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The Black Rose - A Fictional Story This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I sat in the small coffee shop drinking some black American coffee. The only way I'll have American coffee is black, because I'm too used to the strength of Spanish coffee. Suddenly, I noticed a tall figure walk in and buy a bagel. He didn't sit near me, so I re-entered the fantasy world of my walkman and sketchbook. My new centaur designs were finishing up nicely. On the table in front of me there was a display of finished and unfinished designs. Some were unicorns, others were dragons, and others were creatures that didn't even have names. It was a colorful array of unique creatures that didn't exist, and that was why I liked them.

I was so absorbed in my work that I failed to see the black clad figure in front of me. He was easily three or four inches taller than I, and he was obviously interested in my work. I offered him any of the available couch-like benches, and he claimed the one to my right with gratitude. I turned off my walkman, and his embarrassed statement was, "I didn't mean to interrupt you, I ... I'll leave if you want." I smiled and said, "Don't worry, I get a headache from the earphones after a while, and my hand is getting cramped."

We continued a simple conversation about artwork, materials, and sources for ideas. We had a lot in common, except he had more ideas, and I had better artwork.

After about a half an hour, I found myself drawing this odd little creature he described. I don't know if he meant it but when I finished he exclaimed, "That's it exactly." We left the coffee shop to walk around, and I tried to get him to talk about himself. All he said was, "I'm a senior in high school, and it doesn't get more interesting than that." His wild imagination was incredible.

Around 6 o'clock I had to take the train home. He smiled reluctantly and replied, "I'll walk you there." Before we reached the station, he vanished, only to return two minutes later. I was going through the turnstile when he grabbed my wrist and quietly whispered, "Wait ..." He put a single black rose and a note in my hand. He turned around and disappeared into the crowd. The rose was beautiful, the black gave it a mysterious, surreal touch. His letter was puzzling. It read ... "If you knew me, you wouldn't want to know me. I'm alive, but I'm already dead. A poisonous love is my greatest pain. My addiction had no gain. It was strange for someone to reach out to me. Whenever I reach out for help, I am repudiated. I can't fool you any longer. I'll tell you the truth so that you'll hate me too. I used IV drugs and acquired HIV. I know it's my fault. I privately hope you don't hate me." He gave me his phone number and address. I knew why he avoided all the questions about his school, his family, and his past. My heart went out to him. He was so alone. I sent him a note saying to meet me at the coffee shop the following week.

He was there before me. He looked paler, nervous, and ready to cry. I saw him, went over to him, and before he could say anything, I did the last thing he expected. I gave him a hug. He cried all his fears into my shoulder and we talked all day. He gave me more great character ideas, and we had endless phone calls for weeks after. He was in and out of the hospital, and I visited him. I gave him one of my sketchbooks when he entered the hospital permanently. I had no problems going to visit him because he was so happy to see me, and the staff knew he had no other visitors. Some of the people around him were distant, especially a few of the interns, but he shrugged it off. He kept himself busy by writing stories for all of my drawings. I kept all the stories in a portfolio.

I was there when he died, but we had talked about that a lot. He made me promise not to cry, so I didn't until I was alone. He had touched my life and influenced me greatly. He made me see life from a new perspective. If only others had realized the great gifts he had and the love he spread. I had a lot of pictures of him, and I made a big collage for my room. He made me take back my pictures, so I put them with his stories in a "book." I visited his grave the other day. I smiled thinking about the day we met. I put a single black rose on his grave. n


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






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