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Thousand Words

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Thousand words


I watched the reflection of the taxi in the mirrored windows of skyscrapers, to the smell of pastrami, sweat and cheap deodorant and the sound of a DJ making crude jokes. Movement was slow. We had been stuck in traffic for God knows how long, in the middle of down town, the business district. I remembered the buildings from my childhood. A taxi cab just like this one would pick me up from school and drop me off at my mother's office, all the way up in one of the tallest skyscrapers. It used to be pretty cool as a child, pretending to save the princess from the top of the story. The story got old quickly, I did too. At my dad's office, I was never welcome.

"What are you thinking about?" My too-interested-for-comfort driver inquired, looking at me through the rear-view mirror. He was probably as bored as I was, the scenery had remained unchanged, we were surrounded by the same cars we were when we first hit the traffic jam and rain poured down from the dreary, grey skies, beating down on the roof like drums.

"Nothing." I replied. It really was nothing.

He kept looking at me, inappropriately long and intensely. Poor little rich boy, he must be thinking. I could read it all over his face. I've read it all over many people's faces during my supposedly blessed lifetime.

I glared back at him. "Do you mind?" It used to make me feel guilty, now it just made me feel as unsympathetic and insensitive as they presumed me to be. I tapped my fingers impatiently on the large art folder that lay in my lap.

"Are you an artist?"

I snorted. "I wish." Then I sighed dramatically and looked around myself in frustration, looking at the people in the neighboring cars. "What could possibly be taking so long?" I wondered.

"Accident." My driver answered, even though I hadn't addressed my question so much to him as to the mysterious and unfortunate working of the universe. "An ambulance and police car rushed by fifteen minutes ago."

I blinked, tensing up. "Fifteen minutes? How long-" I noticed the red digits of the clock on the dashboard. "That's the time?" I exclaimed. "Seriously, we have been standing here for over forty minutes? Why didn't you say something? I specifically told you I had to be there on time!"

The driver shrugged, not really bothered by my problems, they were, after all, my problems. "Nothing can be done anyway. Besides, I get paid by the minute."

In the small rear-view mirror I caught a glimpse of his grin. The meter didn't lie, I owed him twenty-one dollars and counting. "Great. Great!" The money didn't bother me, the time did. I gazed outside the window, as if the solution would come to me. And through the thick sheets of rain, it did. My eyes focused on a sign on the sidewalk just up ahead and I squinted to read the text.

My hands fumbled to find their way into the pocket of my pants as quickly as possible. I raised my hips off the seat to pull out my wallet. In the meantime, I spoke with hurried words: "There is a subway station right there!"

He didn't look surprised at all. His shrugged his broad shoulders again and said sarcastically: "Oops."

"Oops." I repeated, with a grumbling tone. I handed him a selection of bills that added up to twenty five dollars, I didn't have small change, probably a 'rich kid's thing'. I held it out to him. "Keep the change." I said, because I was in a hurry, but as soon as he took the money from me I shook my head and figured that after all this wasted time, it could wait a little longer. "You know what? No, I'll take the change."

He took his time sorting out the coins while I kept tapping my fingers on the folder. He dumped them into my hand. I didn't bother putting the coins in my wallet, I stuffed the coins in my right pocket, the wallet in the left and kicked the door open. "Have a nice day." I snapped. I was so sick and tired of people having their judgments at the ready at the sight of my expensive wool coat. I walked around the cab to the back. The rain instantly soaked my hair and my pants legs. I prayed the folder was, as advertised, waterproof. I cursed when the trunk was still closed. I waited only briefly before slamming my hand down and shouting: "Hey!"

At the second 'Hey' the trunk was popped open. I grabbed my heavy duffel bag and slung it over my shoulder. Without thinking twice about it, I started walking away, out of traffic, onto the sidewalk, leaving the trunk open.

"Fuck you!" Was heard over the rain hitting the pavement and the windows of the buildings. I didn't pay any heed. With a hastened stride I approached the entry to the subway station. The strap of my bag dug into my shoulder painfully. Exposed to the rain, my braid became a heavy weight suspended from the back of my head and my long, haphazard bangs clung to my face and partly obstructed my eyes.

"Can't believe I'm doing this. Can't believe it." I muttered to myself. "This better be worth it."

I sighed in relief when I was at the bottom of the stairs and protected against the onslaught of rain. I consulted a subway map to find the appropriate line and corresponding platform. For the first time that day, I was in luck. The train arrived at the platform just as I did and I gratefully stepped on board. It was too crowded to take a seat, so I stood by the door, holding one of the bars for supports as the train jolted and shook along the underground tracks. I shook my hand and wrist out of my sleeve to look at my watch disapprovingly.

When the doors opened at my station I burst through the doors like a racehorse and ran up the stairs, back to the outside world, where light was believed to exist only it was now overshadowed by clouds. The rain had let up a little and had been reduced to a miserable drizzle. But it didn't matter anyway, I was already wet, it couldn't get any worse. I turned around and there was a moment of calm and relief as I was faced with the only building that had ever been my home.

It wasn't statuesque or imposing, like the ivy league universities my parents would have preferred me to end up, it was just an unremarkable, modernistic building, imposing only in its size. The university offered a great variety of majors to a great variety of people. And all these different people were thrown together, organized only by gender, in the large dorm room buildings, directly adjacent to the university itself. The whole was enclosed by a fence, circling the firm basis of my life.

Students were drumming through the gates, chatting and reminiscing and dreading the following academic year, all carrying bags or suitcases, girls oftentimes both.

I jogged through the open gate, recognizing a couple of familiar faces. I waved at them, so as not to seem rude, but I had no time to listen to day-by-day descriptions of their eight week summer break. Some of them called my name enthusiastically, that I just pretended not to hear.

I crossed campus to my dorm building, building B. I could see it in the distance, amidst the other dorm room buildings. It wasn't the only thing I could see in the distance.

He was walking about fifty yards in front of me, carrying a relatively modestly sized duffel bag and his laptop bag. He didn't seem to be in a rush, not surprising, because he arrogantly assumed I would be late anyway. I scowled at myself for proving him right for yet another year.

"Hey Duo."

I jumped when I was suddenly hugged by someone. Judging by the mass of blond hair I found my nose buried in, it also wasn't the person I particularly appreciated hugs from.

"Hey... Relena."

Her smile was beaming, but she always smiled for all the wrong reasons so it didn't give me a reassuring feeling. "Hope you weren't too lonely this summer." She sweetly expressed, demonstratively looking back over her shoulder.

I followed her gaze to Hilde, a short distance away from us, talking to classmates and desperately pretending not to be acutely attuned to our conversation. All teachers say at the end of high school that life will never be same again. Interestingly, I have found that college life is frighteningly akin to my pathetic existence in high school, with much as the same drama, evolving around the same kind of girls. This made me question the education of those teachers. "No... I managed." I looked over my shoulder, seeing him getting further and further away from us, getting closer to building B. "Relena, I-"

"Look," she interrupted, her voice suddenly not so sweet anymore. "It's raining, so if I want to save my hair, we have to make this quick. Part one: I don't like you, you don't like me. Part two: Hilde likes you, you like Hilde. So if you ask me, we should just beating around the bush. I should not be talking to you. You should be talking to Hilde."

The warmth of the summer sun had almost made me forget why we always refer to her as 'that psycho-bitch', but now that it was starting to get cold again, so did she. "Relena, you approached me." I pointed out.

She rolled her eyes. "Only because Hilde asked me to." She looked back at her friend again, forced on a smile and waved.

Hilde pretended like she didn't know what the whole gesture was about and shot a strange look our way before turning back to her own conversation.

I sighed. "Relena, I get that you are trying to be a friend, but maybe you would be a better friend if you would just help Hilde realize that we are not going down that road again. I'm sorry."

She put her hands on her hips theatrically. "Ugh. Whatever." She flipped her hair. "Maybe you should be a better friend and tell Heero-"

I tuned her out.

I shared a brief look with Hilde, who no longer pretended to be interested in the holiday pictures of one of her friends. I didn't even attempt to read her expression. She was an excellent liar. I had liked her, I just couldn't trust her anymore and I didn't feel like throwing myself back into all that drama because I was taught by the nanny, in the absence of an interested father and devoted mother, that I should always take the high road and try to be friends with everyone. Sometimes, friendship doesn't last, because some people are absolutely crazy.

The clock struck with an echo that traveled across the campus and I was reminded of why my steps had been so hurried and why I had gotten myself soaking wet. "Say, Relena." I blurted before she could walk away. "Have you talked to Heero?"

She seemed taken aback by this question. "Why?"

"Well, he's been away all summer, right? Things might not have changed between Hilde and me, but that doesn't mean things haven't changed between you two." Oh, I was bad, I was very bad. I was horrible and I would surely be reminded of that.

She cocked her head, questioning the integrity of my intentions. Rightfully so. "I've been meaning to talk to him. I just haven't seen him yet."

"He just walked by here." I turned at pointed at Heero, dangerously close to building B. "He's right there."

"Later!" She said and then she rushed after Heero in her high heels, suddenly not so bothered by the state of her hair anymore in the slow, drizzling rain.

I ran in a different direction, going around building A to approach our building from the back and enter through the emergency fire exit, rather than the front door where Heero was headed. There was no paved path leading up to the back door. My shoes were getting wet and stained in the high grass, but I didn't care, they were an ugly, decadent pair that I wouldn't usually wear anyway. Normally the fire exit wouldn't open from the outside, but I knew certain routines would never change and that door would have already been sneakily forced open. I was right. I pushed inside and stepping into the central hallway of the dorm building was like coming home. And it really was.

A surprised face poked out of the kitchen. Wild, red hair contrasted with an extremely pale complexion. A grin appeared as he recognized me. "Dude!"

"Hey Nash." I hurried through the hallway, to the stairs. All the common rooms were downstairs, living room, TV room, dining hall, large kitchen and two bathrooms. The twelve small bedrooms, all with bunk beds, were upstairs. "Stocking up the fridge huh?" I asked as I passed him.

He knocked two bottles of beer together. "Sure am. Monday mornings feel like a hangover anyway, might as well have the party and get drunk the night before." He chuckled as I started climbing the stairs with haste. "I guess that answers my question whether you are still doing that thing with Heero."

"Yep, still doing the thing!" I called as I reached the top of the staircase. I adjusted the strap of my bag and took the final few steps to the third door on the right. Most of the doors were chaotically decorated with posters from favorite rock bands, pictures of scantily dressed women and stolen advertisements of violent video games. Our door was no different, but special nonetheless.

Stupid as it was, my heart thudded as I took out my bundle of keys. Even though I had sacrificed Heero to Relena as a necessary distraction to stall him, Heero wasn't must of a conversationalist, but he was a wizard in cutting every social exchange that he felt no desire to engage in, short. Resorting to impolite methods of the past if he must.

I turned the key and pushed the door open. The room was dark. The curtains were closed and no lights were on. The room smelled a little dusty, but still like us and even though I would never admit it, I liked it. I flicked on the lights and grinned when I saw the bare mattresses of the bunk beds, the pillows and sheets were still stored in the boxes underneath the bottom bunk.

I unceremoniously dumped my bag in a corner and propped my art folder against the side of the small desk underneath the equally small window. Standing by the bed, I briefly caught my own reflection in the mirror on the door of our closet. My expensive, black wool coat. My expensive, brown, tailor made dress pants. My expensive, Italian leather, handmade shoes. I couldn't wait to get into a cotton T-shirt that I got for free at a festival, worn jeans and beat up shoes. But that would have to wait. First, I wanted to savor my moment of victory.

I climbed into the top bunk and lay down on my back with a sigh, my hands pillowing my head in the absence of an actual pillow. I casually crossed my legs at the ankle.

Three heartbeats later, the door opened.

"Hey there, slowpoke." I taunted. I looked down my legs, through the space between my feet at the face that appeared just above the footboard of the top bunk. Not a happy face.

"Hey snotty little rich kid." Was the reply and then the sound of a bag being lowered to the floor. He closed the door behind him.

I smiled, for some reason, I could take it from him. Probably because he was the only person in my life to recognize there was more to me than that.

He walked around to come stand next to the bunk bed, his head tilted, his eyes glaring. "Thanks for ratting me out to Relena, asshole."

I rolled onto my side and just couldn't stop grinning at him. "It was my last chance to win."

"So, how does the other half spend the summer vacation?"

I sat up, my legs dangling over the edge at the ladder. "On my ass in an air-conditioned, blinded room listening to passive aggressive music." I shot back.

A tiny smile appeared on his lips as Heero placed his laptop back on the desk. When he turned back to face me Heero eyed my pants and shoes, noting how unsuitable they were on me. I appreciated that he noticed. The question was evident in his expressive eyes.

I rolled my eyes and quoted my father: "People in coach wear childish trends. People in first class wear timeless style."

He snorted. "I take it you've had a long flight."

"Not long enough not to beat you." I retorted with the return of the grin. "So what about you, how was your flight?"

Heero shook his ratty old coat off his shoulders and draped it over the back of one of the two chairs that were cramped at the desk. He meaningfully looked down at himself, then back up at me.

I noticed his beaten-up sneakers, his old, worn jeans - holes included - and that button-up shirt with black and blue lumberjack pattern that he seemed to prefer over his other shirts even though it was faded.

He shook his head and a tired chuckle escaped him. "Guess in what part of the plane I was seated."

I offered a sad smile. Strange how sometimes both of us wished we had the life of the other. "How was your vacation?"

Heero shrugged. He hoisted his bag up onto the desk and zipped it open. He started to unpack, putting small stacks of clothes on the shelves in his half of the closet. As he worked, he replied with a monotonous voice: "Work, mostly. Thirteen hours a day, five days a week. My mom had arranged a job for me at an old colleague's diner in advance. It was fine though, not as much stress as here, during courses." Whenever Heero talked monotonously, it was clear that he wasn't fine, so I trusted his tone, not his words.

"And your grandma?" I inquired carefully. I didn't want to come across as insensitive.

He paused in front of the closet briefly, dragging out the act of putting away his jeans to avoid having to look at me. His shoulders looked slumped and defeated. He must also be very tired. All summers were difficult times for him. "It was nice." He started and turned around with an impassive face to continue unpacking. "I had two days a week off, so I got to spend some time with her and with the money I've earned I've bought her at least another seven months in the nursing home and covered some of the medical bills so..."

I jumped down from the bed and hesitantly approached him. In his eyes I could see his struggles. I decided to overcome those inhibitions that guys just have with regards to physical contact with each other and I closed the distance between us, embracing him, with arms tightly wrapped around him. He returned the hug uncomfortably, but gratefully. When things started to get too awkward we patted each other on the back and broke apart.

To lighten the mood I joked: "You're just trying to guilt me out of the top bunk."

We both chuckled, relieving most of the tension.

"It's good to see you again, man." I admitted. "It's weird every summer, being away from you." When I had realized what I had said and how it had sounded, I added casually: "Not getting woken up at six am every morning because my anal retentive roommate is one of those perverted examples of the human race that can actually function before eight o'clock and a cup of coffee and wants to go for a run. I swear, for the first month I just kept waking up at six."

He grinned. "I'll make a morning person out of you yet."

"Oh, but I am a morning person. I spend my mornings very productively. I solve world problems ya know?"

"The only problem you solve in the early morning is your morning stiffy. That hardly qualifies as worldly."

At his comment I felt my face becoming hot. I never knew that was something he had noticed. I had always confidently believed I was able to hide my hormonal relief routines pretty expertly. I noticed his face was getting a little redder at the cheeks as well. But we managed to laugh it off.

I unpacked and got changed as Heero made his bed. For the first time, the bed he was making, was the bottom one. All previous years, Heero had managed to conquer the top bunk.

I didn't feel uncomfortable getting undressed in his presence, even in tight quarters such as our tiny, shared room. I wasn't particularly uncomfortable with any guy, getting undressed in front of them. Being captain of the basketball team since high school I've shared many public showers with a group of loudmouthed guys and it was just normal, accompanied by the to-be-expected nudity-related bantering.

My father could not wrap his head around the fact that I felt comfortable sharing such a small space and so much time with someone else. He grew up a rich kid himself, his dad had bought him an apartment close to Harvard. There was never any doubt that he would be going to Harvard. When I failed to get into an ivy league university, even though in my dad's mind there had also never been any doubt about me going to Harvard, he made it clear what my punishment would be. He could have never guessed that even though I had only three shelves for my clothes, had to share a desk with a bossy, overachieving fellow-student, had to share two bathrooms with twenty-four absolute pigs and had to sleep in a bunk bed, it was exactly what I had wanted and had acquainted me with my first true friend.

I had missed him, but I couldn't say that. I wanted to, it just didn't feel right. I didn't want to come across as some sort of sentimental fag. So instead, when his elbow accidentally hit me in the side as he was arranging the sheets, I punched him on his back.

He threw a look at me over his shoulder, angry at first, but it was dissipated by a smirk. "Like you could beat me." He stated arrogantly.

His comment inadvertently sent me on a trip down memory lane...

"Well, what do you think, dad?" I asked when the limo came to a halt in front of the main gate of the university campus.

He disapprovingly peered out the window, only briefly, he already at his judgment ready. He looked back down at the business papers in his lap. He always looks back down at the business papers. Absentmindedly he commented: "It's not Harvard."

"Keen sense of observation you have." I sneered in reply.

"Don't give me that tone, son. Remember, I am still paying for this joke."

"It's not a joke, dad." I tried for the last time. "It's a legit university."

His response was his usual speech. "Harvard is the number one university in the United States of America. It is the oldest, higher education institution in the country and has the largest endowment of any school in the world. This," He threw a disgusted look outside, "is not even ranked. Anyone can get in. It is a joke."

"Well then so am I." I spat and I stepped out of the car with large, angry movements. "And you can go ahead and laugh." I added.

"Believe me, son. Laughing is the last thing I want to do." He never even looked up as he scribbled his signature on the bottom of a page.

I slammed the door shut, muttering curses under my breath.

The chauffeur had already been outside, waiting for me, holding my bag. He offered it to me with one of those dreaded, slave-like: "Master Maxwell."

I ripped my bag out of his hands. "Don't call me that." Master Maxwell is my father and I wished to never become like him or have people think that I already was him.

The bag was heavily weighing down on my shoulder. My anger was heavily weighing down on my heart. I watched the chauffeur get back behind the wheel of the European brand limousine and without bothering to say goodbye, my father must have ordered him to leave, because the car slowly started to pull away, leaving me behind to embark on this challenge alone.

I looked back at the university. The building was tall, I would be climbing a lot of staircases between classes, I feared. Steadily more students were being dropped off. I watched longingly and filled with jealousy as parents hugged their children goodbye and wished them luck, a lot of parents even accompanied their child inside.

I started through the gates alone.

Upon entry, I was greeted by a senior student, it said so on her sweater. Pinned to her sweater was a nametag with her name and the phrase: "Ask me anything, I am here to help you."

"Hi! Are you here for first year orientation?"

"Yeah." I replied. The enthusiasm had sort of been sucked out of me by the old man.

"Well, the meetings start at two, so you have a little time to make yourself at home in your dorm. Follow me!"

I followed her to a set of tables just beyond the gate with laptops set up. Other senior students with similar sweaters and nametags surrounded the tables and the laptops, along with what I presumed to be other first year students. I felt painfully out of place in my suit and fancy shoes. My father always insisted that I should dress like a respectable man, even though he expressed his lack of faith that I would ever become one. Unbeknownst to him, my bag was filled with jeans and five-dollar T-shirts.

She sat down behind a laptop as soon as one became available and asked for my name.

"Duo Maxwell."

She looked up at me incredulously. "Seriously? Like, one of the Maxwells?"

I shrugged. "Yeah." My last name always impressed others more than it did me. As soon as they heard that name, they put two and two together.

"Cool!" She started working on the laptop.

Not so much, I thought to myself.

She opened a small, locked case and produced a key with a large keychain that said B-3. "You've been assigned to dorm building B. It's the one right there." She pointed to the second building, with a big, obvious B on it. "Your room is number 3, it's the third door on the right. And your roommate is already here, so you can get to meet him."

I accepted the key. "Thanks." I halfheartedly joked: "No co-ed dorms?"

She chuckled. "No. But dorms aren't organized by year or majors, so you get to meet a lot of new, interesting people with different interests." she said it like she had read it in a brochure somewhere.

"Great. Can't wait." I said sarcastically and then I was on my way to dorm building B, room number three. How corny that it rhymes, I thought.

The front door was propped wide open. In the main hall and in the common rooms, parents and children were talking loudly and excitedly. I didn't mingle and instead, went straight upstairs. The hall upstairs was more quiet. Most people had joined the crowds downstairs and outside. I could instantly tell which rooms would be occupied by first-years, it were the blank doors. All the others were decorated with posters and stolen road signs.

I walked over to the third door and found it to be unlocked. I gingerly stepped inside. The curtains were wide open, bright light pouring in.

Standing in the doorway, I took the room in. There wasn't much to see. The door was on the far left end of the room. To my right was the bunk bed, across a narrow space from that, was a small desk under the window. On the far right wall there was a single closet, with a full length mirror on the door, facing into the room. Then I noticed the olive green duffel bag in the corner by the desk and I realized I was not alone. I had been warned my roommate was already here, but I hadn't expected him to actually be in the room, considering all the familial fun going on downstairs.

I looked at the top bunk and was faced with the worn soles of his sneakers. I walked around, to stand next to the bed. "Hey." I tried casually. I dropped my heavy bag down.

He turned his head to look at me. He didn't seem particularly interested, nor excited. He lay stretched out on the top bunk bed, his hands behind his head. Just from the amount of space of the bed he took in, I could already tell he was short and he had a slight, lean build to him. He wore dark jeans with holes at the knees and a faded, grey T-shirt with a combination of English and unreadable Asian text on it. The combination was a striking representation of his face, which seemed to be an equal mix of Western and Eastern. His angular features were delicate and tanned with a soft, golden hue. His big eyes stood out, I couldn't help but stare into them, feeling a little intimidated by the cold glare from his cobalt blue eyes. His hair was chocolate brown and tousled. All things combined he had a very young and boyish look to him, offset by a contradiction of attractive, near feminine features and a stern, angry, masculine look that controlled every muscle in his face.

I had been staring for a long time, realizing he hadn't said any excuse of a greeting back to me.

"I'm Duo Maxwell." I held out my hand to him but that was futile. He seemed very pissed. His mood reflected my own but at least I had the decency to hide it for our initial encounter.

"Heero Yuy." He simply said, with a monotonous voice.

"Hey, Heero." I said, testing the name on my lips. "Guess we are roommates." I tried a smile but it just fell flat when met with his incessant glare. I looked at the lower bunk in dismay. In terms of space it was no different from the top bunk, but everyone who was once a child knows that the top bunk has an allure that the bottom bunk could not live up to. The fact that there was a selection of dried gum stuck to the slats of the top bunk, in full view of the bottom bed didn't make it any more fair that I was forced to take the bottom bed. So, I decided to play stupid. My father already thought I was anyway. "So, how do we decide who gets the top bunk?"

As expected, he raised an eyebrow at me. And for the first time, a real sentence left his mouth. "I get the top bunk. I got here first."

He had a very strange, very thick accent that I couldn't place. "Well, I don't think that's fair."

The eyebrow just raised higher.

"You see, I just got here, today, I was in Europe, on vacation, so I couldn't have gotten here any sooner. Besides, even though it's fair that the first one here gets first pick, this rule should be agreed upon in advance, otherwise it isn't valid."

Suddenly his eyes looked me up and down, for the first time taking in my handmade coat, my tailored suit and shined shoes. "Who do you think you are?" He questioned.

"No one. Just your roommate. I think we should play fair, that's all."

"And what do you think is fair?" He sat up in bed, he seemed to be amused by me, but hardly showed it other than a mischievous spark in his eyes.

I thought briefly and then suggested: "Arm wrestling." That wasn't exactly fair. I was much bigger than him, certainly I would be much stronger than him. But at that point, it was more about winning to me, rather than actually playing fair.

To my surprise he accepted my challenge and got down from the bed. He had the tiniest, smug smile to his lips. "Like you could beat me." He said, antagonizing me.

We sat at a corner of the desk and locked hands. I guess you could say that was our first handshake.

Nerves got to me when I looked down his arm and noticed the definition of muscle under his gold skin. That was the first moment I thought I had made a mistake by challenging him.

The second moment I thought I had made a mistake was when my shoulder my sore and Heero triumphantly settled back on the top mattress. How was I supposed to know he had been on the swim team and was captain of the water polo team in high school? I probably could have beaten him if I had known that, but his strength had completely caught me off guard and I had been so cocky I was unprepared for it. We agreed that for the following years, as we would be roommates in that very dorm room for as long as our academic career would last, the first one to arrive would get first pick.

I lost two years in a row. Two years during which I went from feeling uncomfortable around Heero and nearly hating him, to considering him my best friend. But we maintained the friendly rivalry, always trying to outdo the other and provoking the other.

We both continued our high school sports at university level. I became part of the varsity basketball team and Heero was recruited by the varsity swim team. Heero never missed one of my games. I never missed one his meets. In the meantime, we learned a lot about each other.

I told Heero about my past with my parents, about my dad pressuring me to study economics and business at Harvard and instead me choosing to study Architecture at an unremarkable university. Heero told me about his life in Japan with his mother and grandmother and how after high school, his American dad offered to pay tuition on the condition that he would come to the USA to study at the university close to his dad's house. In Japan he wouldn't have been able to get higher education due to lack of money. So he succumbed to his desire to learn more, choosing a dual major of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Aerospace Science and Engineering. He kept himself busy as a valid excuse to limit his visits to his father down to the single, mandatory Sunday night dinner. I didn't have to worry about that, my father didn't feel particularly motivated to invite me over to dinner. Only at the persistence of my mother did he drag me along on their lavish business trips across the world.

Everyone always commented on what an odd couple of friends we were and maybe at first glance, on the surface, we were. But in spite of our differences, or maybe because of our differences, our friendship worked.

"Hey Heero." I started as I just finished getting dressed and he was just finishing up making his new bed.


I kept my back towards him, staring out the window, eye-contact would make it too embarrassing. "I missed you." I confessed against better judgment. We were apart for the full length of all summer vacations ever since we met. But at the thought that tomorrow our final year as fellow students and roommates would start and not knowing where we would end up after that, I felt compelled to finally say it. At the end of the school year, at the start of summer, he would, in all likelihood, return to Japan and unlike other years, he would not be coming back come fall. That thought caused a dull ache in my heart.

He sighed. He was quiet for a while. I wondered what he was thinking. Finally, he replied: "I missed you too."

The we both all of a sudden turned to face each other with devilish grins and we accused simultaneously: "Homo!"

We both laughed.

The next day, possibly our final year as friends began.