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Sitting on a rock in the middle of the woods are two writers. Smoking cigarettes and reading. Sharing. Bearing everything to each other. Their feet rest among sticks and dirt. And together. The ants and bugs scurry about the forest floor, disrupted occasionally by ash falling from above. It’s peaceful but never quiet; they don’t look at each other but at the papers in front of them. They’re staring into each other.

She sits to his right, hair up in a tight bun. Mouth kissing the end of a cigarette. Deliberately. Slow drag. But nothing else about her is slow. She’s fire. Quick movements. Quick conversation. There’s something about her, a presence that the boy can’t figure out. He hopes he never does. She’s warm and calms him, but stimulates him at the same time. She’s a short poem. Goes by quickly but the words are so deliberately chosen. A thing of beauty.

He rests his hand close to her leg, wanting nothing more than to reach out and touch her. Be close to her. But not wanting to be too forward. To get burned. He inches slowly closer and closer. Finds a comfortable distance. He hides behind his sunglasses and burns through his cigarette letting smoke dangle from his open mouth. Smoke ring. Take a drag. Mouth opens and smoke hangs there, animating his words. He tells her secrets. Stories of abandonment. Frustrations. Vicious depression. But also he talks of good times. Laughter comes easy to him. Fancies himself a joker. An athlete and an artist. He sees her as all of these. But she’s something so special. She’s even more humble than she is talented and strong. And she’s young. Not only in terms of age. But in spirit. She’s a beaming eight year old, picking flowers in a backyard. She reeks of happiness and is a beacon of warmth. Naïve. Doesn’t know her own beauty and strong will. The boy is awe struck by her. He throws compliments at her without rest, hoping they all stick. Hoping she knows how amazing she is.

When he reads her writing, she touches on something deep in him. Her style is very different than his own. But at the same time so similar. Her words are elegant and strung together into flowing, lyrical sentences. His writing is quick cut action. Sensory overload. Sometimes it’s violent. Disturbing in description. Blood on blacktop. Broken glass; gravel in scuffed knees. But he always tries to find the beauty in it all. Random details that make the scene real. And being real is hard to do. So much is happening around him all the time. He keeps himself sane through the small details. He’s a pack rat in every aspect of his being. Holding on to too many memories. His mind is cluttered with song lyrics and important dates and spur of the moment jokes cracked with friends the same way his room is cluttered with toys and knick knacks he has no real use for. But they make him his own person. And that’s so fucking important to him. Her writing reminds him of that part of him. She cares for each of her words, choosing them so deliberately. Plotting and editing as she writes. Yes, her sentences are longer and more lavish than his own. But he loves them because she loves them more than he ever could and puts so much of her own voice into everything. He’s honored and breathless every time his eyes scan the page. Every time she exhales a word in to his soul. She’s cutting herself open and showing her insides to him. And some of it’s confusing. Some of it shocks him. But it’s all beautiful. It’s like her wounds leak out flower petals instead of blood.

He stares down at her story. Scattered. A title that truly fits the piece. She talks about looking at a reflection of her eyes and seeing her mother’s eyes. He scans that line over and over. Falling in love with this girl through her fears and worries. Is she scared of becoming her mother? He knows the feeling. And understands the confusing mix of feelings of love and fear. A troubled mother has made such an impact on her life. It’s a huge part of her daily existence. It has forced her to become so strong and so independent. And while she loves that part of herself, she’s still angry about how she came into possessing that skill set. She describes her mother is such shining detail. Smoky, hazy, summertime porch sitting recollections. Looking up to a woman sipping her way through bottles and bottles of wine. Breathing smoke. Getting into trouble. Breaking her heart and home.

Glimpsing this takes his breath away. He’s peering through a window into some serious feelings and memories. He knows things now that not many people do. He’s seeing her in a new, intense light. This isn’t about writing anymore, so much as it’s two broken souls reaching out trying to piece each other together. The notes he’ll give her on her piece will be good writing advice. Mostly because that’s the best kind of advice he can hope to offer. But he hopes that she uses his advice to do more than write. He wants her to look within. Figure herself out.
He starts rambling at her about how creative writing saved his life. How he tore himself open and poured his soul into Microsoft word. On a daily basis. Therapy couldn’t help him because he couldn’t tell just anyone the feelings he was having. He was too shy and too overwhelmed. He couldn’t formulate the right words for it. And so he wasted his time sitting in groups and individual sessions. Growing increasingly frustrated that he couldn’t share and couldn’t talk to anyone. He wanted to so badly but he just couldn’t fucking get better. Too stubborn to give up and die but too miserable to keep living. Experiments with drugs and suicide kept his existence balanced on the edge of a knife. Reminded him that he was so colossally broken. But nobody had the manual to fix him. There was no switch to be flipped that would make him stop hating himself so intensely. No button that could be pushed to make him not want to get high anymore. And people looked at his therapy sessions as just that: an automatic fix. His parents assumed he was fighting the whole process. In reality, the process just didn’t work for him. He’s too stubborn to accept help. And fixing himself was so overwhelming he didn’t know how to go about it. But when he joined the Creative Writing class his senior year, he saw an opportunity. A chance to be truly honest. And look within. To literally dissect himself. Figure out what he was so angry about. Why he couldn’t stop hating himself. Why he couldn’t stop trying to destroy himself. Surrounding himself with bad influences, ignoring warnings from those who loved him most. Nights were spent under the covers. Sobbing. Wondering, what the f*** is wrong with him? Why couldn’t he change?

She’s silent when he stops spilling. The air is static with an intensity and openness that he can’t even find the words to describe. He looks at her face as she takes a drag and stares off into the woods. And a warm feeling rushes through him. He wants to spend days lying in bed with this girl. He wants to know everything she’s ever felt. He wants to share everything in his head with her and wants to hear everything she has to say. Spend days with his head in her lap and her hands in his hair. Show her off to his friends. Meet hers. Invite her to dinner. Spend late nights at the movie theater. Walk around town getting ice cream. Hold her hand.

Gravel meeting rubber tire makes a crunching sound in the parking lot behind them. Some people have pulled up to the small parking lot at the tennis courts right next to the woods they sat in. The moment shifts; not ruined but changed. The privacy and openness is shattered and reality comes rushing back in. Their voices lower. He closes up her writing, as if the people on the tennis court might be trying to peek at it. She puts his pieces in her bag to finish reading later. He thinks of her eyes shimmering over the words he so painstakingly chose. Butterflies rush about his stomach and he smiles. His eyes linger on her smile and her cheeks as she breathes the first question of the day that he’s entirely unsure of how to answer.

“Ask me something.”

He laughs and smiles at her but his mind races. Wondering what she wants him to ask her. Wondering what he even wants to know. And he thinks of a question that he’s satisfied with. Nothing smooth or funny or perfect for the moment. Just a simple question.

“What do you want to do next?”

And as she smiles and opens her mouth to answer, he wishes time would stop. Wishes he could spend a lifetime in just this moment forever. The moment before she looks at her phone and realizes it’s getting late. The couple of seconds before she realizes that as much as fun as they’re having picking each other apart, she should really probably be getting home. This moment is fifteen minutes before they’ll arrive at his house and hug and say goodbye. It’s a couple hours before he’ll send her a massive text message gushing about all the amazing and scary feelings that are developing for her. This moment is simple and easy. It’s not filled with words and revelations or complications. It’s just two writers, sitting on a rock in the middle of the woods. In the waning summertime sunshine. And the warmth splashing on his face. The breeze in his hair. The beautiful girl in front of him. He’s taking in all the details. The ant crawling over his foot. The father and daughter smacking tennis balls back and forth close by. He breathes it all in. Eyes shut. And he’s happy. Happy with the simplicity. Satisfied with life. Thankful that he’s so blessed to even be here after all he’s been through. Knowing that his life is filled with constant changes. But welcoming them and wanting them. Wanting to grow and expand with them. Especially this one. Especially this girl. Daisy.





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