Some days are better than others.
Some days the heat is just right for us to lay out in the sun by the pool, smoking without a care in the world, being taught russian curse words and laughing at the shapes of clouds; the few times we got them. The good days are the days where I feel like I have a hold of myself, like I am a helium balloon and I have a weight to hold me down to reality. Boris is usually my weight, for a number of reasons, and most of the time he holds on to me and I know he’ll never let go, but some days he can’t. Some days things get too much, and I float away no matter how hard he tries to keep me in a cycle of good days and good days only.
It’s never predictable, I can never know when I’ll experience which days and when. It just materialises as soon as I wake up, or sometimes it hits me halfway through the day when I’m just watching television with the only person who seemed constant, sprawled across the piece of furniture together laughing at something stupid; and then everything just stops.
The smile on my face fades like a halfhearted doodle in the steam on a shower door, my chest tightens as if someone is squeezing the life out of me bit by bit, and at this point, I’m surprised I’m still here. It’s the guilt, but there’s something else. The guilt eats me alive, I can trace back to certain events, my mind saying if you didn’t do this then that wouldn’t have happened. I always come to the same conclusion; it was my fault. Unarguably, undeniably… my fault.
Perhaps if things went slightly differently I wouldn’t be where I am now, I wouldn’t be here in Vegas living an oddly domestic life with a scrawny russian boy with whom I bonded on the school bus one day. If I didn’t get suspended, if it didn’t start raining, if I told her to stay— just for a little longer— then everything would be different. I wouldn’t have stolen the painting. I’d be back at the apartment, and she’d be there making me dinner, asking how my day went, discussing what we should do at the weekend.
But she’ll never be there again, and neither will I. I can sit here and think about all the things I could have done differently, but there’s no way I can go back and change them— which I think is the most cruel aspect of time. The most painful reality of moving on. Time slips through your fingers and you never know what you had until it’s gone.
I believe the only things keeping me tied down to this earth are the good days, and without Boris there would be no good days. I sometimes think that it is highly likely I wouldn’t be alive without him. I often sit and let my mind wander into a world where that is the reality and I suddenly become a dull ache personified. It hurts, and I try not to let my mind pause there for too long, but it becomes stuck like a broken record and I worry it’ll get stuck for long enough to actually become what’s real.
I worry that one day, he won’t be next to me. I worry that he won’t be there when I wake up gasping after drowning in my nightmares. Him just disappearing isn’t the worst thought, him deciding to leave me seems more heartbreaking. Him slipping out of existence would hurt less than him deciding to leave me— but I don’t think that would ever happen. I think I might help him as much as he helps me.
And that’s the scary part, because how can I help him if I’m not here? During the bad days, I’ll really do anything to get out of whatever you’d define as “here”, nothing matters and I can’t be convinced otherwise. I just have to wait it out, wait until it passes— until everything seems almost bearable again. I’ll always remember one bad day in particular, the first time Boris truly began to understand the things going on inside my head. I’d seen him cry occasionally before, but never like he did that night in the middle of the street.
I remember waking up in the night, the clock reading something stupid and the only sound I could hear was the low hum of the fan in the corner of the room, making my brain go even more blank than it already was. I was on autopilot, the whole thing was on autopilot. I couldn’t feel anything. I was numb and cold even though it was one of the warmest nights there ever was.
I knew he was sleeping next to me, but I didn’t register it. Maybe if I had let my eyes linger on his sleeping figure a little longer then I would’ve resurfaced and not walked out the room.
Maybe I wouldn’t have walked down the stairs, perhaps I wouldn’t have walked out the door into the street. Breathing in subconsciously, closing my eyes, standing there, waiting. Waiting for death to sweep me off my feet and take me away to a place where things hurt less. A place where I couldn’t lose anyone else, and I could be with the ones I had already lost. I couldn’t be sure a place like that existed, but I understood that I’d never know if I didn’t try.
And yet, nothing came. Vehicles rarely drove down this way, and it was at a stupid time. I don’t know what I expected. Eventually I was laying down in the middle of the street, and it was kind of peaceful. The street lights gave off an orange glow, and if I stared at the sky long enough it started to materialise into something that wasn’t completely pitch black. It was more like a dark blue, and looking back maybe I should’ve taken that as a sign to go back inside.
I looked up at the stars and started counting them, making up my own constellations in my head, tracing them with my finger tips. I almost felt as if I could reach out and touch them and I wanted nothing more than to be swallowed whole by oblivion, I was sure I was halfway there. Halfway to the stars. I remembered my mother pointing out constellations, explaining them, most of the words going completely over my head— but I still understood. I understood much better after she was gone, and suddenly all of the little clusters of hydrogen and helium in the sky made sense.
I wish I had understood whilst she was with me— I had so many questions to ask her. But it was okay, because I was going to be with her soon. I could ask her as many questions as I wanted. About the stars, the sky, music, paintings… Whatever I wanted.
Amist my thoughts about the stars, it occured to me that I had almost completely forgotten about the moon. How could I have forgotten about the moon? I remembered Boris telling me about the Arabic name he had been given, I remembered him explaining what it meant to me.
They gave me an Arabic name— Badr al-Dine. Badr is moon, it means something like moon of faithfulness.
Since then I had come to discover that Badr also meant ‘full moon’, and that night, the moon was full. The moon was full, so I thought of him. I thought about how the moon doesn’t have the ability to produce light itself, it reflects the light from the sun. It crossed my mind that Boris must have a source of light, he needed a sun if he was truly like a moon. I didn’t like to think that it was me, I didn’t like thinking that he needed me, but no one else could have been his light.
It was a reason to stay, but it was also a reason to leave. I didn’t want him to rely on someone like me to make him happy. He deserved better, but then again— were we not just as fucked up as each other?
I knew Boris had travelled to many places already despite being so young, I was always fascinated by the stories he’d tell me. The way he would explain things was oddly beautiful, using random words and phrases in russian to support what he was saying, the hand gestures and the intense eye contact; it was like he put me in a trance. One time, I had asked him if the moon was the same in all the places he’d been, and he simply propped himself up on his braceleted wrist and said: same everywhere.
Is it the same where you are, mom?
Sometimes that was the only thought that kept me going.
Whatever state I was in, it was disturbed by the sound of the front door to my house opening, a warm strip of light spilling out into the street. The silhouette of a worried figure stood in the doorway, and I heard them curse to themselves before walking out of the house and towards where I lay in the middle of the road.
“Potter!” The voice harshly whispered. I didn’t have to open my eyes to know who it was. I could recognise something as little as his breathing in an instant. “Ty che, suka, o’khuel blya? Asshole! What the fuck are you lying in the street for?”
I could feel him looking down on me, and when I opened my eyes I saw that he was completely dressed in my clothes: boxers and a t-shirt that had always been too big for me, bare feet on the tarmacked road. Hair messy and sticking up in every direction possible, tired eyes, rough and raw voice and body language that read I don’t know what the fuck is going on.
I was still out of it, in a strange peaceful place. But by Boris being there, I started to feel things again. I didn’t want to feel anything. “I want to die, Boris.”
I heard his breath hitch in his throat. “What?”
I didn’t know what else to do, so I put it plainly. “Just leave me.”
He sighed and then crouched down beside me, looking down on me just like the moon was. He reached forward and pushed my hair away from my face, he held it back for a few moments whilst he looked at my eyes. I didn’t dare make eye contact, if I did then everything would be ruined.
“Potter… What drugs have you taken?” He asked me, pulling his hand away. Part of me wished he left it there for a little longer.
I still couldn’t look at him. “I haven’t taken any.”
I should have gone somewhere else, somewhere where he’d never find me. Knowing him, though, he’d never stop looking.
The next thing he said surprised me, it was the thing that made me actually bring my eyes to meet his. “Theo, please.”
Boris only ever addressed me using Potter or some other russian word meaning idiot. He almost never called me Theo, and hearing him say it in that moment made me start feeling things again, I almost felt everything again. Tears welled up in my eyes and I kept holding my breath for too long. He never said please for anything either, was he that upset by this? Did this hurt him as much as it hurt me?
I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Just go back inside.”
Why would I tell him to do that when I knew all too well that he wouldn’t listen to me?
“Only if you are coming too.” His voice was firm, but also comforting and patient— I was sure I had never seen him like this before.
I felt sick, my head started throbbing and my sight became blurred even though I was wearing my glasses. I sat up slowly, and then looked right at Boris who was still crouching down beside me looking like a reason to live— and I really wished he wasn’t.
“I can’t stay here.” I shook my head and then let a few hot tears escape and run down my cheeks. “Just let me go.”
Boris’ frown turned into an expression so much sadder, so much more desperate, like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. How could I have dragged him into this mess? Why do I have to burden him by just being here?
He looked like he was trying to hold something in, he swallowed and then squeezed his eyes shut briefly. “We can—” He stopped when his voice began to crack. “We can talk about this inside, just—”
“No! Aren’t you listening to what I’m saying? Fuck off and just let me die!” I screamed at him, and if I could go back I wouldn’t have said it the way I did. I wouldn’t have said it at all.
In the midst of my yelling he had somehow managed to grab onto my shoulders, making me look at him. He then pulled me up to my feet, I would’ve wiggled free but I couldn’t move. I felt like I had lost all control of my body and I could only cry and let him drag me to the sidewalk, where he fell to the ground with me limp in his arms like a rag doll.
He just let me cry into his chest whilst rubbing comforting circles on my back with one hand and combing his fingers through my hair with the other, humming a russian lullaby. When I had first met Boris, I never thought he would be able to be so comforting like this. But there I was, slowly feeling like staying alive wouldn’t be so bad if someone like him cared for me.
I cared for him all too much, and that was what hurt. I cared about what was in his past, what laid ahead in his future and everything in between. At that moment he was the only person on earth that mattered to me, for a moment I stopped caring about books and art and poetry— because he was everything tied into one. He was the human embodiment of a mess, and despite him often acting so careless, he still managed to show he appreciated something even if it was in a strange way. There was nothing I loved more than waking up to the sight of him messing around with Popchyk, holding him above himself at arms length and then bringing him down to his face and showering him with kisses. It was such a heartwarming sight, to see him care so much… and right there and then, sitting on the sidewalk, I began to believe he cared for me a considerable amount too.
Although I was extremely unsure what I did to deserve it.
I tried to hold onto him even tighter if that was even possible, my glasses had found their way into my hands after getting fogged up with tears. I slowly lifted my head from his chest and tried to look at his face, and he quickly wiped underneath his eyes and sniffled, smiling down at me sadly. He looked like he didn’t want me to know he’d been crying, so I didn’t say anything about it despite the fact that it was obvious.
“I’m sorry.” I breathed out shakily, gradually feeling like the numbness was subsiding.
He shook his head slowly and then rapped me lightly on the side of my head with his knuckles - the gesture meaning idiot. “Don’t be sorry, Potter. People spend too much time saying sorry instead of making the thing that they’re sorry for better, don’t you think?”
I thought over his words for a while, and he wasn’t wrong. Boris often came out with things like this, and sometimes he reminded me of a philosopher— but if I were to say that to him, he’d probably shove me and say I was stupid for thinking such a thing. Nevertheless, he had a way with words despite sometimes experiencing difficulty when trying to find them. I understood him better than most people, and that night I believe he truly understood me.
So, yes, some days are better than others. You may think that this was one of my worst days, and it was. But it was also a good day— not only did he teach me how to say things in russian, but Boris also taught me how to find goodness in the bad. That day was a good day, because that was the day I realised I had at least one reason to live, and that reason would hold me in his arms and laugh with me until the sun came up just to make me smile.
For the time being, that’s enough for me.