On Saturdays, we stay inside. Even in the summer, we don't step outdoors. He runs across the street in the early hours of the morning and slides in through the screen door in the backyard that I always make sure Mom leaves unlocked on Friday nights. I'm always awake. I can never sleep in on weekends, for whatever reason. So when I hear the screen door creak open at 8:30 on Saturday morning, I slide out of bed and feel along the wall to the stairs.
Dylan meets me on the landing, taking my elbow and taking me down to the basement. We head into the den, shutting the door behind us. Dylan tells me that it's dark, but he doesn't turn on the light and we sit cross legged across from each other on the floor.
"How are you going?" He always asks me, and he talks funny for a seventeen year old born and raised in Rhode Island, but I don't say anything about it. I know that he picked it up from watching old British films and television, anyway. And I always say "I'm going." And he always laughs.
Today he says it, and I say my usual response, and he laughs his usual laugh. It's all very clockwork, but he clears his throat, and I can hear him shift and time stops for a few moments. I stare in the general direction of where I believe his face to be, and I toss my head to one side ever so slightly, cocked in a silent question like a gun with the safety off.
"You're constant, you know." He tells me. "We're learning about the autonomic nervous system in Biology." I say nothing, I listen, and I think I can hear his breath let out slowly from the broken accordion of his lungs; silent, and yet I can hear it. "It controls things like your heart rate, your digestive system, salivation…" He trails off, drawing in a breath almost to punctuate the next word. "Breathing. Things like that."
"Okay," I say. "Cool." I say.
"It's boring." He says. "Forget I said anything."
I don't want to forget. I want him to keep speaking. Over the years, I have memorized people's voices more than I could ever memorize their faces if I could see them. I can hear minuets in every syllable, the crescendo of excitement, the ritardando of a child coming down of a sugar high. Dylan's voice is sweet and soft and rich like coffee stains left forgotten on a table, a song—not quite your favorite—left on repeat. It cracks occasionally, giving away his adolescence, but I refer to them affectionately as tiny staccatos in the composition.
"Why bring it up?" I ask him, and his hand moves to my wrist, a fleeting touch that seizes control of my attention, reigning in the wild stampede to focus on where he has burnt me.
"I dunno. I just thought that it was like, cool. Y'know? The body doing stuff automatically. We don't even think about it." He tells me, and there's more, but hesitance litters his presence like a full rest, a whole in the ground of the staff. "It got me thinking."
"Other stuff. Like, what else do we do without even thinking about it?" He asks me. At least, I think he asks. He might be asking himself and having an existential moment, but I answer anyway.
"We get hungry without thinking about it. We hear things and know what they mean without thinking about it. You see stuff and know what it is without thinking about it."
"You touch things and know what they are without ever having to see them." He says to me, and there are two fingers at my wrist. I have never seen his fingers, or him at all, and yet, he's right. I know the touch is him. "I was talking less, like, mechanical." He explains. "Do we think about liking someone? Or does it just happen." And there it is.
I can feel his aura shifting from the sickly green of uncertainty to a bloody red of a racing heart. Truth be told, I think about it too much for it to be automatic. But it might be different for everyone. "What do you think?" He asks me.
And he always does this. He says what he's thinking without actually saying it, and then he expects me to lay out everything like pale vomit on an art canvas for him to interpret. He is abstract and surreal. I'm photorealistic. I almost scowl at him. "I don't." I say, and he laughs his usual laugh until I say: "What do you think?"
It's quiet, and yellows litter the reds of his presence as apprehensiveness litters his disposition. "I think you're handsome," He tells me plainly. I have never had the pleasure of looking in a mirror, of seeing a photo.
"Tell me what I look like." I half ask. I'm looking for him to prove his thoughts to me. I reach out to touch his face, and I do this often. Just to make sure he's real. When he's lying, he squints, and the skin is drawn taut over bone underneath my skin.
Except this time, I feel hands descend upon my own cheek bones, the tips of his fingers resting delicately just at my ears. He is barely touching and very much touching me all at once. "Brown hair, sharp jaw. Blue eyes, which a weird combo with brown hair, by the way. You have this habit of looking right into my eyes sometimes and I forget you can't see me." He says, his voice slow and quiet like bubbles of chocolate melting on the tongue. "Tall, skinny—eat more." He says and then he laughs. A guffaw peppered with something sad and blue like adoration unreciprocated. I laugh along because I can, because I can feel his hands shaking against my cheeks and because I want him to know he isn't alone, and that I can return what it is he is mining for in the wells of my face.
"And you?" I ask, and he laughs again.
"Nothing special." He says, and I tell him to tell me. I feel his eyes tighten.
"Blonde hair. Tall, but shorter than you. Green eyes. I'm pale as shit, too." He explains, and he is dumbing himself down. He doesn't want me to miss anything.
"I wish I could see." I say, and he says nothing, but he guides my hands around his face, across his forehead, down the slope of his nose, through the blonde hair I cannot see, down the column of his throat. I read him as if he were a book, his features protruding off the page the way a steeple crowns a church. He is my favorite story ever told, he is what I could read again and again, he is eternal and timeless in the hallways of my soul.
"Me too," is what he says.