One Day After
Cyrus wakes up to a sky that seems to mock him, cloudless and a brilliant shade of blue.
He doesn’t like it.
Three Days After
Tomorrow is Monday, which means tomorrow is school, which means tomorrow is the day Cyrus will burst into tiny pieces of humiliation. He can’t face anyone, not even his friends, who are more concerned than understanding. Cyrus feels guilty, but he knows they won’t get it. It’s not exactly relatable, his feelings. Buffy and Andi are beautiful, witty, flawed in ways that are okay—they’re good enough. Better than good enough, actually.
Cyrus doesn’t even come close.
Eight Days After
It’s going to be a good day, Cyrus thinks. He walks with his head held high, beaming at everyone he makes eye contact with. It’s going to be a good day. It’s going to be a—
T.J. is holding hands with Kira.
Yesterday, it was kissing.
Oddly enough, this seems more intimate.
Fifteen Days After
Today is the day. T.J. is going to apologize to Cyrus; it’s already long overdue. He’s been busy, though. With Kira. His girlfriend, he supposes—but that doesn’t matter.
They haven’t talked much. Not total radio silence, as T.J. did give him a brief apology through text a couple of days ago. ( The costume thing is totally okay. Not a problem. I’m happy for you and Kira. ) And an invite to the newest superhero movie, which they’d planned to watch together from six weeks ago. ( Oh no, already watched that with Andi and Buffy. Not in the mood to cry again. Have a good weekend though!)
It’s okay, honestly. Their friendship is unscathed, able to withstand, and as Cyrus said, it’s not a problem. Right? Cyrus would tell him if he’s upset.
But of course, an uncomfortable part of T.J. has to observe that a cohesive change has occurred. For one, Cyrus never texts him with proper punctuation. Ever.
So he waits outside of Cyrus’ third period, vaguely nauseous, as if he’s kissing Kira or something—anyway, it’s taking him forever to come out of the classroom door, and T.J. wonders if he’s sick. Poor Cyrus, he hates pills, so T.J. hopes that liquid medication can cover whatever’s plaguing him—
“What class is this?” T.J. asks aloud after spotting a sixth-grader whose backpack is too big for his body.
“Mandarin.” The boy seems nervous and takes a step back. “Don’t hurt me.”
He grumbles and walks away, cursing everything. Cyrus’ classroom is 32A, and T.J. has been standing outside of 23A, because, fuck, he really can’t do anything correctly. Numbers were never his friend, but Cyrus was, and look what he’s done—
And then Cyrus passes by him, animatedly chatting with Jonah Beck. T.J.’s forgotten, or never fully appreciated, how beautiful his voice is.
And T.J. knows that if he was a better friend—person, even—he would’ve stopped and given him the apology he deserves. But instead, he stands, like the coward he is, watching Cyrus’ retreating figure.
Lastly, he spots the girl who was the catalyst to this whole thing. Perhaps this really is okay, he muses as she kisses his cheek.
Cyrus deserves better.
Twenty-Three Days After
The cafeteria introduces a new muffin to the menu. Summer blueberry flaxseed. It kind of sounds like shit, but apparently it isn’t, not according to a gleeful Cyrus who jumps around with Buffy.
T.J. smiles widely when he sees him, even moves closer to the boy, but his momentary happiness vanishes after Buffy catches his eye. The expression on her face is clear as she jerks her head in Kira’s direction, who’s watching the scene with a raised eyebrow that suggests she’s too good for this whole affair. You stay on your side, and I’ll stay on mine.
He steps away.
Forty Days After
Cyrus fumbles with his tie, but his stepdad helps him with a kind smile that doesn’t decrease his embarrassment. He should know this by now. He’s hit with a memory, from not too long ago, when he and T.J. were fooling around in the basement. Cyrus’ dad’s tie was splayed on top of the chair.
T.J. had grinned, placed the fabric right below Cyrus’ chest, and adopted a terrible English accent. “You look dashing, mate.”
“I look old.” He made a face. “Can’t believe I’ll have to wear this in graduation. I can’t even tie it. Bowties—or even suspenders — are so much better, in terms of fashion.”
“I’m going to have to stop you right there,” T.J. had said, one hand on his hip. “You don’t know how to tie a tie?”
“No. I mean, I can barely tie my shoes, Kippen.”
“You’re not kidding? Okay, let me teach you—”
“Aw, not today, Teej. Please. We have Iron Man 2 waiting.”
He’d sighed, then, faking exasperation. “Fine then. Before graduation, though.”
“Before graduation,” Cyrus had echoed, smiling. “But not a flamingo tie, God, please.”
And now, on eighth-grade graduation day, he inspects himself in the mirror. His tie is black, Cyrus sighs wistfully; there are no flamingos in sight.
He can’t find T.J. either.
Fifty-Six Days After
The scalding summer sun finally sets, which leaves Cyrus to venture the boring streets alone. He makes his way to the park, knowing that barely anyone would be there in the dusk, not when the annual carnival is on the other side of town. Cyrus knows he should be there, laughing with his friends at the photo booth, letting himself be forced on rides. But for some reason, he can’t do it. Perhaps its because there’s a huge aspect of pretending in there—and Cyrus has never been much of an actor.
He can feel his discontent wear way as he seats himself on the familiar swing. It’s much too hot in the afternoon, and so evening is the only time to disassociate. Cyrus closes his eyes, not going high; there’s no one here to push him, after all.
But Cyrus’ contemplation of his entire existence is interrupted. A pitchy giggle makes its way to his ears, coming from somewhere—the opposing swings on the other side of the park. And the noise isn’t coming from children, but from teenagers; a boy and girl.
It’s dark now, but the streetlights bounce, and he can make out the silhouettes that are suddenly facing him. The girl is sitting on the boy’s lap, a possessive hand on his shoulder.
Cyrus scrambles off the swing, stumbling a bit before tripping. The girl laughs again, but the boy is quiet, as usual, never fucking saying anything. Not an I’m sorry or We’re still friends. Even an insult is okay— I know that you’re gay, I know how you feel about me, you’re disgusting, etc. Anything is fine. He can take the hurt, but not this, this silence that speaks volumes.
And then he runs. He’s not athletic, but he still goes fast, racing past the cookie cutter houses with their white fences. Cyrus hates it all at this moment, this bubble that he’s imprisoned in, with the idyllic lifestyle of high test scores and electric cars; not to mention the dark side that contains boys that will steal your heart and then repeatedly crush it into pieces.
Cyrus knows that they’re dating, that they can hold hands in public without judgemental stares, that they make out and laugh and enjoy. He knows that T.J. has never really been Cyrus’, that what he feels is nothing more than a fleeting delusion, but it hurts, hurts so damn much. A foolish part of him still thought that the swingset was theirs, that Cyrus’ safe haven meant something to T.J., despite their lessening friendship. He’s so dumb, so naive, so done.
He doesn’t break down, not really, but Cyrus stops and sits on the sidewalk, tears mingled with sweat. Ants crawl around his ankles, but he pays no mind; at least insects are okay with him.
He laughs incredulously. What has he become?
Cyrus has let himself get hurt too many times.
It ends now, he realizes, as moonlight peeks through the tall fir trees. In fact, if an English class had to analyze his whole life as if it were a book, the pale light coming from the sky would represent a new beginning.
Plus, he doesn’t actually have to say goodbye to T.J. Kippen—it’s already done.