The Absent Touch

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by Jocelyn Cameron

I shift towards you, a sign for you to put your arm around me. Your left arm swings up and over my head as you look into my eyes, reassuring me that you are there. One of your best friends is sitting to your right, him with a girl as well. Although she is not his girlfriend, his arm has been around her all night, leading anyone unknowing to believe they are a couple as well. This is the first time I have met either of them, so I don’t know what to say in participation of the conversation. I don’t know why I always do this, I get too caught up in listening to start talking. Talking is not my strong point.

You retract your arm from around me, pulling out a smoke. After you light it, your arm returns to my back. I don’t know why I am okay with your smoking habits or the fact that you don’t mind knowing you are going to die early, the fact that you enjoy that thought.

The conversation carries, the cigarette shrinks, the much too familiar look in your eyes is clearly not sober. I get a flash of remembering when we were walking hand in hand. Passing by another one of your friends earlier, he yells out from across the street, “Dude, you are high as fuck right now!” You pulled out your wallet with a grin, checking to make sure no one on the street was watching you. Flipping to a hidden compartment, you pull out a small bag, making your friends eyes grow wide as he exhales, “Shit eh.” I don’t know why I am okay with your drug habits, or that you are okay wasting your money and life away on something that will take you to where we all know the story ends.

You stub the cigarette out on the cement beside you and flick it onto the grass. Your friend has to walk his girl home so her dad won’t be upset if she is out past midnight. You shake his hand as they stand up and tell her goodnight. They saunter across the grass and leave the rooftop as you turn back to me and hold me tight. I look into your eyes, and warmth floods my lips as they touch yours. That first moment of contact is always the anticipated, always warming, never disappointing. The warmth flows down my throat and into my chest, where I feel that wonderful pain. I don’t know why, along with expected disappointment, I feel a flood of relief when we part.

“Do you want to lay on the grass? It’s probably more comfortable than this block of concrete.” You suggest to me. We stand up, we walk to your right, and we lie down on the cold grass. You notice that I am shivering, so you turn to me and pull me close. “Here,” you take my hands and put them in the small pocket of warmth in the very limited space between us. “That should be warmer.” Once again, I get caught in the piercing blue of your eyes, and before I know it, the moment of first contact occurs again. The warmth floods back through my lips, to my throat, into my chest, and down to the pit of my stomach this time. I don’t know why I take every suggestion you make, do everything you tell me to do. It isn’t being forced upon me, but you say one thing and I am your bearer.

 

The silence between us isn’t unusual, and although it was uncomfortable at first, I am quite used to it now, neither of us making significant effort to fill the gaps. A sudden gust of cold wind brought both your familiar scent and the memory of that very first night we met. I saw you looking at me from across the room, before you were drawn to the unfamiliar face in your usual crowd of friends. The conversation between us sparked with the help of a little liquid courage, I was warmly welcomed in a scene of people quite unfamiliar to me. The farther that warm summer night proceeded, sharing laughs and drinks, the more I realized how I could be myself and how truly happy I could feel with you. How could things go so wrong? As I walked away from the last kiss on the doorstep, I didn’t know what would come of this night between us, however I was sure that wouldn’t be the last I would see of you.

We part again, and I move my face to the crook of your neck to gain warmth. All I can hear are my flooding thoughts and the sounds of downtown nightlife surrounding the vacant square. You caress my hair, and push it away from my face. Your lips move towards my ear, and with a relaxed exhale you whisper, “I love you.” I don’t know what to do.

I have never had this happen before. This is just a high school relationship, isn’t 17 too young to truly love in a relationship? I have only known you for a couple of months, isn’t this too early to tell me this?

I don’t know what I need to feel to constitute love for you.

I don’t know if love is supposed to happen like this.

I don’t know if you are right for me to love.

I don’t know how to respond.

I have paused in my confusion for too long and the blue of your eyes looks back into the blue of mine. The only thing I can think of to do is press my lips back to yours. Then I don’t have to say anything, right?

The moment passes and my eyes feel heavy with guilt for not loving you the way you claim to love me. We sit up when we hear a distant yell, resembling your name. Looking around the rooftop, we are alone, and turn back to each other.

“I love you,” You tell me again, throwing my mind back into the cyclone. I don’t know what to say, but feel an obligation. You assure me, “You don’t have to say anything, say it if you do love me.” Not knowing love, not knowing you, I manage to whisper those three soft words,

“I don’t know.”

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