Coming of Age Gay LGBTQ+

           We’re watching a show, and you keep turning the volume up and down and up again. When they’re whispering, the volume goes up, and when they’re fighting, it goes back down. I can tell exactly when you’re going to reach for the remote, and every time you do, the volume changes in twos. 20 to 22, 22 to 24. You double tap the volume button every time, as if it’s all one movement.

           You didn’t always do that. I did, though. Always. So, like breathing, you do too. I never have to remind you, and you never put the volume on an odd number to bother me like other people do.

           The episode we’re watching ends, and there’s only one episode left. You let the autoplay timer run for a few seconds, and then you pick up the remote and turn the show off.

           “We can watch that one tomorrow,” you say. I watch your face as you say it, and you’re watching mine. There’s code underneath it all, and on top of it all, there’s a promise not to decipher anything out loud. Sometimes, you’re the one to break that promise, only in a few words. Usually, though, I am the one to break it. I break the promise, and you hold fast to the shards of it, grip loosening almost imperceptibly each time.

           I lean toward the edge of that precipice, and I ask, “Why don’t we just finish it tonight? It’s not that late.” I watch your face, and you stop watching mine. You toss the remote around in your hands.

           “What will we watch tomorrow if we finish it tonight?” It’s a question dressed in shadows, but only barely. I know what it means, and I know that the façade only holds if I pretend that I don’t.

           “You don’t need an excuse to come here, you know,” I say. You respond quickly.

           “I know,” you say, but you didn’t know. Your eyes are thinking as you say it, rearranging things in your mind that I know you would rather leave alone. You pull your shoulders in the way you do when you’re about to stand up.

           “Why don’t we watch it tonight, and you come over tomorrow anyway?” I lean forward, mirroring you simply to make you aware that you did it. You put your shoulders back against the chair again without thinking, then stand all at once.

           “Let’s go for a drive,” you say. I try to convince myself that we’ll talk about things in the car, that the sound of your engine will underline whispers of all too familiar things. Impossibly familiar things. It doesn’t. We don’t. I nod, stand, and follow you wordlessly to your car. You spend a long time in the driveway, poking through playlists and searching for which to play, what song to start with. When the song you’ve chosen plays, it plays loud.

           At least, I think, it doesn’t feel awkward. With the music too loud to comfortably talk over, there isn’t any urge to talk. When we reach red lights and your engine idles, you turn the music up the slightest bit louder, in twos. Always in twos, like a habit. I wonder if you still do it when I’m not in the car. If you do it without noticing.

           We reach the street that usually means we’re about to turn around, and you pull into the left turn lane like always. Unlike always, you stop at the beginning of it, park the car, and put on your hazards.

           This feels like the moment when you might start to talk, but you don’t. You pick your phone up from the center console and start flipping through playlists again. You switch between a few songs, listening to the starts of them, and then you settle on one. You let it play, turn up the volume two notches, and slip out of the turn lane and back onto the road. You pass our turnaround spot like it’s any other intersection, and you pass the next light too, and the next. Two loud songs later, you’re on the highway.

           Your car is loud and vibrating as it gets up to speed, then faster. You turn the music on to match, and I watch the numbers go up in pairs. 22, 24, 26, 28, 30. Your engine roars as you pass someone, and you say something that I don’t quite catch. I look at you, and you look away quickly, at the road. 32, 34, 36. You say something again, and I don’t hear this at all. Your eyes jump away from the road and onto my face once, then twice, before staying stuck on the highway. You hit the volume again, a double-tap that brings it up to 38, and then you start.

           You’re talking, mouth moving slightly but rapidly, and your face fills with color. I don’t hear a word of it, and you keep talking. I hear what sounds like my name a few times, or at least the one you call me, but it could’ve been a million other things. I hear, faintly, what is definitely the word “can’t.” You say it louder than anything else. You say it again, and I hear it again. Your shoulders move when you breathe, like the labor of it takes all your strength. I don’t hear anything else from you—only the engine and the music. Your eyes dance to me for a second, and your mouth doesn’t move for a while as you refocus on the road. Then, it continues, and I hear my name—what is definitely my name—one more time. I don’t hear what surrounds it, but I see your face perfectly fine against the car lights, and I don’t need to hear anything at all.

           Your mouth stops moving again, and this time, it does not restart. We sit this way for some time, my eyes on you, your eyes on the road, both of our ears filled with one of your too-many, too-specific playlists. I look away from you to look out the window, and the moment I do, you roll the windows down. You take the next exit off the highway, turn right back around, and head the other way. This time, I know we are going back to my house.

           You keep the music quiet enough that I could hear you if you started to talk, but you don’t. The silence begins to feel interminable, and I accept it with startling resignation until you stop in front of my driveway.

           “See you tomorrow,” you say.

           “Of course you will.”

           I climb out of your car, and I close the door a little too hard, since I’m used to my own car that needs to be slammed to close. I turn to the open window, and you’re still looking at me, waiting for some teasing farewell, something to set the boat back at ease.

           “You’re not ever going to tell me what you just said, are you?”

           You rest your hands on the steering wheel, and look to the passenger seat, as if I’m still in it. You look back at me like you’re about to break a promise.

           “I’ll see you tomorrow,” you say.

           You drive away. I watch you go, and I hear the music through your open windows, going up in twos. 

February 01, 2024 02:25

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Mary Bendickson
05:11 Feb 01, 2024

Not sure what this was supposed to be about.


D'Spencer Luyao
18:30 Feb 01, 2024

Understandable- it's a continuation of something else I wrote a while ago but I thought I'd post it anyway LOL. The one driving the car is in love with the narrator and ignoring it


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