Just Survive

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“Oh my God,”
Nat says.
“Oh my God -
he hit you?
Really?”

After leaving Seth's house,
I'd wandered around for a bit,
trying (and failing) not to
start crying.
I couldn't go home, I
knew, or else
everyone would be
all over me with their
questions and sympathy, and I
really don't think I could have
stood up to it.
That, and I just know
Euni would have given me her
I-told-you-so look
the whole time, and I
couldn't handle that, either.
After a while, I decided that
my best bet was Natalia's house.
At least she would be
somewhat understanding.

And she was.
From the moment she opened
her door to find me
blubbering on her doorstep, Nat
was all kindness and sympathy -
and not the big family sort, either.
Luckily, her parents were
still out of town, so I
was soon seated on her sofa
with a steaming mug of
tea, a blanket, and a very
concerned Natalia watching
anxiously over me from her
perch on the armrest
beside me. Before very
long, she asked that
one crucial question:
“What's wrong?”

And from there, everything
just came pouring out - all
the worry and struggles I've
had in this relationship with
Seth, the way he kept me
from talking to Nat, and finally
the fight we'd just had.
How he'd yelled at me, how
he’d hit me, and my face was
still red from his hand.
How we had apparently
broken up, though neither
of us had actually
said the words; maybe
it was just implied.

I told her everything but
the reason we had broken
up (my feelings for Natalia)
and what he had told me
about her (that she, evidently,
might have feelings
for me, too). That last
one is something I haven't
yet wrapped my head around,
and the first isn't something
that needs sharing
right now.

I'm not surprised that she
reacted so angrily -
I would have too, and
probably will once I
get over the shock of the
whole ordeal - but
it does surprise me when
she suddenly proclaims,
“I'm going to beat that
boy the next time I
see him - just you wait,
Matty. He’s gonna
regret the day his
skinny little ass
was born-”

“Nat, please, just
calm down. Stop
getting so worked up
over it, okay?”
She complies, but still
seems rather upset.
“Look, just please don't
say anything to Seth
about this, all right?
He already hates your
guts, and I doubt this
would make it much better.
Who knows, maybe he'll
try to punch you next.”
He might anyway,
my brain supplies,
helpful as always.
He thinks you
stole me away
from him...

“I'd like to see him try,”
Natalia scoffs, fearless
as ever, just as I
would expect from her.
“But if you really
don't want me to, I won't.”
She pauses.
“Seriously, though, he
needs someone to teach
him a lesson-”

“Natalia…”

“I know, I know.”
She scoots off the couch
arm she'd been sitting on for
the past while and onto the
seat beside me; she slings an
arm around my shoulders,
leans in - and even through the
blanket, I can feel that familiar
current spike through my skin
like a fork of lightning.
“Are you okay, though?”
she queries, leaning forward
even further to peer into
my eyes. In return, they
become lost in hers.
“You seem really…
Okay, I guess, even though
you guys just had that
fight and broke up -
and I mean, he hit you
But no tears?”

“You want me
to cry?”
I ask, only partly
kidding.
The rest of me just
feels numb.
“I was crying my eyes
out when I first got
here, remember?
Isn't that enough?”

“Yeah, but…”
She breaks off,
looking a little frustrated.
“Crying is normal.
Being angry is normal -
even throwing a hissy
fit and smashing stuff
is more normal than just
sitting there. But don't
get any ideas,” she
hurriedly adds,
“because my parents would
murder me if you started
breaking their stuff.”

“I just don't do
any of those things,
I guess.”
Everyone has their own
ways of dealing with difficult
times, I've always heard -
and I've seen it too many
times to count in the
microcosm of my family.
Euni slams doors and
pitches fits and screams,
long and loud; Thias has his
initial outburst of anger, and then
subsides into moodiness and
self-loathing and sadness;
Mom has to vent her frustration
on someone, anyone,
while Dad never says
so much as a word
to anyone about it.
And then there's me:
I never expect anything, so
when misfortune occurs, I'm left
reeling in the aftermath, stunned
into silence, and it takes far
too long for me to process
all that has happened.
But when I finally do,
my feelings never can stay
locked away, as Dad's and Thias’ do.

Nat leaves a few minutes
later to use the bathroom -
and sure enough, when she
comes back, I'm an emotional
puddle on her couch; the
realization has finally hit me
that what has happened today
is final, permanent.
She tries to comfort me
the best she can, but I'm
too far gone, too lost
in the fear and mounting
panic that threatens
to surge over me.
I've lost so much in
such a short time, I
quickly realize: Seth's friendship,
the possibility that the
three of us might still
be reconciled as friends, together.
Where I've gained an
opportunity, it's already lost -
because what kind of opportunity
is being gay in a school, a
neighborhood, a town full
of straight, gossiping,
intolerant jerks?
I cry enough to fill
the past few months, to
wash away all the pain and
loss and anger - but it's
still not enough.
It never will be
enough.

Eventually, the tears subside,
leaving me aching and
feeling feverish inside.
I think I might
pass out; Natalia takes
my phone to call my parents
and briefly explain the situation,
to tell them that I'll be spending
the night at her house since
I'm in no condition to come home.
Everything fades; I forget
that my dad really doesn't
like Natalia, that I was supposed to
help Mom with dinner tonight,
that I have homework left to
finish and things to do and
everything blurs out until it
no longer matters, nothing
but remembering to breathe in,
breathe out, keep on breathing,
keep on living. Survive.
Just survive the moment.

I don't remember much
after that, just tossing
restlessly on Nat’s couch,
a hand pulling my blanket
up over my shoulders and
tucking a pillow under my
head and removing my shoes.
Snippets of conversation,
both real and imaginary;
thoughts of my childhood
and of better times,
before today.

And though it likely
was only my imagination,
the gossamer kiss I felt
touch my forehead
just before I lost
everything to sleep
was the best dream
I dreamt all night.

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PSA: I won't be posting tomorrow or this weekend because A) I'm behind on writing chapters due to homework and exams and papers, and B) I have so much homework and too many exams and papers piling up to be sane. And this will be a constant thing. Provided I have enough chapters, I'll only be updating Monday through Thursday from now on. Yay.

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