He was never your friend nor enemy. He was just one of those people that you see around school, the campus, when you go back to your locker to deposit your books and call it a day. He was one of those people that you only knew by face and name, that and nothing more. Maybe the fact that he takes AP Calculus with you, and is your seatmate, and the occasional clipped sentences here and there. But that’s not really much, and not really something to hold onto.
So when he invites you to his house for his eighteenth birthday, you are surprised. It is during your Calc class, while the teacher in front drones on and on about second derivatives and dy/dx , that he passes you a slip of paper, his address and home number scrawled in his hardly discernible handwriting with the words I’m having a bday party tomorrow night it would be nice if you came scratched somewhere at the ripped bottom. You feel the blood creep up your neck to colour your cheeks, and you look over your shoulder to peek at his face. He is staring at the board uninterestedly, giving no signs of embarrassment or importance to your attendance. You end up rather disappointed, but you decide to come. You tuck the note in between the magnet bookmark of your planner, raise your hand, and answer the teacher’s question. You are correct, and it’s not really a surprise.
What surprises you, though, is the fact that he is waiting for you on that aforementioned Friday, leaning on the locker next to yours with his head downcast and his fingers twirling his phone in his hand, the other rubbing at his nape. You approach warily with light footsteps. You clear your throat as you work on your locker’s combination, but that’s all you can do. The air is immobile in your lungs and the words are stuck in your throat and all you can do is wait for him to say something – anything – to you before you spontaneously combust.
He tells you that, if it were ok with you, he’d escort you to his house for the party. He says he found out that your houses are located on the same block, with his house a few lots farther than yours. It’s all a conflict in your mind as you arrange your books back to their original arrangement – biggest to smallest, notebooks by order of subject time – and think about his proposition. You end up agreeing, and you see him smile for the first time.
His smile is the type that can never be considered a smile by normal standards for it’s only a slight lilt of the right corner of his upper lip, an aberrance on his usually stoic face. But that little quirk of muscle has your heart picking up and pumping a mile a minute, and it changes everything entirely.
He has a lot of friends. That is confirmed by the sheer amount of adolescents partying and drinking all around his living room and backyard, the music oppressively loud to your ears. You are sipping on a combination of mango juice and diluted vodka, while the others chug on beer and tequila and other things you cannot spell, much less pronounce.
He attracts people the way a light attracts moths. He blankets the people around him with his own special bubble, and makes them all feel especially important with the way he looks at them intently and seems to hold on to every word you say. And you find yourself doing the same, leaning in whenever he laughs as a sunflower bends towards the sun, looking up at him with awe and undivided attention written all over your gaze as you drink up every syllable he enunciates.
You see him dancing for the first time that night. He is surrounded by a circle of people and, as the track dissolves and picks up into a dubstep score with heavy drops and twinkling synths, he’s dancing and popping and locking as if his life depended on it. There is a distinct laziness in the way he executes every manoeuvre, but his precision and sharp agility is so clean and powerful it takes everyone’s breath away – including yours. There’s something in the way he moves, the way his hips oscillate as the track intensifies with scratches and a loud pounding bass, that has the image of him pirouetting ingrained in your mind.
He approaches you sometime when it’s nearly the cusp of dawn. The people have long started disappearing, and you are helping clean the mess. You don’t know why you are even doing this when you could’ve been at home and potentially sleeping in. He makes his way towards you while you stack the red cups on themselves and let them tower on the countertop like scarlet buildings.
He thanks you for attending the party, though he may have sort of forced you to go by waiting on you as he did earlier. He apologises for making you clean up even if you did it on your own free will, and he apologises for not spending the evening with you. He says all this and more with a hand on his nape while the other holds open a black garbage bag where you dispose the used napkins and plastic wrappers.
You tell him that it is ok, that you had fun (even though not really), and that you understand. You lapse into a silence that can be considered somewhat comfortable, and your hands brush when you reach for the same bottle of Jack Daniel’s. You feel this bolt of something akin to electricity that runs up your arms and down your spine only to make your toes curl into your socks. It’s such a foreign feeling that it makes you pull your hand away abruptly, face giving in to morph into a mask of shock as he drops the bag and comes closer to you.
You step back with every step forward he takes and it’s a dance of who can reach the closest and who can go the farthest. It escalates to the point that you slip on a puddle of spilt alcohol and you’re tipping backwards and he catches you in a dip with no space in between you and him. The music has long gone, but you can hear and feel the melody rocking inside your veins and shaking your core with every hum and inhale and exhale and interlude.
His breath is on your neck and your mouth is on the brink of converging with his. You can already feel the shadow of it on the tones of your lips with every breath he chances to take from your exhales, taste the sweet nectarine of his sighs as he internally deliberates on finishing off this dance like this or give it the grandeur an exhibition of raw feelings like this deserves by eliminating the space between them.
Everything is hovering in the space between your mouths, incarnated as oxygen and carbon dioxide that you both exchange and let sink in your life blood. You’ve never felt life this before: the white-hot rush thrumming your entire being as if you’re a live wire; the tingle in your toes as they hover centimetres above the hardwood floor while he holds you up with his strong, lean arms; the want – need – to be taken and kissed hard and held close as universally possible. It all overwhelms and underwhelms you – the wait.
But as fast as you fell you picked yourself back up.
You pushed him away and let yourself back on the ground, the lingering press and warmth of his fingers on your waist a fading reminder of what-could-have-been. You tell him hastily that you are sorry for the bother, that you will go, and that he should forget what just happened.
You tell him I’ll be going now, have a good day, and I’m sorry before gathering enough strength to turn away from him, bolt to the front door and run all the way home.
You think if you both are friends still, or something more. You’re not sure of where you both stand now, and the uncertainty frays at your resolve and all you want to do is get out of here. But there’s this niggling hope that somehow he’ll stop you, make you change your mind, and sweep you off your feet.
Then, as your fingertips ghost over the cold surface of the brass doorknob you hear him.
It’s only then do you realise how the permeating soft heat lingering along the expanse of your back reminds you of home, and how his body aligns with yours perfectly the moment you turned around to look at him.
His fringe falls over his beautiful dark eyes that are boring straight into yours.
He opens his mouth to say, I want you to stay, don’t walk away. Please be mine, please don’t go. Change your mind.
And he means everything with every fibre of his body and you actually feel and believe it. He brings up his much larger and warmer hand to cup at your cheek, the roughness of the pads of his fingers and the petallike softness of your flushed cheek a deep contrast that makes him and you want each other all the more.
He bends down towards you, much like the way the moon bends to pull at the tides, and asks permission to kiss you. This in itself destroys and cuts all of your doubts into a hundred thousand dazzling stars that solidifies into a galaxy of what’s-to-come and the surety that this is right.
So you tilt your face up to be kissed.