Todd walked down the street, headphones covering his ears. A dark green hat sat on top of his head, covering his balding hair and chunky headphones from the chilly December air. A big, puffy coat wrapped around his suit as he strolled down the city streets. The lights strung on the New York light posts gave the city a certain feel of romance.
The voices in his headphones kept talking, a soft female voice streaming through his ears. She talked about books that she read and other important news. The wars in the middle east, the recession, China’s economy and how it would affect the US. He stuffed his hands into his pockets, nodding along with the delivery. They told the news, but did little to offer ways in which to fix the dilemmas. They just sat back and waited to see what happened.
Todd slid one side of the headphones off of his ear, the woman’s voice fading into the background. He hadn’t heard that name in years, hadn’t spoken it in years. He stopped cold in his tracks and looked behind him, where he heard the name come from. People bumped into him, but he stood in place, looking for the source.
He looked for the shaggy brown hair, sharp smile, and endless enthusiasm. He looked for the knowing brown eyes, the twiggy arms, and passionate voice. He looked for the crooked teeth, the mangled smile, and lively chatter. He looked for the boy that stole his heart long ago.
He was thrown into a distant memory. Being chased around his room, jumping onto his bed, the green comforter crunching under his body weight. It slid as he jumped on the floor and his roommate jumped up behind him. Todd yelped, rushing towards the blue comforter as his roommate gained speed. The bubble of laughter that enclosed their room. The moment frozen in time where Todd felt like he could share his poetry.
When he spoke in front of the class and his roommate sat right in front of him, looking at him like he found the key to life. Todd had said nonsense, words scraped from the back of his mouth. He talked like a madmen in front of the class and something beautiful came from it. That never happened to Todd. It was a mistake, a happenstance that would likely never come again. But his roommate looked at him like he created the Sun in front of the class, his eyes filled with the makings of the universe. They didn’t talk about it later. Neither one mentioned the unintended magic that took place in front of the classroom.
The day where his heart broke for the first time and he sat numb on the walkway above the courtyard, letting the November wind nip at his face. His couldn’t feel the tip of his nose and his cheeks were beginning to turn the same shade of wind-burn red. The desk set sat just beyond his feet; too far to kick, too far to grab. He crossed his arms over his knees, only looking up when a pair of shoes stopped by the desk set. It was his roommate, that ever-present smile stuck to his face, unaware of the emotional trauma he had been put through. Once he understood the situation, his personality shrank, he squatted down to Todd’s eye level, he spoke soft and purposeful. He listened without contempt and didn’t put blame on Todd's parents. He picked up the plastic wrapped desk set and examined it, play-observing all the little gadgets that were included. He told Todd that it needed to be set free, had to join the world of wild desk sets. Neil handed it off to him, watched Todd as he flung the desk set as high and as far as he could, watched Todd's shoulders relax and a smile return to his face, watched him laugh and clap his hands together. They walked inside, his roommate covering his shaking hands with his own.
The day where his heart broke and never healed. When his roommate had been carted away by his parents, confiscated after his performance in the school production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. The room was colder, the blue comforter left untouched. Todd pulled his blanket around himself, glancing at the open window, wishing upon the snow-speckled sky that his roommate would come back to him. He wished on a star that his best friend, his only true friend would come back to him.
His heart broke when he was woken up in the middle of the night, tear tracks etched red and angry into Charlie’s cheeks. His eyes were dull and empty, obscured further by the lack of light. The only thing that illuminated the corner of his body was the reflection of the outdoor lights against the snow piled outside the window.
“Neil!” the voice called again. “Wait up.”
Todd shook his head, clearing his thoughts of the bright smile, the thin frame, the soft press of lips. The late night talks, warm embrace, fingers skimming soft hair vanished again, repressed to the very back of his brain. He put his headphone back over his ear and kept walking.