The breezeway is buzzing. Freshman hop from moving cars. They scramble through the lobby doors to stand in C building. The orange and black blurs in grainy, morning eyes. The mixed smell of breakfast and cologne mingles through the chaos. It chokes down the back of my throat. Brick scratches my back as I press hard into the corner of the building. My backpack leans heavy against my ankle. The weight is comforting.
You’re sitting on a brick wall across the way. You are quiet, and still. Your eyes shift coyly in my direction. I freeze, gritting my teeth. You look down quickly to sift through your text messages.
I know you’re waiting on him. You’re waiting on the boy with the glass blue eyes, the boy with the warm radiant smile. He’s the boy I asked to be the fourth in the band.
I thumb the edges of your guitar pick in my pocket. I run it under the tips of my nails. My skin crawls with longing. I press the point of the pick deep into my fingers, desperate to numb the frantic fall.
He swoops in with skinny jeans and Vans. He brushes the edge of your jawline. Your rich chocolate hair tumbles across your forehead, waves sticking in places to your warm skin.
I cinch my eyes tight, cutting the connection. A burning acid builds in the back of my throat. I can’t help but smell your tea tree shampoo. I run my tongue along the backs of my teeth. I taste your honey skin on its tip. I feel your pin pricking lips rake across my lurching body. You burned and scared like a savage wildfire. I open my eyes to your hand wrapped in his.
The 8am bell rings. It rattles through my hollow chest like an echo clamoring up jagged walls. My knees crack as I bend to pick up my bag.
He’s in my first class. You leave him with a childish grin at the doorway. He takes his desk in front of me. He turns to flash a wide smile. I drift deep in his eyes again. A translucent, “hello,” builds across his lips like the foamy point of a churning wave. I am impossibly moved. I shiver and nod at our torturous ritual. I fumble with my notebook. I sink back in my chair, dragged by the riptide, drowning in brackish water.
It’s 3:14. My foot taps the tile, my eraser digs pink lines across the desk. One more minute until freedom. It’s 3:15. The bell rings. A cold sweat beads damp in my hands. I run my palms through my tangled hair. We agreed there’d be band practice tonight.
I walk to the parking lot, eyes down, face contorted. I fumble into my car. My limbs are heavy and numb. The radio is loud. It drowns the deafening murmur of damaging silence. The seatbelt clicks. I pull onto HWY 601.
He always walks home from class. The asphalt scuffs the edges of his Vans as he slides them along the dirty white line. His fists twist tight around the straps of his black backpack. Glass eyes reflect the hard black surface of the road. His gate is steady. His shoulders are thrown back. The creases of his lips are pressed together to form a pencil thin line. His radiant skin tugs at my breath, like a brutal wind pulling at tattered edges.
My right foot trembles and presses softly on the breaks. The mechanical window hums.
“Do you need a ride?”
“Do you mind?”
I motion to the passenger side. The lock clicks down. The door opens and thumps shut. I press down on the gas.
I watch him flick his rock star hair back into place. He slides his book bag down the front of his dark jeans. It falls into the floorboard. He sighs. I stare forward. I tap the center of the steering wheel. I let his golden voice drag me farther from you.
His long fingers reach the expanses of the center console. Time slows into an empty chasm as his fingers connect with the edges of my leg. His palm brushes gently upward into the dip of my hip. His pointer finger curls into an empty belt loop.
My nails dig into the steering wheel. My cotton tongue chokes down the back of my throat. My lungs constrict. My eyes glaze. I veer a stabbing right. Headlights bust, and blistering metal buckles. The car makes contact with the pole.
Warm blood surges through my jugular. My heart skips. It lurches, and turns over. I cough violently. Copper flecks thrash against the back of my throat. My heart flutters, alive again.
Glass glitters and swirls in the violent red pool dripping onto my lap. I scan the backs of my eyelids. The flickering waves of darkness churn deep and devastating. My wet lashes peel apart at the seams. My stiff neck creaks as I glance softly to the right.
The crumpled metal and half inflated airbag are folded into his body. His paper-thin lips are pale and split. His hair is damp and tinged a rusty red. His high cheekbones are sunken. His eyes are wide and dim.
My body shudders and sighs. I lean back, gingerly, into the headrest. The split edges of my lips curl. I rub my eyelids shut with the backs of my glass-flecked hands. Consciousness feels uneven and rough. It slips like sandpaper from my blood slick skin.