Andrea asked me to “hang out” with her after school again today. She thinks I’m weird for never accepting the offer and making up some lame excuse. I can make out the annoyance over my shitty explanation in her eyes, but I don’t mind. I slip out of the awkward conversation as quickly as possible. On Friday afternoons the clock goes exceptionally slow. It knows what day it is, and loves to taunt me by going slower than it does on any other day of the week. I know you told me to stop biting my nails but I can’t help it, I think they call it anxiety…I’m not sure. I just know I need to see you.
The walk there never takes too long for I’ve memorized the shortcuts and I try to change it up every week to give myself a little variety, like you used to do. As I walk past the rose bushes in front of Ms. Lancaster’s yard, I bathe in the memory of how we used to walk down this same street and you’d push me into the rose bushes. “If you can’t handle rose thorns, you can’t handle my thorns,” you’d flirt, while shooting a glance at me. I never told you, but I’d go home and put alcohol over the cuts to see if I could stand the sting. You’d progressively push me harder, the gashes on my legs and arms would get deeper, and the alcohol would sting more and more, but I never let myself shed a tear, not one. That’s how I learned to endure pain; you made me memorize the feeling of numbness.
I’ll get to the light at the end of 4th street and throw my hood over my head. I didn’t want anyone to recognize me; I was done being stared at with pity spilling from their eyes. Across the street was our music class we’d tell our parents we were going to but instead you’d drag me to the park to smoke cigarettes. I told you they were bad, and you told me that so were you. I remember how you’d force the cigarette into my mouth as I’d pull away from you, so instead I’d get a big puff of smoke blown into my face, your respect died with your innocence, and somehow I didn’t mind, I still made up excuses to spend my afternoons with you.
“You’re sadness is feeding off you, don’t let it.” A passerby who also visited frequently told me when I had sat next to you one day for seven hours straight. I read your favorite book out-loud three times, and once backwards to see if I could find any meaning in it. I remember how you used to speak to me in palindromes to confuse me, I’d act like they worked and respond with a simple “huh?” that would satisfy you to the core. A devious smirk would take over your face thinking that you had outsmarted me and that maybe you could be a mystery to me like you were to most people, but you weren’t.
I had found you out years ago when I found your journal in the school parking lot on a rainy day in mid February. I was intrigued by the intricate cat drawings on it. I’ve never seen a kitten with a blunt and a Mexican hat. I sat under a tree next to the parking lot and read it until the rain passed and I could walk home but you discovered me before I got the chance.
“Who the hell gave you the right to even touch that?” you yelled at me before I could even make you out behind the fogginess of my glasses. My mouth was stapled shut by the suddenness of the situation. You yanked the diary out of my hand and shoved me into your car. The absurdity of the whole thing never baffled me, and to this day I wonder why. A complete stranger was forcing me into her car without any explanation and I was more than fine with it, you were the adventure that I craved. From that day on, you brought something new to the table, always keeping me by your side with the excuse that if I ever ventured far from your sight I could ruin the balance in the world with the information I had read in your journal. Our friendship was the string that held the universe together.
When I arrived, I traced your name, again and again, it felt like your cold, fragile skin. I glanced at the bent roses I had left for you last week I visited. I tossed them to the side knowing you’d think they were stupid, knowing I was stupid. I sat down with my notebook in hand, a new poem in it for you.
I knew you were expecting me so I went straight to reading you the poem. I sat criss-cross-apple-sauce next to you and I got the sensation that I could feel you smiling. I looked up and starred at your name carved in the damp stone, the dead roses on the dewy grass, and all of a sudden the pain rushed over me, all the pain you left me on the Last Day.
On the Last Day, you didn’t push me into the rose bush, you didn’t blow smoke in my face, and you didn’t shove me into your car. I didn’t have any alcohol to put on my wounds, and I didn’t have any excuse you had forced me to say to my parents to cover me for spending so much time out of the house. The Last Day all I got was a missed phone call. You left me one single voice message that I’ve memorized like the overplayed songs on the radio. On the Last Day you gave me all the missing pieces of the diary I didn’t get to read; you made me feel your thorns; you choked me with your smoke; you broke my universe and for the first time in my entire life, I could finally give a meaning to the four letter word you forbade yourself to use.
“ These past two years have brought something special to my life, Camilo, I want you to know that I pushed you into the rose bushes because life will hurt you. I blew smoke in your face because life is hazy and will leave you with a disgusting after taste in your mouth. I figured something out last night that we already caused chaos to the balance of the world. You see, we’re this ticking time bomb that’s bound to explode any moment. The world we created within each other has made more sense than anything else ever has, and I can’t thank you enough for that. We’re a perfect catastrophe. So, I don’t want to say I love you because you’d feel obligated to love me too, but I want you to know that I did… do. This is all I have left for you, I simple explanation to why I was such a shit person to you. If you ever wonder why I always forgot to say goodbye on the phone and when I’d go home, it’s because I was never leaving… until now. Goodbye Camilo.”
After replaying the message for the 204th time since your death seven months ago, I press the call back button just to hear your raspy, recorded voice on the receiver.
“Hi, this is Leah. I either can’t come to the phone right now or I don’t want to speak to you. Leave a message after the beep, or don’t, I don’t really care.”
I’d hear the beep and leave you the same message as always.
“Hey Leah, I need to speak to a human. I need to speak to you…”