“You see those two clouds there? They never move for some reason,” he said, his finger pointed towards the sky.
“Oh, you’re right. They’re always here, under this oak tree.” she said.
“That one is you. And the one right next to it is me. They’re always together so you know, I figured, but I don’t know, do you want to be together with-“
“How come I’m the fat cloud? You’re calling me fat?” she said, laughing.
He brought his face to look at hers. The orange, rose-glazed light highlighted the sharpened features of his face while his eyes filled with tensioned apprehension of what to come next. He was already stuttering, nervous, as she placed her head on his shoulders, and her fingers of his lips, shushing him.
“I’m just kidding. It doesn’t matter.”
He didn’t hesitate. “Sure. Whatever. But will you be my girlfriend?”
“I thought I already was.” she said, grinning.
With their warmth in each other’s arms grazed with the sunset, and the spring grass preserved and swaying green and the oak tree branches overhead a blanket, they let their newfound, blooming illusion fall over their eyes, slowly blinding them. They fell recklessly; They fell hard; Their love a dream come true, a tightening rope. A breakable one, a never-ending one, they said.
And so it goes.
* * *
The days were brisk and hard with tedious hours drowning and wasting away her energy with wilting work. It fed on her, a sinking emptiness, swallowing her until she found herself in the midst of swirling fog, lost, but already given up. The class was already full when she walked in. The student’s light chatter was an endless annoyance to her fatigued mind, while her disheveled hair circled around her sunken cheeks in a fury. The girl’s friend turned around as soon as she sat down.
“Hey, there’s this guy that really wants to meet you from a photo of you he found in my phone. He seems to really like you. You’ve been single since junior year of high school. Forget about him already, and you should have some fun,” her friend said.
She waved her off, shaking her head as she turned back to the professor.
“I don’t really want to,” she said.
“I heard you’re going to a new college next year,” her friend continued. “Why leave?”
“Yeah, well I was accepted into a better college, so I decided it would be a good choice to go. This is going to be my last year here,” she said.
The girl’s friend then turned away from her, averting her eyes to look at the desk while silence ensued.
“You’re still waiting for him, aren’t you?” the girl’s friend finally asked.
It was written on the walls, and everywhere she turned, it emitted loudly, blaring. The words were bleating against her ears, encasing her, trapping her, a staining feeling spreading through her as she gripped the pen in her hand until her fingers were immensely white. She felt as if she was running through a tunnel without end.
“I don’t really want to talk about it,” she said, turning towards the professor.
“I believe that we have new student joining us today for the new semester. It seems he is a bit late, but he is here now,” the professor said.
He came in, with his sharp features highlighted by the harsh light. She looked at him with melting, large eyes. Her heart was a drum.
He didn’t see her.
* * *
Blonde hair draped and yawning, she walked to her desk slowly as she looked at him with agile suspicion and caution while he just smiled back. He needed to relax her. He wanted her to think he was not going to play a prank on her today although he did almost every day. His wave was light and gentle, innocent enough to make her blush slightly and turn away as class began.
It was bore for him to listen to the teacher talk, with the man’s mouth swirling oblivious words that swayed him to sleep, although she was busy writing down anything that came out the teacher’s mouth, her concentration sharp and pen scribbling furiously. He glanced at the time. Might as well do it now, he thought. He got out of desk, feet pounding onto the floor with a rush of air while the whole class watched him in bemused alarm. He danced over to her while jumping on other student’s desks despite the teacher yells, which were now drowning in the student’s loud cheers and laughter. When he appeared right before her, he reached into his pocket and grabbed flower petals in which he threw over her hair and took out a ring box as he kneed to the ground.
“Will you marry me?” he said, revealing a Mickey Mouse ring found on cupcakes.
The class was in an out roar as she laughed along. But he wasn’t the only one who got a detention, for the next day she put Super glue on his chair so they enjoyed their time together in the Principal’s office for the second week of tenth grade.
They escaped further into the dream that they never wanted to wake up from.
* * *
The halls of the college were flooding with students as he fought against the tide to get to his next class. There was a vague sense of unsettlement as he walked, his mind buzzing and brows furrowed, thinking, but the issue was already slipping from his mind, like grains of sand between fingers. He had made a promise. A promise that he had grasped onto for so long, that was embedded with pounded hammers into his mind, yet it fell through so quickly, disappearing. It was tightening feeling, a clutching hand contorting his heart as he turned the corner.
He saw her.
She was there for a fleeting moment, an illusion of the eye, real but unreal. He was already running towards her, throat tightened, palms drenched in sweat as he touched her shoulder. A thousand miles separated them. Their eyes were passing memories, voices were crying out, screaming, but they stood still, an unbreakable door standing between them. She spoke first. Her voice was heavy, burdened, drowning.
“Hey, it’s been awhile. I need to get to my next class though. I’ll be going,” she said.
And then she was gone. He stood there with a rippling shake, a violent earthquake, rumbling through the core of his body while his breath was exasperated, and his heart was straining, pulsing. He had found her. But it was no longer her.
His text messages were open to her contact. He stared at it, reading through the last messages that were sent over a year ago with their interactions becoming less and less, talks becoming meaningless and a burden. He closed the phone, shook his head, and started to walk away, but eating guilt drove him back to his phone until he began to type.
Hey, how are you?
It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? We should talk.
What’s up? How have you been?
He pulled his fingers through his hair as he stared at the table, frowning at his own pity and cowardice while he typed again.
I’m sorry this is on such a short notice, but is it cool if we can meet up somewhere? I’d really like to see you again.
His thumb hovered over the “send” button while cold sweat dripped down the side of his forehead as his mouth became filled with the desert.
The incoming text shook him, erasing what he typed all again after reading his girlfriend’s message: Hey. How’s your new college? I can’t wait for you to come and visit me.
* * *
She was waiting outside his class when he came out, and a grin spread across his lips when he saw her. They walked together to their next class while exchanging a series of jokes and smiles during their talk about their day and him complaining about how junior year’s almost over.
“You need to have some fun. You’re always the teacher’s favorite and listen in class and get all those good grades,” he said.
“I literally had your pants stuck to the chair and they had to cut it off so now there’s just khaki fabric there. I’ve had enough fun,” she replied.
“Let’s do something,” he said as squatted down onto the floor. “Get on my back.”
“What if I don’t?”
“Then you’re being a little prick and you’re boring. Just kidding, you’re great. Just get on. Trust me.”
She carefully wrapped her arms around his neck, and she hoisted herself up on his backpack. The wind blasted through their hair as he took off running through the hall like a loud, bolstering rocket blasting through space, recklessness at its peak. He laughed as he ran, a youthful, lighthearted laughter that echoed as people cursed in a hurry to get out his way while she was desperate to keep hanging and grabbing onto him. But just maybe, she was smiling altogether.
He was suspended the next day.
Their conversations always dragged deep into the night, with the moon as their witness and the falling blackness of night coming all too quickly as their voices were still pounding,
desperate and yearning for one another. They were senseless texts, full of youthful wildness, random and sporadic, but managing to make both of them smile and laugh and grin, stars alive in their eyes.
And the rope pulled tighter.
* * *
Half a year passed by. No words from one another. They passed by each other as if they were strangers. As if each one was a person the other did not know anymore. The weight on their chest grew. They were digging their own graves. Further and further, deeper and deeper.
The chemistry project was decided by a random partner; The teacher’s decision to pair the students together.
“So, chemistry huh?” he said, throat clogged and eyes looking away as he sat down next to her. “Year’s almost over and he gives us a chemistry project.”
She nodded solemnly, averting his eyes as they worked in crushing silence.
They did what they had to do and nothing more.
She looked at the finish project with a sigh of relief and a smile, stretching her hands into air.
“Well I should be goin-,” she said.
His mouth was already moving. The words began to pour out.
“Hey, I know we haven’t been talking for a long time, but I really want us to be friends again, just that. Can we meet up somewhere maybe in the future?”
“I think it’s better if we leave it this way. I’ll be leaving next year. I don’t think it will be…good. Besides, I heard you got another girlfriend. I’m really happy for you,” she said, her voice wavering.
I’m so glad you offered. I really want to meet up again, too. I don’t want you to keep dating that girl. I don’t care who she is, I don’t care.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’s been fun. I guess this is it,” he replied.
It’s not the end. Stay.
I don’t want to say “bye.” I want to be with you. I don’t want to go.
I don’t mean it. Don’t leave. Please don’t…go.
And the rope finally began to wear, thinning at the seams as they walked in separate directions, in diverging paths, awaking from their dream to the reality.
* * *
She pulled up in front of his house in a hurry, breathless and exasperated for he had called for her to come because of an “emergency.” Banging on the door as she called his name, he opened the door while smiling with a frying pan in his hand.
“What’s up? I’m making pancakes,” he said. “Want some?”
“What’s the emergency?” she asked as she looked around his body, flipping around his arms and hands to look for any injuries. “Are you okay? What happened? What’s wrong?”
“I wanted you to come over to enjoy pancakes with me. That’s the emergency,” he said laughing.
She looked at him with dull, stupefied eyes as she curled her mouth into a distasteful grin, turning away to leave as she cursed him out.
“Hey, I’m sorry about getting you worried, but I also made you some of that strawberry cheesecake you like,” he said, grinning and running after her.
After the put down their empty plates, clean from the cheescake, he suddenly put down his empty plate on the table with a clatter, getting her attention. He turned towards her, eyes straightforward and piercing while she blushed.
“You wanted to know what all these boxes were for, right?” he asked.
He gave a long, dragging sigh as he said, “I’m moving. Tomorrow. My dad found a better job up in Boston. I’m definitely coming back here for college though. Hang on two or three years. I’ll be back. You know, it will okay. We can still talk every day. We’ll make it work. You know, I-“
Her finger was already on his lips, stopping him as she placed her head on his chest, eyes closed. She wrapped her arms around him, gently and gingerly, but tighter and tighter as if he might disappear, as if he might vanish, if she didn’t hold him close enough.
A light tear streaked down her face as she asked, “Everything’s going to be the same, right?”
“Yeah. It is, it always will be. I promise,” he said, wrapping her arms around her.
* * *
The man stood at the doorway of the old woman’s house, laughing sheepishly as the old woman reminded him of his times with her, as if it was just yesterday.
“She’s all grown up now, moved to California where she just got settled down and married. Her husband’s great, fantastic man, but I think she treasured her time in high school the most with you. I’m so glad you decided to visit me though, just an old woman now who’s been abandoned by her daughter who you once dated. It’s nice to have you back in this little hometown of yours,” she said, smiling as he patted his shoulders. “How have you been managing?”
“Well, I have a fiancé now, and I’m just back here on a business trip. After finishing college here, I went to work for Wall Street, and I have to say, it’s been going great. Well, I’m just coming by to say “hi”, so I guess I’ll be going now. Take care!” he said as he left.
The walk to the park was always short with the man accompanied by the setting sun, a brisk smile on his face, and a warming spread of nostalgia enlightening him. It’s been a while since I came back here, to where it all began he thought, as he looked for the oak tree.
He pressed his back against the hard, cooling bark, closing his eyes as the spring grass whistled around him while he took long, refreshing breaths, drowning in memories. It was on a whim when he looked up to the sky, looked up just for a second, a fleeting moment.
The two clouds were no longer there together; The vast distance had separated them.
But he was already chuckling, smiling as he walked away, onlt stopping at the trash can to throw the Mickey Mouse ring from so long ago away.
And so it went.