Moritz knows the facts about the world.
He knows the heart is an organ, made of flesh and blood and ventricular chambers, arteries and veins. He knows that is all it is, he knows that it works delicately so, which is why his artificial. It’s a design on nature, to keep blood pumping around the body, and his didn’t work, his faltered. His became machine.
He became machine, also.
Boys don’t cry, girls don’t cry, not in the laboratory, not out of the laboratory. He sees it in the faces of children with mouths on their necks and hearts thud thudding in their hands, bones made of chalk, brains made of electricity. He sees what they see; Failures. Freaks. And there’s nothing else to it.
Why cry? He’s never going to not be Mortiz Farber, an eyeless, heartless fling of science. Frankenstein’s monster, designed to be beautiful, made awful.
So he knows these facts. He knows the love songs that play through this little gift shops radio are just fake blabber, musing about the heart as if it is anything more than an organ in the chest. He knows this, and still, he sings the lyrics underneath his breath, because he think he might understand what they mean now. He lets himself smile, he lets himself click his tongue and watch the boy next to him flick between cheap displays of keychains. He has always loved his words and his thoughts, but him, there, right there beside him is different. Moritz notices things, the curve of his neck, the slant of his smiles, how they crinkle the edges of his eyes and push his cheeks, the soft weight of his side when he presses next to him.
“What do you think,” Ollie asks, turning towards him, holding a little keychain shaped like America, “Nice, eh?”
“Absolutely not.” Moritz replies, crossing his arms, “I want a snow globe.”
Ollie mock pouts and leans over, arms drooping. He’s so tall and lanky the motion’s almost comical (endearing,) but it makes Mortiz smile, somehow, somehow.
“But those are expensive.” he groans, “And look at this keychain! Affordable, and stylish! It’s shaped like ‘Murica! Look at the colours, red and blue and-”
“Yes Oliver Paulot. The eyeless boy is absolutely comprehending the colours.”
“Ah, whoops, I forget about that sometimes.” He puts the keychain back on the shelf,
“Still though, I got like twelve dollars.”
“And the snowglobe is ten.”
“But I want ice cream.”
“I come here all the way from Kreissig, Germany, in full knowledge you could short circuit my chest, and you won’t buy me the snowglobe. I’m deeply hurt, Oliver.”
“How about this,” He splays his hands out and grins, all lopsided and mischievous in the ways Mortiz isn’t, in the ways Moritz loves, “We get the keychain, and then both get ice creams.”
“You’re insufferable.” Mortiz sighs, “But I suppose this is the best you are going to offer me.”
“Sweet.” Ollie marches up to the front of the gift shop counter before he can say another word. Mortiz checks his watch, where he has removed the glass panel so he can hear the hands ticking away. It’s five past three. His train arrive in ten minutes. Ten minutes, and he’s off to Alabama, a completely different slew of adventures awaiting him. They’re going to tug at his heart in completely different ways from this one.
“Moritz?” Ollie nudges his shoulder, hands him a popsicle, “You alright dude? You look really zoned out.”
“I am fine.”
There’s a beat of silence as they walk out the store, crossing the road to the station.
“Are you nervous?” Ollie says, quietly, “About finding your Mom, I mean.”
Moritz clenches his fist. Breathes, slowly, slowly. He has to pace his little robot heart.
“A little bit.”
Nervous? Try terrified.
‘Hey, you know, it’ll be fine. Don’t be scared.’
But I am. I’m scared of finding her, and I’m scared of leaving you.
“It’ll be fine.”
But will you be fine, alone, by your mother grave, alone-
He didn’t even notice he had bowed his head until Ollie bends down to look at him.
“Don’t be afraid. I love you.” The last three words feel like they weren’t meant to come out, because as soon as he says them he straightens stiff as a stick and coughs.
“I mean, like, I really care about you and stuff and you shouldn’t be scared because I’ll always support you and stuff-”
“Let’s go,” Moritz takes his wrist and walks up right next to the tracks. He doesn’t know what to say. He just knows he wants to leave now, he wants to stay forever, idyllic. But he also knows he can’t have both. He knows his little robot heart thudding away in his chest is telling him too many things, pulling him apart like string cheese, and also that it’s all so completely illogical.
The train’s in sight now, he pats his pockets for the ticket, and holds it firmly. He feels Ollie’s eyes on him, they’re sad, they’re. Well he doesn’t really understand how to read emotions very well, being blind and all. But they feel wistful, somehow.
There’s a little space between them. He wants to close it, but he doesn’t know what lines he can cross with Ollie sometimes. He doesn’t want him to feel uncomfortable.
He clears his throat, extends a hand to shake.
“Thank you for having me, Ollie.” He says, stiff, “I hope I am welcome back if I ever-”
He’s interrupted by Ollie wrapping his arms around him in a rib crushing embrace. Ollie’s face tucks itself in the crook of Mortiz’s shoulder, so close he can feel his breath. His jacket is warm, smells like american laundry powder and pine needles. The small hairs poking out of his beanie prickle his cheek, and he can feel the heave of his chest against his own. He wishes he didn’t feel everything about Oliver Paulot so acutely, so constantly, because his heart is straining. Thud, thud, thud.
His grip tightens. Mortiz pretends not to feel Ollie’s tears seep into his shirt.
“Ollie.” His voice is a whisper, “I am afraid. But I think you of all people should know all adventures start with uncertainty. And I- I love you too. Haven’t I told you it thousands of times before?”
Oliver looks up, tries for a smile.
“I know. But I don’t want you to go.”
The train stops now, and the doors slide open with a hiss.
“I’m selfish Mortiz,” He holds him, “I don’t want you to go.”
“Ollie, the train-”
And then he pulls him in, and Moritz doesn’t register what’s happening until Ollie’s lips are already on his, and it’s too fast, too hard but he melts. Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud-
“Write me.” Ollie breathes.
Then he pushes him between the quickly closing train doors before he has a chance to reply.
Moritz doesn’t understand what has happened. Adrenaline rushes through him, a throb, an ache. He cannot comprehend this, him, anything, and it should terrify him like nothing else, he should be shaking in his sneakers.
But he’s not. Stupid, illogical little heart. He can’t stop smiling, smiling.
The train jerks to life and rushes forward. He thumbs the keychain in his pocket and laughs.