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I sit at the fireplace. I sit before the flames and the sparks and the crumpled up newspaper pieces that are folding together, turning into charcoal, that are dying right before me. And I want to reach my hand in and pull out those pieces of discarded news and read them, just to give them a purpose before they become pieces of sole emptiness. And I want to do it just to feel the burn.
My feet stretch out on the rug, crawl towards the flames, and beg to dip the tips of their toes in, as if this is just water. And as I am wondering why my mind is whirling with such odd thoughts, with such irrational thoughts that are so unlike me, you come down the stairs, and your slippers that I know you were embarrassed to wear when your mum gave them to you for Christmas- they are scuffing the floor in a tired kind of tread.
As you wipe the sleep from your eyes, I can see the little eye crusties that lye happily on those sweet eye corners of yours. I don’t know what eye corners are called, I just know that yours droop down a little when you’re sad. I know this because you are my best friend; have been for nearly six years.
And that’s all you are ever supposed to be.
But when you see me, your eye corners shoot up, and the fog is gone from your face. It is clear, you are happy. There is no other word for it- not excited, or blissful, or content- you are simply happy to see me. You always are.
The cocoons lying unhappily at the bottom of my stomach erupt, each one hatching simultaneously, each one beating their light wings against the corners of my tummy and making me jumpy. More alert now, too. You used to give me caterpillars, the giggling little sensation of a million legs crawling up and down my stomach. It was the feeling of a best friend. It is only lately that you’ve given me the butterflies. I don’t know what has changed.
Well, I do, but I am not willing to admit it, not even to myself.
You sit yourself down comfortably on the floor next to me: it’s not awkward because you’ve been doing it for years. You’ve been my rock forever. There’s been no one like you. Not even her, my second best friend. She is there for boys and make up and being my water fountain, pouring out necessary information when my mind is dry, but you… You are the brother I never had, the one I should end up marrying in the end.
But that won’t happen. I’ve been around too many hopeful hearts breaking and crumbling and being swept into the sewers to ever believe that it will.
I feel a weight on my shoulder and I know it is your arm before I even turn to look at you. I feel so out of place in my own body. I feel like my eyes are implanted in another person’s head, and I am up above, like an angel, looking down at this whole scene.
But I am not an angel, I am the opposite. I have black bangs that cover up the zits on my forehead, I have huge, green eyes that at first I liked, and now all the mirror tells me is that they look like bug eyes. That my nose is too small and my mouth is so unpleasing it looks like I am upset with everyone around me. And I want you to tell me that that’s not true. Tell me that I am beautiful, I beg. Tell me you love me the way I am.
Another part of me, though, is arguing don’t. Don’t tell me that you thing I am amazing. This is not what best friends do.
Not best friends that have been together at boarding school for six years together, that live in the same dorm, that have gone on the most wild and crazy adventures together, even if that’s just what we think.
But your arm pulls me closer to you, something you have never done. You pull me so close to you that my head is so uncomfortable, the only way to relax it is to let it drop. And I do, I let my head rest on your shoulder, and you find my giant eyes with your clear blue ones.
I look up into the face- your face- that I have known for so long. I have seen it when you were an awkward, fat preteen with nerdy glasses- me and her always having to protect you from the looks you’d get, then the looks we’d get. Then you began to turn into a teenager, and so did I, and our hormones began to rage, and mine made me uglier, and yours made you grow up and out of the fat and you had surgery on your eyes and you started working out and you were handsome. Neither she nor I could ignore it anymore. You were gorgeous. Stares of despise turned into stares of jealousy from girls that passed us. But you were still the best friend to me. Nothing more. Or at least you didn’t know what my mind was truly begging for.
Your perfect lips open. When they open they make an “O.” Not the kind they talk about in books that are actually a football shape, but an actual perfect “O.” And you get a little dimple, right next to your left lip corner. Just when you’re talking. When you smile it goes away. It just… disappears.
And you tell me what me heart begs for. You tell me with your eyes locked on mine so I know you mean it and aren’t embarrassed to say it (you always look away when you are telling me something embarrassing), and you whisper so that only I can hear it, even though were are the only ones in the lounge, the only ones in the world right now:
“You are so beautiful.”
And I should blush. I should. That’s what my body wants me to do. Just let my whole face turn red. But instead I keep your stare, your mesmerizing stare, and I try to figure out what you are saying. But nothing comes. My mind doesn’t let any new thoughts come. All I can sense is you.
I am realizing that I sound like a cheesy love story. But I don’t care anymore. And I know this only makes it sound more cheesy. Still, it is what is going on. Now. This is not a dream.
And I blink just to make sure it’s not. And I’m so glad when you’re still there.
“Why are you down here so late?” you ask.
And I don’t try to flirt back. I don’t try to trick him. I answer naturally. “I was worried about things.”
“What things?” you ask. And I’m so glad you care. I’m so happy that I can know there is one person that cares about me. And my hand, without thinking about it, curls around your warm heavy one. It is moist. I like that. I know you’re just as nervous as I am right now.
“I don’t remember,” I answer honestly.
I think about my answer, and I hesitate. Because I know it this time. My heart and mind don’t have to argue. The answer is so clear for once. I just am not sure if I can tell you.
But I do. And it sounds so stupid, that I close my eyes so that I don’t see your expression. Even though every nerve in my body wants to be prepared, wants to see what’s coming next.
But for once in my life, I let myself be vulnerable, and I answer, “Because when I’m with you, every little bad thing goes away.”
And my mind is still analyzing with my eyes closed that I should have spoke louder, that my voice was shaking, that I shouldn’t have said that, that I should have said more, but you answer my deepest fears and worries that I have hidden for the moment. And just before I am about to open my eyes to see your expression…
I feel the softest brush on my lips. Like my butterflies have escaped and their wings are whispering against my lips. But I know it is you, it is your lips. I know you are offering them up to me, you are offering your whole being, letting me have it. I just have to reach onto the hook and be lifted up.
So I squeeze my eyes shut so hard it hurts and I kiss you back as hard as I can. And I wonder why it has taken me so long to taste what your lips feel like, what pure happiness feels like, what love feels like.
Cranberry Twp, Pennsylvania
Grand Rapids, Michigan
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