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William woke up dazedly, heart-racing with a dull terror he’d become accustomed to. It was the final wisps of a nightmare breaking out of his body, flung away and discarded by the rapid pulse of his heart. The pinpricks of fear stinging his body faded to nothingness, and the dream became insignificant in the span of seconds. The world was foggy, and it cleared slowly. He was drenched in sweat, the blankets damp and clammy against his skin, and the discomfort made him cringe. And as ever, with the same stubbornness that his blood stayed hot, his depression drifted back to consciousness as well.

 

It didn’t swell up from inside him, stretching as it woke and inviting itself into his day. Rather, it sank into him. It swelled to the surface in sleep, covered him in place of his blankets and covered his face so he could barely breathe. In waking, it sank back into his pores like a thick, toxic oil. It was heavy and suffocating, and it swirled around inside him, an incompatible fluid that refused to mix with his blood. It clogged his veins, coated his bones, and clung to his organs like rot.

 

He needed something to dull it, something to hush it and make it bearable. It’s volume was unmeasurable, and to strain through the noise for the living voices around him, he needed something, anything, to change who he was.

 

Alcohol  worked, and so he soaked himself. In justification, he had managed to surmise that he could strike a balance. A few shots or a few beers could still allow him to be functional. He could still walk, look ahead, skate, breathe, read. Even if he couldn’t do it well, he could do it. He pretended that there was a balance he could strike, a balance where drinking became the vitamin that helped him breathe and not the second poison to fill him. He sought it with the sort of quiet desperation reserved for shielding oneself from the rain. Always, something must become wet for another to be dry.

 

He was begging for relief, and the risk, the potential for consequence, just didn’t seem good enough. He was consciously aware of the danger of the pattern, of the progressive spiraling he was embracing, but he couldn’t seem to be afraid of it the way he knew he should be. Or maybe he was just refusing to allow himself to be afraid, refusing to look it in the eye, because if he did, then what next? Where did he go from there? It was easier to just keep drinking, denying, numbing. And it was terrifyingly easy to hide from it all when his mind struggled to surmise even the energy to eat. He was already running on empty, and there was little to be given to things so seemingly fearsome and complicated.

 

“Morning, Willy.”

 

He became suddenly aware of the overzealous clicking of fingers against a phone screen.

 

“Kas?” He rasped out.

 

“Yeah.”

 

He was dizzy, maybe from last night’s coping, maybe from the anxiety that came with being caught in a toxic secret. There were bottles and glasses lined along the perimeter of his bed like a fence meant to ward away demons. It wasn’t a secret, really. Rather something so painful to address that it became hidden among the shelves, tucked away in the back like an expired can of soup. And at his age, it was easy to pretend he was just partying, living his best life, celebrating his youth and not drowning it out.

 

“I missed practice again, didn’t I?” He asked because he didn’t know another way to voice his fears. It could encompasses the disorganization of his life, the fear of the loss of his career, and the lack of control he felt in maintaining his values all at once.

 

“No, Willy, it’s an off day. You didn’t answer your phone last night and then this morning too. Zach said you were hiding from us. I get wanting to be alone. But I don’t think you want to be alone. I think you just want some quiet, and you haven’t been able to find it.”

 

Kasperi felt like a glow laying next to Willy, as if the heat of his body had become luminescent and was painting the air a different color. His breaths and his twitches all diffused like a candle, slowly heating the room and filling it with the scent of home. It was the safe and tender light of an intimacy he knew in a way that felt almost inherent, as if the love given to him by Kasperi was a law of nature, sure to be in every timeline from birth to death. There is a power to those around us to mesh with who we are and give what we cannot name that we need. 

 

"Thanks, Kas."