He smiles at you, makes you feel dear. His eyes are bleary saucers of vodka regret
. And yet, his friends are speaking, twirling around him in circles, making you feel small but sincere. You look at bricks surrounding down on walls and form sculptures in your brain.
By now the only one you know has left, has gone home – the rest are strangers, enveloping, exempt, forcing you aside. But this is not about you. You try to speak and find your mouth dry from lack of liquor. Your lungs are only luminous when coated with that alcoholic sheen; otherwise something grabs your voice and roughs it up. You need paper
. You need something indirect. To bounce off the bricks at just the right angle
Slaps on backs are echo
es, secluded. There is no one in sight. He waves them away: certain. When smiles fade you aren’t sure what to do; flesh always feels clumsy in your arms and falls out. You hug yourself, taste leather
. Look up.
When the clock strikes lonely
he licks his lips and frowns, then falls like a collapsable figure, forgetting his earlier vigour. I fucked up, he says. He says, I’m freaking out.
You think, I’ve never had someone sob a hole into my shoulder.
You can feel his chest move – uneasy, like a record
skips. You can feel how thin he is just before he turns around. You let him go in time for him to kick the wall instead of you, the bricks instead of bones. You try to hold his head away, afraid he might knock himself out. You remember what he wrote.
You didn’t believe him then. You aren’t sure that you believe him now, even as he scrapes himself against the wall. You aren’t sure you want to see an angel fall. You say, what can I do, full expecting, half hoping him to pull away. And instead he whispers, stay. Just stay.
So you do. You hold his hand and once again wish you were drunk so you would know how to handle yourself. You feel like a flightless bird
as you watch him struggle. Then, in a burst, he breaks away. He runs, as fast as he can, away from you and around the corner towards the road.
You are scared but remember his words. You grab the phrase, hold your breath, and follow him.
Where the sidewalk ends
, for a second, you think you’ve lost him. You think he’s gone inside, outside, disappeared – to puke, to forget, to fly away.
Then you see him at the gate: head down, shuffled feet. He is going outside. He is dealing with this the only way he knows how, and before you let him get away, you hear something push anxiety aside and shout his name. The something is determined to be of some use; the something will be damned if it lets this boy face the black by himself.
So it shouts again: a knife in the dark. And it hooks a hand that motions, slowly, in your direction. You hesitate. You feel one side of you shove the rest of your soul into dust. You see his face through bars: behind. Your body slips between them – thin enough, just barely, and your brain follows, confused.
It’s late and the pavement shines sticky with oil. Neon
glows pompous in the fog. He grabs your hand and pulls you to the curb beside a set of car wheels. When you both face the surface street
, feet set apart, sitting with backs to the loaded black gate, he says, I can’t believe you’re still here.
It feels like a snapshot
; you want to write it down. Tears grace his face like bleeding ink. You use them to write answers to all he says. You want to hold up mirrors to his mind and say, see. To pop this with a pin and alleviate the pressure.
You spend an hour with your chin against his knee. Sequences of silence
, speech, silence again silence. You swallow his words and share a few of your own. You quote others because your own repertoire seems shallow.
The desert night deepens. The sidewalk becomes cold against your jeans. There is a large rose garden a few streets down. He says he wants to go there. To the rose garden. You can tell he wants to go alone, but when you ask, he gives you the choice and your own sense of need.
You’ve almost forgotten that you have desires. You don’t remember what you’re wearing. You try to wipe your eyes and realize you have glasses that fogged up when you weren’t looking.
You should sleep
, you say, wiping them with your shirt while the world waits, blurry. He says, I haven’t slept in days. Sleep is strange. Words feed the air, involuntarily wrought, from both sides: I hate sleep. Sleep is such a waste of time. I wish I could stop sleeping. His eyes are sleepy
. You’ve woken up shortly after sleepwalk
ing into this surreal dream.
When he stands up he stumbles and almost falls over. You grab his shoulder, hold him there, afraid, suddenly very aware of your own body. It’s thin, flimsy, useless support
Still, he hooks his arm through yours. Still, it steadies him. Still, you begin to walk, and you feel his sense of stability change. Even when he stops to scream, to stomp his feet and shout FUCK into the air, to throw things in the street – you stay. He always comes back, and you lead him silently home.