Here I am in your room, 20-years-old. I stare at the silhouette of your back, against the sunlight streaming through your window. You always had your back turned to me. The voice in my head tells me I should run.
Do it now. While he’s asleep.
Instead, I grab the blanket off your computer chair and cover you up. I steal quick glances of your vulnerable unconscious, and your exposed shoulder. That shoulder brings back memories of 6th-grade math class, a lifetime ago.
He’d been standing next to you, and you had tapped him, just wanting to ask if there had been any homework the night before. He turned to you in disgust and said, “Great, now I have to bleach my shirt.” Your 11-year-old heart broke as you promised yourself to never touch him again. Don’t you remember?
Here in your room, you wake up. The combined weight of that blanket and my eyes pull you from your dreams. You turn to face me as I quickly turn away. You reach over and take my hand, pull it to your lips, and kiss it.
Great. Now you’re gonna have to wash your hand with bleach, to get him off of you.
Your lips and the warmth of your breath against my skin triggers the voice inside of my head, insistent on reminding me of the December of my 13th birthday.
You know, the one where the two of you had stood outside of the building after that middle school dance, and he hugged you for the first time? The second time, on a warm June night later that same year. Remember how you had gotten drunk for the first time, off of your father’s beer when you were home alone? You and a couple of friends had walked to his house. Your best friend called him and asked him to come outside because you were drunk and wanted a hug. Remember how he had obliged, in his front yard at midnight, in his pajamas? That summer, you held him in front of an audience of gawking 13-year-olds and fireflies.
In your room, I do the math and realize it has been 7 years since I last held you. On impulse, I turn to cuddle into you, and of course, I stick my foot right into the fan on the table at the end of your bed. It’s as if the Universe is trying to warn me to slow down.
Tread lightly. You’re dipping your toes into the wrong pond. These waters have never been safe, or have you forgotten?
In your room, I let you kiss me anyway.
I kiss you back.
My sore foot brings back memories of the last day of summer, right before 8th grade.
Remember how the two of you sat on the swing set at the park by your house, as 13-year old him finally confessed that he liked you? You confessed you liked him, too, as you dug your toes into the sand. Remember the way he smiled? Better yet, do you remember how two days later, he walked around the hallways at school holding your best friend’s hand? They had gotten together again, and you pretended to be happy for him, as he pretended that your swing set conversation had never happened. He didn’t care about you.
In your room, I lay here with your arm around me. Something just doesn’t feel right.
The voice reminds me,
Well, this is what you wanted, since you were 13. This is really happening, but why do you think you are so uncomfortable right now? Think about it.
As your breath slows, steady in my ear as you drift off to sleep, I stare at your ceiling. I memorize your room by heart, but I realize, I will never trust you enough to invite you into mine.
In your room, something about you just doesn’t feel right. When you wake, you kiss my forehead, and all I can think about is the first day of 10th grade.
At 15, you saw him sitting alone at a table in the cafeteria. You asked if he minded if you joined him, because you’d had nowhere else to sit. He’d shrugged, but remember how as soon as you sat down across from him and situated yourself, he chugged his chocolate milk, stood up, and threw his still-full tray into the trash can? He did all of this while looking you right in the eye, before turning and walking away. It was as if he had wanted to hurt you; As if sitting alone had been better than being seen with you. Humiliated, you’d grabbed your things and spent the rest of lunch in the bathroom. Applying mascara over and over again until your eyelashes were thicker than the trails your tears made down your cheeks. The same cheeks he just kissed.
In your room, you wake up again, and turn on Netflix. I sit through a marathon of Futurama, and fake laugh with you for hours. When you finally let me choose what to watch, you can’t even pay attention through the 90 minutes of Stand by Me.
Your hands start to roam, but I am too preoccupied with River Phoenix on your TV Screen saying,
“It’s asshole if you let your friends drag you down…”
I think about how true that is, even at their age, in middle school.
Think about it. At the age of 11,12, and 13, you were the rawest versions of yourselves. That may have been nearly 10 years ago, but it was a pretty good indicator of who a person was going to grow up to be. If someone was a good person then, odds are they’re still a good person now. If they were a shitty person then, they still are. They just got better at hiding it. Look at him.
I glance over at you, as you try to slide your hand up my shirt.
Maybe that’s why most of Stephen King’s stories begin there, at that age. Maybe that’s the scariest part of all…
People don’t change.
I tell you to take me home.