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The Car Crash Symphony

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The night Ryan had got it done, at the tender age of thirteen, he pointedly came in through his window as to not wake his father. Spencer, his best friend since childhood, came with him, got his done too. Spencer’s parents didn’t mind him getting a timer, but Ryan’s bitter father surely would. Ryan knew this, and he had already planned out the specifics, to just wear long sleeves until he was eighteen when he could just leave his father, or until the timer actually went off.

Ryan stared at the bracelet, the screen illuminated but no numbers on it. He had hope, of course, that one of these days it would start, tell him exactly when he would meet his soul mate. Ryan couldn’t even bear the thought that he would maybe have to wait a lifetime to find this person, depending on if they ever do get their own bracelet timer. There was no way he could stand the thought of never meeting the person he was supposed to love.

In Ryan’s eighth grade class, most of the kids already had bracelets, Spencer and him being late to the scene. Ryan was partly relieved when his bracelet didn’t have any numbers when it first started up, thinking that he didn’t like any of the girls in his school, all of them moody and too particular. Ryan also figured that he needed a few more years before he actually met his soul mate. He wanted to be older, more intelligent and better read than what he was now. He wanted to impress the person. He just wasn’t aware that so much would change in the coming years before his timer would go off.

***

Freshmen year wasn’t the worst time of Ryan’s life, even he thought it was supposed to be. He had Spencer, of course he always had Spencer, but he also still had loyal friends that he made in middle school. He sat with them at lunch, admired the way that some of them had timers with actual numbers on them. His friend Luke even had a timer that told him he wouldn’t meet his soul mate for another seven years.

Ryan also watched as girls seemed to become interested in his enigmatic ways, daring to flirt with him, and one of them even asked him on a date, which really just made Ryan blush and realize that asking the girl out was supposed to be his job. It might have been a little embarrassing, but he did go on the date, mainly out of pity and intrigue for what romance was like. He knew that the girl who asked him, Madison, already had a timer and they weren’t ever meant to be together. It didn’t stop them from going to the movies, though.

Ryan spent hours prepping himself for his date, even if he knew deep down it could never mean anything. He cautiously prepared his outfit and did his hair meticulously, making sure everything was perfect. Understandably, his father didn’t even blink when Ryan left the house, walking only a few blocks to the movie theater in their neighborhood.

And sure, Ryan could acknowledge that Madison looked gorgeous that night, looking far too mature for a ninth grader. It should have been more than Ryan wanted for a desperate teenager, but he couldn’t exactly pinpoint what was wrong about the date. They watched the movie awkwardly, giggling on cue when their hands touched. As the movie went on, though, he slowly felt more and more sick, nearly shaking by the time it was over and Ryan was saying goodnight to her quickly.

Madison had given him a small smile. “You know,” she told him quietly once they were out of the theater. “You might think it’s silly to go on dates before we find our soul mates, but our timers might never go off. I don’t want to be alone forever, whether I meet him or not. It’s okay if you don’t think the same.”

Ryan tried to think of something to say, to point out that that wasn’t why he was shivering in the spring breeze, but nothing he would say would make her feel remotely better. He watched Madison get picked up by her mother and turned his back and started walking the opposite direction of his own house.

He found himself at Spencer’s doorstep, his eyes watery and hands still trembling in his pockets slightly. Spencer was the one to come to the door, tugging Ryan inside without making a fuss. He took Ryan to his room and they sat on the bed for a few tension-filled moments. Spencer didn’t prod, obviously used to Ryan coming over with sad eyes and closed mouth.

“I think I’m gay,” Ryan finally admitted quietly, even if the words seemed to be screaming at him since the movie started.

Spencer moved closer and pulled him in a hug. Ryan gripped on helplessly, letting a few tears pass until he was finally sobbing into Spencer’s shoulder.

“I’ve known,” Ryan said slowly. “I think I’ve known for a long time. I just kind of realized it today when I went out on that date. It wasn’t right, and not because of the timers.”

Spencer understood and promised to not tell anyone until Ryan wanted to and they didn’t talk about it for a while, even if it was a fact, and Spencer just stopped talking about girls around Ryan, even if he didn’t actually mind, and Ryan stopped trying to ignore anything he was thinking.

***

Partway through sophomore year, Spencer’s timer clicked on during lunch at school. He didn’t even notice at first, Brent pointing it out furiously when he noticed it. On the screen of Spence’s bracelet it declared that he had another three years and twenty days. Ryan watched Spencer smile all day, telling anyone that would listen about how his timer finally went off. Ryan knew he was jealous he kept wondering if his would actually go off one day.

His father did eventually find out about him getting it, a stray postcard finding its way into the mailbox from the company where Ryan had gotten it done. Of course, his father hadn’t come out about it right away, snagging Ryan’s arm at random and pulling up his sleeve until he could see his timer, the pitiful blank screen.

“There is no such thing as soul mates, Ryan,” his father told him sagely, rolling his eyes and going back to the kitchen table to eat his breakfast. “If that thing ever goes off, I can guarantee you won’t be in love with that person.”

Ryan had fled right away, leaving for school early. He ended up walking to place he got it done and peering into the windows. Some woman in her twenties looked anxious as she talked to the receptionist. There was a man being walked out into the lobby, glancing down to his wrist, the bracelet obviously a new addition to his life. Ryan thought for a few moments that he could just go in there, get rid of his bracelet and never have to worry about it starting, never have to wake up every morning with anxiety about his eternal loneliness; it could be over for good.

Ryan had managed to turn away, though, rushing off to the direction of his school, knowing he would certainly be late for first hour.

***

Junior year came with more responsibilities, improper driving lessons from his father, less awkward hair, and, the talk of his school lately, Ryan finally coming out. It had happened with careful precision, Ryan not quieting the school cafeteria, but just telling a few people and trusting that the news would be all over by lunchtime. As he had hoped, people had definitely known before the day was done and he was flocked with questions and insults.

Spencer stuck with Ryan throughout it, rolling his eyes and pushing people that thought it was funny to make jokes. Ryan had prepared himself for it, though, didn’t think it really mattered anymore since he had less than two years left of high school anyway.

When Spencer and Ryan had made the big plans of his coming out, they had done very little work on how he would talk to his father, or if he even would. It seemed like the only logical thing to do, mostly because Ryan was worried that word would get around and his father would be more upset that he didn’t get told first.

So, when Ryan got home that day, Spencer waiting outside just in case Ryan needed a place to stay if his dad wanted to kick him out or needed time to cool down, he just came out with it. His dad lifted his eyes from another newspaper he had, squinting in Ryan’s direction. After a few moments he just said, “Well, I would’ve figured it out at some point.”

Ryan followed his father’s trail of sight, it ending on his wrist, where his timer bracelet was peeking out under his sleeve. Ryan guessed that he was probably right, after all.

***

At the very end of senior year, when they only had a few weeks left and nothing really mattered anymore, Ryan found himself bargaining with his father for money. He expected money from his open house but that wasn’t for another four weeks and the tickets needed to be bought as soon as Ryan could, to make sure they wouldn’t sell out.

The concert wasn’t just anything ordinary, not some arbitrary band that Spencer and Ryan had liked and knew they were performing nearby, no, this band was one that they practically worshipped. Spencer usually joked that Ryan had a crush on the lead singer, but maybe Ryan did; he always assumed it was just as normal as all the girls who love the guys in boy bands. These tickets, though, were special because they were for the concert and a meet and greet beforehand. It wasn’t like Ryan wanted to go to a meet and greet to drool over the lead singer, but he did want to meet him and the rest of the band because they were all similar ages and he wanted to talk to them about music.

It had taken meticulous planning to convince Spencer’s parents that they could go by themselves and Ryan had a car to take them. His parents weren’t keen on the thought of them going, Spencer still being seventeen, but Ryan was eighteen and he didn’t really need his father’s permission.

After finally winning over Spencer’s parent’s wishes, the only obstacle they had left was convincing Ryan’s father to pay for the tickets in advance. It was a hard sale and Ryan had to really beg, even cleaning the entire house and making his father dinner. He did eventually fork over his credit card information, and Ryan suspected it was probably more because he didn’t want to be bothered than actually being impressed.

The thing was, when Ryan went to buy the tickets online, quickly punching the digits into the required fields and checking things over before finally clicking the ‘confirm order’ button, something happened. The form went through fine and his tickets were ordered, but suddenly a small glow started to emit from under his sleeves, and Ryan viciously pushed up his sleeve to see that his timer had started.

Fifteen days and seventeen hours.

Ryan looked back up to the screen instantly, calculating how many days exactly until the concert would be. He nearly squeaked, jolting up and looking for his cell phone. He instantly called Spencer, the smile on his face radiating as he waited.

“Hey, what’s—“

“It started,” Ryan interrupted. “My timer just started and you’ll never guess when it’s going to go off.”

“Shit, man, really? Tell me when?”

“The day of the concert,” Ryan said excitedly, laughing a little manically. “Jesus fuck. I did the math, man, and it supposed to be when we’re at the meet and greet. This is amazing. My soul mate has a good taste in music and I’ll be able to go to a concert with him and—“

“You’re so lucky,” Spencer said, obviously just a little bitter. A few moments of silence ensued until Spencer cleared his throat and sighed. “Sorry, it’s just. You know. I’ve been waiting since sophomore year and I still have another year and…yours just started and you get to meet him in fifteen days. It just kind of sucks.”

Ryan really didn’t know what to say because he was still elated, just thinking of the night, but he didn’t want Spencer to feel bad. “I’m sorry. It will happen soon, Spence, don’t worry.”

After a few more awkward passing of words, the boys had gone back to normal, furiously figuring out what they were going to do the day of the concert. Like the rest of their lives, they planned things, from Ryan’s outfit to exactly what time they would get in line for the meet and greet and what they would bring to the concert.

When the day finally arrived, Ryan was jittery, could feel his body thrumming with all this excess energy and nervousness. He got ready and waited around the house for nearly two hours until he finally had to leave to get Spencer to stand in line for the meet and greet. Though they were guaranteed to meet the band, no matter how long they were to wait in line, Spencer and Ryan came earlier than necessary, hopping to snag a good spot, and something told Ryan that the person he was meant to meet today would be thinking the same thing.

The problem was, when they finally got in line, they were behind a girl and in front of a girl, both of which weren’t Ryan’s cup of tea. He had expected one of them to be some boy that he would fall helplessly in love with, with or without the bracelet. He figured that maybe they would be out of the meet and greet and waiting in line for the actual concert when he’d meet his soul mate.

Spencer and Ryan made idle chit-chat as they waited for their turn to meet the band. Ryan found himself constantly looking down to his wrist, gaging how long the line was to how long he had left.

“Are you gonna cry when you meet him?” Spencer asked.

“When I meet who?”

“Obviously Brendon,” Spencer scoffed, referring to the band’s lead singer. “I already know you’re going to cry or something equally embarrassing when you meet your soul mate.”

Ryan rolled his eyes and smiled. “It doesn’t matter what I do when I meet my soul mate. They’ll obviously still love me,” he told Spencer. “And I won’t cry when I meet Brendon. I’ll probably just have a panic attack or something.”

Spencer laughed. “How much time do you have left?”

“Ten minutes, Jesus Christ, Spence, it’s almost time!” Ryan exclaimed, feeling jittery. He clung onto Spencer’s shoulder and kept moving, constantly looking down to his wrist.

As the line grew shorter, so did Ryan’s timer. When there was only a few people in front of them, a group of girls flocking the band, Ryan forgot all about his timer and looked at Spencer nervously.

“My hair looks good, right?” he asked in a rush.

Spencer glared at him and then just as they were pushed forward to meet the band, Spencer stuck his hand out to mess up Ryan’s hair. Ryan didn’t let this faze him, and just hoped it made him look rugged and not like he just crawled out of bed. By chance, Ryan found himself facing Brendon Urie, the singer of the band, giving him a wide smile.

Ryan figured that if he wouldn’t have been so obsessed with how he’d looked, he would’ve bothered to check his timer, wonder how the times matched up so well to when they were meeting the band, but that all seemed silly to Ryan now.

Brendon wasn’t smiling anymore. Instead, he was looking down to Ryan’s wrist with a very noticeable expression of horror on his face. Ryan jolted back to life and found himself realizing that his bracelet was going off, the timer had gone off…and so had Brendon’s.

The line went quiet, everyone figuring out what was going on. When it was obvious, the bracelets still beeping softly, the crowd erupted in whispers. Ryan looked back up to Brendon to find him quickly standing up and dragging him away from the meet and greet and into an empty room.

Brendon and Ryan just stared at each other for a few moments once the door was shut, taking in the face of who they were supposed to love for the rest of time. Ryan already knew Brendon’s face, though, already knew his voice, already knew his words. He felt like he already knew Brendon, but Brendon didn’t know him, and by the looks of it, he didn’t seem like he wanted to.

“Fuck,” Brendon muttered.

When Ryan envisioned the moment he would meet his soul mate, it really didn’t include this, or anything relatively close. Ryan didn’t even know Brendon was gay. He had obviously never came out by the sounds of the crowd as they had left. Ryan was left feeling guilty because he had accidently forced Brendon out of the closet.

Brendon started pacing, suddenly spewing out words quickly, “I don’t know how I missed it. I guess I was just busy. I got the bracelet when I was in eighth and I thought it was funny but I now…fuck. If I would’ve known I would have met you at a meet and greet then I would have canceled it or something…or,”

Ryan suddenly felt sick. He finally seemed to catch up on what was really going on.
Brendon didn’t want him.

“Do you just want me to leave?” Ryan asked, feeling his eyes get watery. He refused to cry. “You can just say it was some prank or something.”

The room grew ever more silent than it was when they first got in there. Brendon stared at Ryan, squinting his eyes the same way that his father did. Ryan decided that this was his cue to leave and mumbled a, “I’ll take that as a yes,” and started to leave.

“No, no, fuck, wait.” Brendon rushed over to Ryan, whose hand froze on the doorknob. “That’s so stupid. We were meant for each other, obviously. I’m just. I wasn’t expecting to come out like this. I’m sorry. I just—“

Brendon stopped himself and then just moved forward until his lips were on Ryan’s, his hands slipping up to cradled Ryan’s cheek. At first, Ryan was too far in shock to register what was really going on, but on instinct, he started to move, his lips working over Brendon’s instantly.

When Brendon moved away, they just looked at each other in the eyes a few moments before breaking into matching smiles. “You’re okay with this, right? I’m not, like, jumping to conclusions?”

“No, definitely not.”