Author's Note: This is just a short little story that I wrote for a writing class. I really would like to hear as much input as possible as to whether or not the characters are developed enough and if there's enough detail. I know that if I were to expand and make it longer that I would be able to get everything in, but it was only supposed to be about 2,000 words. So anyway, hope you like it.

Conformity makes you disappear.

I first heard that phrase a few years back during the summer of when I was hanging in between the stages of adolescence and adulthood. I was by myself at the beach that day, sitting cross-legged on top of the scorching white sand, wearing a pair of yellow swim trunks. It happened to have been one of the most God-awful hottest days of the year. Absolutely no mercy, and the crazy thing was that it didn't matter that the temperature was already at 100 degrees; it just kept on climbing, rising with aggravating slowness, getting ready to bake everyone to death. The heat sizzled off of every surface in lazy waves, the sun frying any exposed skin. Not even SPF 50 could have saved you. Everything seemed to possess that exhausting, sweaty, stickiness, yet being a born and bred native; I was prepared for any type of heat that Southern California decided to serve. Every now and then a warm faint breeze from the ocean would bring smells of coconut and sunscreen.

I had finished arranging a pile of seashells into a circle in front of me and was undecided as to whether or not I felt like surfing. The tides were kind of bland, and any chances for the waves picking up were very slim, but then again, the water might have provided some form of relief. Under different circumstances, I would have dove into that glistening surf without hesitation, except with the heat depleting energy, my muscles might as well have been made from heavy sand. So I sat there, with my sunglasses riding on the bridge of my nose and my already deeply tanned skin darkening further under the blinding rays and stared at the dull finish of my board.

While I contemplated, two girls, a blond and a redhead walked by carrying totes and beach towels. Both of them had sparse bikinis wrapped around their lithe bodies and appeared to be around my age, fifteen or perhaps sixteen. They chose a spot probably twenty-feet away from where I was sitting and quickly laid out their towels, spreading them carefully over the ground to avoid getting sand on them. I observed the two with disinterest as they sat down and rubbed sunscreen into their tanned limbs. The blond glanced over at me just as she was about to lie on her back and paused when she caught me watching them. She held my gaze for a minute before sitting up and leaned toward her friend to whisper something into her ear. The redhead's eyebrows raised a little and both girls turned their heads in my direction with smiles on their faces. They giggled a bit before the blond decided to give a little wave and I merely smiled, averting my gaze and attention back to my board.

"God he's hot," one of the girls remarked.

"Oh, I know! He has a surfboard near him too."

"He does?"


"Oh my God, that is so cool!" With some embarrassment, I scattered the shells in front of me, pretending that I couldn't hear their comments.

"Hey, what's your name?" one of the girls called out. Startled, I glanced over and saw the blond smiling at me.

"Who? Me?" I asked.

"Yeah, you. What's your name?"

"Asher," I said quietly, my face heating up. The two smiled knowingly at eachother.

"So…Asher, you here by yourself?"

"Yeah," I replied.

"Really? I see you gotta board next to you. You a surfer?"

I nodded and a tingling sensation of nervousness began to shimmer through my body.

"Gotta girlfriend?"

I quickly looked away, wishing that I was somewhere else, anywhere, it didn't matter: just as long as those two girls were far, far away.

"Yeah," I lied. There was a pause.

"That's too bad," the blond finally said somewhat reserved, obviously not expecting my answer. There was a small silence before the two of them shrugged and turned their attention back to one another. Relieved, I looked away from them and fixed my gaze upon the ocean.

Confusion seemed to have been a dominant part of my life at that time and I silently longed for someone to talk to, someone who I could share that confusion and my doubts with. Normally, a guy my age would have asked either an older brother or a father for advice, but I didn't have that luxury. I was an only child, without any type of male authority figure in my life, my father having taken off long before the arrival of my fourth birthday. I couldn't exactly tell my friends about my growing fears, terrified of their rejection. That left me with only my mother to confide in, and I did too, only it was always secretive, guarded and cloaked to hide my darkening shame. "Don't worry so much Ashley. You're just shy," she would say, trying to reassure me and I would paste a smile on my face and nod and try to convince myself that maybe that was what was wrong: Maybe I was shy. Yet, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself…I somehow knew that my problem wasn't as simple as just being shy. The thought never failed to shake me up.

"I think that I'm going to bleach my hair blond," one of the girls, who I had assumed to be the redhead, said suddenly.

"Why would you do that?"

"I don't know, something different I guess."

"Well, I don't think that you should do it."


"Because, everybody is blond here."


"So, conformity makes you disappear."

"Conformity makes you disappear? What's that mean?"

Conformity makes you disappear? Yeah, what does that mean? I thought. Those four words caught my interest with an intensity that was puzzling and I felt an overwhelming urge to walk up to the girl and ask her what it meant. But that would have seemed too weird so I stayed where I was and mulled over that statement forever, almost to the point where my brain started to hurt. I tried to hear the girl's answer without looking at her, but her voice was swallowed by a wave breaking. It swirled, twisted, teasing my reason and refusing release every time I tried to let it go.

I thought about it long after the heat had weakened and the girls finally left, each making sure to wave and smile at me before departing, yet, no matter how hard or how carefully I pondered, I was still left with nothing. It wasn't until the sun had actually set when I sighed in resignation, deciding that I would never understand and should just try to forget about it. I had no idea how late it was but I knew that it was about time to head home anyway. It really annoyed my mother whenever I missed dinner.

Forgotten, I didn't give that phrase another thought until a few days later when it had unexpectedly resurfaced in my mind while I was at the beach once again. I wasn't alone this time and had my friends Davis and Garrett with me. I was originally supposed to go grocery shopping with my mother that day, but Davis had called me earlier that morning, informing me that the waves were pretty decent and that I had to get out there before they died down. At first, I had declined, not wanting to leave my mother to complete the chore on her own.

"Can't she, like, go by herself or something?" he had asked.

"She could, but I really want to be there with her."

"Humph. Well I don't care, you're comin' with us dude," he grunted.

"Sorry…maybe tomorrow," I replied, trying to close the matter. Except Davis, who possessed a passion for nothing but surfing, persisted relentlessly and I eventually gave in.

"…Fine," I had sighed in frustration.

"Sweet! We'll pick you up in, like, half an hour. You better be ready dude!" he said as a last warning and hung up.

The three of us arrived at the beach somewhere before noon just before the high tide, immediately immersing ourselves in the cool Pacific. We rode the thirty-foot waves for a while until the tides simmered and we were left with either riding the meager ten footers or just lie in the sun. Since Garrett hated to surf anything below fifteen, the three of us ended up sprawled out on our beach towels, letting the air dry our skin. I actually enjoyed soaking in the sun without the blistering heat from two weeks ago. It was a comfortable ninety-four degrees and seemed unlikely to change. The sky was like clear cornflower and the winds were warm and mellow.

"Dudes, I would, like, be so perfectly happy if school would never start up again. Then I could be out here every single fuckin' day," Davis commented, his lips curved softly and his eyes closed.

"Oh I know dude! No school ever and, like, the waves would always be fifty-footers. That would be fuckin' awesome!" Garrett agreed.

"Yeah man, that would be so cool."

I didn't say anything and glanced at the two of them, lying side by side, both completely content. Taking in their sun-streaked blond hair, long lean bodies, how the light reflected gold off of their deeply tanned skin, I felt very odd all of a sudden. Not necessarily a bad feeling and I actually think that I would have liked it, but then came the familiar oiliness and, somewhat disturbed, I guiltily averted my eyes toward the water. And again, I felt very alone.

"Man, Ash, why are you so quiet today?" Garrett asked.

Not thinking that it would have been very wise to confess my feelings, I chose silence instead and shrugged, "Just a little tired I guess," I mumbled, all the while feeling his eyes studying me curiously. With my face feeling uncomfortably warm, I hestantly met his stare.

"Hmmm..." Finally he nodded, "I know how that is," he said sympathetically while sifting a handful of sand through his fingers.

"Queer," Davis muttered suddenly.

I flinched at Davis' words, my face becoming numb with panic that he had seen inside of my mind and knew what I was thinking. A million denials sped through my brain, all at the tip of my tongue as I held my breath and looked nervously over at him. I realized then that I had misunderstood when I saw that he wasn't looking at me, but rather at somebody in front of us. Relief flooded through me as the blood in my veins slowly began to circulate again. I breathed.

"Who?" Garrett asked curiously, wiping a strand of hair from his eyes.

"Him," Davis nodded, "The dude with the dark hair wearing green trunks."

"Oh, I see him. How do you know?"

"He goes to our school. Well, used to until he, like, moved or whatever. I think his name's Ethan, something or other. Anyway, Dan Linderman said that the dude was, like, trying to make out with this other guy, so yeah man, Ethan's totally queer."

"Oh, Dan said that, huh?" Garrett asked sarcastically.

"Well, that and the fact that he was, like, standing right there dude."

"Humph," Garrett mumbled, already losing interest.

I didn't lose interest though. In fact, I tried as discreetly as possible to get a good look at this Ethan person without having to crane my neck. He was sitting alone near the shore, staring out at the water and its swimmers. I didn't know why, but I felt very shaky. My heart thudded heavily and that loneliness from before descended upon me again before I could do anything about it.

"Oh man, check out the pussy!" Davis exclaimed loudly and pointed. I pulled my eyes away from Ethan at Davis' outburst and saw a small group of girls wearing bikinis. They were standing at the concession booth with bottles of water in their hands, laughing and flipping their hair.

Garrett whistled softly in appreciation while Davis suddenly jumped up with determination. "C'mon dudes, let's go over there!"

With a small groan, Garrett stood, brushed at some loose sand on his skin and looked at me expectantly.

"Ash, you comin' man?" he asked.

I nodded reluctantly and wiped the sand from my legs but froze in the process of standing up to join them. Like a broken tsunami, suspended in the distance only to fall in thunderous appeal, revelation poured in bringing with it a wash of acceptance.

"Nah, I think I'm going to go swimming," I finally answered.

Davis shrugged, "Sure dude. Kinda better for us since the girls always seem to only look at you," he said.

They started walking over to the concession booth, giving eachother a couple of playful shoves along the way. When the two of them were a good distance away from me, I smiled to myself at their almost childish gestures and was about ready to look away before Garrett suddenly turned his head in my direction. I froze beneath his intense stare, the blue depths of his eyes burning into my shielded emotions. His expression was thoughtful, almost wondering and with some anticipation, I waited for something, anything, to happen. Every nerve in my body was strung taut with uncertainty. Garrett held my gaze for a moment longer before finally looking away and I dismissed the feelings.

While they continued walking away, I again absorbed their appearances of sun-streaked blond hair, long lean bodies, gold reflected deeply tanned skin and again, I felt very odd. Except it was different this time. The longer I looked and the longer I thought about their similarities, the clearer everything became. It was almost like I was looking into a mirror. Conformity makes you disappear. The words floated quietly through my mind while my eyes gravitated toward the water again. I shook a little with fear as a cool sweat broke on my skin and with a moment of hesitance, I walked slowly toward the shore with purpose.