It smells like grief and sterilized metal.
I climb into Andrew’s bed, though the nurses have strictly forbidden it. We are halo-lit in the gentle light filtering through the window blinds.
He closes his eyes and holds me tightly, because he says when he can’t see me, it is easier to pretend I never happened to him.
I know this is one of the last times I will see him, and I can do nothing but think that there is no line of prose or poetry to describe the way he is about to die, and that when it came down to it, I could not save him when it truly mattered.
There are new shadows under his eyes that I know should not be there, but he ducks my bow and arrow assault, folding himself into me with soft kisses and quiet words.
“I’m worried about you,” I tell him. “I want to help you.”
“You already have.” he pauses. “I love you so goddamn much. Will you remember that?”
“What, are you planning on going somewhere?” I tease lightly.
He doesn’t answer, and I begin to think he has fallen asleep there, his knuckles pressed against the drywall, until I notice his eyes, big, open, wet.
“Talk to me,” I beg.
“I have nothing to say,” he says quietly, and closes his eyes.
After several months of trying, I find it is impossible to memorize
every second of the indescribable
time we have spend together—the choky
laughter, the untidy
scrawl that falls from the tip of his long fingers
, the freckles
high on his cheekbones
, the careful way he pronounces his “ing’s”and “ed’s”, as though he is afraid his diction
is going to slip right out of his mouth and run away.
I know that these details are inconsequential, and I should just give up trying to remember them all.
I know I won’t.
I almost don’t realize it when he holds my hand for the first time, his grip is so soft and questioning.
“I’m not going to break,” I tell him, tightening my fingers around his.
He grins crookedly and looks into the distance. “I have a lot to learn.”
“We have all the time you need.”
It is one week, three days later before I learn my new friend’s favourite colour, favourite food, and what he wants to be when he grows up.
Red. Apple pie. Alive.
I don’t know why I agreed to go on a ride with the near-stranger. He ceremoniously opened the car door for me and drove to a tree-ringed clearing, cold and starlit.
“Where are we?” I ask him, knowing that somewhere on the car ride here we have slipped into friendship without conscious realization.
“Where we should be, I suppose.”
It’s no coincidence that the boy from the party sits down next to me at the counter two days later and orders a coffee, “black, naturally,” with a charming smile. He whistles an almost-familiar tune and glances at me out of the corner of his eyes.
“You and I are going to have some sort of future, I should think.” He pauses for my reaction, but I only sigh.
“Look, I still don’t know your—“
I sit next to a tired-looking boy on the couch at Eliot’s house, feeling alone and slightly drunk. I don’t know him. He glances at me and closes his eyes slowly, smiling.
I don’t know anything, really.
Now the boy curls into himself defiantly, chin to knee, a broken sculpture, a mistake. He blindly reaches out from his cavernous self, like an afterthought, and touches me gently. I can see his shoulder blades cutting sharp angles into the back of his shirt, and suddenly they are all I can think about.
“I don’t know you,” I tell him quietly as he intertwines his fingers with mine.
“I don’t know me either,” he says, and then smiles, luminous and hopeful. “Maybe you could help?”