Everyone that was graduating had a candle that night, their own beautiful light. It was a sea of light. It was part of the tradition, that every students carries around a candle. You did not know much about the meaning of it, but it felt profound. With a few words from the headmaster, the world you’ve known for 6 years starts to slowly dissipate. You march from the great big assembly hall with mostly the same people from 6 years ago, down the hill and to the outside courtyard. The lights from the surrounding buildings don’t quite reach the euphoric buzz of people who have just graduated.
There are many things that make you worried. Will you be able to see your friends again? Will you get into your first choice university? And no matter how hard you try to keep the thoughts tucked away in the drawer of your gut with the strength of your own massive hope, they still crawl up to your throat like cockroaches that refuse to die even after being sprayed with a whole can of hope-filled insecticide . Telling you, that you might lose everything soon. That you might be alone, again. The possibility being scarier than the reality.
People stand in groups, some tall as a flame unhindered by the wind and some flickered lazily as the winds of impatience threatened to snuff them out. But your flame, it was solitary. Unwilling to quiver towards the risky path towards answering one of those aforementioned cockroach questions: “Will you see him again?”. Because you remember, the time you spent with him was very little. But the words he had said to you had moved your thoughts with a gentle nudge to somewhere nicer. His gentle smile was also always a wonderful sight. Besides, at least you had the bond of comradery as you flared your brains for that stupid organic chemistry test together. Right now that person felt like a mystery novel, that you would never finish. It felt like a curse, but at the same time you had an idea to rival even Sherlock Holmes’s.
You always finished what you started. The first step in the program was to find him.
Which was easy. Even if the people in the courtyard looked like an arrangement of candles at a Buddhsit temple, it was still easy to spot him. He stood next to the bush, alone. Maybe that was why it was easy to find him. Or maybe it was because he was so tall? You thought that it was fitting for a beanpole like him to stand next to a bush, as if he was part of the whole arrangement. Even his light hair was somewhat dark in the night, speckled by spots of the candlelight.
His lonesome figure is inviting, though the thought of bothering him is not so. But in your pocket, there is a letter. It reigns your consciousness in. Gives you enough bravery to come towards him, across the wide stretch of grass that lies lazily between the courtyard and the boy. But at the same time this letter muffles the voice in your mind. The voice that tells you to..
‘Just say it’.
You think of the words you are going to say. But they are disjointed by the sound of how loud your steps feel. Especially so when they crush the grass which almost screams under your weight as if you are a walking earthquake.
Each step he feels closer. At the same time, the reality of how far away he might be in the future draws him into some distant place. You wish you had done this earlier. That you had realised that you wanted to know him more earlier. That you really…liked him. Instead of thinking that such thoughts were only trouble and stupidity. While you had the chance. But it was too late to regret a cooked egg.
You wonder if he was wearing cologne… It smelt like something great, at least. Whatever it was.
‘Just say it.’ The voice inside your head blazes. Your face feels warm.
But your feet and your body are telling you to get out of there as if you were approaching a fire.
'Get out of there,' says your body, but the hyper connectivity in between your amygdala tells you to 'just say it'.
It is too late when he turns around.
“Hi !” You say, a bit of a distance away. Your fight or flight response is locked into ‘fight’ mode.
“Hey.” He says in the same casual tone of his, the pitch of his voice always inflects a little bit downwards towards the ‘y’. You think of those times you exchanged a hello between classes. Now that you think of it… wasn’t it a bit random to always say hello to a person you barely know?
You should just say it. Three simple words. You know you won’t get a chance to say it like this ever again. But you feel like you have an allergy to those words. Because your throat closes up whenever you think of them.
“How do you feel? About graduating?” Your airway doesn’t collapse just yet.
“Yeah, I feel happy. You?”
“Yeah, me too!” you smile. Then there is a slight silence. Out of the corner of your eye, you see people start to approach him. His friends. His parents. You should say it now.
But… all you do is reach into your pocket. Relief washes over your own cowardly hide.
“Ahah, well, I have a letter for you! “ You note that his hands are quite full. So at first you put it on top of the book he is holding. It starts to slip off, and he flails a bit, but you catch it. You put it inside that book. It was the bible they gave out in celebration of your graduation. It fits inside like a prayer. You pray it comes true, your wish to know him better.
“Thanks.” He says warmly. You are glad as the face you imagine had you just said those words… would maybe not have been so soft? You didn’t want to put more rocks on his shoulders.
“It is umm… because you are such a great friend!” you say. Digging your own grave. Yup. A great friend indeed, huh. Ugh. Why did you have to say that.
Perhaps in the future, you will get a chance to say these words to his face. Yet… the cockroach inside your head says… there will be no next time. You blew your chance!
But the hopeful pesticide hisses at it. You think:
‘The next time I see him.
I will ask whether he’s dating anyone yet.
And then… if the answer is no…
I’ll tell him that I really like him, afterall!’.
And well, pesticide usually kills the cockroaches, eventually.