Kabachin and Torachin

Kabachin and Torachin are very close friends. Like big hands on tummies and sparkling fireworks, it was warmth and adoration at first glance. They've known each other for a little under a year now, and during that time their bond has grown at an exponential pace - seven-leage level. This, because Kabachin was struggling with his letters and Torachin decided to help him out, continued to help him out throughout the remainder of the year; made it a weekly habit.

a-b-c can be c-d-b if you're out of it. It can even become a d-c-e when you're truly in a daze.

In the very beginning it was mostly pity because, to Torachin, reading Social Work while mixing up your letters seemed like an absolutely dreadful assignment. He couldn't possibly sit by and let that happen to a person as wonderful and helpless as Kabachin. As time passed, it became less of a friendly obligation and more of something he looked forward to. Continuously. In a rising curve. More than once Torachin found himself wishing their time together wouldn't be cut short, could keep on rolling and snowballing endlessly. Torachin began to absolutely love his little two-hour meetings with Kabachin, all the more so because he knew that Kabachin loved them, too.

More, more and more - feelings swelling like a thick juicy apple cake in the oven.

Torachin hadn't known what it meant to have a true friend until he met Kabachin. They discussed the material treated in class and did exercises, met up in small, dusty tea-rooms and blew their minimal allowances on greasy lunches and overpriced coffee. In between bites and drinks and quiet grumbling and sweating over creased pages covered in tiny lettering, Kabachin and Torachin would talk. Likes and dislikes, dreams and expectations, family situations. Global warming and the hunger in the world. Romance and consumerism. Excursions to the Amazon and boat trips over Congo River. Girls with big boobs.

Torachin would make summaries in big bold lettering and print them double sided on grey recycling paper for Kabachin to study. He would highlight difficult words and spell them out, make sure Kabachin understood that replicability and repeatability are closely related yet vastly different scientific principles, even if they both start and end the exact same way, and that 'insinuating', 'initiating' and 'instigating' can very possibly all mean the same thing, basically, but actually, only if you try your hardest to ignore that in fact they don't.

To Kabachin, who was far from unintelligent but seemed to lack a certain something other, 'normal' people often take for granted, these things were very painfully confusing. He would nod and sweat and purse his lips, look up at Torachin with guilty eyes and ask a helpless question. Often, even though Torachin himself wasn't a genius, these questions would be fairly easy to answer. However, to Kabachin they stood square between him and his goal, seemingly insurmountable; like the dragon blocking the castle entrance or the stairway to the summit - the four-minute wait between you pouring the hot water and eating your cup noddles.

Torachin would make sure his answer implied Kabachin's question had been completely legit. That he had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. That it had been the most important question in the world. Kabachin would call himself an idiot regardless, but he would do so with a smile.

Kabachin's smiles were always genuine. That, Torachin knew for a fact.

This wonderful, beautiful bond of solidarity and codependency is the reason for their happy get-together today. Kabachin and Torachin are sitting opposite each other on the floor, with Kabachin's low coffee table strategically positioned in the middle. They are celebrating two closely related somethings: 1. Their exceptional friendship that knows no bounds, and 2. The acquisition of their first bachelor's degree.

Kabachin and Torachin are drinking beer and eating olives, cheese, crackers and sausages out of tall glass jars. Kabachin is extremely happy, repeating every five seconds how grateful he is, how he definitely wouldn't have made it without Torachin's help. Torachin waves these compliments away with a bashful smile. He tries to convince Kabachin that the pleasure is his entirely - that it was meant to be. Torachin was raised in a Catholic household after all, and if there's one thing Catholics are good at, it is being of service to whomever comes knocking, all the while hoping and praying for salvation.

Torachin found salvation in the shape of Kabachin.

Their celebration today is, unfortunately, also a bit of a goodbye party. Kabachin has decided to attend a different college: a college that focuses on individual talents and coaching, that allows a more personal approach, some extra space to breathe. "Because you deserve an equal opportunity", Torachin has told Kabachin a number of times, over and over again, until it had sunk in. His encouragement more than anything helped Kabachin make his decision.

The new college is located in a faraway place, about two hundred kilometres north. Two hundred and fifty? Torachin doesn't know and neither does Kabachin. Kabachin laughs warmly, large teeth showing. "It doesn't matter", he says. "They've got a school just for me!" He goes on telling Torachin about the campus and the rules, about the freaky crazy curriculum. About how he's already talked to a bunch of awesome people and guess what? They all told him the same thing: the program will suit him just fine.

Talking about his plans for the future makes Kabachin very happy. His bubbly positivity fills Torachin to the brim.

"If it wasn't for you, this wouldn't even be a possibility", Kabachin says. His eyes and voice are full. His gratitude is overwhelming, thick and solid like warm wooden branches. This causes Torachin's heart to clench tightly, because there's something else there, too: something Torachin has to avoid - like gazing not directly at the sun but a little ways past it, out of the searing beam's reach - for fear it might and most possibly will burn a hole right through him...

There's pure adoration in Kabachin's eyes, rich and soft. Kabachin is such a warm, honest person. Everything shows on his face.

"This right here means everything to me", Kabachin says, gesturing. "You don't even know."

"Of course I do", Torachin says. "I'm part of the equation, right?"

"You are", Kabachin says, taking another swig of his beer. "Let's have a toast!" And he's smiling more beautifully than ever. They proceed to toast on everything they like and love, everything they have in common, the good and the bad - although there's hardly any bad to speak of. They lift their bottles and gulp down big mouthfuls, toasting to the very best year of their lives.

"Remember that time we couldn't take it anymore and snuck out of Anthropology?" Kabachin asks. "That time we had the whole student lounge to ourselves?"

"Yeah", Torachin says, nodding timidly. The first floor student lounge held a creaky upright piano, a broken coffee machine and a couple of tattered green couches. It'd been a quiet Thursday afternoon, the sky had been heavily overcast, drops on his jeans, teacher running late for the umpteenth time. Torachin remembered it all very well. The memory was precious as well as embarrassing. Some parts, not the parts with Kabachin in them, naturally. Unfortunately their parts intermingled.

"Don't pout", Kabachin says, leaning forward to lightly punch Torachin in the shoulder. "Listen to me", he says, breathing in deeply. "That day was the worst, I felt so depressed, but you were there for me."

If by 'being there' you mean I cried my eyes out, Torachin thinks, flushing a candy red colour, then you're right. "Feels like ages ago."

"Thanks to you", Kabachin says. Then he says: "No one's ever cried for me before."

"I'm glad it helped", Torachin replies sheepishly, feeling his throat constrict.

Kabachin's voice and eyes are soft. "You know I'm trying to give you a proper thanks, right?" He cracks open a new bottle, laughing.

Torachin is trying not to feel self-conscious when Kabachin leans forward and touches him a second time; his shoulder, his ear - patting, stroking - as if he can't keep his hands to himself. His eyes are glittering like black stars in a mocha universe. Planets, stars and galaxies - intergalactic spaces; all the colours of the cosmic spectrum combined result in a latte-coloured base. Kabachin's eyes are the different layers of universe, combined. A melty soft caramel brown. It's a bit of a miracle.

"You're the best friend in the world", Kabachin says. "I'm going to miss you so bad."

"Me too", Torachin whispers, because what else is there to say? He will be terribly lonely without Kabachin around, more so than he's ever been in his entire life - but he'll manage. The world doesn't end where Kabachin does, they have trains and buses nowadays, no more horse-drawn carriages on cobblestone - the roads are smooth, two hundred and fifty kilometres is nothing compared to the expanse of the unknown universe - Torachin has got a mobile phone and it works.

His mind is aware of these things, neatly listed and lined up in order of relevance. He'll just have to convince his aching heart. Get a grip, Torachin!

"Hey, Torachin?" Kabachin says. "Something wrong?"

Torachin loves the sweet concern in Kabachin's voice. Their friendship is a gift, it truly is. He remembers kneeling at his bedside in the lonely aftermath of his high school graduation, by himself, in the dark. And he remembers praying: "Dear God, please give me a friend. For the next year I'd like to have a real friend, please. For the first time, a best friend. Please, God."

Torachin soon forgot about his prayer, let his mind become occupied by other, more pressing things; however, a few weeks back, out of the blue the memory slapped him right across the forehead, sudden as a thunderbolt and clear as sparkling water. Torachin remembered the near-unbearable longing, the raw, gaping sensation in his gut - but now none of that is there anymore. Like pointy icicles melted before the sun: Kabachin is day upon day filled with sunshine.

Torachin had thoughtlessly assumed - a bit conceited, he knows - that all of it would last. Great expectations, a tad arrogant, not to mention shortsighted; yet, when happiness is thrown at you in such a way, it is difficult to willingly tear yourself loose, nearly impossible to look past the here and now and into the future. Shed the clouds and be bombarded back to reality. Realize that all good things come to an end, eventually, naturally - it is the way of the world.

Torachin can no longer imagine a life without Kabahin. Without smiles and books and jokes and reading every day. Without sudden texts and meet-ups at cafés and book stores and bursts of laughter everywhere, all the time and all around him. Frankly, the thought is too frightening to bear. He isn't yet ready to embrace reality in all of its cruel eventuality.

"Torachin, are you alright? You look a bit pale."

Torachin says: "I'm alright."

Kabachin pauses, then smiles. "Torachin", he says softly, lovingly, "You're mourning, I'm not dead yet. Even though it's far away, that doesn't have to mean we can't see each other again. I'll come visit. I'll visit every chance I get."

"I know", Torachin says, smiling quietly. "I know, it's just…"

And what is it, really? What is it he can't bring himself to say?

"Yeah", Kabachin says, laughing a laugh that's both sadness and joy. "Wish we could've had more time together, yeah? Just like this."

And that's it, right? That's part of it. Torachin wholeheartedly agrees.

"Will you be okay?" Kabachin asks, optimism faltering. He's such a sweet, sweet, honest guy.

Kabachin is gentle, Kabachin is smart. Kabachin is very, incredibly handsome.

"I'll be fine", Torachin says, forcing an answering smile onto a face that practically refuses to. It must show, Torachin thinks, because his lips are hurting. He says: "It'll be like in those movies."

Kabachin blinks. He doesn't get it. He never quite possessed the skill to pretend, either. Such a nice, honest person.

"You know", Torachin says, giggling a bit. "Like we had a really short, really sweet romance."

Breathing doesn't quite seem to happen naturally anymore. Talking hurts. "Only," he says, "only that-" and then his voice breaks, something he hadn't seen coming but could've easily predicted - should've kept his mouth shut.

"O-only that we w-weren't… weren't in love…"

The 'love' comes out in a sob, very low and dampish, bursting past his lips. Torachin cries silent tears. They break through to the surface, making his cheeks and nose glow blotchy red. His face is glowing hot. His lashes feel sticky, clogged with salt and wetness. Torachin is quite sure his smile isn't fooling Kabachin anymore.

Kabachin is very smart, kind, bright and funny. To be perfectly honest, Torachin doesn't want him to leave at all. Even if to Kabachin changing colleges is the best possible option.

It's a complicated feeling.

Kabachin's eyes are wide, bewilderment clear on his face. There is a whole new look there, shocked and startled, mouth open but unmoving. It's a bit disconcerting: Torachin thought he knew just about everything there was to know about Kabachin - every little movement and expression - so seeing him all frozen and speechless leaves a weird feel in his chest. It's just not right.

Torachin wipes his cheeks and nose with the sleeve of his knitted green sweater. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a tissue, uses it to blow his nose, but not too loudly. He's already displayed his fair share of obnoxious behaviour for the night.

Realization is dawning on Kabachin, slowly.

Torachin gazes up with watery eyes. They must be shining something awful, his vision is too blurred to clearly see his best friend's face.

Kabachin has soft brown hair and tanned skin with freckles. He's been a smoker since his early teens, which is the reason his teeth have yellowed slightly. He thinks it's the worst, often blows it out of proportion. Torachin thinks it's actually quite charming. Kabachin has cosmic eyes with heavy lids and thick lashes. Torachin wants to feel Kabachin's lashes against his skin until he's giggling with pleasure. Kabachin doesn't know this. He might now, though. It doesn't matter. Torachin sniffles and folds up his tissue. The cat is finally out of the bag, Kabachin doesn't look confused anymore. He's such an amazing and honest guy. Such a sweet, honest guy.

Kabachin leans forward, resolutely, and takes Torachin in his arms. He pushes the table aside and comes closer. Torachin's breath hitches in his throat. His warmth collides with Kabachin's. Their chests bump together, bodies merging; a solid plane for him to lean on. He blinks and breathes in Kabachin's scent. Kabachin has a soft hand on Torachin's head, fingers tangling in his hair. He presses his ear to Torachin's skin and says nothing.

Torachin knows Kabachin best, knows Kabachin truly is a wonderful person - always kind and always honest, truthful in his words and deeds. With Kabachin, everything shows on his face; from despair to gratitude, to joy and adoration. Surprise and admiration, but not love. Not the kind of love Torachin feels for Kabachin.

It doesn't really matter though, does it? It shouldn't matter at all. Get a grip, Torachin, what the hell are you crying for?

It's not that different, really. It's logic and a clear outlook on life. People shouldn't wish for more heat when they've already got the shielding warmth of a snug blanket - when there's plenty of cozy hearths to snuggle in front of. Why wish to soar when you're already drifting on a nice, comfortable cloud, few centimetres above the ground? Nothing wrong with that, only fools would want to risk breaking their limbs on impulse. Torachin's not in for the breaking, honestly. He prefers peace and comfort above all else. He'll stop crying any moment now, you'll see. He's being a child, claiming Kabachin as if Kabachin is Torachin's to keep. Preposterous! Kabachin is here, isn't he? Kabachin is with him. They're closer than they've ever been before, and that is plenty, it's more than enough. It should be, definitely. It should.

Only Torachin feels like he'll never, ever in his life be happy again.

They hold each other for a very long time. At some point Torachin doesn't know anymore where Torachin ends and Kabachin begins, but he figures that's alright. Because Kabachin isn't pulling away, and because, if he ignores some of the major factors and focuses on the others ones - the soft and soothing ones, the ones that make his heart flutter - this might just about be the most beautiful moment of his life.

End