin on Gio’s face. At that moment I registered the grin that had swept across my own.


Time moved differently, almost as if someone had fed the clock a sedative. I still don’t know how long we had lain there, but eventually, we sat up and gathered our belongings. We began our walk back down the trail, trying to find small talk after what just unfolded. His denim eyes twinkled in the starlight.


“Sorry if my hand was like, sweaty and gross,” I chuckled.


Gio quickly responded, “No, no, you’re fine- mine were definitely worse.” He laughed as we stumbled upon another clearing... where the blue blanket sat before us and Gio took no time to move towards it and sit down.


“Have you listened to Cyndi’s new album yet?”


“Pardon?” I wasn’t quite sure how to take the question. I had somehow found myself at the beginning of the memory, only things were... different. The air was thick with smog, blocking the stars from our sight. The landscapes around us twisted and jutted to unnatural degrees. The leaves, now gray and frail, clung to the tree branches for dear life. Some had been eaten away at, with an unnerving moldy coating. Strange odors permeated the air, eerily familiar yet indistinguishable.


“She’s So Unusual- I asked you if you had listened to it yet,” Gio looked around, seemingly unphased by the twisted terrain. I took a second, sat down beside him, and continued with the conversation.


“Oh yeah- I’m like, obsessed with it. I love like, all of the songs but I think I liked ‘When U Were Mine’ the most... it has my whole heart.” I chuckled. The laughter died out once I realized the weight of that statement. At the time I was just referring to a song, but now my own words were coming back to taunt me.


He raised his brow, responding, “Really? I couldn’t really get into that one.” Cold chills shot down my spine. The trees swayed as if a gust of wind had blown through them, but there was no wind to be had.




That wasn’t right. I know what he said and that was not it. I was supposed to say that and then Gio was supposed to say, ‘Yeah, no, that one just hits different.’ I know what I remember. I wouldn’t let myself forget.


He continued with the conversation, blind to my confusion. “I know... unpopular opinion, but I just didn’t connect with that one the way I did with some of the others.”


I wanted to prompt Gio and see if I could pull the strange dreamscape back on track. I inquired, “So it didn’t like, ‘hit different’ for you?” I hoped that the specific words would trigger some sort of reaction. He shrugged, saying, “No... not really,” and relaxed himself on the blanket. I lowered my torso as well, uneased by the atmosphere. The smog had settled over us like a weighted blanket. Gio still gazed at the skies, wherever they may lie beyond the gray-green vapors. The silence was suffocating. I couldn’t bear to wait until he reached out his hand; I rolled over to his side and wrapped my arm around his torso. What should have been an act of love became an act of fear.


Gio took me in his arms, asking, “What’s wrong?” He stroked the hair on the back of my head, trying to reassure my unspoken ailments.


“I know this won’t make much sense to you right now, but I hate the way things ended and I’m sorry I wasn’t better,” I whimpered. The towering trees that surrounded the clearing leaned in as if they wanted to listen in on my hushed sorrows.


Gio paused, gathered his thoughts, then responded, “If this is about Laine, I’m sorry but you can do better. Leave the past in the past.” The trees continued to encroach upon us, creaking and cracking with every inch they gained.


“No... it’s not that. I’m fine with what happened there. I’ve been-” Before I could complete my sentence, the trees scooped me up and pried me from Gio. They catapulted me into the sky, where gravity ceased. I felt as if I was falling down, though logically I knew I was being pulled away from the ground. That said, I should have known that logic had no rule over this hellscape. Gusts of wind whipped me around like a feather above a fan. Rapid flashes of violets and deep reds blinded me- rain fell from no discernable direction. A heavy force had blown some strange fabric against my body. Blinded by the mass, I squirmed and tried to wriggle myself free, suspended in free fall. Before I knew it, I made contact with a ground-like surface.


Wheezing from the impact, I pulled the blanket off of my body. The world that enveloped me felt completely foreign. The dirt beneath me heaved and salivated, waxing and waning like a strange earthen tide. The trees that surrounded the clearing twitched and danced as their tendrils wisped through the red-brown skies. I turned over and there he stood. The entity that stood above me was not Gio. It may have shared his stance, or his hair, or his clothing, but I knew for sure that they were not the same. Its face was blurred and grotesque as if it couldn’t quite remember how to depict the boy. Gio’s aquamarine eyes were replaced with strange sockets of flesh as if every remaining bit of life had been sucked from him. Even a brief glance at this sickened doppelganger felt as if it would devour any remainder of my sanity. I could no longer stand it. I flipped onto my stomach and began to crawl away from the shell of the boy that I once knew. My nails dug into the pulsating dirt, but not long before the blue blanket could wrap itself around my ankle and drag me back to face the monster that I had created. I righted myself to my knees, then stood up.



I had spent so many years lingering in that memory that I didn’t even recognize where it took a turn. I no longer remembered Gio- I remembered the concept of him. What stood before me was the blueprint of the boy I wanted, but it was a house unfurnished. Fearful that this was my last encounter with any sort of reality, I pulled the figure in for a hug. I wanted to feel something again- the fireworks, the butterflies, whatever I could grasp. However, something much heavier sat in both my gut and my brain. 


“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “I’m sorry I cut things off, and I’m sorry I let you down.” I began to sob into its shoulder, regretful of the decisions I had made since that starry night. I continued rambling, knowing that my dignity found the exit door many moons ago. “I’m sorry that I’ll never know if I let you down because I wanted us to be closer but I panicked and pushed you away. I'm sorry that I can’t move on because of the dissatisfaction I caused in myself. I’m sorry that I never got to  tell you how much you taught me and how much you helped me through dark times. I'm sorry- truly I am."


As my teardrops met his shoulder, they sizzled like splashes of water on a stovetop. He began to crumble before me, reducing to a pile of ash on the crunchy earth. I knew there was nothing I could do to stop this decomposition, but as the last remaining pieces of him crumbled and withered away, I could feel his presence wrap its arms around me and pull me into a final embrace. I swung my arms out into the air to follow through with the otherworldly hug, but he was gone. Every fiber of my body let go, collapsing onto the illusionary dirt; an inhuman shriek rang from my very own vocal cords.


The world bowed under the weight of human emotion, and the environment began to crumble. I sniffled and sobbed, eyes puffy from all of the tears. My ears rang and the beat of my mangled heart pulsed in my temples as the trees surrounding the glade folded in on themselves. I wrapped myself up in the blue blanket, pondering what would come after the collapse.