so, i guess i owe you guys another chapter, huh?
this is a friend of a friend. she's pretty cool.
go check this stuff out, okay?
“Um…” Timmy stammers and tries to figure out how to deal with the situation. “Me and Damian are going to go for a little walk.”
“Here.” Marcus tosses a square foil package at the two of us. “Don’t be gone too long.”
He catches it and grimaces after realizing what it was.
“Yuck. No thanks, Marcus.”
A condom. How thoughtful.
“Just keep it,” he turns it back down. “I’ve got plenty more where that came from.”
The words slur of his tongue, and the scent of alcohol lingers around the group of teenagers.
Nobody stares when one of the girls lets out a piercingly loud shriek. Everyone is used to noise by now.
“Come on.” I’m being led away from the other people, away from the intoxicated circle.
It’s okay, you can breathe again.
“I’m sorry,” he apologizes as soon as we’re out of earshot. “I just can’t stand any sorts of drugs or alcohol. They make people do horrible, regrettable things.”
I couldn’t agree more. I wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for all their side effects.
“So, how are you? It’s so pretty, huh? It’s really green out here, I love it.”
Do you really?
I shrug and stare at the path ahead. The stones are beaten down into the ground after years and years of use, trampling by thousands of different feet. The sandy underneath comes up between the cracks and fills them tight. It’s a natural caulking.
We come to a bridge, twenty feet over a small river and planks constantly damp and creaking. It’s dead secure, inch thick metal bolts keeping it from crashing down.
Justin insisted it was safe before I’d step foot out onto the crossing.
“I promise.” He was always promising. “You’re not going to fall. It’s safe.”
I trusted him. There was no reason not to trust him.
He never told a single lie.
“Baby, would I lead you out here if it was going to collapse? I love you too much to let you go.”
“But at least you would die with me, if it did fall,” I argued with his logic.
He shook his head, back and forth, back and forth. “You seriously have too much time on your hands. Get out on the bridge.”
I stepped forward, only to be cut off by a little girl on her bike, pink streamers trailing behind her and training wheels catching on every corner and rough edge. She wobbled with the intensity of a teenager on a ledge, just inches from their death.
“Soooooooorry!” she called out. It was just manners, pounded into her brain after six years of having it pounded into her skull.
“Stand up straight.”
“Always say please and thank you.”
“Chew with your mouth closed.”
“Say, ‘I’m sorry’.”
It’s all the same.
I let his hands lead me out, blindly. He gripped them tight in his own.
Everything just felt right.
I can’t go out there.
“What’s this?” Timmy steps cautiously forward. “Is it going to fall down on me?”
He’s killing me. I’m going to have another panic attack. I can’t have a panic attack.
I don’t get panic attacks.
Timmy, I can’t do this.
“Come on, Damian! Did you know this was out here? This is so cool!”
He places his palms on the splintered wood before hoisting himself up onto the railing, letting his legs dangle over the edge.
You teach kids to ski when they’re young because they have no fear of the world around them. They only have curiosity.
Even the commonest of things is a miracle.
Timmy, don’t fall. I sound like a parent.
My fingers wrap around his upper arms and hold him tight. I won’t let him go over the edge.
He turns his head around. “Thank you.”
Don’t mention it.
“Do you want to sit up here with me?”
A head shake.
The question reappears in my mind. Where did you move from?
“I miss my old home, sometimes, but I figured it’s best we moved out here. I don’t have to wake up each morning with all the sadness staring at me everywhere I go. It’s almost like I’m running from myself.
“I know you can’t run from yourself, and especially that your past shapes who you are. But sometimes I don’t know if I’m fully healed because it all still hurts so bad, like a fresh wound. I’m scared I’m going to wake up and my sheets are going to be stained with my own blood.”
Then he says the thing I’ve been thinking every morning for the past three months.
“It’s hard to sleep alone every night when you’ve become so accustomed to having somebody else there.”
Timmy turns around fully and gives me a sad smile.
“I’m not all rainbows and kitties and Poptarts. Without a storm, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate a sunny day to the extent that we do. I’ve seen a lot, Damian, a lot of things I wish I’d never seen. Memories don’t leave and the images just don’t fade. I’ll carry them around with me for the rest of my life.
“And that’s a horrible thought.”
A tear slips down his cheek. I feel my heart squeeze.
My hands hold him close and I let out a whisper.
“Can I kiss you?”
He retracts slightly and studies my face.
I’ve just broken my oath. “Can I kiss you?” I repeat, quieter than before.
He answers my question by leaning in again and placing his lips to mine.
It’s a slow, shallow kiss, and when we pull away, our faces burn with blush.
I’m exploding in butterflies, but they sit in my stomach and pull me down into the ground. It’s far too soon. I feel like I’ve just cheated on everything that’s ever meant anything to me.
I swear to myself to never let my guard down again.
“I’m so sorry, Justin,” I apologize again and again to the grave. “I’m so sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I can’t believe I did it.”
“I only love you,” I assure him. I don’t know whether to look up at the sky or down at the Earth.
“Please forgive me.”