“What the hell are we doing?”
I turn to face him, watch as his jaw clenches and then he laughs, humorlessly.
I reach over and put my hand on his arm. He’s white-knuckling the steering wheel now, staring full on ahead. “Pull over,” I say.
He doesn’t look at me. I feel the car accelerate. My fingers press indentations into his skin. The radio is blasting some indie-princess and her melancholy chart topper warbles in my ears. Cars move past, seemingly in slow motion because we are going so fast.
He looks at me then, anger flashing quickly in his eyes. At least I lit them with something. His face is one straight line, and he’s driving with one hand now.
“Please, or you’ll kill us both.”
“I’m going to die first, though,” he says.
“Of course you are.” Eventually I will face the fact that I may one day live in a world without him. Eventually, but not today.
Maybe it is my lack of fight that causes the car to slow, or maybe it’s the fact we’re reaching an exit. He pulls off the highway, heads down the road. We drive toward the movie theater but it’s early Sunday morning and no one’s there yet.
He turns in, drives the car around the lot in a circle then pulls into a space. We are silent and some random rock song is playing on the radio, one I bet he knows all the words to.
I watch him, his chest rising and falling with breath. He opens the door and gets out, paces. He rakes his hands through his hair, agitated, something I’ve only seen him do while thinking.
I let him fume, though I do unbuckle my seatbelt. I have no idea what his question meant, or at least that’s the lie I keep feeding to myself.
Destructive, that’s what we are. And by being with him, I’m slowly tearing at him from the inside.
“I find myself missing you,” he states. He’s stopped pacing, I notice. His back to me as he leans against the car.
It is then that I rise from my seat and shut my door. I go around the side of the car and join him. We stare at the interrupted horizon, the garish colors of the movie theater ripping open the skyline as if they are stitch-removers, as if the sunrise is a sin that must be corrected; orange and pinks staining pale skin.
“Is that a bad thing?” My voice cuts the air and the sun continues rising, white light blinding and hitting the metallic of the car, heat pressing into my back.
“It’s not healthy.”
I laugh. “We never were.”
“I annoyed you.”
“No. You didn’t.”
I face his profile then, remembering how smug he was when he thought he won; regretting my choice of words, knowing that day was only the beginning to when he would start pushing me away. Because the truth was, he never annoyed me, the truth was every day I found out something new and interesting about him. Every day I realized I had met someone who made me feel a little less alone. And there was nothing “annoying” about that.
True, the guy could act like a child at moments, but, in the same turn, that was needed every now and then. I had never met someone who could care less about what anyone else thought of them, never met someone who lived life to the fullest at every moment. I had never met someone who I was in awe of to the point I wondered why he would bother with a child like me. Someone like that would occasionally poke me, someone like that would be amused by something as simple as a straw wrapper, but that didn’t mean he was annoying.
That just meant he was being himself around me. That just meant walls were coming down.
At least, that’s what it meant then.
“I don’t usually trust people so easily,” he says, still staring ahead. The sun has risen fully now, and he’s squinting his eyes to block the light. For whatever reason, despite it being extremely early, I feel like this is the first time I’ve ever seen him so awake. I feel like this is the dawning (no pun intended) of a new obstacle in our relationship that neither of us is ready to breech.
Yet nonetheless it is happening.
“And that’s kind of freaking me out.”
I chuckle. “I can tell.”
“It’s not freaking you out?” It is then that he turns to look at me for the first time since he startled the silence in his car. What was supposed to be a drive to breakfast turns to a heart-to-heart in the matter of seconds it took for him to turn off the exit ramp. And as his eyes look into mine I get that weird stabbing pain in my ribs, just below my heart.
“You terrify me.” I laugh, but there’s nothing funny about the situation. “You’ve terrified me from the first time I saw you, and you’ll terrify me when you walk out of my life. You terrify me, because, through you, I have seen life in so many colors, so many lights, so many scenarios, I realized I’m practically dumb. You terrify me because with you I feel as if I’m living for the first time in a long, long time. You terrify me because with you I actually feel happy. You terrify me because I’ve met someone who just listens regardless of whether or not they get it. You terrify me because I’ve never felt so in sync with someone in my entire 19 years of life. You terrify me because you care…” My eyes have drifted from his face and my mouth is racing and all I can see is the pavement in front of me. I feel as if my world is spinning and no matter how still I stay, I’ll still end up toppling over.
“Why do you care?” And when my eyes meet his, his face is now blurred and I can tell I’m crying, but I know I’m not sad or angry or even happy. I just know it’s all too much, and it’s all too fast. And I know I don’t want to feel this way with anyone else but him.
He stares at me for some time, watches as my chest rises and falls with heavy breaths and I turn away from him. I notice the leaves in the trees that surround the parking lot are turning from their crisp green to yellow and some even to red. Everything is beginning to fall. Everything is beginning to catch up with my life. Welcome to the shambles.
“Because?” I repeat, my back still turned to him. The air is still and all I can hear is the wind kicking up stray leaves that are scattered around the corners of the lot. I’m still not even sure I’ve heard him right, or if he had heard me at all when I ask, “Because why?”
“Because, because— I don’t know. Just because, ok?”
I let out a harsh laugh, spinning on my heel. He’s staring at me still, his hands in his pockets and an unreadable expression on his face. “You care about me because?” I laugh again, though I’m glaring at him, but the boy doesn’t wince.
He should, if he knows what’s good for him. He would, if he knew what he’d done to me. But his eyes are unwavering. “Yeah.”
“What type of answer is “because”?” I practically hiss at him, my tone dripping with contempt. The kid has got me all up and flustered and all I can get is “because”.
“An honest one. I care about you because I do.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’ll tell you one of these days.”
I roll my eyes. “Of course you will.”
“When you least expect it.”
I flick my eyes up at him. “When?”
His mouth pulls up at the corner. “I can’t tell you.”
I frown. “Why?”
He’s full on grinning now, the devilish jerk. The cute, handsome, attractive devilish jerk, but a jerk nonetheless. “Because then you’ll expect it.”
“Of course!” I groan. It takes every ounce of self resolve I have in me to not turn and kick his tire. The boy is so frustrating sometimes, so gosh darn aggravating I just want to punch him. I’m glaring at him again and he’s smiling that charming smile back at me, his eyes crinkling at the corners the way they always do when he finds me amusing, for better and for worse.
“I’ll be waiting for the day, you know,” I grumble, going around the car and opening up the passenger door.
Whatever awkward tension there was, there is, is placated somewhat by his change of mood. He’s happy again and even though I’m edgy, I at least know he can drive without fear of an emotion-fueled accident.
The issue isn’t quite resolved, I realize, but it’ll have to do for now.
“Oh, I know you will be.” He murmurs, sliding back into the drivers seat, one hand on the wheel as he turns the key in the ignition. The car purrs to life. Something soft and acoustic plays off the radio.
I pull my knees to my chest and wrap my arms around them as the song reaches it’s climactic chorus. They’re singing about something being real and something being forever. If anything could ever be this good again.
His fingers tap along the with the beat as he puts his blinker on, turning on to the entrance ramp. He hums along at first and then he sings, his voice soft, but in perfect pitch.
I rest my chin upon my knees and stare at him, take him in in what he would say was his flawed glory. But in moments like these the boy is beautiful, and it’s moments like these that will play on repeat in my head.
“What will you say that day?” I murmur, so off-handed the question seems out of the blue. The song turns the atmosphere into syrup, everything dipping and falling in slow motion, even though the reality is only a few seconds have passed.
“Word for word or in general?” He doesn’t miss a beat. The song turns to something tribal-like, the pace fluctuating between mountains and valleys.
“In general.” I would say word for word, but we’re pushing it already by even voicing the question that’s plaguing both of our minds. I raise my head a bit and my hair falls in one sweeping motion. He turns to me and watches as it brushes against my cheek then my neck before it rests just below my shoulder.
His eyes flicker to meet mine for just a moment and he says, “Too much.”
I open my mouth to ask what he means, but he isn’t finished. “That’s what scares me.”
I close my mouth and watch as he stares ahead. I know he wants to look at my expression, at my lips opening then closing yet no sound coming out. I turn so he can only see my profile and half of that is in the shadow of my hair.
being only partly in existence or operation; imperfectly formed or formulated.
me, without him
us together .
I am terrified because he sees my soul.
I am terrified because the boy knows me better than I know myself.