(This is a short story I submitted to a writing contest when I was 17 that I was able to find!! I thought it was neat to look at again, so scanned and uploaded it. I talk more about it here.)
“Andy,” he’ll say and I’ll sneer so he rolls his eyes and cocks his hip with a practiced bravado I’ve seen so many times before. “Andy,” he’ll say, “Andy, I think it’s about time we become adults.” He’s serious as he pushes ugly glasses into place and licks his lips with his gaze refusing to leave me. I curl my lips at him and laugh like he’s telling a joke, butI know he’s not and he knows I know.
“No no, but listen to me speak, just listen to me speak. We’re nearly seventeen with only a year to go.”
Two months, one week, three days until my birthday.
“If we become adults now then we can get a head start on our peers. We won’t have to have an overly dramatic shift into the life of responsibilities. Instead we’ll become above them all with our extensive knowledge on tax returns.” He’s sincere with wide eyes the size of moons, though that may only be the glass magnifying them.
He’s all elbows and kneecaps. Chapped lips and crooked teeth. He feels one emotion at a time and is consistently overwhelmed by the intensity of his thoughts. I hate him and he hates me and I know that he knows that we know.
“Marvin. Marvin.” I mock the way he speaks and signal a change from our tolerated company to one of vehemence and animosity. We don’t just magically become adults at age eighteen. Do the seniors look like they know what a home equity loan is? Do the CCD campus kids seem like anything other than drunk and stupid?”
When he frowns his entire face is pulled down into an ugly expression of deep contempt. “Things change when you’re eighteen. I guess I don’t expect you to understand, but it’s different, it’s ugly.”
“Then why do you wanna speed it up? If it’s so ugly and gross why d’you wanna jump on in?”
He looks at me like I’m gum on his sneaker.
“I don’t want to wait. It’s inevitable and it’s coming, so why wait?”
Sometimes his hands shake and his muscles tighten. Sometimes he gets a look in his eyes like he’s seeing on forever, but there’s nothing to look at. Sometimes when he speaks his tongue moves slow and tired like a drunk man fumbling up the steps. Falling, lazy, stumble. Sometimes he’s searching for something. Something like reassurance, or maybe just acknowledgment in general but I don’t have it.
“Adults are a myth. They don’t exist; it’s just children in a grown body”
I’m afraid of growing up.
People are like ingredients. You like some flavors while you hate others. Some pairs belong like vanilla and chocolate or salt and pepper. Marvin and I are onion and black licorice, and yet he’s my only friend. Our school is a private one with Latin in the brochure. Last year a student was on the news worldwide for an article denouncing affirmative action and won an award for forward thinking. Out of 600 students, eleven of them are brown, but we’re the only two of them in our year.
He lives four blocks away which is closer than my seven and we’ve known each other since third grade.
I’m not good at backstory; I’m not good at descriptions. I’m not good at a lot of things, but I can say this: we’re satellites circling the same planet. We’re salmon stuck in the same net, magnets brought together so tightly you can’t even pull them apart; we’re the tangled earbuds you’ve thrown away. We can’t move, we can’t breathe, we’re suffocating each other, but we just can’t separate. We did this to ourselves.
He throws a statue at my head, but shatters his aquarium instead. From it spills forth a torrent of water with exotic living colors in its mix, and as they fall, fish wiggle on the flooded carpet, confused, as they die with their gills flapping uselessly at the apathetic air. When we try to pick them up, some break on our fingers while others lay limp and dead. They drown in reverse and we’re unable to fix our blunder.
Beside me he cries dreadfully. It’s not just loud noise, but shaking and flailing in a disgusting over dramatic way. He snivels and sobs while beating his fists against the hardwood floor and his body alike. I can feel the sound pushing against my skin as it coats me like a black oil. It’s a slick texture that burns on contact, this noise that won’t stop, painful and intrusive. So I twist my fingers into his hair, the texture of silk and fur, and yank back with a furious need to scream my own nonwords into his ugly tear-muddied face.
Angry, hateful noise that barely sounds possible coming from a human. He stares. He doesn’t breathe. He spits on my face and sneers with mismatched taunting teeth.
And then he kisses me in a furious way that splits my lip and breathes into me with an angry domination I’ve grown used to, but not in this form of heart squeezing excited fervor. It’s an unprecedented action that I have never considered he would pursue before now, and it startles me enough to stop my mad shrieking. He doesn’t pull back when I don’t respond, and in a way seems to become more determined than before to solicit a reaction out of me. I have a swollen lip that’s now trickling blood down both our chins and dusts us with a painted red like we’ve been feasting on ripe berries. He gasps my air like a greedy thief while I force my tongue into his mouth in hopes that my blood will choke him.
I hate him. I hate the way he moves in jagged jerks. I hate how he laughs too loud and sings unashamed. He has big emotions that fill him up and spill over to flood the room. When he smiles it’s with his whole face and it crinkles his eyes and stretches his lips too far. When he cries it’s pathetic and loud, but he doesn’t care where he is or who’s with him, he just sobs like a child who lost his way.
He gets angry at me and I hate him because when he’s mad it’s with a look of utmost betrayal and sadness that eventually contorts into an electric outpouring of violent rage. When I see him I think of purple and grass stains and I don’t know why, but it’s just him. I hate his voice. I hate his fear. I want to touch his face, stare into his eyes, and gently tell him, with my fingers lacing through his hair, and my lips ghosting above his own, “You are nothing.”
At first when we were children he would be reprimanded constantly for continuously lashing out at me in increasingly enraged ways. Blueberry bruises, split lips that look like cherries, fingers crushed like homemade cranberry sauce. I’d get the shit kicked out of me on a near weekly basis and each time an adult would come to my rescue like a knight in shining armor.
That is, until they noticed the consistent pattern of my instigation and how my soured words beat him down as fiercely as he did me. They’d separate us through various means, but it was like a magnetic field where we would come back for more and they couldn’t pull us apart. My mom says we’re like siblings, and that we’re almost twins because our birthdays are four days, eleven hours, and six minutes apart. I think that’s stupid.
I’d compare it to a drug if I could. The way we’re always together no matter how badly the damage inflicted upon us by the other hurts us afterward. With drugs, though, the trip is normally nice. The high is good even if the results feel like a kick in the gut. I don’t even know if we like to be with each other. I think we might not.
I come home with a hickey and my brothers don’t know whether to laugh or not because my eye is black, too.
“Marvin,” I say, and don’t mention which bruise I’m referring to before scuttling to my room without another word.
My Dad thinks Marvin needs a kick in the pants, but my mom thinks he’s sweet. My three siblings think we’re crazy and probably gonna kill each other.
“Andy,” he says from his place on the floor rocking to and fro. “Andy?” I wait for him to speak. Sometimes it takes a while because he loses his thoughts. His brain is an open jar full of fireflies, and sometimes I have to catch the escaped ones for him. His face is overwhelmed with an expression of intense puzzlement before it lights up with the idea he had previously wanted to voice.
“Andy, I think we have to connect with our inner child.”
Earnest. Honest. I hate him.
“I thought you wanted to be an adult. Are you backing down already?” He just looks at me with the same stare of dull boredom from before.
“Andy, we’re seventeen now, in a few months we’ll be eighteen.?
“Eight months,” I say. “Eight months two weeks, three days. I don’t know the hours. That isn’t a few months.” His sich is heavy with judgmental breath as if he’s expelling my stupidity from his lungs.
“To become an adult you have to go to the root of our innocence and crush it.” He’s as serious as ever and his face tells me so. “Destroy our hope, remove our aspiration, carry away all that ties us to the idea of a happy life. Our morality must be lost and to do that we have to identify the core of it. Empathy comes from a childish wish, Andy?”
Sometimes he touches me and it feels like I’ve dropped a radio into the bath. He burns me out with his words.
“How do you even know if we were ever children? Maybe it’s a myth. Maybe we never had any of those things.” I can see his entire frame change from determined ambition to resigned horror.
He’s like a fairy: he can only feel one emotion at once and when he does it nearly breaks him. If he’s Tinkerbell, does that make me Peter Pan? Tinkerbell, who shoots arrows at girls in the sky in jealous fits of hot red rage; and Peter Pan, near sociopath and killer of the Lost Boys.
“Andy,” he says, but I don’t want to hear the words that he speaks next. “Andy.” he says, but what will come out frightens me too much.
“Andy,” he says, and I tackle him on the floor and kiss him with all the feeling I have. To kiss him is like pushing a fork into an outlet. It’s like standing naked in a blizzard. I throw all my emotions at him in this moment. I use my lips to communicate stronger-than-merely-spoken words. I make him feel my frustration, my anger, my sadness and my disgust. Horror, hatred, guilt, shame. I’m self-loathing, and I’m experiencing the same apathetic denial of existence as he. Waiting to feel as if I’m here, but only coming close to it when overwhelmed with his presence. Even if his company is like not being to breathe; because, like fish out of water, we’re drowning in reverse. Not once do we consider the ramifications of our volatile camaraderie. About how I speak until he cries. How he touches me until I bleed.
That is, until the small moments when it becomes abundantly clear that we do not belong outside of each other. That we don’t know how to tap into being without the other near. That even though we’re suffocating in each other’s presence at least we have lungs. We don’t belong. We don’t belong. Where are we? We don’t belong.
I’m nothing too, Marvin.
“Andy,” he says, and I don’t stop him from talking; I’m too absorbed in breathing. “Andy, sometimes I think you’re killing me.”
His house smells like spices and when I turn my head the scent is shampoo from his pillow.
“Andy, sometimes I think we’re literally dying?”
In and out come cool gusts of minty breath. In. Out.
“It’s not slow or peaceful. Like my insides are being ripped out again and again. Prometheus. Always pulling out my insides and then making them grow back so you can just do it again. Andy.”
I touch his shoulder blade and shock him with the static from the quilt. He’s crying now. These ugly gasping sobs and messy sniffles. He’s got big emotions; they take over his full body and hurt him. Hurt him as he chokes on his throat and scratches his skin and pulls his hair so hard scraps of black silk fall off his scalp.
“We’re dead already. Dead souls piloting living bodies. What does it matter?” He looks at me like a boy in a horror movie. He looks at me like I’m shit on his shoe.
I’m starting to understand why, after we kiss, it always tastes like salt.
At school I fail classes for never raising my hand. Sometimes I stare at the student with dead fish eyes the color of dull mud. They send home progress reports stating that I’m a shy kid, but it’s just code for me being an unsociable wreck.
When I come home from Marvin’s I have a split lip and red eyes because I always end up crying. My dad wants to rough him up a little. I tell him he punched me because I made fun of his dead mother. My family doesn’t speak anymore.
When I lie down in bed I spread my whole body out and take up as much space as I can. I try to assert myself. I try to let my presence be the overwhelming factor here. Still, though, the dark pushes forward and coats more of my room than I could ever hope to cover. It’s not scary, just empty.
I am insignificant and I am alone.
He grins like the taunt of frost on a window pane.
“Andy,” he says, as I stare at my bare feet gently touching the hardwood floor.
“Andy,” he says, and I don’t look up to answer.
“Andy,” he says, and I don’t think he even has a thought to express. Just a need to hear his voice. Feel a name on his tongue. He knows that I know that we know nothing.
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