There’s a moth on the ceiling, wings tucked in tight, drawn to the light and it would kinder to open a window into the dark, but letting him out might let other things in. My room is just right with just us.
It’s okay, I say, you can touch me.
First we’re careful, then carefree, not like Sundays and sunshine and ice cream cone kites, but like prison guards and businessmen and nurses after thirty-six hours. We’re careless. We don’t care. We don’t bother to bend, we go straight for the breaks, but no brakes. No seat belts. No airbags, burning rubber. There’s no signal, a sharp turn, then uncharted territory. Your fingers explore me like topography, like Mercator. I’m lost and you’ve found me, pinned to the map.
I don’t come in peace – I come screaming and shouting. I go to pieces, on my back in black and red sparks. You can’t make a sound – you come in violent silence, sudden stillness, still nice, still inside me as I gasp and cling, the last or maybe first of everything.
You leave in that same silence, still not making a sound as you pull out of my room.
I wake up alone and whisper your name on my back in the black before dawn.
Today you look at me different. You don’t look at me at all.
Alice asks me to pass the cereal. It’s a stupid request, with the box there beside her, but I obey. It keeps me not looking at you. Your foot scuffs the carpet. Your spoon scrapes your bowl. But you are not looking so I am not looking and things could look like this forever, because we saw those sparks.
Damn those sparks. Everything else is fuzzy and pale now that they’ve singed my eyes.
I finish eating and sit in silence, waiting for our friends. You leave with loud goodbyes, see you laters, words you didn’t give me, and your finger trails my shoulder as if that’ll be enough. As if I’m supposed to know from your touch that you mean I’m sorry I love you Hello Goodbye Whatever.
What’s worse is that I do. I think you mean all those things.
Rose wants to know why I didn’t come out last night. “I had to study,” I say, and that’s true: I had to study your face, your back, your shoulders, your hands. I had to study your movements and match them to my own. I had to study the moth on the ceiling, his powdery wings and twitching body, and wonder if he was drawn to our sparks.
“You study too much,” Rose says. I agree.
At noon I eat under a tree. Sometimes you meet me here, but not today – you have commitments, the kind you can keep. The kind that are straightforward, with expiration dates and clear expectations. Not the kind that wake up beside you.
I knew that going in, and you knew that coming out, and I’m surprised at how I wish now that we hadn’t. If I’d really been in the dark, I couldn’t see the light now.
Dinner is more of the same: like breakfast, our friends notice nothing amiss, and like lunch, you are not there. I don’t bother hoping for dessert.
But Alice comes back to my room and makes me eat MnMs without dividing the colors. If I try, she steals them so my numbers aren’t even, and the imbalance finally tips me over. “Damnit,” I yell, wishing again for thicker walls, “why does everyone have to fuck with me today?”
Alice raises an eyebrow and pops three candies in her mouth. “Fuck with you or fuck you, period?”
My huff tells her more than I mean it to. In an instant she’s beside me, where you ought to be, one arm sliding around the waist your arms held hours ago. “It’s him,” she says, “isn’t it? I’ll fucking kill him,” and I can’t help it. I laugh.
You’re killing me, you said, and it wasn’t funny then – it seemed more like a choice of life or death. It’s killing me, all right. And not just in le petit mort.
Our friends are starting to notice the distance, and they survey new boundaries, trying to figure out rules of the new road. Alice rides the line, playing chicken to see if you’ll swerve. You won’t. You just pretend someone else is driving.
For the first time, I wonder if you think I’m behind the wheel, when I’m actually the one crushed beneath it.
I crush potatoes on my plate, wondering if my skin would hold my pieces together in a similar way. Rose’s arm bumps mine, my fork bumps my tray, and my tray knocks over a full glass of milk. It rushes into your lap, and when I think lucky milk, I knock over a second glass for good measure.
This is bullshit. “Come talk to me,” I snap, as you grab handfuls of napkins. “When you can spare the time.”
And I leave.
Your schedule must be over-full because it takes you three more days to find your way. You knock, something you haven’t done since we were freshmen, and I answer, something I never do, at least not with more than a shout of “come in.” But I’m not giving away any more words than I have to, because I already gave you too many. Too much. Now it’s time to demand something back, and you know it. I can tell by the look on your face.
“Hey,” you say, running a hand through your hair – a golden boy, carrying the summer shine with you.
I always forget how easily I burn. It’s something I despise and can’t change. “Hey yourself,” I say, closing the door.
You spin my computer chair backwards, straddling it casually, legs freely parted because that’s what boys get to do. My own press together, twice as hard on the bed, on the very edge, as if closer to you is safer than its middle.
Your arms cross on the chair back. I stare at them instead of you. “What the hell?” I ask finally. “You couldn’t even say goodbye?”
Your gaze tries to escape out the window, finds itself trapped by my blinds. “You were sleeping.”
I wasn’t. “And?”
“And…” You still can’t look me in the face. “I freaked out, okay? I suck.”
You flinch, like my agreement is a weapon and not one you expected me to draw. “I’m sorry.”
I ignore it. I’m not sorry, for what we did, and I’m certainly not sorry for what I’m saying now. I’m not sorry that you let me down – that fault’s all on you. I’m not sorry I misjudged you, or even that I wasn’t clear.
“Can’t we be friends?” you ask.
I’m sorry you said it, because it makes me tell a lie. “I don’t want to be your friend,” I say. “Not if this is how you treat them.”
“It’s not,” you say, sounding miserable, as if you’ve earned the right. “I don’t sleep with my friends.”
“But you slept with me,” I point out. “So I guess we’re in agreement.”