It’s hard to just stand in my room, absorbing all that is me pasted on the four walls and ceiling. This will be the last time I ever see this, ever get to feel as if I’ve infected this place with a small part of my soul. I never thought this would be something I’d miss, but, then again, I never thought I’d be dying at the age of twenty either.
I want to say it isn’t fair, but what’s the point in whining? I’m not the only one whose life is going to end at around eleven tonight. All of everything is dying, being wiped out of the universe’s records; it’ll be like the earth never existed. The scientists say it won’t even be painful, our death. Isn’t that nice?
To be honest, I feel really lost. There are so many things I haven’t had the chance to do yet, things I thought I’d have time to accomplish, and I’m itching to complete as many as possible before I bite the dust. But I can’t. And that frustrates like you wouldn’t believe. Isn’t it ironic that now, when it doesn’t matter, I have an all-consuming fire lit under my ass?
What’s even worse is that campus is in an uproar and I have no car. I’m stuck here; stuck with all the crazy people. It’s definitely been one hell of a day.
Even now, on the verge of death, that voice makes my heart beat a bit faster than necessary.
“Yeah?” I reply, still looking at my various posters.
“How are you?”
If I tell the truth I’m going to look like an asshole, but if I lie and act like everyone else I’ll cry. I’ll give in to the fear and bawl like a baby, and I can’t cry. I have to be strong. It seems that’s all I have left, my pride.
“I’ve had better days,” I say, hating the lameness of my words. But they earn me a laugh, a glorious laugh that makes my knees weak. Why haven’t I ended this torture yet and made the first move? Why have I been too shy to say the things always running around in my mind? What’s been holding me back?
Oh, yeah, rejection.
“Does it make me a pussy to admit that I’m fucking terrified?”
“There’s nothing wrong with being reminded you’re human,” I say.
“You seem perfectly calm about all this.”
“My parents were hippies who used me as a football from time to time; I’m epically fucked up in the head.”
“It’s comforting to be around someone like you.”
I hear the sound of feet shuffling into my room and a chair being disturbed. I still don’t move. I don’t know why. Maybe if I do my handle on reality will shatter and I’ll take a dive out the window. That’s been a pretty popular choice today.
“You’ve seen it a million times,” I point out.
“It seems even better somehow.”
“Mark, why won’t you look at me?”
“I’m just drinking in my stuff, you know, for the last time.”
“I really need to speak to you.”
“What do you call what we’ve been doing?”
“I can’t say what I have to say to your back. It would mean nothing if I said it to your back.”
I want to turn around, but I’m also afraid that if I do I’ll hear something I would rather have stay secret. For the past six months I haven’t been able to hide my emotions and I’ve made it plainly obvious how I feel. What if I’ve come across as creepy? What if I’m about to be told how uncomfortable I’ve made everything, our friendship? How I’ve ruined what we had by finally admitting to myself that I’m in love with my best friend?
“Please. This is really important.”
God damn it! I’m in love and I can’t resist.
I slowly turn, not meaning to be dramatic but unable to stop the effect.
Finally, after many long moments or possibly a few minutes, I’m facing in the opposite direction, I’m facing him.
“What, Steve?” I ask.
“I’ve noticed how you look at me,” Steve says, and my stomach drops to my feet. Ugh, I just knew this was what was going to be said. Now he’s going to take his time getting to the punch line: You’re a fucking homo and I’m not so back off before I stomp your ass.
When that’s said, I’ll break down. I won’t be able to help it. Steve has my heart even if he doesn’t want it. He’s the only one that can nurture or break it. I hate the power he has over me. Is this how it is for everyone that loves someone else?
“How I look at you?” I mumble, not able to meet his gaze.
“You’re not very good at hiding things.”
The tears are welling up and I stare at the floor. But I won’t let Steve see me cry. That would be a shame I couldn’t bear.
“Mark, look at me.”
“I want to see your eyes when I tell you what I have to.”
Is he really that sick and twisted? Why does he long to witness my heart smashing into a billion pieces as he turns me down? How could he be so cruel? Is it his last, cruel wish before we all bite the dust?
“Yes,” I almost yell, my head snapping up. I search out his dark fiery green eyes and hold them with my own; bracing myself for the worst. “Say it,” I demand. “Say whatever it is you fucking have to tell me.”
“You’re angry?” Steve’s puzzled for a moment and then something like understanding floods his face. “Oh, no, please don’t be angry.”
“Why shouldn’t I be angry? You’re a dick.”
“How am I a dick?”
“You wanna see my heart break.”
“See your he—No! Mark, I love you.”
“I do. I love you so much it hurts.”
The room grows quiet with his revelation and my surprise. I stare at him with my mouth hanging wide open and my eyebrows hiked up to my hair. Steve watches, his face growing slowly pale as he thinks he’s somehow said the wrong thing, delivered this ground-shattering news incorrectly. I need to say something to put his fear to rest. Now.
I clear my throat and force the first thing to come to mind out of my dry lips. “Why do you love me?”
I’ve caught him off guard, but a second later he gains his composure and laughs, the sound full of blissful relief. “Why does anyone love anyone else?” he says. “I don’t really know, Mark. I just do. It’s a fact. Just like water is wet and the sun hates everyone with blue eyes.”
“Now believe me,” Steve continues, “I never thought I would have feelings like this, for a guy. I never thought, before I met you, that I was…”
I expect him to cringe at the word, but he nods firmly with a small smile on his lips.
“You love me?” I whisper. “You really do?”
“Yes, Mark. And I’m so sorry I waited ‘til now to say something. I don’t know why I did. It makes me feel like such an ass.”
“I shouldn’t have been so afraid,” Steve says. “We would have had more time to get close.”
“We’re already good friends,” I point out.
“It’s different when you date,” Steve says. “And now we have no opportunity to let our relationship flourish into something meaningful.”
“We love each other, right?”
“Then we’ve already reached that step,” I tell him, and realize that as we’ve been talking I’ve been inching closer to Steve. I’m almost directly in front of him. He could reach out and touch me with ease. How could I not notice doing this?
“I agree,” he says, his voice suddenly intimate and thrilling.
His hand snakes out and his fingers get tangled in the front of my shirt. He pulls me the rest of the distance between us and forces me to hunch over, our faces only an inch or two apart. He locks his gaze on me and butterflies erupt in my gut. It’s about to happen, the moment I’ve dreamed about ever since the first time I saw Steve smile.
This is it.
“I love you,” Steve murmurs before crushing his lips against mine.
It’s an electric dance of tongues. My blood’s boiling in my veins and my heart’s pounding in my ears. I swear my temperature rises by ten degrees and my mind has turned to mush. I could drown in this fierce current of passion, happily, but Steve doesn’t let me. He holds onto me tightly, anchoring me as the tide threatens to pull me down.
I wish forever our kiss could last, but we’re both mere mortals and must breathe. We break away, though we remain wrapped around each other.
“Wow,” I whisper.
“I’m that good, huh?”
“Do you know how long I’ve wanted to do that?”
“I’m so sorry,” Steve says again. “It shouldn’t have taken me until now. It isn’t fair to you.”
“Nothing about what’s going on is really fair,” I say, “but I don’t care. I’m just so happy you feel the same way about me.”
Steve kisses me briefly.
“That I do,” he says.
This is such a horrible day. The earth is getting destroyed, the absolute death, and yet I’m high in the sky, past cloud nine. I can’t even get sad about my death, everyone’s death. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore. I should feel guilty—doesn’t this make me a bad person?—but I don’t. I’m too happy, I feel too complete.
We don’t say anything else, there’s no need for words. After some time passes, we both maneuver our way over to my bed. We sit there, in silence, basking in the glow of our newly proclaimed love and the heavenly sincerity of the moment. My mind wanders, refusing to settle on the inevitable about to come. I won’t let it possibly bring me down. Not with Steve by my side.
The noise comes from my watch and pierces the still air like a scream. Steve looks at me questioningly.
“Five seconds,” I say. There’s no need to explain that I mean until eleven, the end.
“I love you, Mark.”
“I love you, too, Steve.”
We lean in for a kiss, the sweetest kiss anyone has ever experienced.
Fingers intertwined, we face the end; maybe our beginning.