Used To | TeenInk

Used To MAG

July 1, 2010
By KateKale BRONZE, Farmington, New York
KateKale BRONZE, Farmington, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Of course it's happening in your head, Harry, but why on earth does that mean it's not real?" -Albus Dumbledore <3

“It feels wrong, being back here,” Jeremy remarks, his tone casual, as though we are strangers on a subway car, discussing the weather. “You know, after everything.”

I nod, even though I know he's not looking, letting the breeze carry my agreement away. In all honesty, what I have to say to him about us doesn't matter. Hasn't mattered for the past five months, not since the last time we were here.

I slant my eyes toward Jeremy, categorize his appearance. Torn jeans and a faded Stanford sweatshirt, the embroidered letters frayed around the edges, washed-out, just like his college career. Almost like he knows what I'm thinking, his arms cross across his thin chest, unconsciously protective. Looking away from him makes the bittersweet ache behind my ribs just a little less painful.

Shaking from a combination of nerves and the cold, I step toward the hand-constructed 7-by-8-foot cabin before us. The sharp lines of its childish architecture and wide, staring windows are all the same, the gray paint has not changed, not even by a shade. But the place feels different, cold, as though the owners have gone on a permanent vacation.

Despite his words and probably against his better judgment, Jeremy ambles toward the cabin's porch, legs awkward and weak like a toddler learning its first steps. The shaking in his hands, the tightness of his jaw – every inch of him screams for me to go to him, take that trembling hand in mine, hold him close and whisper quiet nothings meant to soothe.

I don't move, don't say anything, don't offer assistance as Jeremy struggles to get the key in the padlock. Finally, there is a twist of his hand, the awkward grating of metal, fingers slipping ever-so-slightly. And then the shining metal chain falls into his hands, the place unlocks, opens, and the door squeaks as he pushes. Just like it used to.

“Ladies first,” he says, feigning gallantry and forcing a smile as he gestures for me to proceed. I don't buy the act. I know this, know him, know that the look in his eyes means he's scared to go first, afraid of what we'll find. If, indeed, we find anything.

My feet move without my conscious instruction, a puppet tied to strings. The door is five steps away, three steps, one. Crossing the threshold is easy. It's what's on the other side that's hard.

So hard. Because I remember.

This house is a monument to our relationship, a microcosm of every good thing we had – friendship, love, lust, all those summers spent burning the midnight oil and talking ourselves to death. We were a work of art, he and I, all complementary colors and harsh brushstrokes, I with my icy calm and Jeremy with his firecracker backtalk. We had it all – mutual respect, kinship, history. Our stories tangled for as far back as I could remember. I know him like I know the hours of the day, like the turning of the seasons; after so long, he's become predictable.

Like now. I hear him behind me. Three steps across the grass outside, two more past the threshold. Cue soft sigh – now, an uncomfortable shuffle of his feet, the clearing of his throat.

I know this cabin like I know him. Hardly needing to look, I know, know the sturdy wood floor, sandpapered smooth by our footsteps, constant moving-in and moving-out and rearranging furniture. The broken chair in the corner, indestructible when we were young, weakening every year until it finally buckled under the weight of his newfound teenage muscle and long limbs. Like Goldilocks and the three bears, nothing is ever just right anymore.

I turn around, sweeping the cramped space with my eyes. Posters of long-forgotten bands plaster the walls, and a time-frozen Tiger Woods stares down from next to the window. The fireplace is full of cold gray ashes and half-burned paper hearts, leftover from our Anti-Valentine's Day celebration. Half a chess set, a lonely white queen surrounded by enemy pawns. One of Jeremy's old sweatshirts, the one from that night, the night that changed everything. I glaze over the last item, afraid of the memories it brings dangerously close to the forefront of my mind.

Every inch of the place breathes him, is layered with the smell of his hair and ivory soap, and I inhale, closing my eyes, reaching for the fuzzy edges of that younger Jeremy, the innocent one who taught me to play chess on this same floor. But the memory slips away like water through cupped hands, and I look at him, real-life, solid Jeremy, standing across the room in a square of light cast through the window.

“This was our first kiss,” he mutters, a bitter edge leaking into his voice like acid. “Right here. I was 14, just a kid, and you were so … pretty.” his voice breaks, and he cuts himself off, looking down. I watch him while he's not looking, let my eyes trace the furrowed lines of his forehead, the darkness under his eyes that speaks of little sleep and lots of worry.

The past months have been hell
for me. But in all my self-pitying ­diatribes and crying fits, did I ever once stop to think about him? Jeremy, by my side, holding my hand while we sat together on white-papered hospital cots, strong and stoic and so very serious for the first time in his life. The light in his eyes had shattered at the first solid evidence that this was real – heartbeat monitors throbbing to the pulse of something small and vulnerable, something that should have made us ecstatic, on top of the world. But timing is everything, and ours is all wrong. I feel like we're running a marathon and trying to step backwards, reverse-ordering our relationship like inexperienced fools.

I look up at the four letters spray-painted on the ceiling two years ago, when being young was our A-card rather than a burden. Love, the plywood ceiling reads, clumsily written in all capitals, bleeding red paint like an open wound. Internal scoff, look away and down, try to hide the tears in my eyes. We were just kids; we are still just kids. What did he know – what did I know – about love? About anything?

“Jeremy?” My voice fades like thunder under high-pressure clouds, smothered by the tension in the room until his name sounds tenuous on my lips, like this could be the last time I say it. Here, on the very same floor where we built and destroyed bridges between our teenage hearts.


“I-I don't regret it,” I stutter, tongue-tied, nervous, and pathetic. I want to say so much more: It isn't your fault. We can get through this, together. I'm terrified, so please just hold me, like you used to.

But the words don't come, sticking inside my chest like unfinished letters to a former lover, and Jeremy doesn't speak, eyes still on the floor, black hair hanging limply in his face. His expression is blank, unreadable, and the silence speaks more than every word he's ever said to me.


He looks up, and in a half a moment, a heartbeat, I realize how different this Jeremy is from the shy boy who kissed me so nervously that first time. The spark in those green eyes is gone; the fire in his expression has burnt itself out. The 17 minutes it took me to tell him he was going to be a father stole the last years of his innocence, of his youth. I remember the look on his face, terrified and blinded by some glaring light, like a three-day-old kitten who's just opened his eyes, just seen the world for the first time.

And now all that's left behind in those empty eyes is a desolate sort of resignation, the grim realization that this is all there will be for me and him. Just ourselves, each other, tied together by an invisible thread of duty and obligation. The children who learned to love in this cabin are gone, ghosts swept under our aged feet like dust under a rug. Out of sight, out of mind.

“I love you. I always have,” I say, half to convince him, half to convince myself. The assurance is empty, falling flat on our deaf ears, the concept as foreign as explaining physics 10 years after one has studied it.

“I love you, too,” Jeremy mutters, like it's shameful. Maybe it is.

Later, we trudge back to his parents' house, through the woods and across a field of shin-high grass that clings to our legs like Saran Wrap. Months ago, we would have held hands. Now our arms hang limp at our sides like plants that someone has forgotten to water.

“Not what it used to be, huh?” Jeremy asks with a half-hearted smile and a thumb hooked over his shoulder, in the general direction of what was once everything to me, to both of us. His 18-year-old shoulders hunch like an old man's against the unseasonably cool summer air.

“No.” I wrap my arms around my convex stomach, imagining that I can feel that second heartbeat. “We're not what we used to be.”

The author's comments:
Please reveiw - constructive critisism is very much appreciated!

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This article has 32 comments.

on May. 19 2011 at 9:24 pm
--faux.hope BRONZE, New York, New York
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Favorite Quote:
Don't tell me that the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon. ~

I was hooked from the beginning. I love your wording, the scene, the vibe I get from reading. Swell job! 

on May. 17 2011 at 3:22 pm
beautifulmudblood BRONZE, Grovetown, Georgia
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Favorite Quote:
"Thomas Edison's last words were 'It's very beautiful over there'. I don't know where there is, but I believe it's somewhere, and I hope it's beautiful." -John Green (Looking For Alaska)

This was so well done. I couldn't stop reading for a single second because every word kept me completely entralled. This was most definitely one of the best stories I've ever read on this site, or possibly at all. 

on May. 4 2011 at 4:03 pm
sammielovesyou, Louisville, Kentucky
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Favorite Quote:
"Trying to forget someone you love is like trying to remember someone you never knew"

This was AMAZING ! one of the best i have ever read on here ! (((((:

KellyR GOLD said...
on Mar. 28 2011 at 12:29 pm
KellyR GOLD, Richmond, Virginia
14 articles 0 photos 258 comments

Favorite Quote:
We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

I loved it. It was very intense, and it kept my attention. Good Work!

mycala said...
on Mar. 11 2011 at 2:36 pm
Sam! this is fantastic :]]]]! i loved it! You are an amazing writer and an awesome friend! Keep up the good work :D! <3.

on Feb. 17 2011 at 3:26 pm
Hollypaw18 GOLD, Brooklyn, New York
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Favorite Quote:
"Everyone is different, it's the natural state- it's the facts, it's plain to see. The world's gray enough without making it worse. What we need is individuality!"
- Billy Elliot's "Expressing Yourself"

This is amazing... wonderful and sad writing... most of it is confusing since you don't know what's going on but that's a good thing- it gets the reader intrigued (it certainly got me intrigued!). LOVE it ;)

on Feb. 4 2011 at 11:06 am
Chitra.I PLATINUM, Dubai, Other
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Favorite Quote:
Everything makes sense if you think too much about it.


Very...mature. I just kept wishing, till the end, that everything would be okay.


on Feb. 2 2011 at 11:58 am
SecretSasha SILVER, Cibolo, Texas
5 articles 0 photos 68 comments

Favorite Quote:
"It doesn't matter how slow you go as long as you don't stop"

This is really good! I really like the way you describe everything, and the emotions.

on Feb. 1 2011 at 7:57 pm
snowanngel BRONZE, Branson, Missouri
2 articles 0 photos 30 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Your I will is more important than your IQ."
"You learn more from your failures than you do your accomplishments."

Wow, that was really interesting and very true as well... But it has a good point and story line to it as well.... Keep going I see a lot of potential... Great job!!!! Write on!!!!

happi45 said...
on Feb. 1 2011 at 9:02 am
happi45, Goshen, Arkansas
0 articles 0 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
"hello world and all that inhabits it"
- sponge bob squarepants

good job :) the story is sad but true and very well written 

on Jan. 31 2011 at 10:45 pm
AmazingGrace88 GOLD, Lake Oswego, Oregon
13 articles 0 photos 25 comments

Favorite Quote:
No boys are worth your tears,
and the ones who are wont make you cry.

I really enjoyed this, very discriptive and well writen. Keep up the good work! :)

on Jul. 19 2010 at 8:03 am
MiddleOfAnEgg, Madison, Wisconsin
0 articles 32 photos 68 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Every wall is a door." -R. W. Emerson

This was super well written! It just kept making me want to read more. Some parts were a little confusing, but I really enjoyed reading it. Keep up the good work. :)