I don’t like you, I say.
I know, he says with a shrug. I haven’t told him anything he hasn’t suspected. But I don’t like you either. I guess it’s good to know that I’m not alone in my thoughts. It isn’t good to know that the person who is there with me is the one I don’t like. Ironic.
The wind blows and my flat-ironed hair blows with it, whipping it across my forehead in a way I hope looks cool. The same thing happens to him, but since he has more hair than I do, it is less cool and more sad because he blinks with every strand that gets into his eyes. Blinkers have never been cool. Blinkers are liars and liars are not cool.
In fact, I go on, I didn’t like you for a very long time. That one time we met briefly—
—I remember; in the mall. You were walking with Angel–
–and you walked past us with your friends. I remember getting a bad feeling in my stomach.
And we met at Angel’s graduation. But we both knew the score… he says.
No, we both didn’t. You knew the score. You knew everything because you’d been with him by then. He told you everything about me. He doesn’t deny it. And all I knew about you was that you radiated a bad energy that I didn’t like.
The oak grove is precariously close to the sea. It’s thick with trees and great for privacy, but it sits on the edge of a cliff. We’re pretty close to the edge and the orange sun sets through the trees. I don’t think he’s violent or anything, so I’m not afraid of being pushed over but the wind shifts at just that moment. Treacherous winds, treacherous people. As I lean against the tree facing him and he leans against the other, I place one hand behind me and grasp the trunk of the tree as best I can.
A bad energy, he repeats as he tries the words on his tongue. Bad energy…
I don’t really know you, and I’m not comfortable disliking somebody I don’t really know. So how about we turn over a new leaf?
He bends down slowly and picks up a leaf from the ground. It’s green, as if it just fell, but it is dead. There’s no sign that it ripped or had been plucked. Just a whole leaf on the ground–the corpse not yet cold. Still dead though. How about this one?
Why not? He rips it down the middle and gives me half of it. Even though I’m trying to be nice, I make sure our fingers do not brush upon taking the leaf. In a second too quick, his other hand rips the air and grabs my forearm with more speed than I could have ever thought anybody capable of.
I know you’re just trying to ease your conscience. You want to remain on his good side and you’re hoping I fail my duties as a boyfriend. You should have taken your chance. You were too slow the first time, the second time and the last time. And in your slowness, I took action. He’s right.
And, he continues, you don’t know what to do. Do you start dating others? What if the moment you start a relationship, I dump him? Then there’s the period of unsureness within him about whether to jump into a relationship and you’ll be tangled up with a boy of your own. And then, on top of that, even if you do manage to get rid of the guy you decide to date in lieu of the boy you love, you’ll have to leave off to college and he’ll be here alone.
You’re just a scared little boy. You don’t know what to do, where to start, how to begin or where you’ll land. And that’s why you’re so slow. You want to control everything. You want to land on your feet, but you’re the worst cat I’ve ever seen. A feline doesn’t think about landing on its feet after falling–it just does it. It’s a reflex.
I rip my arm away from him, but my knuckles are whitening from grasping the oak behind me so tightly. Not in fear, but in anger. Or was it fear? Not of him–I could deck him and be done with it.
Myself. I was the only one holding me back. I bare my teeth at him, but he doesn’t flinch. He knows I’m all bark–and not even that!
You want him, he explains as if I’m a slow child, and so do I. You think he completes you, but I know he completes me–he’s done it before, he winks and my stomach turns. I’m not a bad person, and you know that. Had we met under different circumstances and if you weren’t so intuitive, we could have been friends. I still hold that we can be.
Now he’s preaching to me. I think I hate him. I know I don’t. The sun is nearly gone and if it isn’t, the trees are doing a great job of blocking and filtering its light. I see the first twinkle of the stars above. I wonder–I really wonder–how am I going to survive seeing them together for the rest of this trip? Seeing them together at all ever? They both know I like him, as does everyone else in the world. And if they see us in proximity, then questions will rise…
We emerge from the oak grove, firewood in arms and appropriate smiles on faces. Camping and whatnot. My eyes do not water as I thought they would and my face is straighter than I thought it would be. My hithereto unseen coolness has finally manifested in the most of dire circumstances. My firewood partner drops his wood near the small fire and hugs his boy, spinning him around and gazing at me with blazing eyes.
The morph hurts–bringing up one side to equal the other, showing enough teeth that it doesn’t look forced, making sure it extends up to my eyes–but in the end I could do what I meant to do: Smile.
A/N: This was an old story I wrote. I was maybe 19 or 20. I don’t remember what the inspiration for it was, but I feel like a different person than this author. I think I also feel like I was a better author then. That said, I don’t mind saying I got shivers from reading this 😛