We return home with winter mist beaded in our hair. Shivering from the bitter weather that has chilled us to the core of our bones, we seek refuge in my bedroom. I lead him down the hall; the faulty wiring causes the light to flicker and fade out.
'Be careful,' I warn, 'or the ghosts might get you.'
I hear him faintly chuckle behind me, before I open my bedroom door. The obnoxious, yellow medical-waste container is left standing on my dresser table. When I left that morning, I had forgotten to hide it away in case I would have unexpected company.
He makes no mention of the container, and I make no move to hide it. Instead, I light a stick of incense, and fall onto my bed with him. Following habitual pattern, we rest on top of the covers, doing nothing, simply lying together.
A haze of smoke from the cinnamon incense wafts around the room. We watch as sunlight seeps through the curtains and catches the masses of smoke.
'That's probably not healthy,' he notes.
'No, but it looks pretty.'
'You mean just like you?'
I roll my eyes at his flattery, screening the flutter in my chest.
Growing tired, we turn on our sides. Our noses touch. The subtle green flecks in his eyes are lost, as his facial features blur together. All I see is one distorted hazel eye, which speaks volumes of affection and ease.
Time slips away from us. The sunlight fades, July begetting premature sunsets and prolonged darkness. The only light source comes from the ornamental dragonfly lamp by my bed. The globe is soft, and the pink and purple stained glass gives a warm, humble glow.
I snuggle against him, knowing that soon he will leave, and I will be left forlorn. Our conversation is light - flippant, in a way - and takes a turn for a more macabre feel.
'What would you do if you knew you only had one day left to live?' he asks, following our debate on the end of the world.
My reply is a quiet ramble, as I bide my time for a safe answer. 'I don't know. I don't think I'd do anything different. Either way, I'm going to die and regret something I never got to say or do, so no point trying to change that. But I'm okay with that.'
I purposely make the last sentence sound blithe, masking my despondency.
'Well, what do you wish you could do right now?'
I laugh awkwardly, turning to hide my face behind my hair. 'I don't know. It doesn't matter. How about you?'
He pauses for thought, and I scrutinize him carefully through a curtain of dark- hair. His cheeks blush like a spring sunset. 'I want to kiss you - but, that doesn't mean I'm going to. So don't worry.'
He goes on to list a few other things, but I have already lost interest.
When I no longer hear his voice, I calmly add, 'Yeah, you want to be remembered when you die… Know that you meant something, to someone.'
It was February when we met. During one of the hottest days of the month, when everyone you saw was red in the face, and beads of sweat cascaded down tan or burnt skin. I was at enrolment day for the university I had settled for. We were herded into a poorly ventilated and overcrowded room.
While everyone appeared to be overstressed from the heat, there was one boy comfortably in a heavy sweater and jeans. That was the only thing that set him apart from the crowd. Nothing remarkable about his looks, nothing particularly intriguing about him at all, really. He was just a boy.
We stood in line to pay our fees; I was #7 and he was #8. I asked him about the jeans, he asked me about the bandages. From that chance meeting, we became friends.
Conversation is sparse. In the background, Placebo unfittingly plays an upbeat, alternative melody. There is a steady drumbeat, fast guitar riffs, and Brian Molko repeats the mantra: Don't give up on the dream/Don't give up on the one thing/Because I want you to.
I've never checked the lyrics. Are they controlling, Because I want you to, or are they a confession, Because I want you, too?
The lyric plays, and he shifts his head on the pillow.
We lie together, caressing hands, whispering sweet nothings, unable to embrace
our true feelings. With the ribbons of smoke unfurling above us, the diffused glow of the lamp, the silence between us¼ it is as if we are completely isolated from the rest of the world, locked away somewhere in a secreted cave. Here, all that exists is the energy between us, and we are all that matters.
I stroke the stubble on his cheek, and muse to myself what it would be like to wake up to his face ten years from now - old, married and safe. Would a relationship between us even last, or is it too just fated to fade out and expire?
My past is a landmine of failed relationships: ephemeral declarations of love, deceitful boys coming and going, nothing that sustained more than a few months; everything crashing and burning with disaster. Everyone has caused heartache, except him.
Perhaps my friendship with him is another of the Universe's cruel ideas of a joke: to finally be granted something so deep and devoted, but have it mockingly unattainable. A misfortunate and befitting end.
Wrapped in his embrace, and following the hammer of his heartbeat, I am lulled into a drowsy stupor.
'Thank you,' I murmur, not wanting to disrupt our long lasting silence.
'For what?' he asks, equally quiet.
'For being my friend, and making me feel like this.'
'That's okay.' He tightens his hold of me.
'I don't know what's going to happen. But, if I do¼ you know. I'm sorry.'
'It's okay,' he replies, his voice tight with sadness.
I nuzzle closer to him, and try to purge the sorrow from my voice. 'If this is the best I'm going to get, then I'm okay with that.' I smile. 'I'm grateful,' I lie.
We fall back into a state of silence, which is now tainted with tension. I take comfort in the fact that my lie has saved him from more grief than I am worth.
After a few minutes, a faint reverberation in his chest tells me he is starting to snore. I sigh, and wait for sleep to fully take me.