“In any kind of society you would find idioms. Phrases that carries something more than just the meaning of individual words they are comprised of” Mr. Bradley’s monotonous voice rang. Half of the class were asleep, behind the camouflage of stood up books. The other half was preoccupied with tapping on their phones under the desks. Shane flipped his pencil in his fingers. He had a phone true, he had a camouflage textbook true, but he did not feel like using either today. Instead he was doodling on his notebook. He looked at Kristy, the blonde girl sitting next to his desk and started drawing her fiddling with her phone. He had a gift at drawing. He could draw almost anything from trees to animals to humans. Naturally, therefore, art was his favorite subject. He drew lines elegant, curvy and lifelike to the point that someone might even believe that they are more real than the actual subjects he drew.
He looked at Kristy again, to get the shape of her ear right. But she was now leaning back on her chair spinning her phone on the desk. And right within his line of sight was Bryan, the sandy haired kid who lived across the street from where he lived. Suddenly he felt a pang of something electric shooting up from his stomach. Bryan was sprawled on his desk playing with the hair of Maya who was sitting in front of him. Maya and Bryan had been making headlines in school lately. The hottest couple since Jensen and Holly happened last semester. He could not be sure but he could tell that somewhere in his mind he was jealous at Bryan. From very early days on they had been inseparable friends. They used to ride on their bicycles up and down the neighborhood all the time. They used to climb up to the tree house they built in summers with their radios and sing aloud out of the key until it got dark.
The friendship lasted till high school. Then it was put on hold. Bryan met Maya and the old friendship began to feel the strain. Shane saw that day by day they were drifting apart by the current of Maya. And now the gap was straddled apart more than ever. They did not spend virtually any time hanging out. So maybe that is why he felt the strange pang when he looked at Bryan. He could not focus on drawing anymore. He dropped the pencil on the notepad and stared into mid distance. A torrent of emotions ranging from rage to melancholy surged and subsided in his mind. Is it natural to feel this way? He asked from himself like every time he saw them together. Probably yes. But was it right then? He was afraid of the answer but nevertheless it was reduce to a cold judgmental yes. Subconsciously he started to push his pencil to the top of the desk and then letting it roll down to the edge.
He was startled back into real world when the bell went off signalling the mid day break. The whole class made a deafening noise compared to the drowsy silence which hung in the air a few minutes ago. Shane got up and shoved his notepad into his backpack, having still not recovered from the grip of turbulent feelings. When the class headed out he saw Bryan holding hands with Maya.
There was a loud noise of chatter, laughter and shuffling of feet in the cafeteria. The long desks with short benches were full with people. Shane looked around to find a vacant spot. He found one at the corner that looked a little lonely. Perfect, he thought, Made for me. He walked through the crowd and sat down. “Mind if we join you” suddenly a voice said from behind him. He turned and found himself face to face with Bryan; and Maya. He felt as if someone has gripped his neck, choking him. “Sure” he replied curtly, trying to submerge the throes of his demons with common courtesy. “Awesome” Bryan said in his never dwindling enthusiastic voice. He sat opposite to Shane and Maya slid right next to him. They brought out their lunch. “So what’s up with you lately?” Bryan asked picking up the ketchup bottle. “Fine” Shane said taking a bite of his sandwich. “I’ve been telling Maya about your drawings you know” Bryan said through a mouthful. “She was super excited and wanted to see them. Can you show her some?” Shane looked at Maya coldly acting in complete opposite way to her smile. He thought about it for a moment. “Sure why not?” Shane reached for his notebook in his backpack and slid it across the table. “Thanks” Maya said picking up the notebook. She started to go through the pages. “Oh my god” she said in sincere surprise, “These are pretty dope Shane. You should show these to a gallery.” Shane said nothing and kept chewing. “Is this us?!” Maya said turning the notebook toward him. “Yeah” Shane said in a plain tone. “Oh my gosh look Bryan” she said leaning against him “Isn’t this romantic?” Bryan held the notebook. “Damn!” he said looking at Shane, “Man you have gotten pretty big from when we used to draw in the tree house.” Shane forced a smile. That was one memory he did not want sitting in front of Bryan with the girl who stole him from him. “Anyway” Bryan said handing the book back to Maya, “Maya and I noticed that you seemed a little….” he tried to bring up the word. “I’m a little what?” Shane asked. “Withdrawn lately” Bryan said. “So what is the issue?” Shane commented coldly. “I don’t know man” Bryan said lost a little bit, “You used to be quite a fun guy to hang out with. And both of us want to see you that way again. So we thought maybe you would want to join us in the party this weekend at Maya’s place?” Shane was silent. But inside the turmoil was reaching to the point of a hurricane. He could not refuse Bryan. At the same time though he did not want to see him fooling around with Maya as well. “Okay” he said in the end. Bryan beamed brightly. “There’s the old Shane” he said. “Then at Maya’s place this weekend. fist bump?” Bryan held his fist. Shane did not want a fist bump. Not here not when she’s around. “Common man don’t leave me hanging” Bryan said. Finally he decided against his instincts and clapped Bryan’s fist with his.
Parties at Maya’s place were said to be legendary. In fact so legendary that it is in one of them where Bryan and Maya thing happened two months ago. That is why Shane did not want to go there. Seeing them at school was bad enough. Seeing them in a high school party where kegs flowed and blood alcohol spiked was something he was not prepared to handle. But as the fate had it, that was where he found himself in. High tempo music blared and people ran into each other, drunk and out of their minds. He went outside of the house and found a lawn chair, away from the debauchery inside. He placed his cup on the grass and reclined on it, looking at the stars. For a moment he was able to mentally cut off the party and be alone with the night. Why does he has to be so jealous of his best friend since childhood? The familiar question he had asked from himself countless times forced back into his mind. He is with a girl now, a pretty fantastic girl at that too. Why can’t he be happy for him? He had no idea why. Is this how every friend feels when their buddy gets robbed by a girl? Or is it just him? He closed his eyes and retorted his mind to shut off.
“There he is!” Oh God! He thought. He opened his eyes and found Bryan standing over him. And sure enough Maya was there too like a persistent stalker. “I looked everywhere for you. What are you doing out here alone man? Party is in the house” Bryan said pointing in the direction. “No I’m fine” Shane said, “I’m not much of a party person anyway” Bryan raised his hands. “Bullshit!” he said, “We use to do this all the time remember? We were animals man” Of course he remembered. He kept reliving those memories everyday lately. But he felt angry at him, at this new shabby attempt at rekindling their friendship. “I’m okay” he said his voice betraying the agony and anger inside. Bryan picked up the hint. “All right all right” he deflated and stepped back. “Anytime you need me man I’ll be right inside” he walked away with Maya.
He sighed and leaned back. He felt an overwhelming sense of guilt treating Bryan like that. But he was fighting a tug of war between his primal feelings of jealousy and more sophisticated notions of sacrifices. In a sense he was drowning; with no one to rescue him. The night was silent except for the blunted rhythmic boom from the music and distance cheering and yelping. Exhausted emotionally, he bent forward and rested his head between his knees.
There is an interesting way how the mind works. Usually you would believe that you know all of its secrets. That you know everything going underneath. But you are wrong; dead wrong. Mind is a safe filled with all sort of secrets. Hidden from even its own bearer. It turns out that it has its own agenda. You are simply a host providing it with a body and a voice. But then and now it will let some of its closely guarded secrets out. When that happens, it won’t just dawn upon you; it will fall upon your shoulders like thousand tons of steel, crushing your soul. Mind is a strong bearer of burden, you are not. That night Shane finally stumbled upon the deepest secret his mind had been trying to hide. The blow was so severe he was paralyzed into staring vacantly, focusing on nothing. Jealousy and envy might be a hard thing to swallow when you realize that they are hurtful emotions. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. Far more deeper feelings are still there that would drag you down into the bottom of the sea once you hit them. Shane remembered getting into the car. Then he vaguely remembered riding home drivers shouting at him. Then he remembered mumbling something to his mother who asked him something. He did not remember getting undressed and crawling into the sheets. He fell asleep.
The alarm rang. Bryan woke up and rubbed his eyes. Alcohol from last night had given him the worst hangover in his life. He got off the bed groaning and went straight to shower. Once he got dressed he wondered what had happened to Shane last night. None of them had seen him since after he and Maya talked to him on the lawn. They looked for him everywhere and found that his car was missing. He picked up the phone and dialed Shane. The dial tone picked up but no one answered. “Yup this is Shane. I’m unavailable at this time so please drop it out here” his voice mail said. “Yo Shane”, Bryan talked to the phone as he was tightening his shoelaces. “I was just wondering what happened to you last night. Saw you left early. Hope you landed home safe. Just ring me back when you get this” He hung up the phone.
“Hi sunshine” Maya beamed widely and ran into him in the hallway. “Hi!” Bryan smiled and gave her a hug. “Still recovering?” she asked. Bryan looked at her with a mock dazed drunken look. “What?” he slurred, “I can go all night” She laughed heartily and punched him on the chest. “Anyway did you talk to Shane?” she asked a bit more seriously. “Phoned him this morning, went to his voicemail” he replied. “Hmm” she said thoughtfully, “He’s suffering from something you know? He doesn’t wanna share it but I can see it in his eyes. You should talk to him more” Shane put his hand around her shoulder. “Like you always say” he smiled, “I’ll talk to him. Don’t worry. Woops that’s the bell. Let’s get ourselves to classes now shall we?” She placed a kiss on his cheek. “See you at fourth?” she said running down the hallway. “Yeah see you” he said heading the other way.
Bryan looked at the empty seat involuntarily. What happened to him? He tapped the pencil on his desk restlessly then and now looking at the clock above the blackboard. After class, he dialed Shane’s number again. Still the voicemail. Then he tried his mom’s phone. “Hi Mrs. Miller this is Bryan” he said. “Oh hey Bryan” Shane’s mom replied. “Is Shane okay? He hasn’t turned up in school today. He does not pick up the phone either”. “Oh really? He left early today, took the car with him too” she replied with a tinge of worry in her voice. “I’ll go looking for him. Don’t worry Mrs. Miller” Bryan said in a reassuring voice. But his mind was fumbling around in all type of scenarios. “That’s so kind of you Bryan,” she said, “I’m at work now but I’ll come down to school as soon as possible”. “Don’t sweat it Mrs. Miller. I’m sure he’s fine. He’ll turn up. I’ll just look around a bit”. There was a brief pause before she spoke again. “Okay Bryan” she said, “Thank you so much”. “Not a problem Mrs. Miller. Bye” he hung up. He stood still in the yard trying to figure out where his friend might be. Maybe his car broke down? But if that’s the case there was ample enough time for him to hitch another ride or just walk the distance to school. What is wrong?
Shane drove around unable to make up his mind. Part of him wanted to go to school and give it to Bryan and get it over with. Like he planned to when he wrote it. But the other half was pulling him down with uncertainty and doubt. How would Bryan react. Would he look down on him like an animal? Would he tell everything to Maya? Then maybe the whole school? Thoughts tumbled around while he sped along the road. The letter he wrote to Bryan was still lying on the passenger seat like a time bomb ticking for detonation. He took his eyes away from the road and looked at it again. That was the fatal mistake. He did not see the heavy truck coming around the corner. The truck driver honked long and loud. Shane was stupefied for an instant. Then he hard swerved to the left trying to dodge the impending collision. As fate would have it, it was already too late. A loud explosion of crunching metal and bending steel pierced the otherwise serene morning. His head rammed hard against the steering wheel. In his last minutes of consciousness he felt a thick liquid trickling down his nostrils.
The service was heartfelt. Everyone in the school attended to pay their respect. An honor he did not receive when it might have actually mattered. Maya was uncontrollably shaking and had not Bryan held her she might have collapsed. She was throwing fits of sobs hiding her face in his shoulder. He himself though did not know what he felt. He was so overwhelmed with feelings of grief, guilt, anger and regret that he could not find any specific expression to show for them all. He looked at Shane’s mother who was worn out twenty years more than her real age. His dad was trying to console her in vain. Then she looked at him. For the most part of his life Bryan believed that there is no such thing called impossible. But that day he figured out it was impossible to look into her eyes, without seeing him. For a moment their eyes stayed locked on each other. Then she did something he did not expected. She signaled him to come towards her.
She did not utter a word when he knelt in front of her. She just reached behind her and produced a crumpled piece of paper; an envelope. She held it for him. Bryan took the envelope and observed it. His name was written on it undoubtedly in Shane’s handwriting. There was a few drops of blood on the bottom left corner and it felt heavy in his hands. He nodded his head at Mrs. Miles and put the letter in the inside pocket of his jacket.
I know it has been a tough time for our relationship lately. But rest assured I never considered you anything but my friend, my best friend. So I put faith in to test that what I am about to say will not hurt what we had for years.
So let me be blunt. I was jealous. There is no point in hiding that. I wanted it to be us forever, Maya was not part of that dream. Every time I see you guys together at class, the cafe or the library I felt something searing hot piercing my heart. So yeah, when the other day you asked me what I was up to, that was what I was up to. Suffering in silence. I know you would think I’m selfish for harboring such thoughts but then again I guess we’re all human and we sometimes mess things up. It happens.
We have been close friends since, I don’t know, maybe since we learned to talk. There are lot of memories. But one I remember specially. Do you remember the time we played water polo in the pool? The day I almost drowned and you pulled me out? When I opened my eyes that day the first thing I saw was your face. You were really scared so much your lips were quivering. In that moment I felt as if I am looking at the face of my guardian angel. You were my angel. Up until you met her. The hours we spent together talking became more and more distant. The moments we spent telling each other our deepest secrets disappeared. In a place made for two, I suddenly found it unbearably large for one. But let bygones be gone. In spite of my jealousy and envy I’m somewhere happy there that you met her. And that’s for real! You deserve someone like Maya. I won’t be coming in between you two. If you don’t want to spend time with me, it’s okay, I’ll walk out. I’ll survive somehow. But before that happens, let me divulge one last secret even I only found out recently; hiding in a darkest corner of my mind. Just because it is too large to bear alone.
Last night at the party I stayed there laid back on the lawn chair after you left me. I was so messed up inside I could not even get up and leave home. I was no stranger to feelings like that because that’s how I have been feeling everyday lately. But then something strange happened. I felt something unraveling inside. Some deep urge unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. Curious, I dug deeper. You know the saying that deeper you dig dirtier you’ll get? That’s exactly what happened. Suddenly everything began to fall into place. I remembered all the time I’ve looked at you. The faint sensations I’ve been having when I heard your voice. The strange energy I felt when our hands touched. It was all unmistakable. I am in love with you Bryan. I’m in love with you by my whole heart. Yeah! I know what you may be thinking. Frigging fag right? But that’s the way of things I think. I’m laying down the biggest of my secrets in your hands now. What you do with it? It’s up to you. I won’t judge you; ever.
You don’t have to worry about me getting in between Maya and you if that’s what you are thinking. I’ll survive. I’d never do anything that would hurt you; because I can’t. I wish both of you’d find every sort of joy a human can find, together. Good luck man.
Bryan finished reading the letter. He stayed still for a long moment. The shock was beyond expectations. He felt as if a skyscraper has landed on his head. He gripped the crumpled paper tightly in his hands. After tumbling in the turbulent swirl of thoughts for what seemed like ages, he was finally able to summarize his entire feelings in few words. “God, is there a limit to your cruelty?”.