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Walk of the Alone
When I see him, it is not enough to simply stare. My eyes feast on his smile, the way the corners of his lips turn up as if by an invisible tug of string; they watch the way his body moves, confident but with an air of grace that pulls at the heart; and they gaze at his eyes, two pools of a translucent blue that makes the starer feel as though they can stare through HIM rather than the other way around.
But it is not enough.
So, naturally, I follow him.
Where he steps, my feet find seconds later. I’m so close that I could reach out and brush his shoulder, feel the warmth of his skin.
He walks down the hall, eyes down. It’s different than the laid back and drawn out easiness of his usual pace. This is hurried, the type of walk that never stops. Its always trying to get somewhere but not getting there fast enough - all due to the fact that there’s nowhere actually to go. This is the Walk Of The Alone.
It is my walk now, too.
The school rushes by in laughter and in happiness. There are smiles and there are hugs. Playful shoves, romantic kisses, high-fives. There is gossip, the type with no intentional malice but a conversation piece. There is gossip, the type with incredibly intentional malice and haughty glares thrown over the shoulder.
This is high school.
He slips past it all, silent, stopping for nobody - even when his best friend glances up, frowning. I watch as they make eye contact. His friend’s eyes harden, jaw clenching. He pushes his legs faster. I feel like I’m almost running to keep up. His friend’s eyes slide over me, and his smile, though forced, resonates for his other group of friends. It’s a smile of someone who’s trying to live in the past and the future and ignore the present - and I can tell it’s utterly failing.
We are practically racing now. I glance sharply at his classroom that he’s run by; there’s only just under a minute until the bell will sound. Where is he going? He’s not the type to skip class.
But he runs anyways, past the classroom, past the second hallway, then the third, and down the stairs to the main lobby. The front doors are swinging shut just as I shove them forward and stumble into the crisp morning air.
My breath frosts quickly as I pant, jerking my head around. He is nowhere in sight. Something deep inside me breaks, I can feel it - it’s like something falling and never reaching the bottom, and endless pit of nauseating uneasiness and something missing.
He is gone.
As I turn back to the building, I catch something in the corner of my eye - a flash of color. I snap my head around again, and see him running, black shirt vibrant against the white of the building.
He slides past the school and continues into the trees, about one to two hundred meters away.
Good thing I’m a Cross Country runner.
The bitter air helps sharpen my senses, and I concentrate on pumping my legs and moving my arms in rhythm, bouncing more on the mid-to-tips of my feet. This feels good, feels right. I’m full again, the thing inside me floating up and swelling in my heart, threatening to tighten my lungs. I hope I won’t pass out until I reach him.
Although I remain far back, he is always in sight. We run for what feels like days, months, years; all I know is that he’s there, and I’m here, and even though there is only distance between us, it feels like we are separated by a different universe.
Finally, he slows to a quick walk, turning right down a dirt path. Clean, fresh green grass rolls across the land on both sides, embedded with weeping willows and flowers and clean-cut hedges.
And everywhere, there are headstones.
Most are up to my waist, and are incredibly beautiful; but all the same, there is emotion here. Mostly just a simple sadness, with veins of pain and joy weaved through every name, every date of death.
It always strikes me how this yard of graves is, in fact, a very grave yard.
I’m beside him now. I peer at him through my hair, his furrowed eyebrows and his set jaw. The way his eyes burn is frightening and exciting; I picture that is how my eyes burn, for him.
If he notices me, he doesn’t acknowledge my presence. But his head lifts, and his chin juts forward, and for just that moment, he is the boy I fell in love with.
We walk, and even though I know where he’s going, I stay beside him.
A turn right. Left. Straight. Then down one of the rows of gravestones, until he stops at the twelfth one in.
He’s so still, and yet he won’t stop moving. Hands twitching a little, slightly shaking his head. It’s only minutes before the tears come, and they are slow and quiet as they roll down his face.
He releases one sob,- just one - and my heart shatters.
“I miss you,” he says, hands trembling as he reaches forward. Then he stops, and slowly retracts it until it swings loosely at his side. “I think about you everyday, you know. Every. Day.”
Tears are flowing down my face, now, too. I know there is nothing I can do to help him. This is his pain, an inward pain so deep nobody has the power to scoop it out and cleanse the wound.
How do I know? Because I can feel it, right now.
“I think about you, too,” I whisper. He can’t hear me, but it’s nice to know that I can respond, tell him how I feel.
“I will always love you,” he murmurs, and with those words, his eyes close, and he hangs his head. He rocks back and forth on his heels.
Again, and again, and again, this is where we are. Standing one foot from each other with incomprehensible dimensions between us. This endless frustration of being so close I can feel the physical pull of him, and yet I am always fighting, pushing back.
They say life is cruel, and they are wrong. They say death is cruel, and they are even more wrong.
Love is cruel. It is the cruelest of them all.
And yet without it, life and death would have claimed me before I even had a chance.