Normally, I'm not really the kind of person to seek out the company of others. It's something that I actively go out of my way to avoid- people make me nervous. They set me on edge. There's always this sensation of being right on the edge of doing the wrong thing- and the slick palms, aching stomach, twisted-up-into-knots terror of having to deal with the fall out. It's not so much that people in of themselves scare me, it's that I don't like the not-knowing, the inherent chaotic roulette of all of the potential variables being crunched through like some bad gacha game. I don't like the element of random chance being involved.
[[I guess he's different.->2]]We met at the park. He was smoking beneath one of the streetlamps, and the glass on all of them are always cracked- festering black at the edges with the dead bodies of bugs that threw themselves into the light until they burst wide open. [[Maybe there's something to glean from that.->a1]] I hadn't planned on crossing near enough for him to take notice of me- I don't like it when people look for too long. But it was dark enough- in winter, the light falls fast, that I was a little nervous about straying too far from the illuminated path.
[[He was smoking, I remember that.->3]]He said that if I wanted one, he had an extra. I don't really smoke, so I turned it down- it seemed to make him relax. I guess he's used to people coming up to him and asking- which makes sense, the park isn't a hang-out spot for people afterhours like some of the more well lit ones, but now and then, the odd skater will [[cruise on over when it's empty enough->c1]] for them to practice tricks in the quiet cover of night. It seems a little weird at first that an athlete would willingly tar up their lungs- but I guess it goes with the sort of hard image that they project. Even if the effect is slightly ruined by the safety equipment. That's not to discount it- helmets are important, and no one wants to see shreds of skin and blood ground into the asphalt from people skating in shorts and tees.
[[He asked me what I was doing out so late.->4]]
Most of the time, I take the long way back to my apartment- it's not like I have anyone waiting at home for me, and I'm not bound by much else other than obligations that I'm careful to keep tabs on: assignments, duedates, pencilled in appointments in stifling doctor's offices that make me want to peel my skin off out of pure boredom. There's nothing like watching gloppy air make its way sickeningly slow through thick hand sanitizer with crusted pumps in a desperate bid to preoccupy yourself to drive you up the walls. I don't like the idea that they could see what's on my phone- the place is plastered sky high with cameras. I wonder who reviews their footage. It can't be a pleasant job. Surely, most of it must be deleted- who would be interested in hours of sterile nothing, enough to pay for its archiving and storage?
[[I told him that I was on my way back.->5]]He offered to walk me back home, if I wanted. I think he could tell that I was on edge. It's not that difficult to tell when I'm nervous- I tend to shake, especially my hands. My mouth gets dry, but that's not something you'd take notice of immediately: unless you were purposefully watching my mouth, maybe the flick of a tongue coming out immediately to wet my lips reflexively. I thought about it. What was the worst that could happen? There was a lot that could go wrong, I knew- but sometimes chance takes you by the shoulders and you do without thinking.
[[So, we walked.->6]] He introduced himself to me right away, which helped to put me at ease. He might've lied, of course, but I didn't, and I suppose he didn't seem the type to, either. His name was Michael, and that was a nice enough name, an ordinary name. Mostly, he did the talking. I was okay with that. I'm used to doing the listening, if I'm there at all. He and I went to the same school, but I didn't advertise that fact of my own accord. He was majoring in something to do with computer programming, or engineering- he was sketchy on the details, kept it purposefully vague. No minors, the excuse being that he liked to keep his electives and take a random spread of humanities. He thought it was important that people in the sciences take them. He said it made him better at talking to computers- and I always have thought that that was a strangely charming way of putting it.
[[He didn't stay the night over, of course.->7]]I might've been leaving a little up to fate that day, but I wasn't completely reckless. Besides, the apartment was far too small to be in polite proximity to someone you'd only just met. Living alone could be lonely sometimes, but it was at least a little better being alone in a small place, I think- the walls didn't yawn so hungrily at you. They didn't look back at you with a baleful intensity of the absolute certainty of there being nothing. It was close, confined, something close to cozy.
[[Michael left, and he promised that we could get in touch some other time.->1]]I wouldn't consider myself reckless. Others would describe me as precisely the opposite- hemmed and hawed in by the terror of not knowing, of a lack of control: spiralling into paralyzing fits where your breath catches in your chest like a truck's hitch, and you can't suck in enough to breathe. They tell you to breathe with your head down between your legs, with your hands cupped in front of your face, into a brown paper bag- to try to slow down the hyperventilation, to restore some sort of balance in the solutes floating around in your blood, ferried out to your lungs. I count the vault that encloses my brain: eight osseous parts form the skull- ethmoid, occipital, parietal, frontal, temporal, sphenoid, then descend down the face: valentines can not make my pet lion zoom: vomer, conchae, nasal, mandible, maxilla, palatine, lacrimal, zygomatics. There's enough repetition in that concentration that I can turn my mind off, stop focusing so intently on the moment I'm presently in.
[[I usually know how to take care of myself.->a2]]That isn't to say that I don't long for someone to take care of me. That's something that they don't tell you about being so alone- that when you're tired and sick in bed, head pounding away like the doldrums of the church bell ringing out in the middle of the town square, still audible miles off- you want desperately for someone to come and be with you. The long mulled over soup, the warmed washcloth dipped into a bowl and used to wipe away snot and tears and lay a cool one folded over your forehead, someone to take away the sick bin you've been wretching into for hours: those are all nice, and all things you long for and miss- but even just to have someone sit by your side and make things a little more bearable is all you really want. It's not what you need, of course- you don't *need* them to get on by: but you miss them. I've been trying to teach myself that it's okay to want for things, even if it's painful if they aren't fulfilled.
[[But most of the time, I manage myself just fine.->a3]]It's surprisingly nice to have company, though. I didn't think that it would be so pleasant. Most of the time, we sat there is some vague proximity of being close-but-not. There would be snacks out on the table, drinks offered under the pretense of touch- no movies, though. No overnight stays. Usually studying, some neutral review that could happen and be brushed off as just a friendly gesture. He'd always head out, presumably to the park, though I never asked- it never felt like it would've been my place to. But out he would go, and it was a relief to be on my own once more. That didn't mean those visits weren't pleasant. [[Once, he held my hand.->b1]]
[[I could still cry at how lovely it was, how warm the touch of another considering you gently could be.->2]]I haven't really done anything like that before with someone else. I was a little afraid that he would push it- you know how people talk about how men can be, how they are: and it was nice, to just have someone hold my hand, and not push for anything more. To have it be on my terms. His hand was a little rough, especially from where he've got a callous from writing. He grips the pen in a peculiar fashion: gripping it with a ferocity that makes you think he's been taken over by the ghost of Keats, or one of the other little Romantic poets: full force, all ache in the intensity of their prose and lyrical language. I love reading those old fashioned novels: their sentences meander around like little worms noodling across the page.
[[It was nice. I'd like to do it again.->b2]]I asked him if he was seeing anyone- he said that he wasn't, but he wasn't opposed to the idea. He looked at me when he said that- I had to look away, it was too intense. He has hazel eyes- the same colour as the first pale leaf of autumn, a flash of gold among a sea of green leaves, fluttering- ready for fall. I thought about it. I thought about him, and what it might be like. [[The idea of sharing personal space with someone like that is still incredibly uneasy.->e1]] It was difficult enough to even let someone into my personal space just for a few hours- I still haven't worked up the nerve to be comfortable enough to let him sleep overnight, not even on the couch. I don't have a spare room for him to crash in. This place was tailored for one. I don't know that I'm the kind of person that's well suited to romance.
[[But I think I could learn to like it.->a3]]I've always enjoyed the city at night. It's slower, it's easier to take things at the pace at which they come- it's not so abrupt, crashing into you before you've had a chance to get your bearings. My head hurts in the daytime- I don't know how other people stand it, the technicolour blur of clothes, the stream of ever blurring faces, the jangle of keys and shimmer of clothing, the incessant streams of people darting in and out as they launch themselves at doors like salmon leaping upstream: it's suffocating. The forest is alive, undercurrents racing busily along- but the gentle gradations of green and brown are easy on the eyes, the wind whispers softly, without the sharp peaks and intrusions of speech.
[[I could fall asleep out there in those woods.->c2]]I've done it once or twice, for brief stints- nodding off with my back braced against a rock wall, or nodding forwards slightly when pressed up against the rough bark of a mossy tree after sitting down to catch my breath, but I've never purposefully gone out and slept beneath the stars. It sounds like it would be lovely to experience, though- the absolute pitch darkness you can never attain in the city, the cool night winds overhead, the scintillating stars glowing high above, as clear as they've ever been. The soft murmuring of the leaves overhead, branches knit into a canopy like [[the folded hands of a priest.->d1]]
[[I think I'd like it.->3]]I used to fantasize about the hands of the local priest, actually. I had to stop going to church for a few weeks- bordering on a month, because of it. I'd shiver, sitting in the front pew: watching him take command of the room. There's something deliciously tempting about a man who inexorably draws the eye of everyone in the room. The rich deepness of his voice, the perfect white of his roman collar: the flutter of his black cassock as he strode across the room, gestured broadly with his hands: hair aflame. He was candlelight out on the moors- visible for miles around, luring people ever closer, regardless of perilous ground.
[[I had to watch my tread around him.->d2]]It didn't help that he was already married. It was an unusual arrangement, given that he was a man of the cloth- but then, a lot of things were out of order, given the sudden need for replacing someone for the church. It was a beautiful chapel, with doors from the turn of the century that'd gone skating down the river to save them from burning- sturdy rowan, stone walls that had held their own through war, huge stained glass windows that caught the light and held it close, sending rainbows skittering across the hardwood floors. It was, in the end, relatively easy for them to find a replacement, after the first priest had fled in the middle of the night.
[[No one knows what happened to Father Remington.->d3]] He was a quiet man, with dark hair- tousled, curly, worn a little longer than you'd expect a man like him to. Maybe that was the constant of priests in the city- they were always a little more modern, always a little more odd than you imagined they would be. He had startlingly green eyes- a slice of the forest. I thought about him at night, too- the ruddiness of his mouth, the pallour of his skin: the long lashes, the faint stubble that always rasped across his face. I thought about those hands, strong and assured- scraping the edge of a razor blade against his face, skin pulled taut with two scarred fingers, cheekbones sharp in relief. He looked like he could've been carved from the same marble that made up the busts of saints. I think his touch would've been softer.
[[I hope that he found peace, wherever he wound up.->c2]]I have a terribly hard time in confessional because of it. It's horrible, being caught with only the breath in your chest, the low, hushed tones of someone else on the otherside of the honeycombed wood, a thin lattice splitting you and your sin from the hands of someone who can absolve you from it, prescribe you a round of prayers to recite, actions to take- to let that sin melt away like so much snow in the face of summer's ardour. I usually tremble. People mistake it for religious devotion, shaking in the face of God, or some cherubic cheeked visions of dead saints, stripped from the blood and gore and agony of their deaths, martyred for their religion.
[[I always wondered what that was like- loving so intensely you would die for it.->e2]]Love feels an awful lot like something that's made for people who aren't me. I can't imagine what it'd be like, to have someone so devoted, to be so willing to be devout in turn: dedicating yourself in body and soul, to walk through this life and the sweet salvation of the after, hand in hand with the one who completes you. I don't think that I have another half out there. Or, maybe if God really does have a soul mate for everyone, a pair out of two halves: mine is already dead. Surely, that's bound to happen- someone left estranged, left to stray: stumbling through life lonely and exhausted and tired, oblivious to the fact that they're meant to be alone.
[[After all, untimely death seems to run rampant in this city.->b2]]