I hate myself the most for not living in the moment. I'm always too involved with thinking about the past and dreaming about the future that everything about the present is lost to me. It's the one thing I'd like to change about myself. And it's also the one thing I'd like to erase from my past. The fact that I never cared too much. I never lived. I never got the chances to say the things I wanted to, do the things I wanted to. And for that, I hate myself the most.
I was newly nineteen and he was in the middle of his sixteenth year. I'd seen him around school a few times, never payed him any attention though. Jocks and geeks don't make habits of communicating—at least in public. But there were always the moments of unexpected, unplanned run-ins; knocking foreheads when we came around corners way too fast, stepping on each other's heels in the hallways, hitting each other with the basket ball in gym class. Or the time he was on towel duty in the boy's locker room after soccer practice and when I came around the corner, he happened to have run out of towels.
Some kind of sick, satisfied smile hinted at the edges of my mouth as his cheeks turned a nice beet-red when his eyes first looked into my own, and then drifted downwards. Thankfully, the other guys hadn't noticed it, all they'd seen was the towel boy's new complexion. They'd laughed and called him a faggot. I'd chuckled and, in my mind, called him cute.
Imagine my surprise when he showed up at my door one Saturday morning, delivering papers. Sunrise wasn't for about another ten minutes, and the sky was a pale pink, faint shadows littering the ground. His cheeks were already flushed from what I guessed was a vigorous bicycle ride. I remember the beaming smile on his face when he handed me my paper, saying 'Your morning paper, sir'.
"You could've just thrown it, you know." I don't know why I put more bite into it than I needed to. Maybe, now that I look back on it, I didn't want to act compassionate and be labeled a queer like he was.
His smile faded into a genuinely disappointed frown. "I know. But you know how the dew gets all over the grass, and then you have to walk through it to get your already soggy morning paper? I hate when that happens to me. So I figured I won't do it to other people," he said, his smile now back on his face. He turned to leave, "See you in school." And then he was on his bike, peddling to the next house and the next house, all the way down the street until he turned left onto the next street.
Funny thing was, he never got off his bike. He only nestled the paper into the mail boxes, put the flag up and was off. I walked out to the end of my driveway, and noticed all the houses before mine had the same treatment. Why was I any different?
Or, imagine the time I was failing my eleventh year of math. None of the tutors from my school could help me and all of the hired tutors my parents tried couldn't do anything for me. So when the honor society at my school got a new member, my teachers were eager and very interested in trying it out. Turns out, mystery kid was my tutor. That was the actual first time we'd met—the locker room and the morning paper run-ins happened the following year when I was a senior and he was a sophomore.
If memory serves me right, it was a Monday afternoon, right after school, when our first tutoring session was planned. As he went over geometric theory and shapes, I was burning my brain out with my thoughts. He's so close. Touch his arm. Lead him to your room. Put your mouth on his. Do something! Stop squirming and just nudge his foot with yours already! He might not've noticed the sexual tension, but I sure did.
Jumping forward—or backward, now?—to a week after the locker room incident, he was sitting with me in my dining room, trying to jam the art of Calculus into my head. My Mom had left to go meet my Dad at his work so they could go to dinner and spend the night out. Guess she didn't think much of two guys alone in the house. Two supposedly straight guys. Although I couldn't speak for mystery boy, only myself. But lately, my thoughts were starting to force me to start thinking otherwise.
"Let's warm-up with some basic Algebra problems. Here, I'll write some down for you." As his pen got to work on his paper, my mouth got to work on ending my life.
"Do you like Van Halen?" Damn, I just didn't stop and think sometimes. I was never really good at thinking before saying.
He looked up, his glasses down a-ways on his nose, with a slight frown. "Pardon?" Like, who in the Hell says that nowadays?
"Do. You. Like. Van. Halen. Question. Mark."
"Um, yea?" His eyebrows knitted together and he clearly didn't see where I was going with this. Neither did I.
"Do you wanna forget this and go listen to some CDs?" What in the fuck was I thinking?
"I guess," he shrugged and put his pen down, stretching.
"Then let's go." I got up from the table and started towards the stairs, about to lead him upstairs. You're out of your damned mind, Camillo. Yea, well, so what if I am?
When I opened the door to my room, I started to feel the butterflies creep through my stomach and all the way over to my heart, which was pounding out a climactic Beethoven song, I was sure of it. Nervously, I reached for my favorite, greatest hits Van Halen CD and shoved it into my computer's disc drive, trying not to think too much. As 'Eruption' started playing, my nerves calmed down a fraction of an inch.
"Is 'Can't Stop Lovin' You' on this CD?" He was sitting on my bed, tapping his hands on his knees to the rhythm of the song.
For the love of God, why that one? "Yep, it's track number... Fourteen. You want me to skip to it?"
"Only if you want to," he said innocently, ogling the band posters around my room.
I did, and as the guitar strumming started the song, my thoughts ran a marathon of a single thought. That thought: He's sitting on your bed. I scratched the back of my head, looking over at the boy on my bed. And noticed the tiny bit of sitting room he had because my laundry was hogging most of the surface of my bed.
I jumped up and strode over to my bed to clear away my clothes. "Sorry. I hadn't noticed my laundry..." I went to swipe it off onto my floor when he suddenly grabbed my arm, which made me lose my balance for a second. A second too long.
I'd tripped over my own foot trying to steady myself and landed between his legs, lying on top of him, on my bed. I was so scared, I didn't know what to do. His wide-eyed expression told me he was scared, too.
Wild thoughts raced through my head at that moment. I felt the little puffs of his hot breath on my face. His heart beat against my chest. The fingers of his left hand, which got stuck between us, twitched against my stomach. I started to become aware of the tiny, insignificant details. The way his button-up shirt was coming open at the top where he left two buttons undone. The way his small body fit underneath mine near-perfectly. The way his long, silky hair felt grasped in my left hand. The way seconds turned into decades.
"Can I kiss you?" I whispered to him. Shit, my heart started hammering.
"Yes," he whispered back. My heart hammered harder and louder. My lips touched his. Time stopped.
I was slow and deliberate. Moments like these got fucked up because people couldn't take them slowly. Tenderness and speed just don't... They don't mix the right way. So I took my time feeling the softness of his lips against mine, the feeling of what the word sublime actually meant.
"Camillo..." he whispered into my ear.
As our mouths parted in unison, I took my time exploring him. The feel of his tongue on my own and the sensual tingle I felt as it swept gently along the sides of my mouth. The feel of my right hand starting to travel downwards, slipping in-between our bodies to lift his shirt up. The feel of his sharp intake of breath as my erection pressed against his thigh. The feel of his warm skin as I undid his pants and started to push them down...
That time seems light-years away. But if I try hard enough, just by thinking about it I can get my heart to beat in the same frantic way as it did that afternoon in my bedroom with him. And from that day forward he was with me and I was with him until he graduated high school and began to plan for college. We argued a lot about his future. He used to say I acted too much like his father and not enough like his boyfriend. I used to fire back that at least I cared enough about him not to leave him like his father did. But we'd make up, we always did.
This one time, he was mad at me for a whole four days. I couldn't take it, so I took him out to lunch at his favorite cafe, booked his favorite outdoor table by the road, ordered his favorite drink and his favorite meal. Even bought him his favorite flowers. He knew I was sorry and he was about to forgive me—I knew from the charming smile he was trying to smother.
"Hey," I said to him from across the table, "are you really going to stay mad at me forever?"
"Well. That depends. Are you really going to hold off on kissing me forever?" His playful smile stole his lips and I knew he forgave me. I smiled back. I stood up from the table and leaned over it to kiss him, when I noticed something going on further down the street. It happened so fast.
One minute I was just realizing what was going on, and the next I was screaming at him to get up and run. Then I was smacked into the sidewalk of the restaurant, my head bleeding. It took a minute but I figured out that the moment I started to dive over the table and push him out of the way, one of the waiters came over and grabbed me around the waist, pushing me to the ground.
"You idiot!" I yelled at the waiter, kicking him. "I wasn't the one who needed help!" The tears were already dripping down my face as I went in search for him. Our table was knocked over, chairs strewn around the place, broken glass, bleeding people, more overturned tables. I looked in the road. The truck was crashed into a lamppost, a trail of blood smeared into the black pavement.
"No," I whispered, my voice a tiny plea. "No. No! NO!" I yelled louder and louder. I ran around to the other side of the truck and saw him lying there, lifeless. NO! I rushed over to his body, straightening out his neck and pumping on his chest, breathing air into his lungs. I knew he was gone, could tell by the way his empty eyes stared up at me, the way his pulsing didn't answer my fingers on his neck. More tears. Pump harder, you moron. Of course he isn't reviving, you aren't trying hard enough!
I was screaming. Ugly shrills of remorse clawing at my throat, forcing my lips apart. I clutched him to me, picked up his bleeding head and pulled his broken body into my lap. People were staring, I didn't care. Traffic honked at me to move, I didn't care. Someone told me the paramedics were on their way, I didn't care. I cried.
His name was Arcadian. He was my first. He was my only. I never even told him I loved him. It's been five years. I make weekly visits to him, try to be punctual. 6:30AM on the dot. That's the time the cemetery opens. I usually bring a bottle of vodka. Pour him some, then down the bottle.
This time I have something else. A bottle of sleeping pills. And the vodka. I kiss his gravestone and say, "I love you." Then nestle myself on the ground, next to his grave. He's alive, lying next to me. Above the ground, not below it.
"I waited too long," I confess.
"No you didn't. You tried. I wanted you to do that." He smiles and runs his hand over the side of my face. I grab it and hold it there-trying to press his warmth into my icy cheeks, the tears streaming out of my eyes.
"I've missed you." I kiss his hand. "Don't leave me." I cry harder, freely sobbing.
"I'll be waiting for you," he whispers into my ear, then kisses my cheek. "I promise."
The warmth of his hand is no longer on my cheek, and when my eyes open, he's no longer there with me.
I rip the seal off of the sleeping pills and throw six in my mouth, then sip the vodka. Swallow. Take six, sip the vodka, swallow. Repeat. The bottle's empty. I finish off the vodka. My eyes start to feel heavy. I can no longer keep them open.
"Arcadian?" I call into the darkness of my mind, feeling scared.
"I'm here." His hand grabs mine, I squeeze it. "Are you ready?" he asks.
"Yes." I've never felt so calm. As I start to drift into sleep I wonder, is this what death feels like?