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Freeze Frame I

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People say that when you squint, the world goes black-and-white. I used to believe that. But now on this August evening, sitting on a green bench with ancient flaking paint, no matter how I move my face there is no defeating the sparkling colors that blur in the sweat running through my eyes. The air is dyed bronze; his shirt is deep, hungry red. All else is trees and grass and fear.

Friends swirl in the field just ahead, catching glimpses of me to send good luck this way. On our backs is the rusty brown wall—I feel something shoving steadily into my shoulders. I cannot tell if it is a heartbeat or the music playing inside. Counselors cast tiger-eye glares on us every minute and freeze me in place. I sit still on the outside but I am leaping, roiling, shaking within.

The sky is bruised with purple and its glow is fading. If I wait any longer, I will crumble, so I find my voice and let the truth claw its way out.

“I love you.”

I taste my words in the air—three tiny words, yet the need to say them so great. I have never meant anything as much as this.

The music silences. The dancing crowds are locked in place. The earth stops its turn and everything seems to lean into me as I wait for him to speak.

“Ich liebe dich,” he murmurs in his sandpaper voice. “Which is German for ‘I love you too’.”

I slip into a trance, letting this moment swallow me. The world around us resumes its Saturday night. His sentence plays in my head over and over. It crawls across my arms; it slides down my knees, knocked together in anticipation; it spirals into a bolt of lightning from my throat to my stomach.

As we inhale in the last of the swollen sunset, I imagine I am looking down on myself from above. I float and I watch: a boy in scarlet and a girl in turquoise, shoulders slumped together in the shadow of the rec hall’s awning. I can see right through them. I see the stardust they draw in with every eager breath.



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