Two Men This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.


   The room was small and modest. There was no great ornamentation. It was simple anduseful. Nothing more. The only light came from a small nightlight plugged in tothe right of the door. The steady candle-colored light brushed his friend's face,causing the soft lines of youth to deepen and age. He sat quietly, doing nothingbut watching his friend's face.

He had watched it all night. He hadstared hour after hour, monitoring its every change. The moonbeam that had beenon his friend's chest when he began his vigil was now in the middle of the floor.But the man did not notice. All he saw was how much of his friend's face he didnot know. The creases in his brow caused by the illness's pain were new. Thepaleness of his skin and lips was new, and his matted, sweat-drenched hair wasnew. The whole face had changed, but not completely. The man could still see hisfriend's face, just under the lines and paleness. The face that had looked downat him from tree branches. The face that had laughter creases. The face whoseeyes shone like two piercing, white stars when they talked. He could see thatface still, sleeping just below the surface. The face that was in so manymemories.

Memories. All night while looking at the face memorieshad come. Some were familiar and some he had nearly forgotten, but they all werearound that face during some part of its life. It was a night of memories becausehe did not want to be in the present. Not when it happened. Not then. He did notwant that memory because that memory would be the most clear, because it would bethe last.

He didn't want it, but he did not leave. The face held himthere. He could not plead with it to let him go because it was his friend's, andto do so would be against friendship's bonds. Also, there was a part of him thatsaid he had to and wanted to be there when it happened.

He had to witnessit, not be told by someone else. He must remain and watch him. Watch him slipfrom him. Watch him leave him. Watch him abandon him. Watch him break him. Watchhim. He wanted to tell him things; wanted to thank him; to tell him how much hemeant to him, to tell him how much he would be missed, to give him a reason tostay, he thought childishly. He could not say it to the face, not when its eyeswatched him, because the eyes told him they already knew. Still he wished hecould say it to make sure. He wanted to convey everything that could be conveyedby words, that small drop of things.

His friend's mouth moved ever soslightly, and in that instant, death came, and bore him away. There was no strongwind, no fluttering of the nightlight's steady glow, no rain, no lightning, nostopping of night noises. Everything remained as it had been. Except his friend.He saw the instant happen. He could not remember the instant before it, when lifewas still there. He could only remember the instant it happened and the instantafterward. He reached for his friend's wrist. It was warm. He held it, trying tocall what had caused the warmth to come back. But no pulse came.

He feltmortal. So very mortal, and tired. His breath came deeply and hurt his throat.The room became very sharp; he saw its every detail. He lay his head and arms onthe quilt covering his friend. It was soft and he could feel the hands that hadheld it and stitched it so neatly and with such love. He let himself fall intoit, and forget the world outside the room. He closed his eyes and cried. Criedfor a young man's death. For the last memory his friend's face occupied.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the September 2002 Teen Ink Fiction Contest.






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