Fiction Sad Friendship

And so he takes center stage just as the lights dim throughout the theater. And the spotlight shines like the strange eye of some god, highlighting the strong bones in his face, leaving a ghastly impression. We all hold our collective breath as his eyes harden and he believes deep in his soul that he is Othello himself, in all righteous indignation and insecurity. "IT IS THE CAUSE" he bellows and goosebumps cascade across my neck and arms. The rest of the monologue ripples through the audience with similar fervor and power and we are left with a hollow emptiness for both Othello and Desdemona even as he snuffs her life out with the pillow. 

And even after the standing ovation, after meeting him backstage with a firm hug and congratulations, even after the drive home where Mom and Dad gush endlessly over his performance and the intricacy of his expression. Even after my teeth are brushed and my hair cleaned, and I climb into my bed to read before sleep forces my eyes shut. I am sure that I still see him, as I have always seen him, alone in that spotlight, unrivaled and unspoiled. He alone is blessed. 

That was seriously incredible Eric, like I had no idea you could act!

And we’re sitting at our usual spot during lunch, trading jokes and anecdotes in between the steady wave of congratulations from enamored classmates. He tilts his head back and laughter gently spills from his eyes. 

Thank you so much, I was so nervous I'm just glad I didn’t screw everything up! 

Effortless humility, and you can tell from his expression and demeanor. There is not an ounce of conceit or self-congratulation in his words. And like so many times before, and so many times after, I watch as his earnest response and kind voice draws her in. Another soul will walk away from him with his smile in her mind and his words pulling at her heart. It is the way these things go, he does not try, he simply is. 

And I am simply there, blank and thoughtless, nodding with the faint trace of pleasantry as the whole exchange washes over me in pink and orange waves. She leaves.

I think she’s got a crush on you, I say plainly while picking at my chicken and rice. 

She might, she might, he chuckles and seamlessly turns the conversation back towards games and comics and the same droll things we’ve been concerned with since elementary school. We’ve had this particular conversation probably a dozen times, yet the passion in his voice and conviction in his words bring my opinions to ire. He conjures a wittiness from me, a silver from my tongue that no one else can as we playfully dance through a rehearsed debate of superheroes and powers and bad writing. For a brief few moments, It is just us, as it always has been. Best friends. And then the bell rings like the shattering of glass and I remember all that I am and all that he is and I am numb again. 

And so it’s after school, and he takes to the soccer field in a storm of muscle and grace. His hair is pushed back in his headband to keep his vision clear and sweat from his brow. He is the picture of focus and beauty as the ball gives way to his powerful strike. It curves around the defending wall like a shooting star and spins rapidly into the back of the net. All are cheering, and all are jumping.

God Eric is so hot, a girl says a little louder than she perhaps meant to.

 Her friends all giggle in agreement. My heart pretends to sputter and die as I realize whose eyes have settled on him. It was only a matter of time. More of an eventuality than anything. My tears still sting that night even if there is no sobbing. 

And so they go to prom together. Arm in arm they walk with the procession into the venue. Red fabric drapes the walls and tables as a sorry disco ball spins, casting brittle light fragments on awkward faces. Except for them. Together they are regal and holy. A painting of natural elegance, how youth should be. They laugh as they dance, her hair tossing lightly around her shoulders. Eventually, the music slows and the lights dim. They're now forehead to forehead and share a brief innocent kiss. 

And so I watch them as a pagan honors the shrine, a sense of brutal satisfaction in my stomach as they leave in his car. Just as with all of his blessings, I experienced the inception of this romance. Budding as innocently and naturally as the flowers that graced his feet after the play. All of his brightness, and all of his glory, I have seen it. I have ingested and drank deep from the golden fountain of his grace until I have been poisoned sick. It is in this way that I subsist from the water. I am tasked to bear witness. 

And so he’s leaving today, a car loaded with the fragments of our shared childhood. I set out on my own in two weeks. We’re going to different schools, to live different realities. Like a strand of DNA, we're being separated to start building our lives from a primordial scratch. 

I’ll miss you a lot man, but it’s not the end of the world! We’ll see each other for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 He says with a mouth that believes this promise borne from his soul. And as I embrace him with a heart unsteady, a swirling current of perfect understanding swallows me. I realize he was gone before he ever left. 

And so I'm at home, lying on my bedroom floor where no magic or sorcery can wake my bones. No whisper or call from any far-off land to rouse me to adventure. The clock ticks and the evening dove coos its melancholy. The sun sets through my eyelids, and I strain to see nothing at all.

July 26, 2023 12:04

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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