Oh the year that we've been through
It started with the napkins. He always had a stack of them, buried in his messenger bag. I'd joke with him constantly. "Oh. You like jacking off in class?" That one was a favorite of mine. He had a great sense of humor, and his whole face just lit up when he laughed.
"Tom?" He asked. I glanced at him, more interested in his hands then his face. He was sculpting a vase. Probably for his mother. She loved flowers as much as she loved the vases he made.
"What's your sister doing this Saturday?"
I paused. "I don't know. I stopped babysitting her once she hit thirteen."
He smiled, not looking away from the perfect vase between his fingers. It was long and thick. Probably like other things. Not that I was thinking like that.
"Do you think that she'd like to see a movie with me? Possibly get dinner?" He asked. Oh, so clever. Asking my sister out through me.
"Why don't you ask her yourself?" I replied quietly. He nodded.
"I planned to. Just wanted to get you approval first. Some guys are creeped out when a friend asks their sister out."
"Instead of them?" He laughed. Like he'd ask me out. "That stuff doesn't bug me, Jake. She's can take care of herself."
He nodded again, some of his dark hair splashing into his blue eyes. "That's always a good thing."
After he started dating my sister, the napkins disappeared. He joked that it was because he was banging my sister, and I made retching noises to shut him up. Some things, you just don't need to think about.
"Tom?" It was like déjà vu. This time, though, it was my sister calling for me. Apparently, it's not a good thing to space out on the phone.
"Can you come pick me up? I forgot my keys and really don't want to walk." She said. "And, stop spacing out when I talk."
I smiled. "Where are you?"
She sighed softly. "124 W Cord St. Right over by Morton Park." I knew exactly where that was. Who she knew over there, however, was a mystery to me.
"Why are you there?"
"Just visiting a friend. Can you come? I don't want to call dad."
"I'll be there in twenty minutes, Julie." I got into my car. "Just know that if someone has hurt you, I'll kill them."
She sighed softly, and I could almost hear her shaking her head. "Tom? You're not mom."
He started carrying around pens for some reason. And a sketchbook. An old worn one filled with writing and blank music sheets. He was always scribbling in it. I started joking around that he was writing me love songs, and he'd only smile. But there was something in his eyes that made me think that it was true.
"Where are we going?" Asked a feminine voice. My girlfriend. I had been dating her for a year and was kind of sick of her. Always whining. No sense of humor. That and I think I was in love with someone else.
"Where do you want to go?" I asked, not looking at her.
"Let's go to the lake. I heard Stacy was going with her new boyfriend, and I seriously want to see who's interested in her ugly ass."
"What about us?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, why do we always go somewhere with or for other people? Why don't we go to the lake because you want to spend time together? Not so you can spy on someone else."
She laughed. It was almost sadistic. "Oh Tom. You're so naïve."
Naïve? I was at least hoping she'd say romantic. Or something else more cheesy and false. "Fine. We'll go to the damn lake so you can laugh at Stacy."
She leaned over and kissed me. "You're such a good boyfriend."
"But before we go, Charise, I want to break up."
She turned around and looked at me as though she'd seen a ghost. "Fine. Fuck you then."
He stopped sculpting a month after his mom died. But, not before he lost his smile and his laugh. I tried joking with him, especially with our new favorite: the Charise-fuck you incident where I found out that she was dating a girl the whole time we were together. He stopped talking to almost everyone but my sister and I. She had never told him about the time I picked her up, or all the other times from that address.
"I have an appointment." Julie said. "Can you take me?"
"What about dad?" I asked, waking up. Jake had been in my dreams again.
"He's drinking. Please?"
I got up, not really wanting to. "Fine. Give me five minutes.
She left without saying another word. She'd been acting strangely these past two months. I just sighed and grabbed a shirt off the floor, sniffing it to see if it was clean. He popped into my head as soon as I dropped it, spotting dried clay on it.
"Let's go to the park." He'd said. His mom was still alive, and he was still happy.
"It's four in the morning." I'd said.
"I know. But, I really want to swing on the swings."
I never questioned him. He was a dork and very childlike, but he wasn't cursed with having to grow up too fast.
We'd walked over to the park, hand in hand for some inexplicable reason. Maybe because it made us feel invincible, even though we were eighteen, nine months shy of graduating.
"Swings!" He cried, jumping on the seat. He started swinging, higher and higher, laughing. I watched as he started to slow down again.
"Swing with me." He'd said. "I'm lonely and need my best friend Tom with me at all times."
"Idiot." I'd said, laughing. "When will you grow up, Jake?"
"When the moon and the stars collide like rainbows and the clouds."
I was about to sit on the swing when he pulled me over and plopped me on his lap. We were both skinny, but Jake had muscles from working out.
"What are you doing?" I'd asked. He didn't say anything but smile. His blue eyes shone in the moonlight. It was then I'd realized I'd fallen in love with him. Something I knew I could never tell him.
We'd swung in silence, at peace.
"Tom?" He'd said, after a few minutes. I looked at him, and he kissed me. Softly, but I could feel it down to my toes. I kissed back, not even thinking.
A dog bark made him pull away. When we left that park, five minutes later, we still hadn't said anything about that kiss. Knowing him, we probably never would.
"Tom!" Julie called, snapping me out of my state of mind. "I made you some breakfast so you'll have something to eat in the car." My stomach rumbled slightly until I heard her retching.
"Julie? Are you pregnant?"
He liked to play his acoustic guitar when he'd too many thoughts in his head. It was a present from his dad, right before his parents had split. Right before my mom went crazy. We used to joke that only his dad could make her sane again. Until she killed someone. We never really spoke about each other's parents again. But he still kept playing the guitar. Especially after his mom died.
"Are you going to tell Jake?" I asked as I drove Julie home.
"His mom just died. Do you want me to stake him through the heart too?"
"Let me guess. You've been cheating on him with Billy Chip, right?"
"Robert Chip, actually."
I swerved and hit the brakes, almost causing an accident.
"Get out of my car."
"What? Tom. Don't be stupid. I couldn't sleep with his dad. His dad's a drunk."
"But you are cheating on Jake."
She didn't say anything.
"You have to tell him. You can't make him a dad when the kid's not his."
"Billy will want me to have an abortion. He won't give me money, and I don't have any."
I shook my head. "Maybe he'll want it."
"He didn't say that when he found out I wasn't on birth control after he forgot the condom."
He started to sculpt again after his teacher threatened to fail him. She'd told him art was the best coping method. He told her she was a loony old coot, and stormed out. This was three days after he dumped my sister. He told her to keep the baby though. Death was too much to deal with, especially when it was someone so close to you.
"Tom?" He asked. We were back in the art room. He was sculpting, and I was skimming through his sketch book. He was a fantastic writer. Though, he preferred visual art to written word.
"Yeah?" Now it was déjà vu.
"I've been thinking." He stopped throwing clay to look at me. I closed his sketch book and glanced at him. It was hard to look at someone you loved when so much hurt was in their eyes.
"It's been one hell of a few months."
I laughed. "You could say that again."
"Don't interrupt." He chided, smiling. The first one in three months, since his mom died. "I've been thinking a lot about that night in the park."
I nodded. He'd never told anyone about that. Now that my sister and he had been broken up for a month, I'd been waiting everyday to see if he'd say something.
"I love you." I dropped the pencil I'd been holding.
"I didn't know what I was feeling. I've been confused ever since junior year, when you and I met. So I asked out your sister. Plus, you still had Charise."
He was babbling. "So why didn't you bring up the kiss again?"
Jake ran his fingers through his hair. Bad idea, seeing as they were covered in clay. I started cracking up. "What?"
I tried to stop laughing, but I couldn't. Then he realized what he did. He picked up so clay, rolled it between is fingers, and threw it at me. I laughed harder.
Until he kissed me. Hands in hair and bodies pressed together, we kissed until we heard the door slam open.
"Fucking queers ruin the moment for everyone." Said a voice as the door closed again.
He started laughing after that. And talking to other people. I didn't leave his side, just like he'd asked. We held hands and kissed when we could. We graduated with everyone knowing we were together. But, we didn't let that bother us.
"I want you to move in with me." I said, tossing my books into my bag.
"I want you to come to art school with me." He said.
"But I'm not good at art."
"You're a writer. They'll love your work."
"No. They love your writing. Mine is too depressing. I'm depressing."
"Yours is realistic. You, on the other hand, are what make life worth living."
I sighed. "Will it make you happy?"
"Even better. It'll make you happy too."