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To Be Young And In Love

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A crowded arcade.

“Dragon’s Lair” game: the usual arcade favorite.

Two slender hands belonging to a tall blond boy working the game’s controls.

 

This is what I witnessed on that warm evening in June. In fact, this is what I had been witnessing every evening since school had ended for the summer. Every night, after finishing dinner at my household, I would hop on my bike and head off to “Fun Terminal Arcade” where my best friend, Thomas, and I would take turns playing “Dragon’s Lair”.

 

Thomas Cahn had been my best friend since the seventh grade, when I had moved to New York from my hometown, Crema. Thomas and I had always been so different. Thomas always wants to go out to parties, or to arcades; I would rather stay home and read a good book. Thomas likes rock and roll or pop music; I prefer classical. Thomas plays every sport imaginable; I transcribe music. We’re diverse in every way, but I think that’s what makes us so compatible.

 

Three loud honks sounded from the parking lot. Our ride was here. Thomas and I strode out to the blue Honda Accord that was parked in the parking lot of the arcade. I gazed over to the front seats and noticed that Thomas’ brother, who had just returned from graduate school, Oliver, was in the passenger’s seat of the car. I guess he was home again. My heart began to race, although I couldn’t explain why. I attempted to compose myself by taking a few deep breaths. Get a grip, I told myself, you’ve known Oliver for so long, why are you freaking out?

 

I realized that Thomas had already gotten into the back seat of the car and was staring at me, waiting for me to follow. I climbed in beside him and greeted his mother, who was driving, kindly, before hastily focusing my gaze on my sneakers.

 

On the ride home, however, I couldn’t stop my eyes from wandering to the seat diagonally in front of me, which happened to be where Oliver was sitting. I couldn’t stop my eyes from looking at that thick blond hair and slightly golden skin that was probably acquired from some time in the sun. I couldn’t stop them as I admired his blue billowy shirt while I traced the lines of his collarbone and muscular arms. I was forced to stop them, however, when his dazzling blue eyes turned to lock with mine. I stuck my head down and swiftly averted his gaze.

 

“Elio,” he greeted me, despite my obvious attempt at ignoring his presence. Something about the way he said my name made my heart beat even faster and harder than before, I was sure it was visible through my shirt. “What have you been up to these days?” I was now forced to meet his eyes in order to reply to this pointless attempt at chit-chat.

 

“Oh you know,” I began, feeling my cheeks heat up, “same old.” God, Elio. Could you sound any more brainless? This happened every time I talked to Oliver.

 

“That’s nice.” And with that, he turned around and did not say another word the rest of the car ride, until we arrived at the Cahn household where he shouted “Later!” and ran into the house before Thomas or I could even get out of the car.

 

Later on, when Thomas and I had retreated into his room after watching reruns of “Happy Days” on TV for hours, I inquired about Oliver. How long had he been back? About a week. How come I hadn’t seen him before now? He had been busy unpacking and meeting with friends. What were his summer plans? Thomas was unsure about this one, and questioned my curiosity regarding Oliver. No reason, was the reply I’d given him.

 

But of course there was a reason. Oliver had always intrigued me, for reasons that are still unclear to me. Do I look up to him like an older brother? Do I wish he was my friend? Or is it something more than that? I still can’t tell you. But I know it’s something.

 

It was getting late and I phoned my parents to let them know I would be staying over at Thomas’. They immediately agreed. “Va bene tesoro,” had been their exact reply.

 

I walked back into Thomas’ room to find him passed out in his bed. I quietly made my way to the blankets he had set up for me on the floor.

 

I awoke with a start. What time was it? Three-thirty-six AM. God, I was thirsty. I threw on the shirt I had been wearing the day before and tiptoed down the stairs. I rubbed my eyes and made my way to the kitchen. Half in a daze, I walked over to the cupboard, opened it, grabbed a glass, and began pouring water from the jug that sat on the counter.

 

“Elio?” I froze. I’d recognize that voice anywhere. It belonged to Oliver. I looked up and found him sitting at the counter eating sliced peach. I must have not noticed him. His blond hair looked disheveled and his eyes had dark circles around them.

 

‘Do you want to sit?”