His face is really close to mine, too close. I can smell him, woody and intriguing. His eyebrows are knitted together and he is looking right into my eyes. I feel exposed. A bead of sweat trickles slowly down my back. Why am I nervous? I bravely continue to look at him without a clue of what he is saying. Is he expecting me to respond, I wonder. And then suddenly he throws his head back and laughs his usual roaring and thunderous way. I gasp. Something is supposed to be funny, although I can’t seem to recall what it is. We are in a restaurant like place, loud and uncomfortably cold. A yellow paper lantern hangs low between us, its soft reflected glow shining in his eyes. He is talking about something I think but his words turned into a hum the minute he leaned in closer. I look down in embarrassment and he catches my eye. He puts his hand gently on mine and startled I open my eyes.
I am dreaming of him again. I open my eyes as I register that I am still in my room. I squint and check the time on my phone risking being blinded by the sudden light.
The lights outside illuminates the wall I am now staring at as I lay awake wondering what this dream means.
It takes me a while to fall back to sleep again and I know in the morning the details will be fuzzy but this sensation will remain. A tingling I feel right down to my toes.
The next day, I look at my phone for the bazillionth time.
Shall I message him?
What will you say?
I don’t know.
And yet, I find myself thinking about this boy I know. I’ve known him for a long time now. I remember him pulling off wrestling moves on friends in our third or fourth grade classroom. This boy who must always be the center of attention. I visualize his face changing over the years , its soft edges and sharp angles that shift and yet how he remained the same, his voice still rising above everything else. I recollect the eye patch over his face when he plays Sir Ralph the Rover in our fifth grade rendition of The Inchcape Rock and I smile. I think about all his jokes and one liners and pranks and stories and the ever flowing stream of words from his mouth and yet the words that haunt me the most are the ones he leaves unsaid.
I sit down across a table with this boy and a few of our friends and he carries the whole evening on his brazen shoulders. He owns it and collects people like currency that he would never trade. This boy I know, with a golden heart.
I think about when we re-met a little over three years ago over sandwiches and jokes, I felt something I wasn’t ready to admit. This boy who asked too many questions. I laughed and talked and held back those words I really wanted to say. Although I forgot the time and place when I was with him, I could not forget that soon this boy will be gone and so will his questions. Let’s not smile and walk into a shipwreck. Let’s not write another story where the ending is set. Let’s not be fools, I told myself. But when he asked me questions, I answered. And his questions and my answers got entangled and formed something we sat and stared at but dared not touch.
He was something else, this boy who wore his heart on his sleeve. He did not see himself the way I did.
The goodbye came closer and I hid from him knowing the ways of my wayward heart. Till he called me just before he left and out came tumbling from my mouth everything I swore I’d never say.
Here I am again, this time the words tumbling out on a blank page. Nothing has changed yet everything is different. I have been following this tale, the tale of a boy I know for some years now, and I must admit sometimes I wish I could skip to the end. Until a thought crosses my mind. Endings are like destinations. The reason we imagine destinations is to provide a point on the compass that orients us in our journey. Without a destination in mind, we’re lost – we are traveling without direction. But isn’t there an indescribable deliciousness in being lost. A hope and a hidden adventure? And besides, sometimes the destination does not turn out to be what you’d hope and when you get to such a place all you want is to go back to that moment where you did not know how this would end and the world was still ripe with possibility.
So I take a deep breath and choose to wait as the tale unravels itself slowly.