As we sat on the yellowed grass next to the crumbling remains of your childhood home, you with your fishnets and Converse, me with my combat boots and rolled-up jeans, both of us with our shades on against the setting sun, we both took in this time we had together, this one last night before you’d move several states away to go off to art school.
They’d fenced off the house to keep mischievous kids from getting in and having the place collapse on them. They’d been planning on knocking down the house and building an apartment complex in its place, but they’d run out of money during the demolition, and so there it sat, half-crumbled, waiting for someone to put it out of its misery. We made so many memories in that house–hide and seek in the dark, laser tag with flashlights, sledding down the stairs on pillows–and here we were now, watching the light go out from the sky like a campfire that’d reached the end of its life, knowing that soon I’d have to go home and you’d have to go out on the road.
I couldn’t afford art school, not even with financial aid, but you could. I tried to stay cool about it, but I knew you could tell I was at least a little jealous. I tried to be happy for you, tried to smile and get excited in all the right places, but it was more than a little forced.
Our art grew along with us, everything from doodles and comics to portraits and landscapes. You always said I was better than you, and I always disagreed. Now, just to make myself feel better, I let myself agree in my head.
“So you’re all packed to go and everything?”
“Yep. Roscoe totally knows something is up. He keeps whining and pawing at the boxes. It’s funny.”
I pictured Roscoe fussing like that, your big orange tabby perennially looking to me like a kitten even though he was thirteen years old.
“Is your mom still giving you shit?”
“Of course. You know her. She and dad are still trying to get me to reconsider. Stay home, go to community college, go into business, something. They keep telling me there’s no money in art, as if I was doing this for money in the first place.”
“Yeah, I know. Whatever. It is what it is. And I don’t give a shit, I’m going.”
We both shared a laugh, and it got sad at the end of it when we both remembered that this was our one last night, when we realized this could be one of the last laughs we’d share together.
“Have you gotten your schedule already?”
“Yeah. I’m taking mostly gen eds to get them out of the way, but I’ve got a couple of figure drawing and art theory classes, and I’m taking a class on sexuality.”
We looked at each other and shared an awkward smile. There was a silence that was midway between comfortable and uncomfortable.
“I bet your mom loves that.”
“She doesn’t know, and she’s not going to find out.”
“I could just imagine her turning red and telling you that the Lord is watching.”
You laughed again.
“Yeah, she’d have to do a dozen Hail Marys just to get the impure thoughts out of her head.”
We shared another awkward smile, made eye contact that went on a little too long. I broke the silence:
“Do you remember when we used to play spin the bottle out here at night when your parents were asleep?”
“Yeah, and that one time I had to kiss Robbie Stevenson. Dude was all tongue and mouth, I thought he was gonna eat my face. Freaking gross.”
“Yeah, I remember. I like to think I was the best kisser. No big deal.”
You laughed. I thought I saw your cheeks get red, but it could’ve just been the rosy sunset.
“Yeah. You totally were.”
It got quiet again. The sun was past the trees now, nearly below the horizon.
There was no way of knowing who initiated the kiss. It just sort of happened. When it was over, you scooted over and rested your head on my shoulder. I reached over and started stroking your hair. The neighborhood looked to me like it was coming through a fishbowl on account of the tears that were forming. I closed my eyes and smiled.