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They call it Liquid Charcoal. Served up in a Styrofoam cup, it’s the cocktail of choice when you’ve overdosed on painkillers. Designed to trap poisonous chemicals in your stomach and prevent them from seeping into the bloodstream, it’s a type of black that absorbs more than light. They force you drink it even though it’s a sandbox milkshake. What they don’t tell you is that it clings to your tongue, teeth and throat, turning your mouth into a uniquely terrifying black hole, one that matches your despair.
I only know this because I hear the doctors caution my mom in the hallway not to panic when she sees me.
She enters the room, the echo of her steps even and measured as I study her and she studies me. The look of forced calm on her face tells me she’s barely holding it together. I can only imagine how I look under the harsh fluorescent lighting of the ER, tubes coming out of my wrists, wires hooking me to machines that seem to monitor my every emotion, and the unwashed curls of my rust-colored hair matted to my pale, clammy forehead.
I try to say something, but the deep dark coating prevents my mouth from doing anything useful, like when the dentist applies that gritty polish and doesn’t give you enough water to rinse it out.
I wonder what she thinks of her daughter. Is she wondering how this broken seventeen-year-old could possibly be hers? Can she still envision the girl behind the black teeth, or does she just see a helpless body inhabited by a dark demon that’s taken hold of my mouth and brain?
I don’t find out what she thinks, because when my mother sits down on the chair next to me, all she asks is, “Ellie, what is this about?”
I don’t have the answer to that question. I wish I did. I wish I could tell her why I think the way I think or feel the way I feel, but I can’t. I’m insulted that she assumes I could. She could have asked me how I was doing; she could have asked me if I was going to be okay; but in true Mom fashion, she wants the simple answer to an impossible question. I wish it existed.
I ask her, “What?” in a screeching voice I’ve never heard before. With blackness seeping into the cracks of my lips, I try to explain, but instead the rest of my response comes out in shrieks and sobs. My body writhes in anguish, reminding my brain that explaining never works. Mom covers her mouth with a trembling hand and her eyes widen.
I know it’s not fair for me to take this out on her. She’s not the reason I’m here tonight. True, she’s the one who physically brought me here against my will, but she’s not the reason I took an entire bottle of painkillers. She’s not the reason I feel like the worst person on earth—like I’m someone who neither wants nor deserves a future. She’s not the reason I want to die.
And let me be clear, I want to die.
I think of a reason I want to die tonight—a person who may or may not be sitting in the hospital waiting room, who may or may not even care that I am here—and it makes my sobs more painful and ugly. The nurse comes in and tries to calm me down, pressing her hands firmly on my forearms. At last, I stop squirming. The truth is, I’m in enough of my right mind to know that the sooner I calm down and act their version of normal, the sooner I can get out of here and finish what I started.
I calm the sobs. “I’m sorry. Please just go,” I say. The nurse takes my mom and her blank stare by the shoulders and leads her back out to the hall.
Chapter 1: The Opposition Effect
It’s been a month now. The hospital therapist tells me I should practice gratitude and focus on the things I’m thankful for. She’s made me start a journal where I write down all the good things that happen every day—a “blessing counter” for when I need a reminder that it’s not all crap. But she doesn’t know that writing down my feelings gets me in trouble. In fact, one could say that writing down my thoughts on the day is exactly what landed me in her office in the first place.
My therapist hardly looks a day older than I am, so I’ve assumed she’s just starting out in her career. For that reason, I’ve feigned some improvement; she shouldn’t have to give up hope in the world because I have. Besides, it’s easier to tell a couple lies and let her think I’m improving than to actually work out my feelings. She hasn’t officially diagnosed me with anything, but I know there’s something categorically wrong with me. My brain is an abandoned train station. Working out my feelings won’t help.
Yet, by some unkind miracle my fingers are still moving, so I’m getting caught up on my journal entry for the day as I sit on the stoop, waiting for my ride.
I’m grateful I’m graduating from high school tomorrow, I write.
Good riddance to that God-forsaken place, I think.
I’m enjoying the fact that I can sit outside without a parka and pair of boots, I write. That part is true; a light jacket feels downright liberating right now. It’s been a cold spring, but there’s something in the wind that makes it feel like summer is on the horizon.
Hopefully the warmth will soon reach me, I write.
Until then, I’m stuck in the tepid middle, I think.
Cole pulls into my driveway, saving me at last.
“Ready for a wild night?” he says with his sarcastic laugh which, come to think of it, is his only laugh.
“Totally,” I reply as I shove my journal into my bag and get into his black two-door Audi. I’ll never understand why Cole chooses to drive such a small car when he’s so tall.
I recall his pseudo reasons: “One, no one can sit behind me and ask me to move up my seat so they have the legroom while my knees jam into the steering wheel. Two, I always have an excuse to say ‘no’ if more than one person asks me for a ride home. And three, I never hear what people are saying in the back seat and turning down my music is not an option.”
I can feel the look of death through his designer sunglasses as I turn down his music, but I don’t care. He plays it so loud I can feel it on my skin.
“Seriously, how excited are you to get your mind blown tonight?”
He’s not serious, of course.
“I’m seriously positive that after seeing this band I’m totally going to get into Christian Rock.”
I’m not serious, of course.
“Remember what Tim said, ‘We’re not a Christian band, we’re just Christians in a band.’”
“I don’t even know what that means.”
“Me neither. Can you remind me why we’re going to this again?”
I sigh. “Because Tim is one of the few people we don’t hate and there is literally nothing else to do. Plus, you’re the one who said it’d be good for me in the first place.”
“I did? I’m sorry. God, I hate Ohio.”
Cole glances at me for once instead of himself in the rearview mirror. “At least you’re off to greener pastures in three months. You’re leaving me to the wolves here.”
“Not my fault you never tried in school and couldn’t shmooze your way to Boston.”
“When have I ever been able to shmooze my way through anything?”
Cole was asked to leave his fancy private school after freshman year because his grades were so poor. That’s how he came to attend my high school, which still has books with maps of Czechoslovakia. No one seems to notice we’re well into the twenty-first century now.
I look out his sparkling clean windows. “Well, you know what I mean.”
“Oh yes, because Boston University is my endgame. A life goal,” he says as he turns up his music again. I know all too well that he had his heart set on NYU, otherwise I would have written a Last Will & Testament and requested he take my spot at BU. Perhaps as a last wish from a dying girl, they would have acquiesced.
Cole pulls away from the house, turning up the volume and picking up speed with little regard for traffic laws. I used to hate the way he drives and screamed at him every time he blew a stop sign, but since losing my desire to live, I don’t care anymore. In fact, the impending danger stirs a stereophonic feeling of captivity and freedom: the captivity of living under the constant worry of my parents and the freedom of possibility, of speeding down country roads, crossing the county line, the state line and never looking back.
Somewhere between that juxtaposition of answering to other people’s conceptions of what I should be and the possibility of living a different life altogether rests my existence as a teenager.
I look at Cole to take me away from my thoughts, but I know we’ll say nothing. Our silence will be swallowed up by whatever random European dance music he put on a playlist that afternoon. Most of our drives are filled with this comfortably loud silence and him constantly glancing in his rear view mirror to see how he looks. He never rolls down the windows; he worries about his hair more than I do.
In our silence, I can’t help but think of Liquid Charcoal. I must be grinding the remaining grit between my teeth, because I hear, “You don’t need to be nervous, Ellie.”
“Please. You should know better than to pretend everything’s just peachy with me.”
He’s right. I’m nervous as hell about the impending social situation tonight: Kevin’s going to be there. Cole knows first-hand how rough that breakup was. After all, he was the one who came to visit me in the hospital that night, not Kevin.
Kevin pushed me there, Cole helped pull me back. Perhaps that’s an unfair way to look at it. My therapist says there’s a multitude of other things that make the world an unpleasant place; she says Kevin was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back, my back, me. She also says it’s unhealthy to place my salvation on one person.
I told her I’d take what I can get.
I haven’t spoken to Kevin since that night. There was one exception in Physics class when we were forced to partner in an experiment about comets and how they might have shaped the earth. I could barely make eye contact. I can tolerate the gossip about my mental stability from everyone else I’ll see tonight, but he’s the one who makes me feel the most ashamed.
“Maybe he won’t be there,” I say, knowing it’s wishful thinking.
Then, I taste blood.
It’s a bad habit. Sometimes I bite the inside of my cheek so hard that it draws out the warm, red liquid, perhaps to remind my brain that my body is still a living organism. Now, that taste is my cue that I need to practice the mindful breathing my therapist showed me. I suck in the air conditioning through my nose and release it through my mouth.
“Breathe in the good, breathe out the bad,” I hear her saying.
“Here, this will make you feel better than your weird yoga breathing.” Cole pulls a flask out of his pocket, takes a swig first and then hands it to me.
“What’s in it?”
I hate vodka, but I take a swig anyway. Anything to calm my nerves.
I wince from the burn against the open wound in my mouth, when Cole’s car slows. We gape at the sign: Heritage Christian Church and School. Biblical Worship and Education in Christ.
“It’s in an actual church?” I ask.
“They are rockers for Christ.”
“It feels so wrong.”
“God’s okay with rock ‘n’ roll these days if it’s about him. You might want to put that away though,” he says, pointing to the flask in my hand. I endure a wave of Catholic guilt as I hand it back to Cole.
God and I are not on the best of terms right now. That said, it’s always been a rocky relationship. Some days, we exist peacefully and seem grateful for each other’s company. Other days, it feels like God and the Devil had the idea to gang up and choose me as their next human endurance experiment and I prepare for the locusts and sores. Then, there are the days where I’m convinced that God is the idea and we are the Devil, creating our own mire of suffering for no reason at all.
Yet I still revere the church in a fearful, you-don’t-belong-here-but-we’ll-still-let-you-in sort of way, though I’m told that’s just a Catholic thing. It’s also probably why going to a church on a Friday night to watch a rock band feels weird, and taking shots beforehand takes me right past weird and straight into wrong.
To make matters worse, I’m dressed for a show, not for church. For nearly eighteen years, my parents have ingrained in me that I should always look my best for God. I was proud that I made an attempt to hide my general wretchedness by taking the time to straighten my curls—most of the time I leave them up in an orange, fiery mess in the back of my head—but now I look down on my ripped jeans and sneakers and feel exposed.
“I can’t believe I’m wearing Chucks to a church,” I whisper to Cole.
“I can’t believe you wear Chucks anywhere,” he responds. Cole is wearing all black as he always does. In his defense, it suits him. It matches his attitude.
“I don’t care if you don’t approve.” It’s almost true, too.
I want to be mad at him for his comment, but the truth is, I need Cole’s friendship tonight. He’s been one of the supportive few during a time when nearly everyone else has turned on me. And, lest we forget, Kevin is going to be here.
There are about twenty cars in the parking lot and a group of kids that look our age standing around a pair of glass doors. We walk through them silently and enter the back of the building. I’ve only been on a plane twice in my life, but I know that it smells distinctly like an airplane in here. The air I’m drinking is recycled, over oxygenated and the disinfectant is clearly trying to hide something.
We’re not met with the coldness of pews and organ pipes, but my discomfort continues to reign as we look around for Tim and see only a slew of strangers hanging around a large open space and stage. There are big posters on the walls with words like Worship is for Everyone and Teens Ablaze for Christ. This is a type of religiosity that my traditional Catholic eyes have never seen, but everything’s been set up for what looks like a four piece band. Despite my disbelief, we must be in the right place.
Tim spots us first. “Thanks so much for coming,” he says. He hugs me tight and it gives me the fuel to muster enthusiasm.
“Of course,” I say back, as if I never doubted coming in the first place. Perhaps I didn’t. Tim is a great person. He’ll be one of the few I’ll miss if I live to move to Boston. I guess that makes him someone I’ll miss if I kill myself and end up in the wrong side of the afterlife.
“Tim, sorry to be an idiot, but where are we? Is this your church?” I ask.
“No, the church is that building out front. This is where we have our youth group meetings and stuff.”
I nod. “Well, looks like a great place to start an almighty band.” I say, nudging Tim playfully. I don’t get it, but I’m not about to make him feel bad about his religion. I know he’s way into it.
“That remains to be seen.”
“Modesty. Your songs are great. Can’t wait to hear them with a full band.”
“Your songs are so good you actually got me into a church. My mom can only do that by bribing me,” Cole adds with a smirk.
Tim wants to introduce us to the rest of his band, so while we follow him I scan the room for Kevin. He must be coming tonight; life would be kind if he wasn’t.
Tim takes us over to three other guys and introduces us to Mike, the drummer; Corey, the bassist; and Aaron, the lead guitarist. Corey and Aaron look like brothers to me.
I’m distracted by a tall figure in the corner.
Kevin is here.
I hold my breath as his presence crashes into my psyche, creating a wave of shame and embarrassment that clouds my senses. I try not to look at who’s with him or what he’s doing, but my eyes keep jerking his way.
“Eloise,” I hear myself rambling. “I go by Ellie. Sometimes just El. Eloise is the grandma version of my name, obviously.”
Cole gives me side-eye at my weak joke. Then, he spots Kevin and knows why I bombed.
“I’m Cole. Cole Michell,” he says, addressing the group with a wave of his hand. “My grandma’s name was Phyllis and my grandpa always called her Phil, so I’ve never thought Eloise was that bad.”
Everyone laughs and I give Cole an appreciative look. He may be vain, but he always has my back, along with a convenient charm switch he can turn on whenever he wants. I try to look for Kevin again. I’ve lost him but my knees are banging into themselves, still sensing his presence.
As my eyes dart around, I notice a small group of girls talking with each other, looking right at me. Maybe it’s because I’m freaking out, but I’m not catching a friendly vibe from that side of the room. My erratic observation stalls upon a taller girl with long, glossy brown hair and she gives me a cold glare before looking away. I know I’m crazy, but I don’t think I’m dreaming up the hostility.
“We both go to school with Tim,” I say. My distraction is so obvious that I need to apologize. “Sorry guys, I’m not feeling well.”
“Here—water. I haven’t opened it yet.” It comes from one of the brothers. Aaron, I think. His hair is a pale white blonde, short but spiked in all directions. As I reach out to accept his offer, his remarkably beautiful blue eyes break through my haze and hold my attention.
“Thanks,” I murmur.
“El, why don’t you sit down for a minute before the show?” I hear Cole say.
“Let me know if you need more,” Aaron says.
“Thanks,” I say again, this time with a feeble smile. In return, I see dimples form through his even layer of stubble. It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten a kind look from a stranger. I feel my heart speeding back up. Cole puts his arm on my side and leads me to the chairs.
Once I sit down and collect myself, I ask, “Do you see him?”
“Who? Elmer’s Glue?”
“Elmer’s what? No, did you see Kevin?”
“I thought you were talking about Elmer’s Glue over there.” Cole spikes his hands over his head so I know he’s talking about Aaron.
“No, I saw Kevin come in but I think he’s standing in the back somewhere. There’s a bunch of people from school there.”
I look and spot Kevin among a group of people I used to call my friends. I won’t lie, it hurts to see everyone and not feel welcome, but after such a public breakup, nearly everyone took his side. I can’t blame them. I’m always the one making the mistakes. I try to think of the best course of action but Cole’s not leaving anytime soon, which means staying here, avoiding everyone, and pretending I don’t exist is my only option.
“Wait, why did you call Aaron ‘Elmer’s Glue?’”
“Did you see his hair? He must use Elmer’s Glue.”
“He’s in a band. It’s a look.”
“A terrible one. Look at his T-shirt. I bet it’s from Good Will.”
I take another look at Aaron, who’s getting on stage as Tim greets the audience. His shirt looks like an old little league T-shirt. The logo has faded into the washed out white background. It’s small and barely meets the waist of his grey jeans, but it could have been his as a kid.
“Not everyone has rich parents like you,” I remind Cole.
I keep looking, not minding the additional view of Aaron’ upper arms or how his muscles pull the shirt tight over his shoulders. But that isn’t what holds my gaze. It’s the way he balances the body and stubble of a full-grown man, with features that can only be described as…boyish. His jaw is round and full and his skin looks light and delicate, making his face look fragile while the rest of him seems so strong.
“Well,” I say, “I think the shirt is fine.”
“And the hair?”
“Are you serious?”
“It works on him.”
“You think he’s attractive.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Dear God, you think he’s attractive,” Cole says in dramatic bewilderment. “I can’t believe it.”
“I never said that.”
“Yes but I know you, darling Ellie. I’ve seen that look before.”
“Shut up, I just said that his hair works on him.”
“I’ve heard that defense before. I know you,” he adds, more so to himself, “But I don’t get you at all.”
“Hey everyone, we’re Modern Ceremony,” Tim says into the microphone. “Thanks for coming out tonight.”
The band starts playing and I’m grateful to have an excuse to stop talking. They sound good. Better than I had expected. I attempt to pay attention to the band as a whole, but I can’t help watching Aaron the most. I’ve never felt fixated like this before, not even with Kevin.
With all the lights on him, no feature of his is hidden in shadow and I can examine him clearly. His whole body seems to transform when he plays. I can’t fully describe how, but his face seems brighter than the others, almost glowing; perhaps it’s the expression on his face that makes it seem that way.
He plays with a conviction that makes me wonder if he could ever care for a person with as much fervor and energy as he does his guitar. That wonder draws me in quickly and violently, almost as if I feel some sort of jealousy for his connection to the music. His face is filled with such emotion, twisting with each chord his fingers create, that his feeling must originate from something beyond what metal, wood and cables produce. I feel drawn to him in a way I can’t quite grasp. My gaze moves from his fingers, to his arms, to his chest, to his face. Perhaps it’s because when I’ve felt my face twist that way before, I thought that no one could understand what I was feeling or would even care to try. He looks like someone who could prove me wrong.
Wrong. Me. Kevin.
Kevin, the one I can sense looming just behind me. I can always tell when he’s near because the remaining pieces of him left in my side activate and burn.
But the blue from Aaron cools. When he glances up into the audience, the pale hue in his eyes looks like cobalt, as if the bright light is somehow drawing out a hidden, previously unknown depth. The image gives me an intense and strange feeling. My chest suddenly grows tight. These last few weeks I haven’t desired anything except for my breath to stop; now, in the moment that it finally feels like it’s escaping me, I’m gasping for air.
I know in the back of my brain that Kevin is nearby. As the music changes from song to song, so do my emotions. There are moments when Kevin’s presence burns a hole through my chest and I’m about to implode. Other moments, I’m able to focus on Aaron and he converts the choking charcoal to dust in the air.
When the band finishes its set, it’s like my brain has tired from overdrive and I feel an abrupt switch—something like entering autopilot. I’ve grown so numb from the pain of Kevin that suddenly all I can think about is how I can approach Aaron again. His stabilizing force has hooked me by my ribs, drawing me near.
“Well?” Cole says as the lights turn back up.
“I loved them,” I whisper.
“Of course you did.”
“They aren’t really my speed,” he shrugs. I make a sound of disapproval in the back of my throat and Cole takes out his phone to text someone. His disinterest allows me to focus on Aaron who unplugs and packs his guitar and thoughtfully wraps up all the cords, barely seeming to hear the others coming up and offering him praise.
There are plenty of girls who have the look of desire in their eyes, but I can tell that their looks aren’t the same as what I’m feeling. He caught their eyes; he owns mine. Perhaps the one exception is that tall girl with the glossy brown hair I noticed before. She lingers by him as the others come and go. Her intentions are clear, which explains the cold look she gave me when I was introduced to him before the show.
Finally, I see Aaron slip away and sit down off to the corner of the room near me with a bottle of water and a towel. The bright lights from the stage reflect off his skin, now even more brilliant as they play over the fine layer of perspiration covering his body. Even though he simply takes a drink, the movement seems otherworldly to me, as though the water draws into him simply because his face shines to it.
I attempt to decipher the look on his face, wanting to determine if he’s game to talk to one more fan. I can’t be sure but I hear myself telling Cole I’ll be right back. Before he can look up from his phone, I’m already walking away from Cole, away from Kevin, toward Aaron.
He notices me as I approach and I act as casual as possible.
“Great show,” I manage to say calmly, but then make a weird wave with my hand like I’m warning him that I’m coming near or something. God. Not smooth.
“Thanks” he says with a soft smile. He moves the towel off the chair next to him, motioning for me to sit down. “Feeling better?”
“I’m fine. Thank you.” I sit down and every cell in my body expands, keenly aware of how close I am to him now. “I thought you guys were really great up there,” I say motioning to the stage. “I really liked the first song, I haven’t heard that one from Tim before.”
I really need to stop saying “really.”
“Actually, I wrote that one.”
“Really? Wow. I really liked it a lot.”
“You guys kind of sound like Spoon but with, I don’t know, prettier melodies.” I know I’m babbling like an idiot, but I can’t seem to stop. “That’s a compliment,” I add.
He gives a short breathy laugh, “I don’t think we’re quite at that level, but that’s the sound we’ve been going for, so I’m glad that came across.” He stays seated face forward but he cocks his head to look at me when I’m the one talking. His voice is friendly but I can tell he’s tired. It’s time to give him some space, but my traitor mouth has other ideas.
“I’d love to see you guys play again. Do you have any more shows coming up this summer?”
“We’re playing a music festival in a few weeks near Lake Erie and have a few other things tentatively lined up around here, but nothing’s set in stone yet. We just finished recording our EP, so once we release that we should be able to book more shows.”
“Cool. Let me give you my email.” I pull out a pen from the depths of my oversized purse and then fumble to find a piece of blank paper from my journal—my stupid blessing counter that nearly pulls me out of my fumbling autopilot and reminds me just how ridiculous I’m acting. I rip off a corner of a page while struggling to keep the journal hidden in my bag.
“You can sign me up for your mailing list or something,” I say while my cheeks light on fire.
Oh God, what am I doing? I write down my email but my hand doesn’t stop. Am I actually giving this guy my number?
What’s done is done.
I expect him to shove it in his pocket carelessly, but instead he looks at it for a moment.
The ends of his mouth curl up slightly as he pulls a wallet out of his back pocket. He places my pathetic slip of paper pride delicately into a slot of the wallet, folds it up and puts it back.
“Want to get some ice cream with us?” he asks.
The invitation stuns me. I’m not used to an immediate positive response from anyone, let alone someone like Aaron. Besides, what kind of band plays a show and then goes to get ice cream rather than finding a party where they can all get laid? I’m dying to find out but know Cole would rather drop dead than go out and get ice cream with Aaron, and he’s my ride. Not that it matters, the main barrier is that my parents have me on an even shorter leash ever since I tried to off myself, and I’m not about to explain that.
All the same, my heart is pounding at the thought he wants me to come, and I can’t seem to convince it that he’s just being polite.
“I definitely want to.” I answer, trying to hide the agony of knowing I have to decline my opportunity. “Unfortunately we’re all graduating tomorrow, so I can’t be out late.” The secret to a good lie is to make it mostly true.
“I get it. I still have a curfew too. Can you believe it? I’m nineteen, but my mom still pulls that whole her house, her rules thing.” He laughs lightly and then gives a big sigh. He links his fingers together and pushes his arms out straight above his head, leaning all the way back into his chair. I can see his ribs separate under his thin white shirt and a layer of skin becomes exposed above his belt line.
I remind myself to keep breathing.
Just keep breathing.
As he stretches he explains in a smooth, light tone, “That’s my mom. Gotta love her.” His hands separate and he lets his arms fall slowly into his lap. In this brief moment, Aaron seems completely comfortable and at ease. What would I give to be able to feel that way?
“My parents are totally the same,” I say before pausing. I want to sit here looking at him. I want to confide in him how I actually feel about my parent’s rules and expectations and how I don’t want to turn around and see the group of people I used to call my friends.
Instead, I gather all of my self-control together and say, “On that note, I guess I better head out.”
I have to quit while I’m ahead.
“Okay, cool,” he replies as I stand up. He seems slightly confused that I made the move to end the conversation, but I can’t linger now.
“Hopefully I’ll see another show soon.”
“That’d be great,” he says before adding, “Thanks again for coming, Ellie.”
I love the way my name sounds coming out of his mouth. I turn to walk away when I hear him add, “Congrats, by the way.”
I turn back around with a confused look and find myself looking up directly into his eyes.
“For graduating,” he clarifies. “Congratulations.”
My stomach flutters in an erratic type of ecstasy and my lips spread into the largest smile I’ve given anyone in the last four, long years.
As I turn to find Cole, I know I’ve been pulled into something completely different than what I had with Kevin. But what are the chances anything comes of this?
My eyes gaze up to the wall and I see a poster with a handwritten font over a track field that says, For every setback, God has a major comeback. I can’t get behind the idea of God planning my life out like some sort of all-knowing football coach, but I can’t help but hope that maybe there’s something to the idea. Isn’t it about time life helps me out a little bit? Could Aaron be the one that finally understands me?
Even though I’ve been living on a day-to-day plan this last month, I find myself formulating a deal: All right God, I won’t try to erase myself from the planet, if I can have Aaron. That’s all I want. Those are my terms. Let me have him, and I’ll live until you don’t want me to. It’s a strange pact to make, but it’s the first time I’ve agreed to anything this last month beyond what I’m going to eat for dinner.
I can’t help it. There’s something different, no, singular about Aaron. He makes me feel something no one else has made me feel, like there’s a small sort of fire deep within my belly. It’s different than the fires I’ve felt before, though. Those fires rage within, ripping through my limbs and flare up to my eyes for release. Some anatomical anomaly causes the flames to pour out of me as water, but my cheek always burns nonetheless. No, the fire from Aaron is not like those. It’s gentler, like a small ball of warmth kindling something like… hope.
Hope. Something I haven’t felt since long before the night of the Liquid Charcoal. There has to be something to that.
I shake out my shoulders.
Before I get completely carried away I have to remind myself that I don’t believe in that love-at-first-sight crap.
Except, my God, this is as close as it gets.