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Stupidly Beautiful - 夏

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Kalmin’s first impression of Mira and Deimos was…beautiful.

They were beautiful. A beautiful couple, two beautiful individuals. The moment they entered the art gallery, everyone’s eyes were on them. It might be because of Deimos’ large figure, it might be because of Mira’s short figure. It might be because of their striking blood red lips, it might be because of their matching attire. Whatever it was, it made people flock to them. Whenever Kalmin looked over at them, they were surrounded by suited and dressed figures. There was a permanent spotlight on them. At first, he couldn’t understand why. But, when he saw Mira’s artwork, he immediately knew.

Kalmin wasn’t an artist. He was a hockey player and a barista. He was half-Korean and half-black. He was bisexual. He had many labels to his name, but an artist wasn’t one of them. He didn’t understand art the way other people perceive it. His understanding went shallow while others went deep. He could only see work for its aesthetic value, not its underlying, dark themes.

So, he shouldn’t have been at this Muse artist showcase in the first place. But, Gabriel, his co-worker, dragged him along. Moreover, Aaron dragged him to come along. Aaron liked Gabriel. Gabriel, Aaron and Kalmin were co-workers. Aaron didn’t want to come alone. Kalmin and Aaron were high school friends. The puzzle pieces fit into place.

So, Kalmin was dragged into a place full of sights, sounds, and colours he was unfamiliar with. Nothing about the gallery reminded him of the rink or the gym. It was foreign to him. Foreign faces, foreign sounds, foreign smells. Gabriel dragged him through the gallery deciphering and picking apart every little art piece hung up on these tall white walls, his eyes sparkling as he spoke. Aaron fucking loved every second of it, his smile incredibly wide and his nods a little bit too vigorous. Gabriel was an artist and could dive deep into these works. A minimalist painting consisting of squares and dots was a math equation to him. He found core elements and connected the dots. He was analytical and critical, picking apart every component to make it even better. When Gabriel saw a coming-of-age-story symbolized in the colours and shapes, Kalmin saw dots and squares.

However, Mira’s art work was easier to understand. She didn’t make her themes infuriatingly obvious, but it was enough for Kalmin to appreciate better. Mira’s art was bright and colourful, warm and fluffy. Her colours were light and poppy, pastel and soft. She was a girl fascinated by her muse, fascinated with what he does, fascinated in the same way Kalmin approaches hockey. Without Gabriel’s translations, Kalmin knew Deimos, the muse, meant the universe to her. And Kalmin was being particular with using the word, “universe.” Stars covered his skin like freckles, shimmering and bright, in paintings and sketches. Planets circled around his head and body as if he was the sun.

Kalmin especially liked the painting of Deimos stretching. It was a simple pose of his arms up and back taut, eyes half-lidded and expression distant. The background was black and simple, yet the colours used to shade and colour him was expressive and fun. Gabriel tugged Kalmin to some photographs he helped Mira shoot, and similar styles were repeated in a particular piece of Deimos notably naked. He draped himself across the floor, his face and limbs painted in similar colours, and it seemed like he was sucking the colour out of the floor and depositing it into his skin. It was a magical shot and Gabriel proudly chatted about it.

Incredibly Aaron somehow got onto the topic of how Gabriel knew Mira and Deimos, and Gabriel fantastically made the mood awkward by telling them both that they were kind of his ex-girlfriend and boyfriend. Kalmin didn’t really want to deal with Aaron and Gabriel, and opted out wandering around and going back to Mira’s work. He looked at the large polaroid series she made that was around the theme of catching Deimos being beautiful in everyday life. Or at least that’s what Kalmin hoped it was about. Because Deimos was super hot in all these shots.

Also looking at these photos, Kalmin realized he went to school with them. Many shots were from the university campus. The little meadow, the lecture halls, the stairways, the highway. They were places that he’s passed through before, yet with Mira’s touch, she made the mundane seem ethereal.

So yeah, his first impression of both Mira and Deimos was pretty high up there. They were cool, pretty and talented people. They perceived the world differently from him, existing on a plane of existence he could never reach. They were otherworldly. Only two people knew how they thought and felt, and that was Mira and Deimos. They were out of Kalmin’s reach.

Throughout the disorienting night, they even noticed him in his dorky blue suit and smiled at him. Mira and Deimos looked at each other once and Kalmin knew they just had a long conversation between another. They were just so in sync. The same way he was with his teammates on the ice, gliding down the rink, eyes sharp and calculating, and relaying long game plans that all boiled down to winning over and over again. Their friends, Raven, Renee and Micheal (Kalmin learned from Gabriel afterwards) even visited them to announce that Mira and Deimos were a couple. Gabriel proudly boasted that he was there when it was first initialized, and Raven and Renee bribed him with information. Like the tease he was, Gabriel avoided them and ended up chatting with Mira and Deimos. When he came back, he was bubbly and giggly, blushing with two deep red lipstick kiss marks on both of his cheeks. Aaron seemed a little jealous and Kalmin had to pat him on the back and reassure him it was probably nothing. (It was probably the opposite of nothing)

Afterwards, Kalmin didn’t see Mira nor Deimos for the rest of the night. He did however, get to meet their friends as Gabriel dragged him into an after party, which was something new to him because drunken artists were kind of weirdly hilarious. It was extremely different to the usual parties he went to. Usually it consisted of one of his drunk teammates with his shirt off doing parkour on stuff that isn’t parkour. This party was something completely different. Someone had snagged helium balloons and proceeded to enact Hamlet faithfully and ever so dramatically high off helium. Someone else started a stacking war that consisted of too many champagne glasses, shoes, books and someone’s Rey-ban glasses. Even though Kalmin was the designated driver for the night, he had a pretty good time sober. He met Raven, a pretty mixed kid like him, and proceeded to make fun of everyone at the party with her. They also made bets on how long it was going to take for Gabriel to hook up with Aaron, and Kalmin had to pay five bucks in coins when Gabriel snuck Aaron into a secret room at the end of the night.

The ride after the party with them was incredibly awkward for his part, but did fist-bump Aaron when he dropped him off at home.

So, afterwards that insane weekend, Kalmin calmly went back into the rhythm of things. Work, eat and sleep. His life was pretty mundane on the off-season. He had nothing to do in the summer. Nowhere to be, no one to see, no girlfriend or boyfriend to make out with. The most he got was working with Gabriel and Aaron, but even those days seemed longer and distant.

Kalmin wouldn’t say he was lonely. He had friends he could text whenever he pleased, family that loved him, cats that he could cuddle, but he felt like something was missing. A void in his chest that sometimes haunts him deep at night. A feeling that tugs at him when he’s in social gatherings. The need for someone on a cold night.

He just tried to ignore that feeling, because it hindered on his everyday performance.

A week afterwards, Kalmin met Mira and Deimos again.

His second impression of them was…different. Vastly different. Stupidly different.

Just…weird.

He was on cash and it was a particularly busy day so he didn’t recognize Mira at first. It might be the lack of makeup. It might be the baggy shirt and pants. It might be the snapback. It might be just everything about her. Deimos didn’t favor fairly either. It was also the lack of makeup. It was the inclusion of flip flops and sweat pants. It was the glare he gave him.

Kalmin sort of…couldn’t believe it. They looked like hot trash. He couldn’t deny it. They looked like hot trash.

“We’re never marathoning the X-Files again,” Deimos commented when Mira paid their coffee and breakfast sandwiches (which was hilarious since it was three in the afternoon). Mira snorted and hip bumped him.

Kalmin couldn’t hold in his disbelieved laugh. “How many episodes did you go through?”

Deimos and Mira exchanged tired looks and looked back at him in sync. “We finished it,” Mira said bluntly.

He laughed out loud. “That’s incredible.”

“It was stupid, don’t encourage her,” Deimos whined.

“I have to applaud your efforts though.” He shrugged. Mira giggled and thanked them. Kalmin didn’t get to say anything afterwards as an old lady shoved her way through to get her iced tea. He couldn’t help but glance over at the couple as they waited for their food. Even though they looked tired with bags under their eyes and their dishevelled clothes, their smiles were bright. Instead of looking beautiful at the Muse showcase, they were cute. Domestic. They held hands often and nuzzled against each other. Usually it was tiring to see a couple so grossly touchy with each other, but they laughed and joked like best friends. Now Kalmin envied both their romantic and platonic relationship. They seemed fun.

The next time he saw them, Gabriel was almost done his shift and Kalmin was just about to start his. It seemed surreal to see them twice in a week. Mira was leaning against the counter, chatting and joking with Gabriel while her boyfriend sat on one of the tall stools near the windows playing with his phone. Gabriel noticed him and waved him over to formally introduce him to Mira.

“This is Mira, high school buddy, ex-girlfriend, best buddy,” he said, sneering. “And this is Kalmin, co-worker, cool dude, plays hockey, transferred to this café in the beginning of April.”

“Nice to meet you,” Mira said with a bright smile. She looked better today. Kalmin held out his hand and she shook it. “Gabriel didn’t tell me he was a barista at this place.”

“Well, I did apply here in May,” he shrugged.

While they chatted, Kalmin remembered a lecture in Psychology class. It was about the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. The phenomenon when an individual learns a new obscure piece of information and suddenly afterwards encounters it everywhere. Mira and Deimos was this information, and suddenly he saw them everywhere. They visited the café frequently. Like, a little bit too frequently. School was done so there was no dire need for caffeine, but apparently there was as they wandered in and ordered iced drink after iced drink. His manager, Ethan, with the lip piercing, noticed Kalmin staring at them one time and chatted about how Mira’s been a frequent customer since she was in high school. On a particular slow day, Ethan even egged him on to give Mira and Deimos another drink on the house. Kalmin knew he was blushing as he walked over their booth. Mira was sketching something while Deimos had his laptop out, both individuals immersed into whatever they were doing. Calmly, he came in and slid both of their regular summer drinks to them. Mira was flustered while Deimos calmly sipped his second helping.

As the days got longer and nights got warmer, Kalmin began to have his daily jogs in the evening. He missed the rink terribly. He missed having school to give him a routine. It helped drone out all these stupid thoughts about relationships and the future that plagued him in the summer nights. When he was in school and hockey season was starting to vamp up, his schedule was swamped and he was overworked. But it was a nice burn that he became addicted to. Days were short but eventful, every day was a challenge, and he was never bored. But, summer break always brought laziness and bore. It was the season of stupid low-paying jobs, excruciatingly long days, hot nights, and painfully frequent masturbation sessions. Everyone around him had fun. Aaron told him one night that Gabriel and he finally talked seriously about a relationship. His voice was distant even though they were sitting on his bed, knees touching and arms around one another.

Apparently, Gabriel was aromantic. Or that’s the closest thing he could make of it. Aaron and Gabriel were fuck buddies, and Gabriel liked that. He didn’t know about a serious relationship with him. He didn’t know if it was possible for him. But, they were going to try and make it work. Aaron seemed nervous. Kalmin was nervous for him.

After that long night, the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon happened again. He was jogging in the evening through his neighbourhood and hit the eerily lit gas station down the road. The nights were getting stupidly warmer and he chugged the usual blue sports drink. It reminded him of hockey. Then, inside this air conditioned, small little station, Mira came in. Her hair was tied up, she had cut it recently and had a cute undercut. There was paint on her face and her arms, as well as all over her overalls that were rolled up to her knees. She wore a crop top, but Kalmin knew it wasn’t enough to cool off. She fanned her face as she passed through the short aisles decorated in colourful chip bags, candies and chocolates, and went straight for the refrigerators where Kalmin was. She recognized him and laughed, opening up one of the doors and letting the air blast her sweaty skin.

“Hot night,” she snickered.

“Hot night,” he chuckled back. “You look like you’ve been having some fun.”

It took Mira to realize he was referring to the paint streaked across her face and limbs. She laughed again, her laugh was cute, and blushed a little. “We’re having a little art party at my house.” She grabbed several drinks and moved onto the popsicles and ice cream section. Naturally, Kalmin followed.

“An art party?” He cocked an eyebrow.

“An art party,” Mira repeated dramatically. “We’re throwing paint around and people are getting high on paint fumes.”

“You artists and your drug abuse.” He shook his head. Mira burst out laughing.

“Well, you’re not wrong.” She shrugged. Kalmin ended up helping Mira buy a huge load of popsicles, ice cream and drinks, and as a thank you, both of them sat on a curb in the empty parking lot and ate some Oreo ice cream sandwiches. It was nice. A breeze finally set in and cooled the sweat dripping down his back and the treats were sweet and delicious. Mira was easy to talk to as well, her smiles dazzling and adorable.

“So, I heard that your friend is dating Gabriel,” she commented.

“Aaron?”

“Yeah, Aaron.”

He sighed. “Well, yep.” He leaned back and looked at the clear night sky.

“Does Aaron know about Gabriel’s…”

“Lack of romantic attraction?”

“Yeah.”

She stared at him worriedly. He shrugged in response. “Aaron said he’ll take it slow.”

“Does he really like Gabriel?”

“Do you want my honest opinion?”

“Lay it on me.”

“Aaron is very infatuated with him.” Kalmin rubbed his neck nervously. “He’s in love with his looks. There is definite sexual chemistry with them. But, other than that…they act like friends. They joke around at work, slap each other’s asses a lot, and make dumb puns. But I’ve never really seen them…be romantic.”

“Attraction is weird,” she sighed.

“You bet it is.”

“I hope for the best for them though,” she wondered out loud. “Gabriel is really important to me. He deserves happiness. As well does Aaron.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

Kalmin glanced over at Mira. She looked back at him shyly.

“If…anything happens between them, don’t be afraid to call me,” she said calmly.

“The same goes for you,” he replied.

They traded numbers and afterwards, Kalmin helped carry the bags of melted treats to her house. Surprisingly, she lived close, which was odd since they haven’t crossed paths before. But then again, he never knew her.

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

Apparently, Mira lived in a little townhouse with her friends, and from the lack of pulsating music shaking the whole neighbourhood, they were definitely not the usual people he hung out with. Their garage door was open and revealed a large group of young adults covered in paint. People were laughing and shouting, splattered in neon colours as the garage walls were covered in plastic wrap and canvases. There was music, but it was drowned out by the sheer laughter and excitement bubbling out of the group. Mira announced her welcome happily, and Gabriel and Deimos came to welcome her.

“Well, hello.” Gabriel winked as he took the cold bags of ice cream from him. Lime green streaked his forehead, and his clothes were covered in colourful powder. “Are you joining us?”

Kalmin peered into the garage. Huge canvases were splattered with colour. Spray cans and water guns littered the floor. Bowls of dye and paint were piled in a corner. Water balloons sat on tables. It looked fun.

But, Kalmin chickened out. He shook his head. “No, maybe not today.” He bit his lip and glanced over at Mira, who had wandered back with Deimos. They were giggling and kissing. His guts twisted. “But, definitely show me the end product.”

“Mira will probably have it on her website, I’ll send you a text,” Gabriel patted him on the back. “Have a great night, Kalmin!”

He didn’t have a great night.