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You Can Leave This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

If you have to leave, then leave. As thoughts of us shatter impossibly to the floor, my eyes flicker to and from each of your eyes because I'm too close to look at both simultaneously. Your eyes are the same stained chocolate brown, but somehow different. The willingness to let go is too much, so I shut you out and close my lids, bringing my face to an angle you can't reach with your smile.

Subconsciously, I go back to the days at the lake. Summer days often led you through my camp's squeaky spring door in the early hours of the morning to wake me up. Friends know the ways I do not like being woken up, but you seem to know them best. Your graceful practice of kissing my forehead is far more compelling than a shrill scream as the covers are ripped from my warm body. Your lips are warm and smell of coffee as if to remind me of my habitual cravings. As I sit up, leaning against the headboard, you flash a grin and in an inviting half-whisper say, “Good morning.” The sun is seeping through the thin pine walls and I know it would feel cheerful against parts of my skin not covered by my bathing suit. I grab your hand and lead you to the morning water.

Days continued with bottomless cups of Joe and sometimes swimming when my forlorn puppy eyes worked strategically against your desire to stay dry. Swimming with you was predictable but never tedious. Racing to the slick rock adjacent to the shore line, we'd fight for power of the stone. Balancing on each other's feet was a game I loved. It was like our toes were at war. Our daring arms would fight for their territory on this rock and whoever lost balance first would sink to the bottom. Who's to decide who wins this game if we both fall? One of us could never be on top while the other was sinking; it was our way of life. It's comical how entertained we were by silly games like this. But I guess they were traditions. The water game would always end with you holding me as if I weighed five pounds. In water I did; with you, I floated.

When your puppy eyes worked, you could get anything. The little things you would ask for were never much and yet I would still deny you at times, mostly when your obsessive need to kayak kicked in. Plans to kayak every day to “jack up” your muscles always failed, but it was fun to see you try. Though when you could convince me to ride the waves, I couldn't help but have a blast. You would want to race. I wouldn't. You would want to go miles. I wouldn't. I splashed; you whined. I splashed; you soaked me. We laughed, then flipped. Sometimes paddling deep into small canals of the lake, we would find trails in the woods. I imagined they were made by Native Americans or wild horses booming through the forest. Maybe they were made by unicorns or hyppogriffs, like in the world of Harry Potter.

The mosquitoes thrived there. As if they knew we would take our bodies to their dining table, they waited until our kayaks were pulled from the water to attack. Once we connected that the blood on our legs was a result of the friendly hum of bugs in our ears, we would run. Ripping our kayaks from the trees, we would jump from the bank and paddle, splashing with all our might, until you were far, far ahead of me, a distant dot. You would put your paddle down and turn back to find me with my paddle down as well, having given up long ago. Smiling at the sun reflecting off the rippling water around you, I could say anything and you could hear it echoing off the water. So I chose my words carefully. “Will you be around next summer?”

And now, you look at me with vulnerability as I turn my head with tears in my eyes, which I try to play off as allergies. Why do I ask this question when I know the answer will feel like a fresh piercing through a defenseless part of my body? Sometimes I wish you'd duct tape over my questions with suggestions of sitcoms or Eggo waffles with syrup in every square, but I know you're just a guy. I pretend you remember the exact way you felt on certain nights that felt so extraordinary to me. I make myself a quick note to ask if you do.

I'd like to ask you about the times when your parents were gone. They would say, “Just one friend,” and I would get the anticipated phone call. The begging would begin to let me sneak an episode of “Friends” while the afterglow of the day began to make itself known. You'd roll your eyes, accepting my ­obsession. It always started with an, “I love this episode” from my lips and ended with a kiss from yours.

We want to swim. This time, not so predictable and this time, no rock. You ignite the tiki torches surrounding the gray water of your pool to keep the bugs away while I change into my suit. My pale toes hit the water as dusk sets in, and before I'm up to my waist, you cannonball silently and gracefully. You think I think it's because you're brave. I know it's because you're too much of a coward to inch into the cool, shallow water. I smile anyway.

Twirling face first to the cement of the pool bottom, I let myself even out and look to the surface from underneath. I'm afraid of opening my eyes at night underwater. There could be creatures crawling about like centipedes with gills. I straighten my bent legs and launch up, cutting like a blade through the water. I reach you in seconds and you instantly recognize my irrational fear. “Are you making fun of me?” I giggle accusingly. You nod. You jump out and hand me a linty towel and blow the torches out. It's sad you get cold so easy. Maybe you could work
on that.

In the beginning, I waited for the end. Now, at the end, I wish for the beginning. Caring for each other means when your parents are gone, I remind you to drink milk. I know you don't drink milk, but I will remind you anyway. Caring also means forgiving me when I make mistakes, even when I don't deserve it.

You look at me now, still questioning, and I can't help but ignore everything you're asking and just ask you to hold on. The glow of the shades tells us it's nearly morning, but it can't be time to leave yet. I pictured this day as a sad one. Secretly I hoped you'd hate me by now and we wouldn't have to say good-bye under pleasant circumstances. The shades are getting lighter and my eyes fall from your face.

I see crumpled boxes labeled, and the things I gave you are gone (packed or hidden?). What would new friends think of the cheesy, homemade anniversary gifts or scrapbooks of letters from me to you? They wouldn't say much, to your face.

Again, you look up with your long, bold lashes, begging for reassurance, and I realize you remember all those days at the lake and all those nights stretched over three short years. My cheeks flush as I realize how foolish I've been and how much time I've wasted.

The sun is undeniably up, pouring golden shadows across the empty bedroom. The room isn't how I pictured it empty, or rather, how I thought it would feel. I foresaw it feeling cold and lifeless, but instead it's the opposite. The room is empty, but my mind isn't. I close my eyes and picture everything the way it used to be: string instruments in the corner, unused video games stacked on the shelf collecting dust, and the TV, on which you forced me to watch “Star Wars.” I see much-used books on the blue carpet by the head of your bed and records piled high next to your incense burner. I know the room doesn't look the same, but it feels like a school night again and everything has to be in the same place because I have to be home by
8 p.m.

Your face shows weariness; you've had enough of me pulling away. You pull me close enough to smell your familiar scent; I don't resist. Tears well up and my makeup runs. You wipe them away in a vulnerable fashion.

You let me cry.

If you have to leave, then leave. My eyes flick to and from yours because I'm too close to look at both simultaneously. Your eyes are the same stained chocolate brown, but somehow different. The willingness to let go is too much, so you hold me tighter.

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

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the June 2011 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.




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This article has 7 comments. Post your own!

RainWashedThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 22 at 8:07 pm:
This was fantastic! It was unique and emotional! I loved the way that you ended it the same way that you started it. I don't pretend to know what love is, but I think that you've captured it beatifully! Wonderful work you have here. Maybe you could check out some of mine and give me some feed back on what I'm doing right? Again, fantastic job!
 
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ElizabethSO said...
Dec. 27, 2012 at 9:29 pm:
Apparently like many other readers, I too almost cried when I read this. The emotional intensity of your language is so powerful and captivating that I almost felt what you must have felt at the moment you describe. Great job!
 
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AngelBaronThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Apr. 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm:
This piece made me cry. I love it, all the while wanting to hate its sadness.
 
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delete2x said...
Jul. 11, 2011 at 8:12 pm:
I got teary just reading this. It made me think of my own experiences and how sad parting is.
 
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eep1127 said...
Jun. 23, 2011 at 10:31 am:
This piece is really incredible.  I love that you read the beginning paragraph and think one thing, but by the time you read the final paragraph you are thinking something entirely different.  Great job on a superb memoir :)
 
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Penni said...
Jun. 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm:
This is a remarkable piece written, obviously, by a remarkable young woman! I have a son the age of you and this wonderful young man. Thank you for letting me see things from a "tennage girl's" perspective; and for helping me remember a little of my own yesterdays.
 
MsSarcasmo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jun. 4, 2011 at 8:35 pm :
Thank you so much!
 
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