Broken Barriers

I blinked, waiting for him to look away, the one dismissive look that would throw away all of the bizarre ideas that were now forming in my head. But he stood there, staring at me as if I was some intriguing object that he had just noticed. I couldn’t help but notice that his eyes were pleading, forming new questions in my head and I struggled not to back away. People walked hurriedly through the subway line, some of them impatiently walking in between the small gap between us, giving me a chance to breathe a sigh of relief and take a few breaths or two. My new thin flannel shirt was sticking to my arms uncomfortably and I cursed myself silently for using up half of my allowance on it when I noticed a small tear on the fragile material. “Lea.” Suddenly he was there, right in front of me, and I forgot how to breathe all over again. “What do you want?” My voice was neutral yet slightly on the angry side, which it had always been with him. It was unspoken rule between us: avoid each other at all possible cause. So what was he doing, stepping over the barrier?
Seeing his face up so close to mine, it was hard not noticing the near perfection of his nose. I hated him for it. I’ve always had a thing for noses. “Why…” My eyes quickly flashed back to his, before he could interpret my ogling for something else and have yet something else against me. “Why did we start doing this?” His question startled me, and I felt my face soften, letting my guard down. “Doing what?” The words felt stupid as soon as it left my mouth and I could already feel the annoyed expression forming on his face. But instead he pointed at himself and then to me. “This. Acting like we’re mortal enemies.” Curious bystanders stood nearby, watching for my reaction. It wasn’t exactly a hidden secret at school that we couldn’t stand each other. “I haven’t really given it a chance to think about it.” He smiled unexpectedly, and I couldn’t help but notice that he had a nice smile. “It’s been three years and whatever that was bothering us… I don’t feel it anymore. Do you?” He sounded oddly sincere, and suddenly I was overwhelmed with confusion and guilt. Was it just me, was I being the bad guy here? I couldn’t remember what was so wrong with him, what made me so angry in the first place. I bit my lip, and my angry stance faded. “I can’t remember…”
My brow furrowed as I only conjured brief flashbacks of us leaning away from each other, our expressions disgusted and bitter at the jokes thrown at us. “Oh c’mon guys, get over it. Why do you guys hate each other so much?” I saw the smirk forming on his face and he looked over at me, laughing as he said, “It’s just that she exists, you know?”
Anger swept over me again and this time I looked up and met his eyes and clarity. His eyes widened when he saw the outright anger in my eyes. “‘It’s just that she exists, you know?’” I mocked, looking him in the eye. His eyes narrowed. “It was a joke. I thought you knew it.” “Our jokes ran deep, didn’t it? It lasted three years.” I hated how angry I sounded, how the sadness was so transparent through every word. “It was stupid.” “It was.” “I can apologize.” “Then why don’t you?”
Then he flashed his eyes at me, cutting me short of breath. “Why won’t you admit that you were wrong too? It wasn’t just me, and you know it. You’ve built up this wall between us- made everyone turn against me-“Turn against you? You’re the one who started this.” He took a slow breath and shoved his hands into the ugly green sweater I knew so well. “I’m trying to apologize here, Lea. Next year we’ll be seniors and maybe we’ll never see each other after that, who knows. I don’t want to end the year with bad terms with anybody, and the only person I really want to do that with is you.”
The words were twisted so ironically, almost sounding like a confession. It’s crazy how much I longed for this before. The 7 train skidded to a stop, the doors gliding open in front of us. My stomach knotted, the familiar feeling swooping over me as I allowed my anger to fade away, slowly. I hadn’t allowed myself to feel this in a long time, but it was familiar and comforting, while at the same time, confusing and terrifying. We looked at each other before stepping into the train. He took the seat next to mine, and I didn’t complain. A few moments passed. “I have a question… It’s something I’ve been wondering about since freshman year.” I looked up. “That ring,” he said, pointing at the pinky ring on my left hand. “I’ve never seen you without it. Does it mean something…?” I smiled. “Would it be weird if I said no?” He laughed. “I guess not.” My mind raced with thoughts, wondering why he was being so courteous. Before I could stop myself, I turned to him and pressed my lips firmly together. “Since you’ve asked a question…” It was his turn to look at me, curiously. “Why do you always wear that ugly sweater?” He stopped smiling and looked down to inspect it. “I don’t know. I don’t really notice what I wear.” “You’ve had it since freshman year.” “Oh. Did I?” We both laughed, and it was strange, but also nice. It felt liberating, like a balloon floating up into the sky. I wasn’t sure whether this would be just a one time thing and whether everything would go back to the way it was, but I could feel it. The walls were tumbling down between us and we were co-existing. Sitting next to each other in the train. He turned to me and smiled. “It’s nice, isn’t it?” “It is,” I agreed, and I turned to look out at the city buildings flying behind us.





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