In case this is your first time, Hit'em is written in an I/you format and frequently uses pronouns rather than actual names. This is how Happy in the Meantime needs to be.


One

See, the thing about us—that is, you and me—is that we're too similar. Well, okay, actually, I'm about ninety-nine percent positive that that's not entirely true, because, let's face it: you're a complete dick and I'm more like this shy, awkward little puppy. And I'm not trying to be arrogant, either—I distinctly recall you referring to the two of us as the weirdest couple on the planet. Which, okay, I definitely think that we weren't the weirdest, but I'll grant you a top ten. Or a top one hundred.

Either way, I finally got it. Sure, it was a long road, and sure, I'm pretty sure that neither one of us are ever going to be the same, but—for our futures' sake. I feel like I can finally sleep at night.

You are a no good, fuck up, mess of a person if I've ever seen one.

I guess, technically, that means that I'm just the same, because I did say that you and I were really similar, didn't I? I'm not going to deny that, but right now, I'm not the point. You are.

You are the King of Mixed Signals, if there ever were such a thing, and you're fucking good at it, too. I mean, I'm pretty sure that you thrive on the shit. All the girls that you flirted with, all the guys you took into the study rooms off the band and choir section of our high school. And, let's be honest, I know you blackmailed them into getting a blowjob. I'm pretty positive that, had I not worked my shoe into that spot between your dick and your testicles the one day you asked me about it, you would have tried the same move on me.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. The point is, I finally figured out your problem. I finally figured out what makes you tick back-asswards, what made your head spin around in what seemed like whirlwind fashion so that I could never make heads or tails of your moods, your incessant whining about anything you could get your hands on, your inability to go for what you really wanted, which was me.

Again, not going for the arrogance. I'm just—I guess I'm just trying to state the facts, because, let's face it, you weren't exactly the most honest of people, were you? It was sort of one of your downfalls, really. But, I mean, you had a lot. I'm not trying to put you down, or depress you, or lower your self-esteem or anything, but I think I need to reiterate: you suck as a person.

I'm not going to get into that, because that's not the point right now. Right now, the point is your problem. Your main problem, I mean, because everyone knows that you have many more problems than one. But your main problem, the one that keeps butting me against lockers, that gave me the scar above my left eye, that found you trying not to cry in the lunchroom freezer or trying to burn off your wrists in the sink, that problem, because that was the main one. That stemmed your problems and fucked you over for the rest of your life.

I hate to admit it, I do. It's been one of the hardest things for me to overcome, because I never really did anything, and that's exactly what did it. I didn't do anything to catch the signs before they were serious, though my shortcomings are an entirely different subject. This is about you. About why you're such a stuck-up old prick, even now.

It hurts—sort of like having the wind knocked out of you, that split second of adrenaline before you hit the ground. Even alongside the relief of finally figuring out what's wrong, it feels like I'm tearing my heart out.

It started in junior high.

The story plays like a movie reel in my head these days—almost constantly, it feels like, but I know that's not the case. First day of junior high. Thirteen years old and new to the middle school. Everyone's older than I was and I felt like some sort of loser. I mean, I was and I still am, but knowing and feeling are two completely different things. I wasn't used to the popularity aspect of school, yet, because things like that were trivial. They still are.

Janice, the only person who would give me the time of day, was your best friend's sister, and immediately after her first talk with me, she knew. Like some sort of strange teen matchmaker, she knew. I wasn't even sure of myself, and it took her some inane questions about my life for her to get it. And that's all that took. The week after, she introduced us. Me and you.

We said hello, exchanged general pleasantries and joked about Janice and her brother, and you invited me to your place that weekend, with your best friend and Janice.

See what the problem is, yet?

I almost forgot about you inviting me anywhere because of the fact that you invited me somewhere. I'm not going to lie, I was terribly shallow about the entire thing; you were hot, there's no denying that. You're still golden, even today. It's something about you; everlasting beauty, I suppose, that some of the more blessed receive regardless of moral behavior.

Janice had to remind me about it. Actually, she had to drag me out of my house to get me to go to your place. Your friend—Miles? I was always forgetting his name—was pissed that his sister was hanging out with him and his best friend, but was always fine with it so long as Janice and I weren't too annoyingly young about it. You were a sophomore; so much older in my eyes, even though I knew that there was nothing old about you by any means. Back then, you were a child at heart.

The thing is, though, is after some horror movie, you and I went outside.

I have something to show you.

And I followed.

It's almost painfully obvious, you know. What your problem is, what makes you tick. I can't believe it took me so many years to figure it out.

I saw Miles watching us through his bedroom window. He was never very subtle, and to be honest, I still maintain that he was in love with you. There was something about how he joked around about it, like he was saying it out loud and denounce that it would ever happen, for whatever reason. Like speaking it would relieve him and help him to cope with unrequited love.

I followed you outside, and you walked around in the darkness next to the porch before you came back with a packet of cigarettes. You said something stupid, something I can't remember regardless of how hard I try, and lit one. You never offered, and I never asked. That was another one of our issues, but a hint: it's not what I'm talking about right now.

Before you were finished, you started talking about the stars. How beautiful they were, mostly, but also about how they told stories. Love stories of some sort, that's what they told. Love of all kinds, and every time someone fell in love, another star was created. It was bullshit, I know, but the idea was sort of intriguing to me. I tried to count stars in constellations for the next year or so, checking if there was any change, but I never made it farther than thirty-five before I got bored.

I still remember how my chest felt when you reached over and grabbed my shoulder. I sort of like you, Alex, you said. It felt like hot fire was burning in my chest. I know now that it was heartburn, and it hadn't been as sudden as I remember it being, but I still can't eat Cheetos without getting heartburn, and it's the only logical explanation. There was no adrenaline rush, no shy response.

All I did was let out a breath of air, inhale as much of the night air as I could, and excuse myself for something.

If you still don't know, don't feel bad. It took me ten years to figure out what the hell happened that night, and it took me ten years to figure out what made you so weird. What stemmed this all.

Your problem never really was a problem. Not one you could fix with medication or therapy or herbal treatments, because you can't really fix a person with that, when a person is your problem. Because that's what it was. Your issues, your ticks and shortcomings, they're all on me. Every single one of your failures, I can trace back to me. When I said I wasn't trying to sound arrogant, I wasn't trying to. Not because I'm not, but because I feel like I've been so selfish in the past that it's time to allow someone else to have a turn.

It's my fault that you're as screwed up as you are. If I hadn't done what I did—leave you hanging smoking your older sister's cigarettes in the darkness that night—things wouldn't have been so strange. If I had replied in some way, you wouldn't have kept trying. If I had opened my mouth and told you that I felt the same, or even that I didn't, things wouldn't have happened the way they did, and I wouldn't resent my actions for your downfall.

Because that was your problem.

Me.