I'm giving a way a signed copy of Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys over yonder. Please enter and spread the word!
In the meantime.
This is a true story.
I didn't think of you much before that night. You were good-looking, I suppose, in that casually careless way that some people try to manufacture and others embody. You embodied it. Threadbare shirts, unwashed hair, hint of facial scruff. The girl next door had one of those crippling, all-consuming crushes on you. I know because she nicknamed you and talked about you constantly like she was speaking in code, but everyone knew it was you.
We knew one another. We were friends, even. Your roommate had developed a fixation on mine, so we saw a lot of each other. He was good-looking in that carefully manufactured way; all clean-cut and red-blooded. The girls adored him. Hung drawings and notes on his [your] door. Sat in his lap and asked him to come to this sporting event or that campus gathering. It mostly amused us. We'd roll our eyes and laugh about it to each other.
I wasn't bothered. He wasn't my type. My type was the one boy I still dreamed of at night, the one who had won my heart at 15 and existed in the space between now and forever in my mind. He was a hundred miles away or more, literally and figuratively, but oh, I still loved him like a child loves snow. Fresh, clean, naive, and full of stinging cold.
But you. I watched the way your eyes shifted over to the girls around your roommate. Not jealously. Sadly. You didn't understand that they didn't just come to flirt with him... they flirted with you, too. They weren't as brazen, since you had a certain 17-year-old awkwardness about you yet, but they gave you your fair share of smiles. Whether you didn't notice or didn't believe they were for you, I don't know. It tugged at me a little. Just a little.
One night, midway through the semester, I'd escaped the stuffiness of my room[mate] and
You were both there, you and your roommate. He was entertaining a very pretty girl with a name like Kendall or Crystal or Kaci. You were playing a video game on your computer, complete with headset and yelling amidst gunfire. Maybe that should have bothered me, but it didn't. I didn't want your undivided attention, I just wanted to be around people who didn't ask me prying questions about my religious affiliation. Your roommate was entertaining enough, performing for KendCrysKaci and me with various goofy impressions or funny videos.
I went to go lay in your bed to watch from there, since KCK had monopolized your roommate's lap and there was no additional seating. Except for your lap, but you were busy building gun turrets. Besides, that would have been weird.
Eventually you retreated back into the real world and the fact that your roommate had a girl in your room at 11PM. [No co-ed sleepovers in the co-ed dorms, the rules said! Right.] The entertainment had taken a turn at some point, and now your roommate had taken up playing some kind of animated and literally pornographic game that entailed panty-snatching and banging the sorority sacrificial virgin.
Maybe. The storyline was vague.
You joined me in snickering at it for a while, and then the pretty girl grew bored. But she didn't want to leave.
Her roommate had a guy over, she said. She didn't want to disturb them.
So your roommate, porn-watching gentleman that he was, offered her his bunk for the night. With him in it, naturally.
Nearly 2AM now.
As they climbed into the bunk above your bed, I started to get up. Time for me to go.
And then you looked at me.
And then you said,
"Are you staying over, too?"
My mind skipped over the track it'd been on. [The track was: "I Should Go Back Or My Roommate Will Think I'm Having Satan Orgies."]
I almost said no. I did. But you had this look. It wasn't desire, or nerves, or even expectation. It was hope. Not like the kind of hope you'd have if the girl of your dreams was in your bed, but like the flicker of hope you have that you don't have to be that guy whose roommate is fooling around in the bunk above him while he tries to fall asleep by himself. It was dangerously close to need. Almost.
So I said okay.
You smiled. An unreadable grin spread over your face, a smile I'd never taken much note of before, and you said, "Fine, but I get the inside."
When you crawled over me to huddle down under your denim comforter next to the wall, you kickstarted the section of my brain that overanalyzes everything. Thoughts raced in front of my open eyes.
I'd never slept beside a boy before. Is this super weird? What if I have to pee? How do we arrange ourselves so we don't get tangled? What's he thinking? Why does every part of my body that's touching him feel like it's six million degrees?
Naturally, the bed frame shook as giggles and movement from above attracted our attention. I tried to focus on anything else. You didn't move or speak, so I imagined you were doing the same.
Which meant the only thing I could think about was the beat, beat, beat of your heart against my spine where we laid back to back. I stared into the dark until my eyes began imagining bursts of purple-red-green that weren't really there.
I tried to ignore the way your too-fast pulse pushed its way through my skin, filling the hollow of my chest until I could barely breathe for all of the you inside me. Everywhere the icy remains of my last love still frosted my bones, you curled round, melting him away. Later we would laugh and joke about the "butt massage" your roommate claimed was the only thing to happen in his bunk that night, but in that moment, my entire body was a wire burning through its casing.
Already I knew that my life would be consumed with thoughts of your heartbeat, your laugh, your mouth. Your stupid mouth. The way our bodies would mold every time we hugged close. I shut my eyes, crushed them together, and forced the name of someone else onto my tongue. I wanted to remember. But I couldn't. Every letter of his name was replaced with a letter of yours. They tasted different.
When sleep came, I was already gone.
This is a true story.