34. Echo

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  Hello, hello
Anybody out there? Cause I don't hear a sound
Alone, alone
I don't really know where the world is but I miss it now.

A week passed. 

Dario never called me and didn't talk to me at school. I once saw him smoking with a bunch of guys, I had no idea who they were. I nodded at him, but he looked away. I took that as a sign. 

    Our place in the school yard wasn't ours anymore. No Ice Queen was sitting on the low wall. Sometimes a bunch of freshmen used it to finish their homework. It was as though they knew. They knew we wouldn't say anything, because there was no 'we' anymore. 

    Gaia showed up on Tuesday. She didn't talk to me. She didn't look at me. I didn't expect her to, but I wished she did. Despite the whispers and the curious glances, she kept her head up. That's what she always did. It was different this time though. This time, people weren't amazed by her. They just whispered and whispered and whispered. I don't think they hated nor pitied her. I just think they felt better about themselves. They saw a flaw in the perfect Gaia Monforte, something that broke in her mechanic heart. They liked that. 

    If at the beginning I felt lonely, now I was really alone. I had basketball team mates, I had acquaintances, but their voices sounded the same to me and their words faded away. I didn't remember anything they said, I didn't care. I didn't go anywhere anymore. 

    And Noemi, it didn't just hurt to see her in class –  it killed me. Every morning when I walked in, I had to remember not to sit next to her. Sometimes I almost forgot and walked up to her desk, because it was a habit I didn't want to break. And she would look at me and I would look at her and in those nanoseconds my heart would break a thousand times. And I knew this was all wrong and she knew it too, but maybe we both thought that it would be easier that way. Not talking to each other, trying to forget each other's love. We were inseparable. I couldn't breathe without her lungs, but I had to learn. I had to learn.

    I looked out the window. I didn't want to follow the lesson. It was art class and all I could think of at art class was "I wonder what she's thinking". I knew that she was sitting on the opposite side of the room and although I didn't see her, I knew the kind of expression she had when she painted. And I knew what kind of song she was listening to because we always used to listen to music together and now that left earphone, my left earphone, was dangling above her lap, useless and forgotten. 

    When I noticed that my fists were suddenly clutched, I looked outside and I thought that maybe if I focus on the leaves and the cars and the clouds, it would all somehow calm me down. But instead I saw Diego and Stiff and a bunch of other guys I might have or might have not know, standing in our school yard. Before I could ask myself what the hell were they doing here and why weren't they at school, I saw Dario calmly walking out of the building and joining them across the street. It was 10:37. He was skipping school. Someone gave him a joint of who-knows-what and he just put it in his mouth. No questions, ho hesitation. He was all screwed up. He walked like a zombie. It used to be funny once, but now it wasn't. And I knew he knew that because he didn't laugh when everybody else did and I couldn't see his eyes from up here, but I knew they were depressing as hell. I Seeing him like this, hanging out with those guys who didn't give a shit about him, a part of me wanted to smash that window and just yell at the top of my lungs that he was being an idiot. And then go down there and punch him in the face to wake him up. And another part of me just wished we could grab 2 mega pizzas on a Saturday night and he could tell me all the shit that had been troubling him. Maybe he was pouring his soul in someone else now, maybe Stiff was his new Pit, but I wished he could tell me anyway and I wished I knew what was going on with my best friend.


    I froze. It was her. She was standing in front of my desk and before I even looked at her, I could hear the genuine concern in her voice. I didn't move. I kept looking at the ugly picture of Dario and his friends as though I was hypnotized. Truth is, I was a coward. I was terrified of looking into her eyes and losing myself in them all over again. 

    "Pit, are you okay?"

    I hated how worried she sounded. I hated the question she asked. She followed my line of vision and looked out the window. Then she sighed and looked at me again.

    "I've heard about Gaia," she said, "and I know that you're going through a lot with your friends, but... I want you to know that I'm here for you."

    I snickered. Here for me. She wouldn't be here in a few months, for me or anybody else. She stared at me for a few seconds and then something in her expression changed. 

    "You hurt me too, you know?" she said. "You're hurting me right now. But we can do it differently and I wish you understood that. God, I wish you had the guts to at least look me in the – "

    I stroke her with my gaze. I looked right into her eyes. I didn't know what she saw in mine because I had no control over my feelings. I wished they didn't show too much. But I knew she could see it all, because she was Noemi and she always understood. 

    "I can't let you be the only one who's there for me," I said, "you can't be my closest person. Because you have no idea what it's like to be in love with you. If I now say the right thing and we go back to the way it was, you're gonna make me the happiest guy on Earth. But it's gonna last a few months and then you're gone. And that, that's when I'm gonna be really fucked up."

    I didn't know where I got the strength to say those words and I hoped I wouldn't start sobbing in the middle of a fucking art class. While Noemi, she just stood there with quivering lips and heartbreak in her eyes. We were both picturing it, a world without each other. And we knew there was nothing else to say. Because no matter how much it hurt now, it would physically ache our bodies and devastate our souls, to love each other till the last minute and then lose it all. And I wished she could promise me that she'd never kiss anyone the way she kissed me because I knew I'd never love anyone the way I loved her. And it hurt to think that someone would caress her instead of me, that she would ruffle someone else's hair and pour herself into another soul. 

    And yes, I knew Skype existed and we could visit each other once in awhile, but it was different and perhaps pointless because the only thing she was truly devoted to was existence itself. That's why I loved her, after all. I didn't doubt her love for me, but it was a different love from mine. She was going to be an astronaut. No person could ever make her want to stay on planet Earth instead of exploring what's out there, no person could make her heart beat faster than the idea of floating in space. She was Noemi Defelice, she didn't need another heart to ignite her own.

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