He was pressed up against somebody else and I wanted it to be me. She was saying "no, no," and trying to squirm away in her stilettos as he pushed himself into her against the wall, breathing beer breath into her cleavage, his eyes hungry and drooping. He was trying to kiss her, swaying his face close, and she dodged. I watched with envy. Others didn't watch at all, hardly took notice, downing their questionable cocktails on the rooftop bar overlooking the river, lights squiggling under a shining moon. Laughter and pop music. Friendships that wouldn't last. When finally the girl managed to get away, back to the safety of her friends, I placed myself strategically so that I would be the next victim. Right in his line of sight. He came to me like a fly to paper. I pretended to struggle. I gave the fight that was due, but it was only pretend, because I wanted to kiss him too.
"Okay," I smiled, as he had me leaned against the bar. "I'll kiss you, but only if you put my number onto your phone and call me this week. I don't want just a random hook up."
"Yeah yeah," he slurred, and handed me his phone. I put a winky face next to my name, and (Altitude Bar) in parenthesis just in case he didn't remember who I was. Then, he slid his phone back into his pocket and he'd earned his kiss. Lots of kissing, heating quickly, we had to move out of the bar and down to the ashy stairwell where he sat and I straddled him, and we danced to the music echoing from upstairs. I moved my groin against his to the beat, and I couldn't understand why we couldn't stop kissing. Why the taste of his mouth was so addictive, why with every kiss I needed another one, and another one, and another one; insatiable, the more I got the more I wanted. I thought that there must be a magic happening between us, an incredible electricity that only we could feel, pulling our bodies together like magnets. Stuck together, possibly forever; magic.
I didn't understand it. I'd never felt it before. I was only fourteen.
Last night he came to me in a dream and apologized. In the dream, I was sitting by the ocean shore with a large box that I had to deliver to my current boyfriend, a therapist who works in a psychiatric hospital with fourteen year old girls. It was a heavy box that I struggled to carry, and I was staring out into the waves pondering the burden of having to bring it to him, not even really knowing what was inside. Something fragile. Then Leon suddenly appeared. I hadn't seen him in many years, and I was startled to see him show up there on an empty beach in a dream, a place that was nowhere and everywhere, blankness, the shoreline, the meeting place. Where the unknown meets the traversable. He sat down beside me in broad dream-daylight, in a black t-shirt and jeans, clothing like my boyfriend would wear. I didn't want anything to do with him; I'd avoided thinking about him all of these years, and who was he to show up now, in a dream of all places. But as soon as I turned to look at him, I saw that something had changed. He'd grown, and he was softer now. He sat down next to me in the sand with his heart wide open, and he said, "I came to apologize to you."
Of course, after the drunken bargain, he never called. Still, I had waited by the phone. And I waited, and I waited all weekend, but he didn't call. Our heated night had ended when whispers of "raid, police," turned into shouts of "Raid! Police!" and everyone, all the 14-16 year olds who'd gathered at the one bar in town that didn't card—a cramped, smokey shophouse attic—scrambled away. Leon and I ran hand in hand, out into the fresh night. I could feel that he was treasuring me, wanting to kiss me more and more. I checked my blue plastic watch and saw that it was my curfew though, and that I had to get home. "So you'll call me, right?" I asked. He was holding me tight against his body, our faces so close, and it felt sensational; I mean really, I was lost in his caramel eyes. I had never felt so close to someone, not in this way. Not to a boy. Eyes staring at each other, so close, like this. "I'll call you," he promised, and he kissed me goodbye. I got into a taxi and went home to sleep in the pink bunk beds I'd had since I was six, feeling warm and fuzzy inside. The night had been amazing! And he would call me!
Monday came and he hadn't called but maybe he probably had his reasons, or he was just waiting, and I figured I might see him at school, and boy wouldn't that be exciting. I woke up Monday morning fantasizing about us meeting in the hallway, sneaking out of class to steal another kiss behind the lockers. Anything could happen! I took a long time in the bathroom getting ready for school that day. My faithful cat sat up against the mirror, meowing at me as I put on and wiped off, put on and wiped off, put on and wiped off eye make-up. I was careful to choose a lip gloss that tasted good.
I did see him. It took all day; it wasn't until the slog between fourth and fifth period, in a crowded hallway, one where you have to walk slow because of all the people caught together in human traffic. I'd been losing hope as the school day was ending, but as I was moving dazed with the slog, all of the sudden he was right there in front of me. I froze. He stiffened too. In the moment, I didn't know what to do. "Hi," I said. Icy heat rushed into my body, sweating in its gray school uniform. "Hey," he barely muttered. He glanced at me quickly. Then, moving with the human traffic, he passed me by.
We met again that way three or four times that week. I came to know when our paths would meet in the map of the hallway, between which and which class. There was never more than a stiff "hey," the icy heat in my face, and quickly averted eyes. He never called. Was he shy? Maybe he was just shy. That could be it. I mean, the electricity that we'd experienced, the way our bodies matched, that was undeniable. It was so intense. So real. Maybe it was too much for him? Too much power, too much reality? Maybe he was busy with school. Maybe he was waiting for the weekend? Whatever the case, just passing him in the hallway, feeling that flash of closeness in our bodies, would make my entire day.
When the weekend came again, he was badgering another girl. A different one this time. Now that the police had cottoned on to our go-to bar, we took to drinking—cheap bottles from 7-11—in a hidden alleyway downtown. Fourteen and fifteen year old girls dressed up in their nicest high heels and tight dresses, drinking with drunk boys in the alleyway. Sitting out on the curbside, feeling my youth and watching the ruckus in an alcohol-induced fog, almost like slow motion, I thought that it was fun. When Leon rounded the corner, I was relieved to see him, even if he was following someone else. I'd been worried that he wouldn't come out, and I'd been waiting. Waiting all week. He didn't notice me there, sitting on the curb; or if he did, he was expert at pretending not to.
Heat raced to my chest. Maybe this was his game. A game that I could play. To win his heart. I'd waited for him all week, and I could wait some more. I kept him in the corner of my eye, and meanwhile chatted and laughed with other boys. Sometimes I tried to make my voice loud enough so that he could hear it. Who knows, maybe he was keeping me in the corner of his eye as well. Eventually the other girl disappeared like I thought she might.
After a while a smaller group pinched off, and it included both me and him. There were a few girls from my grade, ninth, but mostly it was boys from his, tenth. At school we wouldn't talk to each other or associate. We were all in separate social worlds, as far as school was concerned. There were boundaries. But at night, lubricated by alcohol, it was a different story; in the inter-school nightlife social world, boundaries were broken, and in the language of alcohol we could all talk.
With our loud noises we made our way down narrow winding streets and ended up seated at a late-night outdoor food court. Leon sat down first, in between a couple of his friends, who laughed as they slammed beer bottles down. I sat on the other side of the large round table, next to another friend of his. I wasn't sure whether Leon would just ignore me all night, but there was some kind of game happening and I could only guess at how to play. I wanted to rise to the challenge. With Leon, across the table, still in the corner of my eye, I leaned into his friend sitting next to me. His friend smiled; he had a kind, bashful smile. He asked me questions about myself. He was nice. There was no edge.
One of the boys next to Leon keeled over and began to puke. Everyone laughed like it was the greatest thing that had happened all night, and got up to pose around him for a group picture. We reshuffled when we sat back down, and Leon sat right down next to me. Bold. I looked down to my beer and glowed, but I didn't know what to do next. He was drunk again, and he still wasn't acknowledging me, not outwardly anyway. Even though he was sitting so close. It almost didn't matter though; I could feel our bodies connecting, burning for each other, even if our faces looked away. I breathed hard and dared myself. If he could sit down next to me, I could take the next step. I turned to him. "You didn't call me," I said softly, playfully, for no one's ears but his. I had no idea whether he heard me or not. He was still facing in the other direction and yelled something out at a friend. They were talking about sex. I hadn't really been listening to them; I'd been too busy in my own head, trying to figure out my move. He laughed at something his friend said, and then said, "man, look what I can do."
Grinning wildly towards his friends, he shoved his hand down the front of my shorts. Hard. It hurt. His fingers, like thick spiders, crawled their way into my underwear, and poked into crevices I'd never even touched myself before. "No!" I gasped, alarmed. Leon only smiled wider and dug his hand deeper. He liked resistance. He raised his eyebrows at his friends, who were giggling at this and that and now this, what Leon could do underneath my pants.
Was this normal? Should I be laughing, too? No one had ever been inside my pants before. But it hurt. He wasn't supposed to be there. Certainly not like this, and not when he never called. But should I let it slide, because Leon was giving me attention? Should I let him do it, because it was making everyone else laugh? What right did I have, to deny them that, and to deny him this? "Stop, get out," I repeated. He only sniggered. I pulled at his arm but he was strong.
"Come on," he said. Then he looked at me for the first time all night, the first time since we'd kissed a week ago. When our eyes met, I felt it again. The power that had kept me going all week. Electricity jolting through me from his caramel eyes. He leaned into me close, like we were sharing a world again. "It feels good, come on, trust me."
"It doesn't feel good," I argued, "please." My words were taken for meaningless.
"Come on," he repeated. Some of his friends were still looking, while others averted their eyes.
I don't remember much of what else happened that night, but I do remember running down another dark alleyway and he was chasing me. "You never called, you broke the deal!" I argued, walking swiftly in painful shoes. We were alone. "Come on!" he kept repeating, his only argument. Come on. He caught me when I reached the river. I was tired of running in high heels I wasn't used to wearing yet, and after dreaming all week of being in his arms again... It was easier to kiss him than not to, to let myself believe that this was all part of the romance. Maybe this was how it worked. What was romance, anyway, if not this sensation between us? This magic, this electricity—this inner truth? I didn't know from romance, really. In novels I'd read, characters exchanged ID bracelets, but those characters lived years and years ago and things, it seemed, were different then. Not to mention that they were fictional, too, and I was navigating real life.
What I did know was that I was fucking lonely. Extremely lonely, like I was living in an invisible bubble that separated me from the rest of the world. I was sick of my own skin. I'd stare at it in front of the mirror in disgust, willing to get out, unable to fathom that I'd be spending the rest of my life with this reflection. Stuck inside this body. A life sentence; the prison of being me.
But maybe a boyfriend would change that? Someone to look at me with desire, with devotion. To make me feel worthy; and of course, to make my body feel like this, losing itself in this melty feeling. Leon was one of the most attractive boys from school, though in this understated kind of way. I found him irresistible. He was a catch—especially considering that just a matter of months ago, before I'd turned fourteen and started wearing tight clothing and going out to the bar and dancing in a way that felt natural to me, but in a way that boys noticed and called "like a bitch," nobody had even known who I was. I'd been living a life of misery, for so many young years. Now people knew me, and wanted me, and wanted me around, and life was exciting, and new, and fresh, and Leon, with the sexy skin and smirking smile and caramel eyes, wanted to kiss me.
I kissed him. I felt my body vibrate and succumb. His hands moved around me, and I wasn't really aware of what was going on because it was all a bit overwhelming—one minute he'd been chasing me, and now he had me. But then a dry voice from the curbside said, "you're letting him rape you." She startled us and we turned to look at her: a familiar face, a senior from school, but someone I'd never spoken to before. She took a drag of a cigarette and looked at me with slit, narrow eyes. I'd done something wrong in her eyes. It was my fault. I was dumb, I was stupid, I was amoral; I was letting someone rape me. I was confused, smiling blankly, not knowing how to respond. Her friend, a girl with pink hair, laughed and drank from a bottle of vodka. "Don't listen to her," said the pink haired girl, "she just has a crush on him." Leon smiled devilishly, unlaced his body from mine, and crouched down next to her. They started to talk and laugh, and she offered him a cigarette. I was forgotten. I looked at my watch and noticed that it was my curfew. "Bye," I said, but he didn't seem to hear me. I went to catch a cab.
I felt disgusted when I got home, but I couldn't put my finger on exactly why. I was happy to have been kissed, but I also felt wronged, misused, and dirtied. I felt a deep empty sadness, in a well inside of me. I was more alone than ever, separated from even myself, with a sharpness to it this time. Like the bubble that separated me from the world was made of blades. As I climbed into my bunk bed, sipping chocolate milk Mom had left for me in the fridge, I could still feel Leon's hand in that place underneath my shorts. The feeling of his hand there lingered along with that girl's slitty eyes. I wondered if he was kissing her right now, still by the river. I wondered if he stuffed his hand up inside her, too, and whether or not she liked it.
The whole next day I felt sick and didn't want to get out of bed. I saw Mom shoot Dad a critical glare. "Sarah is hungover?" she asked. He shrugged, and kept reading his magazine. There weren't many secrets in the house. Mom and Dad knew what I was doing when I went out, and I'd say they encouraged it more than anything. Dad remembered his party days from High School fondly. When I went to my first high school party, at the end of eighth grade, I told Dad about it the next day—how I'd sipped Bacardi breezer and laughed with my friends—and it made him smile like we were sharing a secret, like I was helping him to remember a treasured past, excavating it for him, and thus joining some club I hadn't known about. It felt good to be in the club; it made me feel right, accepted. He'd always told us stories of the keggers he'd thrown in his parents' basement while they'd sleep upstairs, totally clueless. Dad didn't want to be a clueless parent. He wanted to be cool. And now I was entering into the cool club, with him.
Mom had been popular and had fun in high school too. She'd boast compulsively about how everyone had been in love with her. She had the best legs, and the best hair, and the best dancing. All of the guys wanted her, except for the guys she really wanted. She'd tell this like she was sharing a favorite secret too, smiling like Dad did, remembering happy things. Things that seemed to make her proud. So it only made sense that I would try to match my parents in their glory years. They set the standard and, natural as breathing, I worked to meet it. I drank beers. I went dancing. I wore short shorts that showed off my legs. But I was always home in time for curfew, and there was always chocolate milk and snacks waiting for me in the fridge. And my meowing cats, my best friends, the only ones awake at the doorway to check that I'd made it home.
Being sick at least gave me an excuse to not feel pressured to go out that night. I could just stay home, and be alone with myself and my cats. Just be me. I popped some popcorn and heated some cocoa and went to my room to curl up in my cozy bottom bunk, like a fort, and watch one of my favorite movies. Romeo + Juliet, the one with Leonardo DiCaprio.
As I was crawling into the covers, my phone buzzed unexpectedly. An unknown number. I felt my heart kind of click. "Where r u."
I'd pretty much given up hope of Leon texting, consigned him off to that other girl, or any number of other girls. "At home, who is this?" I responded to the text. I could feel my heart beating really hard. I started the movie but I couldn't focus. I checked my phone again a few times, thinking that it had buzzed, but I was overeager. No messages. Finally, exactly an hour later, a response came. "Leon. Come out."
I shot out of bed and floated over to the mirror. I looked at myself, beaming. I looked into my eyes, blue and shining. I looked pretty. Sexy, even. Gorgeous. I imagined him, wherever he was, looking at his phone and scrolling through his numbers to find my name. My name on his mind, on his thumb. I couldn't take my eyes off of me. "I can't," I responded by text, "I'm sick."
No response. About an hour later though another unknown number called. I stared at it, then picked up. "Hello?" I asked.
"Hey, it's Damian," said the caller. Leon's best friend. An outgoing and silly kind of guy; a clown. I smiled widely. "What's up?" I asked.
"Leon really wants you to come out, are you really sick?" he slurred.
"Yeah...I am..." But I surged with adrenaline. Leon wanted me to come out—did he really? It was hard to say no, but I knew that I couldn't. That would be breaking the rules of this game that I was only just barely intuiting. This was a pivotal moment in our relationship. He wanted me, and I was unavailable; me being unavailable made him realize how much he wanted me.
"We're at a party at Marine Parade," Damian said.
"Oh, that's right near where I live..." Spears of energy, energy I'd lacked all day, shot through me. I went to the mirror and looked at myself again. My lips, my eyes, my cheekbones; everything suddenly appeared so attractive, so desirable. I throbbed. Should I go? Should I go? I looked back at the cozy nook in the bunk bed, the bowl of popcorn and mug of cocoa. My meowing cats.
No, better to leave it like this. Let Leon want me for the night. That was exciting. I could sleep in a glow again, knowing that Leon wanted me. Not the girl with the slitty eyes, or any of the others, but me; it was me that he was getting his best friend Damian to call up. Or maybe, because I couldn't come, he'd find a different girl to kiss. I knew that that was a possibility too. But at least he wanted me. He did want me too.
It took two weekends to see him out again. The alleyways that night were emptier than usual. Apparently there was some party happening somewhere where most people were, but my friends and I hadn't known about it. Leon's group showed up too—apparently they hadn't known about the party either. I warmed at seeing him, but Leon ignored me as usual. Actually, he acted like I was diseased. If ever I'd inch in his direction, he'd shoot away. He seemed angry.
Damian came over to my group to strategize. "There is nothing happening here," he said of the empty streets. "I think the party is at the Botanical Gardens, should we check it out?" We shrugged yes and shared taxis. Leon wasn't in mine. When we got to the Botanical Gardens, it was dark and empty. Pitch black. There was no party there. We all sighed. A bummer of a night.
"This sucks," Damian said.
"Yeah fuck this," concurred some of my friends. "Should we go back?" someone asked.
"No, there was nothing happening back there," we all agreed. There was an agitated moment of silence, then I suggested shyly, "we could go to my place." I lived in a condominium with a large pool, barbeque pits, greens and playgrounds. It was mostly empty this late in the night. Plus, if we were at my place, I didn't have to be home by curfew; I could just leave a note for my parents on the kitchen counter, that I was down by the pool, in case they woke up. There was new energy in the group with my suggestion. "Yeah," they all agreed. A new scene.
This time, I was in the taxi with Leon, wedged in the middle seat between him and my best non-cat friend at the time, Elsa. Damian sat in the front. Even if he'd been acting like I was plagued, I felt the power of Leon's body next to me. It had to mean something. Ice hot quivering, burning, sensational, and also just content. Excited. And a bit angry, tense, and scared too. We shot off into the night. Not long into the ride, Elsa bounced up in her seat and looked at us wide-eyed; she'd had an idea, one to save an otherwise losing night. "Let's have a threesome!" she exclaimed.
Now, Elsa wasn't a good friend. In fact, she was a terrible friend. A couple months later when one of my cats died, she invited me over to "say prayers and make a vigil and talk about your cat," but as soon as I arrived, traumatized, she forgot about all of that and commanded, "we're going out." I followed her, and was at least able to find solace in talking with other people, throughout the night, about my cat; they were concerned and gave me hugs and offered me condolences. When we got back to Elsa's room though, she barked, angry and upset, "sleep on the floor! You had such a better night than I did." Her room was enormous, with a king sized bed and a sleeper sofa. "What? This was the worst night of my life," I said, low and gravelly. I didn't have any fight in me. "My best friend died."
"Yeah, but I mean other than that," Elsa said. "So many more guys liked you than me." I slept on the floor.
Elsa didn't like it when "more guys liked me" than her. I began to learn that as soon as someone would find me attractive, she'd try to make her way between us. Elsa was intent on losing her virginity before her fifteenth birthday. Elsa was crazy. But I didn't really know that. Elsa had also been the one to save me from my previous best friend, an even worse best friend: my nextdoor neighbor who'd spent our entire childhood tormenting me mercilessly, trying best she could to turn everyone against me and make my life a living hell. When I met Elsa in the beginning of ninth grade, she was one of the only ones to not fall under the bully's spell. "Why do you hang out with her?" Elsa had asked. No one had ever asked me that question before. I hung out more and more with Elsa, and it was nice to have a friend that didn't ridicule me constantly. It felt amazing to not be ridiculed; to feel liked. With Elsa's help, I was finally able to say "fuck you" to the bully and go my own way. Well, Elsa's way. Elsa swept me up into an exciting world of nightlife, partying, drinking. Crazy nights; the crazier the better, for Elsa, like she was riding her youth like a raging bull. I found it amazing, glittery, and I felt alive. It was a social life. A life at all.
"No," I said immediately to the threesome idea.
"Come on," Leon said. His favorite phrase. He turned to me, for the first time in the night again. Even with his caramel eyes looking at me so close, melting me like they did, I said "No." I was defiant. I wasn't interested in a threesome with Leon and Elsa.
Damian turned back in his seat with blazing, wild eyes. His tongue hung out like a dog's. "Can I film it?" he asked breathlessly.
"Perv!" Elsa giggled loudly, delighted. "Come on," Leon said again.
"Yeah, come on, Sarah," Elsa bolstered him. "It will be fun."
"Yeah, it will be fun," Leon said. They were ganging up on me, on either side, and I had to endure it for an entire twenty minute taxi ride.
A chorus of "come on, come on," and them both leaning their bodies over me towards each other, with Damian grinning and waving his phone around to film.
Finally we got to my condominium. The other cab had already arrived, and our other friends were waiting by the pool. "I'll talk to her," Elsa assured Leon.
"Fine," he said. She grabbed my hand and led me on a walk of our own. Around the grounds of the condominium I'd grown up in, learned to ride a bike in, learned how to swim in. Past the fish pond where Dad and I would come to feed the koi. Past the greens where my brother and I would race and race, to find out, once and for all, who was the fastest. My home territory.
Elsa walked holding my hand. "Why won't you do it?" she complained.
"I just don't want to," I said. I couldn't think of reasons. I just didn't want to. "But why?" Elsa demanded.
"Well..." I searched, but I couldn't articulate. "I really like him," I offered. As in, I didn't want to share. I wasn't sure if that was why, but it was something. "I'm not gonna, like, go for him, dude!" Elsa laughed, "He's yours! It's just a threesome, just for the experience. Just for the hook up."
"Well I don't want the experience," I said.
"Why?" she asked, "it will be so fun. It's like a thing that best friends do. We'll always remember it. This is the kind of things that best friends do. Just think, we'll be sitting in our rockers when we're seventy years old and laughing our asses off!"
She went on and on, arguing with me like this all the while holding my hand, for what felt like an hour. Finally she whipped out, "if you don't do this with me, it means that you don't love me. It will mean we're not friends anymore. But if you do, we'll be best friends forever." I didn't want to be lonely.
We went to the pool to fetch Leon. He could hardly believe it. We walked in a daze around the condominium, wondering where we could do it. "In the bathroom?" I asked, still resistant and clueless. "Ew!" Elsa cried loudly into the night, "I'm not doing it in the bathroom, gross!" Walking, we came to the playground where, if you climb up a small ladder, there is a sealed little bubble, made of green plastic, in the shape of a spaceship.
When my body was tiny enough to fit standing, I'd play space explorer in that spaceship. My brother and I would look out through the little window holes and examine the entire universe. I was dead set on making it to the moon.
We crawled in, crouched, and removed our clothing quickly. Leon lay in the middle, and we, the "best friends," perched on either side. His penis stood on end and we took turns figuring out what to do with it.
Elsa didn't last more than ten minutes. She quickly realized that the threesome grossed her out. She didn't like Leon licking me and then kissing her. With little explanation, she got angry and ran away. Literally ran. She hadn't wanted a threesome; she'd wanted attention, and then she'd wanted her way. That left me alone with him in the plastic darkness.
There was a silence, and Leon smiled at me. A softness descended on us. It was like his shell came off—whatever shell he wore around his friends, when out, or when at school. Whatever shell made him jab his hand down my pants one minute and ignore me the next. Alone together, enclosed, he was different. He felt real. He taught me how to touch him, how to feel him, how to taste him. And for the first time in my life, I made someone explode with pleasure, and felt what it feels like to be held afterwards. To feel my hair stroked. To share that kind of smile, those kind of chuckles, that kind of communication of two people who know each other intimately.
Around 3 a.m., his father called, angry and wondering where he was. He spoke to him on the phone with his hand still on my back. He had to go. I didn't try to get him to promise to call me afterwards.
We never spoke again. Not even a stiff "hey" in the hallway. The closest I got to him was when his friends at school would scream across the basketball court, "Hey Sarah! I hear you give good head!" A couple of them approached Elsa and me to ask for threesomes, but soon enough they went back to forgetting who I was.
I didn't play his game with him, if that was what it was, anymore. The next time I saw him in the alleyway, he was kissing another different girl. She had a beautiful body and perfectly straight hair, sunshine blonde. He probably really liked her, I figured. She was worthy. I hadn't been good enough. Not even good enough to earn his basic respect. Something about me was just wrong, off, and it hurt me like daggers. I writhed.
I soon stopped hanging out with Elsa, and going out at all. I stopped dancing. I forgot how to move with the music, and learned instead how to sway self-consciously—always cripplingly aware of the games going around me. It would be a handful of years before I'd "give head" again, and many more after that before I'd start learning how to be loved.
I still don't know what's in that box, the one on the dream-beach. Delivering it to my current boyfriend certainly doesn't feel like the answer. I still don't want to open it fully. It has something to do with the anxiety I've been carrying.
In the dream, after the beach we found ourselves on a bus. Leon was sitting near the front, sleeping, and I was towards the back. I was taking in his apologies, his explanations—whatever, in all these years, I'd conjured for him. I wanted, finally, to tell him how I feel too—for the very first time. So I moved to the front of the bus, and sat down next to him.
He woke up and smiled at me. He was soft, like he'd been in the spaceship, but he was also older now. There was maturity, respect, and manhood in him.
"Sorry, are you sleeping?" I asked.
"Not anymore," he said. He cared about me wanting to talk.
My childhood bully, the "best friend" that came before Elsa, was sitting in the seat behind. She got upset when Leon sat up. "Hey, you're blocking my sunlight!" she scolded, but we knew not to listen to her. At first I felt self conscious about speaking my piece, with so many others around us on the bus; I didn't want them all to hear. Leon felt no inhibitions though. He started to speak—he'd thought through more since we'd been on the beach—and he went on and on, until I had to interrupt him. I didn't care anymore what anyone would think; I deserved this. I looked squarely at him and said, "Now it's my turn to speak."
*Names have been changed