the Roots

i look back and i see the shadow of what used to be,

and if i look forward i see all the different versions of me.

as the night sky changes, time freezes.

past me and my music tastes,

past me and my vocabulary.

 

little things remind me of what is different

and what is not.

above all, they show growth.

deep down, nothing truly changes;

the roots are buried and there to stay.

with experiences, their weight shifts.

 

in all the whirlwind of life,

time may stop for memories

to come back, to be revived and relived.

things that once held my heart and clouded my head,

all buried in the ground; visible once peeled

beneath layers upon layers

of the created self.

 

once the playing field changes,

a new beginning looks down

toward the roots

for guidance.

all that was, resurfaces.

the ants and the weeds

all float up to the ground in plain sight

showing what life was once like.

 

past capabilities and personality unfolds.

after every changing moment,

the self makes room for a different version of that,

an altered version

all connected by one growing seed

and its massive rooting system.

atlas and i

helplessness is the feeling i get when you don’t reply with more than one word answers for an hour. when your eyes don’t shine, when you won’t even look at me eyes cast down and brows creased. helplessness is like when i want to teleport from my bed into yours because it’s midnight and you feel as far away as the moon in the fucking sky and i can’t do anything about it. from my bed i stare at my screen in the darkness and i hope, fuck, i hope you’re not hyperventilating i hope you aren’t trying to isolate yourself. disconnect plays like a broken recorder in my head. god can you not, can we not, i’m right here i love you. i can’t help you though, not unless you allow me, and even then it’s still mostly on you. how i wish it weren’t

 

helplessness is feeling like a fish in a fishbowl like you can’t even swim you might drown but you’re a fish so you live on. as a human you need air but you have too much as you hyperventilate and fuck no don’t cry. don’t try to make yourself feel better though, no, don’t count to 5 don’t feel 4 things, don’t smell 3, don’t hear 2, don’t. or do, you’ll still be miserable.

 

helplessness is the feeling i get when i feel like shit but i want to feel better. helplessness feeds on boredom and my headache. it’s letting everyone down because you hate it, i can’t fix it when i feel like shit, and everyone else expects more of me. helplessness is when i know i’m not letting myself feel better, when all my worries and all his worries play in my mind like a black and white movie. helplessness is knowing i can feel better but not knowing when i’ll get the energy to finally do it. it’s knowing i’ve spent all this energy feeling like shit. where’s a fucking wall i can smash my hand against when i need one?

helplessness is knowing he cares and it makes you feel guilty but that is so wrong, you know how fucked up it is. but you still cry and you still wish to be shot out into the sky because you don’t deserve this — but yes you do. worse he doesn’t deserve this but he couldn’t care less because it’s not about that — of course it’s not.

 

and helplessness is when you want to crawl in bed, but what good would that do because the thoughts are still in your head and your headache is so strong you’re far past just needing sleep. you also don’t want to be alone, but being with others especially some takes so much fucking effort you might as well give me a paper cut in the worst spot.

helplessness is after an entire day you’ve stirred those thoughts in your head and you just want them dead, you don’t even care if they end up in heaven or hell as long as they’re gone. and long as you can smile and you try to feel something other than tired, and, oh so fucking helpless. as long as when we talk i don’t feel like crying, i don’t feel like teleporting into your bed, i don’t feel like i’m living the same thing over and over and over again and i can’t stop it, or worse i can’t bring myself to stop it.

 

sometimes i try to prevent helplessness. i know it’ll happen soon and so i put my foot down and i make some plans. i build a fort and get some armour and i’m ready. but as soon as the adversary comes, i’m crashing, burning the bridge to hell with all my thoughts. my armour was just leather not diamond. you never believed you could fix it but, god did i want to; maybe i built that bridge just so i could feel like i did something, as if i’d prepared myself. but you prepared yourself for disappointment even though you didn’t mean to. it made you want to punch a wall and you didn’t want to fix it, didn’t know how not to set yourself up for more disappointment. it’s not inevitable unless you make it.

instead build bridges so that together we can fix it and even though it’s still mainly on me that little bit of support might make the world fall off atlas’s shoulder. instead of being atlas, you carry me and the world and i am the one who makes it weightless as we work together.

 

helplessness is when you know you’ll need someone’s help but you don’t seek it because it’s on you. but that phrase has been playing like a broken telephone in your mind so now it means you’re all alone. you don’t remember it meant you can do this but you need to work on yourself before i can help you. how could you remember, how could you forget. you see his face and you know you’re not alone, but god, do you want to because then he couldn’t see you like this, because then he wouldn’t be so frustrated by your misery and by the fact that you let it be.

let it be is how i’m supposed to let misery be, but he means let it be like a chair you fix when it’s broken — let it be a problem you can fix. something you try to change and you have confidence, you know that he knows that you know that it’ll be helpful. not like a balloon you blow till it pops and fuck here come the burning bridge. i’m not helpful to myself even though i want to be. i let it be till he’s the one pulling me to a mirror – look at you, acting like atlas. you don’t need to, you can fix that broken recorder.

 

a couple days pass and rain comes and you feel the way others feel when the sun is out. you’re not seeing the burning bridge and you don’t feel like atlas anymore – instead you see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s beautiful like his face as he drives you home in the dim lighting of the streets. you see clear as if your glasses hadn’t been scratched and the colours reflecting his face in the streets are distinctly alluring.

it reminds you of the stars as you two sit in a field together and feel the wind. suddenly the stars seem farway because you feel like your feet are set down and you can move steadily. there’s no repetition in your mind, no need to count 5 down, no need to feel guilty. let it be.

Someone in my Head

on this night we are on the bridge with woof woof les chiens with their owners. paws are loud in the darkness. and we look up into the sky and it makes me dizzy i’m petite and Maman points and Tristan nods and i feel far away kind of like les etoiles. there are never shooting stars but Apo hopes. peut-etre, “maybe we’ll go see them in august,” Maman says as if i know what that means. i glance at Apo and le coté du bridge entre the cold bars that look sharp with red dust that Tristan says is danger and i know we’ll be here a while. ow mon coup hurts with the curve of it as i look up at the constellation i should find – it is my name after all.

Papa sees me after work as he puts away his velo and i’m in the yard with Apo, my twin always together never apart even in the night. our room is high up. one bed in a little chambre avec des jouets and books i don’t like but Tristan does. our yard is full of framboise that have péppins and hurt with needles that aren’t visible so i step cautiously around them and avoid les guêpes qui piquent Tristan. and later pendant the summer Maman will turn the framboises into jam that we will eat on petit pain for breakfast with Maman because she doesn’t work like Papa does. but sometimes she comes to school and les élèves call her Madame and i help with the kids de la maternelle because i’m 6 so it’s okay. Madame Bernadette gets it.

on our birthday on fête la fête with Nonna and everyone else and we have 2 cakes. une pour vous and one for Nonna whose birthday is actually next week. i want my own cake because we aren’t one but toujours ensembles vous vous avez les filles, Maman always reminds me i nod. Apo says nothing too. i think that means we did right because la fête continues. we pick gifts from the one bag given to us, and when Apo sees mine she says c’est le mien i keep it. non c’est a moi.

on the beach it is summer and we are here after driving and je pense i did sleep. well Apo did. “on mange des crepes demain,” tomorrow’s breakfast will be sweet and i can roll them on my own now. Maman still thinks les couteaux are dangerous. but Philip and Dacia use them. they also put nutella and that’s degeu and sucré. yes, more than sucre brun. Tristan likes them with limon et sucre, because il manage bien Maman says.

on the way to the hospital Papa says “you can sit in front” and i look back at my seat… if he says it’s okay i’ll be okay i guess. Papa leads me everywhere because you can’t know these things, places and names and things you can’t see or read. like common names. but the signs on the long road where Papa drives quickly and there are other cars and i can’t even hear the music. i wonder if it’s coldplay. the signs repeat their words Rue Allen Road. pourquoi. i didn’t need to be told twice it was pavement that cars zoom and bikes pedal and people walk with their chiens.

on some nuit when it’s late and we’re supposed to be au lit, Tristan and Apo are up parce que Papa cris. i can’t hear very much until they get to les escaliers and i hear banging and le plancher creaks crack crack crack bang like a heartbeat or mine as it goes boom boom boom booom loudly in my ears. Papa often talks about money, and he yells at Maman and tries not to show it, mais tu es jeune. when you’re older you’ll know Maman has spending problems and Tristan will defend her and you will be just as afraid with the same image of someone qui monte les escaliers and – no stop it there is no heartbeat you’re okay. it’s okay. calm down. because at the end of the night when you’re in bed with Apo always and forever you’ll be told bonne nuit by one or both and Maman will say “je t’aime a la folie” and Papa will say “i love you” and you will not know how to answer but to parrot back, sometimes.

and in bed always and forever at night in the same room as Apo and sometimes Tristan sometimes you are one and you hold hands but sometimes it’s warm. tu veux être seule all alone but i can’t because Tristan sleeps above with stars, i sleep under in the darkness beside her. so on se chicane and one of us bleeds because of our nails sometimes by accident. oh. je m’excuse, je t’aime. ca va? or va t’en, tu m’enerve. il fait chaud et tu ronfle! zzz zzz zzz groggy and loud beside me. STOP IT.

goodbye (god be with you)

byebye is like pie as the last thing we eat at family dinners. when those in canes decide it’s time and their loyal sons rise to the chance “yeah, i’ll drive you guys, mom” byebye i say at the front door. i wish dad would leave the door open longer. i wish i could go out for a walk in the pitch black darkness that is illuminated only by welcoming houses and streetlights.

i wish i could sit in a field of grass from a park, where in the distance i would hear dogs running and barking at the children and their owners. i wish i could lay back and watch the stars while resting on your thighs and say goodbye to my grandpa once more. i wish we could stay in the car and i wouldn’t have to say goodbye because time would freeze minutes before curfew. and we would sit together and feel the breeze and the cold pavement.

i wish she wouldn’t find goodbyes so difficult even as a toddler, she wouldn’t feel the need to pretend that if she didn’t say bye i wouldn’t have to go. i wish goodbyes weren’t masked with anger. and they could just be. i could lean on the car and think about how i won’t see you for a month but you still have to leave and i still have to cross the street into the rigid house as you drive back home. i lean on the window and wish you’d kiss me harder because then it would be a forceful memory not a bittersweet one. i would be able to say more than a hushed, cracked and weak bye and it would be okay because i had voiced that chant in my head. i love you. say it. i’ll miss you. say it. i love you.

sometimes bye is liberating like the goodbye after a phone call that’s for business or after you get home and you’ve been out all day so tired. or when you don’t feel like being around others. or like when you’re surrounded by new people and you can finally let go of those you were close to because these new ones are here and they matter more so this gets you lifted into the sky and happy because bye is bye is bye.

and bye is sometimes like hi when you’re away from everyone and stuck with family. you love them but you love nature too and so you go to a field and lay down in the blanket of goodbyes from the airport and you fall asleep once you’ve said goodbye to whoever can’t hear you as they text you from across the country. that blanket is your savior because you’ve already said bye to him and you’ve already taken the time to say bye to the little one even for a couple hours and it comes from the airport when you had to say bye to your roommate of a month and so you cried because she cried. you wonder if the second goodbye will be harder.

for him it was and for me it wasn’t for me the third time was worse in the dark leaning against that damn car, not in my pjs at the door of the apartment building.

i’ve relived the train station bye tons of times the only difference is how old she looks. some byes are permanent and some byes are weekly and some are daily, some are harder and sometimes everything is hard but at least you were together and there’s meaning to that bye because you had fun and you can now remember with bittersweetness. and you can still wish all the things that happened before they said goodbye were different but they’re still beautiful and they’re still you, together and apart.

some goodbyes come from change, like the season as they shift and as time goes and children grow. like when she goes to bed and mom says goodnight to everything. the moon the stars the children the toys.

witching hour is supposed to force goodbye but i like to push it until hours later, until my eyes are aching and we are together in my dreams and on the phone and i can’t tell which is which but it doesn’t matter.

how the night turned out

i get off the bus in a daze, wondering where seb might be. he’s supposed to meet me at the show, but i wonder if like last time, we’ll see each other at the station instead. i turn around to inspect the crowd behind me, and sure enough, he’s walking up the stairs. his head hangs low, perhaps checking his phone, and i call his name tentatively, smiling in a shy smirk as he waves at me. he ruffles his curly mop of blond hair with a sigh and we walk out of the station together.

 

we haven’t been chilling outside of school for long, not like jack and i. but jack and i haven’t really known each other in years. not since maybe the beginning of high school. and i’m pretty okay with that – now, anyway. and i’m pretty sure lisbeth texted him as per invitation, so it ultimately wasn’t my doing or under my control. in a way they’re pretty similar people, but really there’s no sense in comparing them, because they’ve lived differently.

seb moved from england here a few years ago, but only recently transferred to our school. jack’s lived here almost his whole life. moved from south west europe where his parents decided to move after they got married – though they came from denmark. i think they lived in france for sometime before they moved to spain – not that jack would remember much, being so young and all.

 

we walk to the restaurant, and outside i see elric helping ryan and sue. i wave and sue leans in for a hug. seb is left there standing awkwardly, so i smile at him with raised eyebrows and he smirks, knowing this is what he signed up for anyway. we get in and there are chairs missing – i realise sue had taken some for their task outside – but we take a couple and assemble them at the front table despite perhaps feeling like it’d be better to sit farther. there are other groups of friends – and i guess since i recognize no one in particular – sue’s friends, and maybe elric’s have decided to either not show up or to come late (or later than us).

we’ve just sat down, listening to the one girl sing – it’s only been a few seconds and i can’t remember her name already. i ask lisbeth hasn’t texted since this morning, so i content myself in knowing that for now it’s just the two of us, full on knowing i could easily have invite at least two or three other friends.

it’s been one song when i’m proved wrong as lisbeth and jack make their way through the doors. jack is tall and lisbeth is almost short so the way they walk – jack behind her – allows me to the see them both. jack’s hair hangs loosely, some of it tucked behind his ears in that curly, wavy thick mop of black. it looks majestic. lisbeth’s short brown hair is curly too, but it’s thin, and frames her face well in its wildness.

i stand and lisbeth nods at me, and i hug jack, smirking as he bends and i stand on the tip of my toes. jack and seb nod, clapping each other on the back. we all take our seats, seb and lisbeth nearest me.

the lyrics of the next song are imaginative and require audience participation, and i don’t sit and watch as seb smiles to himself in awe as the rest – jack and lisbeth included – sing along. instead i get up to order four waters at the counter, smiling at the man behind the bar and greeting one of sue’s friends. the place is filling more and more, even if it’s still early, but i suspect it’s only because the acoustics will end soon. as i make my way back, i introduce lisbeth and seb, who smile at each other.

 

sue comes back in tentatively and asks for my help to put up some banners around the restaurant. seb is left standing there awkwardly again as lisbeth and jack get up to talk to others. he opts to sit down as i make my way back to the table without lisbeth and jack. this other group is playing a duet on guitar and with violin, which gets me smiling. seb looks somewhat uncomfortable, and i figure it’s just his way of trying to find some peace in this foreign, perhaps overwhelming environment.

he taps my leg and i eye him as he mumbles, “i know those guys.” i shrug and he says they used to go to school with him, they’re older than us. i tell him meeting people, even in this city, isn’t all that difficult, no matter how little you want to see them.

lisbeth and jack opt to go out – for a smoke no doubt – to the front of the restaurant, and while they’re out, the set ends so we join them. jack passes the smoke back to lisbeth and she takes one last drag before flicking it to the ground just as we make it out the door. i smile at the bouncer – a volunteer who was a part of the crowd at the last show. and we catch lisbeth in the middle of a conversation with someone who i also recognize – not that she can be from anywhere else but one of these types of shows. i suppose that’s who she bummed from, but she informs me sue was kind enough to give her one.

while we hover and i watch their interaction without asking her name – as she’s not paying attention to me (or anyone else but lisbeth). she heads back inside and jack mumbles about being cold – which i’m not, as the weather’s cooperative. we’re about to head back inside when i see a few performers from last event. unsure if they’re playing today, i tentatively approach who i recognize as the lead singer. he smiles and tells me they’re just here to watch and introduces himself as skye. i shake his hand, “may,” i mumble and he smiles at me again.

he turns to lisbeth, who’s entered the conversation with a standard question. “which band are you with?”

“dragon tapestry.” he says with a laugh. “nice to meet you, lisbeth, may.”

he turns away, and art – another performer for a different, more popular band – smiles at me with a wave. they’re preforming later, and his girlfriend (anna) still hasn’t shown up, or maybe, she’s inside talking to sue and i just hadn’t been paying attention.

 

some time later, i feel seb starting to relax a bit, disregarding his initial discomfort in this space of dimly lit, standing crowd. jack and lisbeth kind of do their own thing, and we stay with sue for a bit too, but she hasn’t been feeling all that well – what with damian performing and dancing with others and pointedly ignoring her, and with charlie around but distant. i keep charlie some company for a bit as lisbeth takes the guys downstairs for one of the bands, and i’m edging for some fresh air, so i take my chances while charlie orders a shot and grimaces bitterly at her friends.

i sit at the edge of the road watching car go by and breathing deeply the fresh air, distantly still able to hear the music and feel the excitement and awe and joy seep from my core. sue joins me and we start talking about work and studies – she mentions how simple it seems to just get a full time job and not have to worry about homework or anything of that sort. we avoided the subject of money, but in passing she reminds me she works for a company that really interests her.

eventually, seb joins me outside, looking cold and smiling shyly. he formally introduces himself to sue, and they exchange a few words before she gets whisked away by elric again. we decide to head back inside, and the downstairs band looks really good, they have good chemistry and play in sync, mops of hair bobbing together with the beat.

we stay down for the rest of the set, and i sway on the spot with a smile on my face as seb joins me slowly, tentative in his movement as we feel the music. lisbeth makes her way back down for the last set, but she stands near ryan and his friends, nodding at me as she passes.

 

i realise in our waiting for the next group, that chances are lisbeth is playing some sort of ‘get with him’ game, purposefully letting seb and i spend more time together. i still have a lot to learn about the guy, but he’s awfully quiet and sets his own pace, which i can appreciate sometimes. we’ve been out for some three hours, and i’ve just noticed now. it oddly isn’t bothersome. i don’t know what his stance on jack is, having hardly ever seen them in the halls together.

 

in the hour that’s left before art’s band, we join forces on the main floor, and sue gets us two beers to share. we make conversation – the ridiculous intentions of school, the worth of long weekends, the fake notion of real life after post secondary or post graduate. jack goes back out for a smoke with art’s bandmates as lisbeth waves and makes conversation with them and tugs him by the arm. i decide, after listening to a couple songs from the band – one of which is an extraordinary cover – that i too feel like more fresh air.

it may not be totally fresh air, seeing as there are people smoking and dancing on the spot in mass, but i hear art talk to sue, his friends pete and iggy talking to lisbeth still. jack and seb look somewhat uncomfortable as we walk toward the park, and i try to ignore them as lisbeth and i make conversation with pete. perhaps, it’s more like lisbeth talking and my nodding along as he looks at us both.

 

we get to the park and there’re some kids there, they look to be in middle school. the distance themselves, and we settle at the swings. i take a swig of beer and art passes some cheap wine around as pete and sue roll a joint. iggy shakes his head noting that we are too many for one joint, so he takes a diy vape canteen out of the bush with a laugh as pete tosses a bag of weed at him. we stand around and blast some music, which almost makes it hard to hear, so sue tutts and lowers it a she resumes her conversation with pete. art and lisbeth are talking, but jack has taken some initiative and turned to iggy. they talk about the band. for a bit, seb and i listen in, but he looks uncomfortable, so i ask, “are you okay?”

“yeah,” he nods. “i’ve never smoked or used a vape before.” he says shyly.

i nod. “you don’t have to if you don’t want to. it’s cool. do as you please.”

sue hears the last bit and smiles at us, “yeah, really, you don’t have to try anything you’re not comfortable with.”

he chuckles, nodding to himself, and i almost feel guilty for bringing him to the park. he takes the hit when it gets passed his way and he smiles uncertainly. art passes me the vape and i nod in thanks. i distantly hear seb trying to hold in a cough. i wonder if this was a good idea. unlike the last time i’d smokes with jack, he doesn’t cough, and lisbeth clapps him on the shoulder as if mirroring my wonder.

 

we get back to the restaurant in time for the start of art’s band according to schedule. this set lisbeth and i enjoy, and seb seems to like it. the three of us swaying as lisbeth and i sing along and jack bobs his head. after pete and iggy leave the stage the crowd demands a few solo songs. art complies and sue joins us in our singing along. the guys look awed by how familiar art is with the crowd, if not amused by the way we sing along with enthusiasm.

 

by the end of the set, i’ve had some wine, some beer, and a couple shots, but mainly i’m just tired and overwhelmed. skye makes more conversation with me when i decide to go back outside, and ryan joins us asking if i’m okay.

the bouncer is more than comfortable around me now, having seen me step out a number of times over the hours. he simply nods at me and assures ryan that everything seems fine. skye excuses himself and i’m left feeling the breeze from the car that pass by. “hey,” a voice says behind me, and i turn to find seb.

“hey,” i answer, smiling shyly.

he hovers, unsure whether to sit with me, but crouches at my level to tie his shoe, “you okay?”

i nod, “yeah. i just like the air.”

“you look you’re edging for an actual walk.”

i shrug. “i’ve seen like twenty cars pass by since i sat down. the artificial construct that is time has me wondering if i should’ve gotten up after the tenth.”

he chuckles. “we’ve all the time in the world.”

“that’s my line.” i argue.

he smiles, “did i miss my cue?”

“you’re supposed to yell ‘line!’” i say, smiling when he rolls his eyes.

“who’s the shadower?” he asks.

i shrug. “that’s not important.”

“did i focus on the wrong bit of information?”

“the data doesn’t change-”

he sighs, “it’s all about the variables, i know.”

i raise my eyebrow at his smugness, to which he chuckles and looks away. i glance at his ears, smiling to myself as they colour slowly. i watch him, waiting for him to say something while pretending he isn’t flustered. he turns to me, eyeing me, but shakes his head, which has me smiling again. “shall we go back inside?” i ask as he drops closer to me, arm brushing mine as he scratches his knee.

he shrugs, and i shrug back. “whatever you want.”

“you good?” i wonder, leaving the question to be interpreted. he shrugs again. “not allergic to anything, right?”

“no,” he shakes his head. i nod, knowing i should’ve checked sooner. “yeah. i’m fine. thanks though.”

i nod again, and he breathes deeply. “let’s go back inside,” i mumble tapping on my own knees. he nods and follows me back in, nodding at sue when we pile behind her before more of a crowd can settle.

lisbeth pops up behind them and i sway toward her, forcing our heads together to say, “you’re smooth like crunchy peanut butter.” she smiles and bows, eyebrows raised as she shoves me toward the crowd again, effectively knocking me into seb.

he catches me, steadying the both of us with a smirk as i dance to the beat of the drums with a shy smile. unlike most often, he doesn’t shove his hands back into his pockets, and i resist the urge to crowd him more than i already am. our hands accidentally brush, and he shifts as if allowing me to choose to have more personal space, but our shoulders brush when i sway a bit more generously while feeling the music and magnetic giddiness. he looks down and bites his lip, hands fiddling with the hem of his shirt – though our shoulder brush again when i move to give more room to a girl joining her friends – and he stays put, allowing our contact as the song ends and i whoop loudly with a laugh. after two songs of contact, i wonder if i was initially wrong about his comfort.

he surprises me with a, “well, what’d you say we show them how it goes?” request when the band announces a slower song.

 

i scoff, smiling slightly as i realise neither of us really know what we’re doing but it’s to the music and it’s fun. sue has taken to watching us as we move together, his hands on my waist and mine on his shoulders. i wish our roles were reversed and i could feel his waist and tentatively hold him, but soon the song ends. the moment’s not over, though. we file further into the space and take a seat in the unused chairs. practically pressed up against each other, he smiles at me and drums his hands to the beat of the song and i focus on the vibrations around me with a lazy smile. he bends to say something to me and i lean closer at the same time. this happens fast enough his breath ghosts over my cheek for a second. “these guys are good.” he notes over the loud brass. i nod and he laughs. “the lighting here sucks.”

“ambiance,” i snicker, “c’mon we should dance if these guys are good.”

 

we eventually head back out, and sue is there with skye, art and his girlfriend. anna makes conversation with lisbeth, hugging her and laughing when art eyes jack uncertainly, smiling shyly as they ease into the conversation. anna sees me and smiles, hugging me sweetly. i introduce seb again, who smiles and waves.

“art was wondering where you two had gone.” anna says.

i shrug, pointing toward the front of the restaurant. “music. people.”

 

we decide – since there isn’t another well known set till much, much later, and the place feels stuffy – that we’d walk to the nearest park or maybe farther, for sandwiches or ice cream or something. the eight of us walk in twos or threes. technically, skye is leading, but we don’t really have a destination. seb listens in as i talk to art about the importance of discovering yourself. he notes that being aware of others is something a lot of people disregard when they’re so focused on themselves. instead, we agree that there should be a balance. when art gets hailed by anna, it’s just seb and i.

“i never took the discovering part as a huge deal. i kinda just wanted to figure out some things, but at the same time, i wanted to stay open to the rest.” he mumbles.

i shrug, “yeah, but people change and so there’s always this open element, this possibility of change. even in a few months, even when you don’t expect it, things will change, whether it’s you or your surroundings, or the people you interact with every day, it still changes. fluidity is so human, it’s incredible how many people waste their time trying to control everything and everyone they can possibly get a grasp on.” he chuckles, nodding as i pause, shaking my head and motion a sweep over the head. “way over the top. rambling.”

“it’s okay. i like how much you’ve thought about this.” he says, and i laugh. “it’s very interweaved. i feel like you use it as a motivation. like you try not to influence too much, but you have enough passion that your attempts are meaningless.”

“well, people influence each other without meaning to all the time, whether it’s ‘cause of negativity or the influence they place on someone you hold dear or any of that.”

“kinda makes me feel like people trying to live by influencing someone or many people before they die is pretty endless and like you’re trying to value it – value the influence – too much because ultimately people will be influenced in some way, so there’s no sense in glorifying it.”

 

we eventually make our way into a school playground. we’re just standing around occasionally snickering to ourselves around the silence. skye and jack take a seat, so sue sits in the sand. art takes a swig of beer with a sigh, and anna sets up her speaker for some nice music.

we decide to head off again when art’s fag drops to the ground. i crush it with my heel, and anna passes me the joint, eyebrows raised. i take one last puff and let the ember simmer to a stop, before joining the group as it walks ahead. jack and seb actually seem to be talking, which is almost surprising. i walk to lisbeth, who walks quietly, pensive and observant. sue eventually fades from the rest of the group, and stands with me and lisbeth. i ask which way is back to the restaurant, roughly, and she notes we’re kinda walking in that direction, but the guys really want ice cream.

we wind up stopping at a corner store. after a vote, and some loud persuasion that no doubt annoys the owner of the store, we pile out with two boxes. we all pitch in a bit for a box of four oreo ice creams and six cones. happily munching, we slowly make our way to the restaurant. skye stands with jack and anna, and art walks with lisbeth, and sue, seb and i walk together. lisbeth offers some of her oreo to jack, who has a cone, and they swap for a bit, and sue, seeing my eyes drawn to the exchange, offers her cone to me, shaking her head when i smile and offer her my oreo.

 

we get to the restaurant, and art has eaten two cones already, and he stays outside when pete asks for some of his cone in between his smoke. the place is more full but the new performers have just started playing, so we file at the back, and lisbeth goes to the bar with skye. sue and jack are still talking, so i content myself in just watching and trying not to feel like i’m eavesdropping while enjoying the music and the feeling that comes with this group.

 

as i relish in the night, and as the group disperses on both floors and the front of the place, lisbeth realizes how tired she is, and she starts wondering when she should head out. but after this type of night, she doesn’t really want to go home, or feel particularly tired. she and jack end up leaving not soon after, and i figure i can just crash at miles’s when i decide to leave.

he lives pretty close-by which is convenient if i’m needed at the house. chances are i may not be available till the afternoon, just due to lack of sleep and the slow and relaxed transition from asleep to awake and social.

after the set ends, seb figures he should probably head on home before the buses stop running. we set out together after saying bye to whoever we can find, since there’s still one more performance till their night is over. sue and skye are still talking with a few people, and she hugs me and waves at seb, and at the door we find art who waves as anna hugs me tightly.

 

we go in the same general direction, and he offers to see me out safely as we walk onto the transfer bus north. i tell him he won’t make it home if he does, as kind as the offer is. he rubs his face tiredly and mumbles about biking or driving, next time. i smile to myself and trace a pattern on my jeans, and he shivers, sighing to himself. it’s quiet and i resist the urge to mumble something tiredly or close my eyes to feel the lull and hum of the bus on route. he’s kind of given up on a sizeable amount of personal space, which i don’t mind. if anything it’s reassuring and keeps me awake.

i get off first, heading west as he continues north. i mutter something about texting me when he’s safe, and he smiles at the habit, nodding reassuringly.

it takes five minutes of trying not to stare around or eavesdrop before i get off the bus with a tired nod to the driver. i text miles, and receive a text from seb announcing his arrival.

Moments to Remember While Losing Hope: Part I

20h13 – Six Hours Into Gathering  

I get up, unsure of what to do with myself. My palms are sweaty, my head hurts and my mind racks. I feel very selfish. I should be happy to be surrounded by talkative, enthusiastic friends, but instead I worry about being in the background. About the impression this freak out gives them. I excuse myself for the fourth time in the last half hour, sighing as my mumbling is only acknowledged by one person.

In the next room over, I lean on the wall, closing my eyes to calm my thoughts and my breathing. Panting, I run my hands through my hair. I don’t need this. My battery may be drained, and I may feel invisible, but I have to ride it out for the next hour or so. After my breathing regulates a bit, and the tears have dried, I go to the kitchen to get a glass of water and some yogurt.  

When I come back into the muggy space, my eyes dart from person to person. On one couch, Lily, Ryan and Colin sit, playing video games and trash-talking each other over what appears to be the sound-effects of the game, though it only sounds like vibrations to me. On the other side, Ellen, Rose and Dean sit. Rose and Ellen take the entire couch and Dean eyes me from his seat on top of Ellen. I avert my eyes, sitting on the edge of the couch beside Colin. As I look down, twiddling my fingers and fiddling with the hem of my shirt, Ellen squirms loudly enough that the ground shakes and I know it’s Dean’s way of getting my attention. I try to resist his determination to get me to follow his gaze, but am awarded a huge grin when my eyes meet his.

He waves me over, and I take a seat on the edge of the couch as I had before. Ellen glances my way with a concerned frown, but I shake my head, smiling reassuringly. She nods, turning back to Rose. They continue to read and laugh at stuff on Rose’s phone, and Dean looks at me, smiling and making funny faces in an attempt to make me smile.  

Eventually, I offer a shy quirk of the lips. He laughs, taking my hands in his. I shift to face him completely, and his smile widens. I watch him as he brings my hands to his face, kissing my knuckles briefly. I chuckle as my fingers run against his jaw and his hold on my hands loosens even more. Dean smiles as I bring one hand to his neck, running my fingers through the hair there. My other hand stays at his face, brushing his sideburns as we watch each other.

He gets up and I follow, shifting with him as he brings us to a stance that suggests we dance to the background vibrations that are music coming from the stereo. I scoff, smiling slightly as he starts to sway. I hug him, hand coming to his neck again and he laughs, squeezing me to him. Used to to his closeness and crushing hug, I only shake my head and chuckle as he sways more widely. The music is not slow dancing music, or music either of us particularly enjoy, not that I can make out many of the vibrations, but I move with him either way. Dean laughs when he feels my fingers draw a pattern on his neck. Force of habit. The swaying stops a bit as we stare at each other. He pulls a face as my eyes narrow and he chuckles.

I sigh as my confidence is brought back slowly. He notices the freed tension and rubs my back, squeezing my shoulders. I laugh as he abruptly turns, and we dance some more. I twirl as he watches me, and he laughs as my elbow pops loudly when my arm extends. I wince, smiling when he gets concerned. I hum quietly and he sways and twirls as our roles are reversed. I laugh as Dean almost slides and trips because of his socks, and he pretends to wrestle me back into a dancing stance. He raises an eyebrow as my expression falters a bit, and I sigh. He nods to himself, rubbing my back again. My eyes shift under his gaze, and he sighs. Our eyes meet again as he hugs me closer, and I chuckle. Dean bites his lip as my smile falters again. He rests his forehead on mine, swaying wide and quick until a laugh bubbles its way up and I grin at him. He smirks in his satisfaction and I rest my forehead on his, sighing as he laughs quietly.

Dean stays at my side for the rest of time, holding my hand and sharing his food as I watch the video games from my comfy stop on his lap, and my thoughts stay on the memory of his smile as his forehead touches mine.