This poem-turned-flash fiction was inspired by the LGBTQ novels of Julie Anne Peters.
I don’t know what time it is. Five o’clock in the afternoon. Eight o’clock at night. All I know is that the tip of your index finger is stroking across the top of my collarbone. Your dull fingernail burns a line to my shoulder. Why are your fingertips so warm? Why are my fingers normally so cold? That’s odd. Today my fingers are warm, almost sweaty.
We sit on a dilapidated sofa, warming our feet underneath Oscar. Oscar’s breathing, drooling, and tail-thumping is a constant in my life, not like the variable you are. On days like this, I wish we could last forever watching the dusk sky through the vast windows on the second floor of 1501 Blackfoot Drive, like two figurines sitting on a sofa with a dog in a snow globe.
This is the house that was so large that I never believed you when you said “Your house is enormous,” until the day I moved out. We had a secret no one needed to know about. But the sun is setting and outside hummingbirds are turning in for the night. The clouds are gathering, obscuring the stars from being seen. There is going to be a storm tonight.
When my mom moved out, she took me with her. I thought I would never see you again, childhood best friend, birthday party conspirator, and fellow tree climber. We were the unnamed, unofficial explorers of Arroyo Aqua Caliente Park. You promised me a tree house.
We met again at the age of 16. You’re a public school scoundrel, and me, a private school misfit. You have a dog now, a girlfriend, and divorced parents. Despite the differences I’m sure have accumulated in our minds and hearts, in the way you write, never dotting i’s but always looping l’s, in the way you smell, in the way you smile at me, not quite like long-lost best friends, more like simple acquaintances. You’re a hoodie-wearing guitar player who excels at sports, both a cross-country and swim champion, while I myself quit water polo and soccer a long time ago. We are no longer the prepubescent kids we once were, but on October 13, a Saturday, we meet. Your dog’s name is Ichor.
It’s a dumb question but I have to ask, “What inspired you to name him that?”
You tell me about Greek mythology, the blood of the Gods and Goddesses. You ask me if I think it’s pretentious of you.
I tell you “No.” Nothing could be pretentious if you do it. It’s awkward now. I can’t bring myself to find the words to tell you that it’s not pretentious of you. If I weren’t so lovelorn, I would question whether or not you used the word pretentious correctly.
Once upon a time I could never stop talking in front of you. Now I am silent. I swallow my chewing gum and I wonder if you can see the painful insecurity crawling down my throat. But your chocolate eyes steal me away into a world where I am lost in your scent, something like pine, maple syrup, and laundry detergent on fresh sheets. You come closer. Your tanned skin seems darker in comparison to my pale limbs.
That night when Mom thinks I’m asleep, I’m rummaging in boxes packed to the lid with memorabilia. I’m looking for souvenirs of you and me, from the past when the future didn’t matter and time was our playmate, when the lines of imagination and reality mixed so often, they were intertwined. We held hands and my heart beat so fast, even though we were just boys on a playground. You never gave a girl any attention when I was around, too busy building defensive walls around my castles.
My mom begins to date your dad. I know this because when they decided their children should meet, I saw you again. I met her too.
“This is Sabrina,” you tell me. This is your girlfriend, your girlfriend Sabrina. I know those wet sand castle walls around your heart must have fallen, attacked by her army of cupids shooting their arrows, tipped in poison and fire, into the sanctuary of your heart.
You are so warm to me when Sabrina is around, because you don’t expect me to harbor these emotions or this heart of impossible hopes.