14. Midnight Youth

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                     I went to the bathroom. It was a tiny room with gloomy yellow lighting and the smell of puke. In the corner, a guy was squeezing some girl against the dirty green tile wall. If she hadn't been drunk, I bet she would have never wanted to be in his arms.

    I walked towards the sink and washed my face with iced cold water. God, I shouldn't have taken that pill. 

    "You're hurting me." 

    ''Oh please, I know you hoes like it.''


    I turned around to the strangely familiar voice. ''Virginia?'' 

    The guy frowned as he looked at me. "The fuck do you want? Don't you see we're busy?''

    I ignored his annoyed tone. I looked at the girl and, oh God, it was her. Virginia was leaned against the dirty wall, her red dress slightly ripped and a devastated expression on her face. What the hell was she doing?

    ''Get out,'' I said.

    I didn't know how to fight and I sure as hell didn't want to get my ass kicked by this dude. But I was stoned, and really, really pissed at him for treating Virginia the way he did. 

    The guy approached me. "What did you just say?''

    I tried not to blink and clenched my jaw. ''I said get the fuck out of here.'' 

    This time my tone was more authoritative and angry. I was angry. The guy looked at me and, surprisingly, made the wise choice of not testing my patience. He left the bathroom, muttering something under his breath. 

    Virginia stood still, not moving a single muscle. ''I didn't need your help,'' she said. "I don't need a saviour.'' 

    ''No.'' I approached her. "But maybe what you need is a friend.''

    She sighed and walked into one of the bathroom cabins. As she slid down the wall, her eyes filled with tears.

    ''Vi, what's going on? This isn't who – ''

    "Please don't,'' she whispered. 

    I nodded my head and sat on the floor right next to her. I didn't really know what to do. Perhaps I just had to be there and stay silent. Sometimes that's the biggest thing a friend can do.  

    ''He broke up with me,'' she said. ''He said I was changing, that I wasn't the girl he fell in love with. He didn't like me this way. Well, he didn't like me the other way either, but...''

    I shook my head, baffled by her words. I couldn't believe they came from the fierce and confident Virginia Colombo. I couldn't believe that a guy like Nick managed to break a girl like her. It enraged me.  

    "I just, I wanted him to like me, you know?'' she choked out. ''I wasted hours putting on my make up, I researched diets and oh god, the fucking diets. Is this how love's supposed to feel? All this pressure and anxiety... to always please him, to never say the wrong thing or put on a dress that makes me look bigger. I told him I loved him, I told him that I'd change myself if that's what he wanted. He said I was delusional, paranoid, pathetic.''

    She said those words with violence, as if they were a knife cutting up her throat. And then she exploded, burst into tears, trying to suffocate her pain and breathing heavily. She lay on the floor and sobbed. Her hair was a mess and black mascara was all over her face. I didn't know what to do. I thought that maybe I should call someone, like Gaia. Gaia. She was the only one who could gather Virginia's broken pieces and put them back together. But I couldn't leave her like this, not here, not now. 

    I had to do something, but it hurt me even looking at her. It hurt seeing such a joyful and radiant girl that she once was, curled up on the cold ground like a miserable rag. 

    "Am I pathetic, Pit?'' she asked. 

    She did it with such brutality, it tore my heart apart. The words stuck in my throat, for I had never seen so much fragility in humans' eyes. The rawness of her question, and the honest, desperate need to know the truth. Am I pathetic? wasn't the kind of question a girl should have asked herself. Was she pathetic for loving someone? For giving herself away to a boy that didn't care? For crawling out of her skin and putting on a costume, puking her guts out to please the one she loved? No, of course she wasn't. I wanted to scream it at the top of my lungs. I wanted to shake her out of this misery. Wake up, Virginia, you're so much more than this.

    I gave her silence. I gave her teary eyes. Confusion and frustration coloured the pale blue of my face. She understood. She nodded and leaned her head against my chest, hiding herself from the atrocity of this world. And we just sat there, in the limited infinity of time, listening to the deaf echo of the music and the tinkling sound from the toilettes. She cried, she cried for a long time. And once she finished, she said she wanted to go back to the party.  But, just because her cheeks were empty of tears, didn't mean that her heart was empty of pain. 

    We got up and walked out of the nasty bathroom. I held Virginia close to me, not wanting for her to get lost. When we got to our privè table everyone was already there. They were dancing and laughing and being too loud. They were too loud and too happy and everything was chaotic. I looked at Virginia and she started shaking again. She said she wanted to go to the beach. The beach? I thought, but then I nodded my head and screamed to everyone, ''Let's go to the beach!''

    "Hell yeah!" Dario yelled. "Let's go!"

    He had no idea. He got up and took different bottles of alcohol. I grabbed a bottle too and we headed out to the exit. Once we were outside, we ran towards the sea like little children.

    Virginia seemed calmer now, someone might say she looked happy. To me, it looked like she was going through her denial phase. She just wanted to lose herself, to forget herself. Even if only for a moment. Gloria was the only one to stay on the beach, while the rest of us, with half of our clothes off, dived into the water. It might have been freezing, but we were drunk and our bodies were burning and the adrenaline driving us was unstoppable. We splashed each other, we screamed and shouted and then something lit up in the sky. Blue, lilac, yellow sparkles. The fireworks started, as if the universe was there to please our desires.

    And now I knew. It wasn't the denial phase. Virginia Colombo wasn't pretending to be happy. She was in the process of her rebirth. She took off her dress and let it float away like all the memories of yesterday. Liberating herself from all the heaviness of beauty standards and poisoned love, she smiled the way unbroken people do. And I smiled too, because in all that chaos and indifference, I noticed it, that little smile and the fire in her eyes. 

    We kept dancing in the sea and played with each other. Little waves hit our fragile bodies and the ocean reflected the colourful sky.  We turned into hurricanes, creating absolute chaos. And we ran, we swam, we laughed. We put our heads under the water and then we pulled them out again, looking at the flashing sky. Our bodies intertwined, our souls collided. And we were beautiful, we were immortal.
     We were the midnight youth.

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