I'm Fine: Spandel finds that, perhaps, he and Oliver have more in common than he thought as he embarks to try and understand the boy better.
"Aside from the lack of sleep?" Spandel's voice was the only one besides Oliver's. It was late and the sky was beginning to grow a blueish purple color. Oliver was sitting on the last step of the metal bleachers that sat beside the field, a blanket wrapped around his thin body as the chilly October air nipped at him. Spandel was a few steps above him, walking along the metal stair as he looked up at the sky. They both were waiting for Jasper, who was across the stretch of grass in the locker room getting changed before they could head home. Spandel, after watching Oliver all throughout Jasper's practice, decided to strike up a conversation with the quiet male.
"That's nothing new."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Oliver lowered his head. His nose, which was red from the cold, pressed against the blanket and a silent breeze passed through his hair, causing it to tickle at his neck. "What is there to talk about?"
Spandel's steps hit the metal with a small thump, "you're easy to read" he commented, "easy for me at least. You're so sad all of the time." He mused, "even when I can sense your real happiness, there's still something in there that's sad."
The other boy took a shaky breath, "Spandel have you ever felt like you're drowning?"
"No. I've never drowned before." He spoke, "but from the movies, Jasper and I have watched it doesn't look pleasant."
"I meant figuratively. It's Like being underwater. Trying to keep your mouth closed, but your throat starts burning and your lungs want air, but there's none around. You can't even breath. It hurts, but eventually, when you finally let the water in it stops hurting."
"But, wouldn't you keep your mouth closed then? Until there lifeguard comes to save you?" Spandel wondered aloud.
"There is no lifeguard, there's no one. And you can't keep your mouth closed forever, because eventually you'll black out and then you're mouth will open because you can't keep it closed any longer."
"But before that, you have time." Spandel stopped his pacing. "You have time before then, time for someone to come or for something to happen. Holding your mouth closed for just a little longer could mean saving your life, right?"
"But it hurts too."
"Wouldn't the pain be worth it?" Spandel looked down on Oliver, whose back remained turned toward him. "Wouldn't it be worth it because you could be saved?"
"What would the point be?" His voice dropped, "to be saved from the pain of drowning only to feel more pain throughout your life every day. What if gets worse? What if I'm not able to swim to the surface? What if no one comes?"
"Oliver?" Spandel walked down to him slowly, Oliver didn't spare him a single glance. "When was the last time you went to your therapist?"
"Don't even mention that." Oliver looked over with a reddening face, "don't sit there and act like you're any better than me!" Oliver's elbow was propped on his knee and his face was resting in the side of his palm. "You think I can't tell how sad you are all the time? Deep down?" He scoffed, pressing his face more into his palm to hide the warm feeling of tears falling slick down his cheeks. "I do, so don't sit there and give me advice that you're not even going to take and apply to yourself."
Spandel leaned back on the step, his head upturned at the sky for a moment before glancing at Oliver. "I'm sorry." He spoke slowly, "I'm sorry because it's true."
"No one gets how hard it is to even tell someone you're drowning, to give them the chance to jump in as well to try to get in- to try to understand. You don't know how they'll react or if they'll begin to think of you differently." Oliver's hand ran through his hair, "you just don't know."
"But…" Spandel looked down at the ground for a moment, rethinking everything Oliver had said to him over the last few minutes. "But I do know...how it feels"
Oliver stood up, so Spandel looked up to see Jasper jogging across the field with a grin. "You guys ready to get home? Huh...is something wrong?" He slowed as he approached them.
"I'm fine, just tired." He walked to meet Jasper, "I'm just ready to go home now."
"Spandel are you okay?"
Spandel rose slowly, "yes, I'm fine." He spoke quietly, "I'm ready to go home as well."
Spandel's face pressed against the glass of the window as he watched Oliver slip out of the car and head inside. Jasper pulled away shortly after that, heading back to their apartment. Spandel could get rid of Oliver words in his head though. He sat there, deep in thought, only being pulled away from them when Jasper spoke. "Are you sure you're okay Spandel?" After a long moment, Spandel spoke.
"Jasper, can I ask you about Oliver?"
"Yeah, ask away."
"I don't understand…" he was trying to pick his words carefully. "I don't understand why Oliver's so sad all of the time."
"Oh...that's a tough one." Jasper tapped the wheel of the car. "I just think he has a lot of things that he's dealing with."
"He's surrounded by friends and family, all of which are so warm. He has Keily by his side as well, surely he has reasons to be happy."
"You know Spandel, I'm sure people could say the same thing about you if they saw you and I together and having a nice time together."
"I guess that's true." He muttered, Spandel leaned into his seat, "he said some odd things while you were getting changed and it just made me worry, as well as make me think a lot about myself. I just want to understand him better. I want to know what makes him feel such pain all the time. I want to know why he doesn't sleep and why he can barely bring himself to let even his friends touch him."
"Well" Jasper flipped his blinker on, "Oliver has been my best friend for a long time now and I don't really even understand everything about him. I know some things that bring him down, I'd say that he just has troubles accepting and letting go of things that have happened in the past. Because of that, he's hurting himself more than he knows."
"What things though?" Spandel pressed, "please all I want is to understand."
"Spandel do you know what foster care is?"
"I'm not sure."
"Well, when children don't have a family or someone to take care of them, they're often put in foster care until they can find a new home and are adopted. They're like temporary homes with families who care for you for that time being. You already know that Oliver's real mom gave him up, that's why he likes with the Reyes. You see, Oliver spent a long time in foster care bouncing between families, he wasn't adopted until he was around eleven or twelve." Jasper bit his lip gently, he was hesitating to say anything more. He knew what was to come next could possibly bring up some unpleasantries for his boyfriend regarding his own childhood. "You see...strangers take care of you in foster care, you have no idea who they are you just have to trust the system that put you there, right? A child can't really fight it, can they? Most of the people that take in children like that are very kind and wonderful people who just want to help children. Other times, maybe not. Sometimes you can be put with people who seem nice, but they're not. Maybe they don't like kids or want a perfectly behaving foster child, or sometimes there just in it for the money. They may even abuse the kids in many different ways, maybe not to the extent your uncle hurt you, but they still hurt them." Spandel looked up at that comment, thinking back to his painful childhood, "now Oliver's never said anything like this to me before, but I think that maybe while he bouncing around in the system, somewhere along the line he was with bad people like that." Jasper added quickly, "I don't know if that true, but I think so given the issues he has."
Spandel quietly sat back in his seat. If that was true then that meant Oliver experienced similar pain as he did growing up. Granted, he was sure no human could hurt someone in the ways his demonic uncle had with him, but it was still troubling to think about.
The next day Spandel found himself wondering the park alone. He'd told Jasper to stay home because he wanted to talk to Oliver alone. Though reluctant, Jasper agreed and let the demon go on his own. It was another crisp fall day, leaving a chill in the air as it blew through the bare trees and sent colored leaves to tumble across the ground. Oliver was at the swing set, his boots digging into the ground as he pushed himself slightly back and forth on the swing. Spandel silently took a seat next to him. There were both quiet for a long moment. Oliver's hands gripped the chains of the swing and Spandel sat completely still. "Oliver I've always had complicated feeling towards you." Spandel began, "I feel that it's unfair of me to have certain opinions of you just because I don't know you well."
"So that's what you want." Oliver kept his focus downward. "You want me to confess some sob story to make you feel better about the way you think of me."
"You know that's not what this is about."
"Just tell me that's what you want. It would make this so much easier for me. Please, just don't ask me to open up and tell you everything because I can't."
"Just say it. I'd be the last person to judge you." Spandel assured him. "Besides, Jasper's already given me some things to think about over you."
Oliver scoffed his head tilting back with a bitter smile, "well consider his theories right."
"Tell me about the bad family."
"Let me...in" Spandel breathed, he could sense Oliver growing uncomfortable. "Just- give yourself the opportunity to open up. I know how it feels, it took me so long to open up to Jasper about my uncle and everything that happened while I was with him and when I finally did I felt a new sense of freedom. I still have problems with it, but having Jasper there to help- it makes things better." Spandel looked down, "It makes me sad that you don't have anyone like that- that you won't tell anyone." Oliver was quiet for a long time, his head lowered with his bangs shadowing his face to hide it from Spandel.
"The Brown couple had seemed nice at first." He began softly. "I began living with them after my tenth Birthday. I...had trouble adjusting to living with them. I acted out a lot." He explained, "they made it clear that they weren't going to put up with me though. They'd lock me in my room a lot, I suppose that wasn't all that bad. The wife, she liked to slap me a lot, though she was smart enough never to leave a real mark on me. I was always afraid to go to sleep, so I'd stay up for as long as I could until I passed out and had to sleep." Spandel listened on, "well they-" Oliver's hand shook a bit, still holding on to the swing, he took a deep breath. "Well, whenever I misbehaved or they didn't like something I did they wouldn't let me eat. They wouldn't let me until I was crying and begging and even then sometimes they wouldn't. I was always so thin and sick and tired and jumpy- they kids in school would pick on me for it. Even school stopped being a place I could feel safe at." Oliver leaned forward struggling with deep breaths, "I feel sick" he admitted. Spandel felt the boy jump slightly under his touch as he moved to rub his back.
"There's so much more" he breathed, "why didn't my mom want me? Why am I so useless, why-" Oliver's voice faded too and end as he felt a warm sensation drip onto his neck. Looking up he realized Spandel had begun to cry as he stood above him. Slick tears dripped from his eyes, sliding down his pale skin and leaving a red hue on his face and in his eyes. Oliver's shoulders shook slightly as struggled to keep his own cries to himself.
"I always thought- I never would've-" Spandel cut himself off. "I-I'm sorry. I'm sorry I don't know what else to say." He whimpered as he looked down at Oliver, whose cheeks had gone red and his eyes brimming with warm tears. He could see so much of himself in Oliver that it hurt. "I'm sorry." He repeated.
Oliver seemed to understand what Spandel was trying to say, "thank you" he breathed, his voice quivering slightly and his cheeks now growing wet with tears. He sat there, Spandel's arms around him as he'd stopped his swinging. Spandel's head was propped up on his own, his chin resting on top and his eyes open was a red puffiness to them. Oliver quietly leaned into Spandel, though nothing else seemed to be said between the two of them, the fact that they were there for each other remained ever so clear between them.