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Only a Number

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You invited me over to watch anime. It’s your favorite show, I guess. We’ve been leaning up against your bed with a couple of inches of space between us for over two hours. I wonder what your parents think, hearing us laughing, shrieking, angrily shouting, our entranced silence. It must be strange for a girl to be over at your house. They gave me strange looks when I greeted them. But I don’t care right now. I’m watching this with you. And I’m having tons of fun.

Suddenly, tragedy strikes and I can’t help the tears that fall down my face. It’s as if the world has ended. My heart slows, my breath is shallow, and my chest aches. Then, I look at you. You share my tears.

I’m leaning into your shoulder, pressing my wet cheek into your chest. You rest your face against the top of my head and reach your arm over my trembling shoulders. The weight is comforting and the depression begins to lift. A glow surrounds me, beginning in my cheeks and spreading to my toes. I nuzzle my face against your neck and you brush your hand along my jaw. My heart skips a beat and I tilt my face to look up at you, into your blue eyes that look like summer, are youthful and warm, perpetually questioning, hinting, and hoping.

And then it hits me. I realize just where I am, what I was just doing, and who has their arms around me. I shrink inside. An ugly dagger of guilt pierces my content. I pull away from you, slowly extricating myself from your warm embrace. Suddenly I’m cold. I try not to look at you. I stare at the screen, deadpan. You glance at me repeatedly, trying to catch my eye, but I won’t look. I put a fake smile on, I laugh at all of the right parts. I’m impatient to leave. But I don’t want to seem rude.

The anime finally ends after an excruciating thirty minutes. I get up and say I should probably call my mom. You follow, grabbing my arm before I can reach the door, “Wait… Can I ask you something?”

I have a mini heart attack. I’m afraid. So afraid I don’t dare look at you again should I burst into tears again. Somewhere it must say that it’s wrong to like you. Maybe there’s a little rule book about love. I wish I was able to read it. Then I could have given you a real answer.

“Uh-huh…?” “Do you like me?” “That’s… a tough question…” “I won’t judge you, whatever you answer.” “…yes and no.” “Why no?” “Because… there’s kind of… a problem…” “Like what?” “…age…”

Age? Yeah, you’re three years younger than me. Why is that so wrong? Well, written somewhere in that little rule book is the law that girls can’t like guys younger than themselves. That’s just not normal. Yet, guys can like girls younger than themselves… Am I missing something?

“I’d like to convince you otherwise.” “Can we just be good friends…?” “Sure.” “I mean, you really don’t mind, right?” “Sure.”

I can tell that you really do mind. You care. And now you probably hate me. All because of some subliminal norm that’s been ingrained into society. Don’t worry, I hate myself, too. I’m a wimp. I shouldn’t have to feel so pressured because of society. I mean, times are changing. Can’t I date a guy younger than me and not be ridiculed?

You go over to remove the DVD from the player. Your feet drag, your head hangs, your eyes don’t see, and your fingers are clumsy. What happened to my happy, youthful friend who smiled the world in the face? My guilt is sealed. To see you this way. To see you as the walking dead. I can’t stand myself. I can’t stand society and its stupid rules. I will not follow over the deadly cliff like some conformist sheep!!

I stand behind you. “Don’t turn around. Don’t speak. I… I don’t think I’ll be able to say this if you do.” I take a deep breath and shut my eyes tightly. “I… I just w-want to say th-that… I didn’t mean what I said. I-I like you. A lot. And… I’ve changed my mind. I’m sorry… if I caused you pain just now. I was just… afraid that I’d make the wrong decision. You’re the closest thing I have to a best friend and I didn’t want to ruin that… So… I…”

I open my eyes and find that you’ve turned around. A smile like sunshine is on your lips. Your blue eyes are brimming with something unfamiliar, unnamable, a feeling that is beyond all knowledge, a feeling that transcends time, a feeling that has no age limit.

“This is a little embarrassing… especially since I’m 17 and all… but, um… will you be my first kiss?”

***

“Age is only a number.”



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