Sometimes he remembered what his brother had told him, he'd said that 'broken', 'damaged', 'scarred' people were attracted to each other like magnets, understandably, as they so desperately would try to find some comfort, safety, a wholeness and purity, someone who'd understand, a kind of love and affection denied by the people they thought would be there to provide all of those things but never truly could because they themselves were incomplete and unwilling to give anything more to anyone else - either too afraid or too numb to do anything about it. To change for the better. To try.
He'd said so while packing a bag full of clothes, Davi standing beside him, crying silently and letting go as much as a child could - of things he couldn't yet analyze, of someone he'd thought he knew because he loved him. He had been wrong, and with tear stained cheeks and trembling hands he'd helped his brother pack, a silence falling between hurt minds and lonely souls, so powerful no words could have ever gone through. He'd grabbed Davi's face between his hands while they stood at the front door, the background nearly swallowed in the darkness of midnight, and Davi had looked him in the eye first, as if demanding he looked up too, screaming at him, inside his mind, to be brave and honest before he let go. His brother had taken a minute shaking and breathing through his mouth in the cruel winter air, a white mist casted a veil over their poorly protected bodies, and the only light in their street flickered on, off, on, off while Davi counted his heartbeats raging in his ears. When he finally looked up, Davi had seen such sadness swimming in his brother's eyes, the twist of a silent cry on his mouth, that a sense of hurt had filled his small chest and stomach like a bag full of stones. 'No', he thought instantly. 'No. Stop hurting, stop. I love you. Stop hurting, I love you. Please stop hurting. I love you.' Davi pushed his brother's hands away and saw fear flash on his face for a second, but he brought his arms up and hugged himself around his chest with as much strength as his wiry arms could. He just hugged him, hoped he understood what he felt and what went through his mind because words failed him, as they often did. His brother had stood still, frozen in the moment, a snippet of a scene they would never forget. Then he hugged him back, and Davi had never seen someone say goodbye in such a way, both their muscles thrumming with naive reluctance, his brother's heartbeats painting the edge of this memory with a fragile sense of guilt. And yet, in his mind, the tears on his brother's face had looked like relief.
Davi had let go. The cold had stayed.
Are you home now, brother?
Sometimes he remembered what his brother had told him, he'd said that 'broken', 'damaged', 'scarred' people were attracted to each other like magnets, but then again, Davi thought those were unnecessary thoughts, bleak musings that made no difference, thoughts that made you hate yourself and go: 'ah, shut up, you dramatic piece of shit.' Yet Davi couldn't stop the same realization to shine like a stop sign in his head, like a birthday cake candle softly blown out over and over, the fire burning on and on...Stuck. Because how could those thoughts stop pushing to the front of his mind when they were proven a reality so often? With himself, and with others around him. He was glad that he'd reached an understanding, though: no one was to be fixed like a defective object; people were people, and to be treated like a broken piece of existence didn't help, and above everything else, it didn't change anything.
People can't be fixed, a person can't be yours and, thankfully, a hero complex can be denied early on.
His brother had failed to mention that, and maybe his morbid and cynical words were nothing but his own, but Davi had learned. At least, he liked to believe he had. Just as much as Ted, he thought; they'd stumbled together from childhood, to adolescence, to young adulthood, and between all those blank moments of isolation and self-hatred, they still found each other with no bitter tasting 'starting over', because memories stay and life's not a fucking novel to cut neatly into chapters too irrelevant to recount, life is not a movie you can press pause to, those colorless and cotton filled memories are as real as those that don't make you feel ashamed of who you are. You can't just ignore what you think is inconvenient or sad. It will always catch up.
So you'd better start running.
Davi laughed at Ted's squished face against his crossed arms, body splayed over the counter at the convenience store.
"I'm so tired," he groaned. "I've only slept for about eight hours this past few days," he paused and stared with a deadpan expression, the zipper indents his jacket sleeves had left on his cheek were a vibrant red against his dark skin. "Intermittently...In total."
"Ted, what the hell?" Davi glared while he re-stacked the cigarette packs.
"I know, I know," he whispered and dragged his hand down his face, his dark circles looked like angry bruises under the fluorescent lights. "I think I'm finally getting used to it, believe it or not. Break is coming, break is coming and I can feel it in my bones, I'm going to sleep for days, I swear to Kafka," Ted screamed in a tortured voice.
Davi frowned. "Shouldn't it be 'I swear to Freud' in your case?" He thought he sounded slightly distracted, but the mention of their upcoming days off took him aback.
Ted laughed loudly, his whole body shook and his straight white teeth shone brightly through his wide smile. It hadn't changed since they were children and the fondness Davi had for him only grew. "Oh my God, don't start with me and that cliché. Fucking hate Freud so much, I could make a power point presentation about it."
"Please do, I haven't been able to sleep either and I'm pretty sure reading your rants about your hatred for a dead man would put me to sleep like a newborn baby."
Ted snorted. "Not as much as listening to Sam kiss Freud's ass, at least I'm entertaining, he's not even obnoxious about it," he walked over to the fridges and grabbed an energy drink.
"Tadeo, you just said you haven't slept. At least take a nap before you go back to studying." Davi rang the drink and held it back until Ted looked him in the eye.
"I will, I will," he said with a few nods and a smile. "I'm not studying, though. I'm actually just going to finish an essay and my part on a group project. You know it's better to study lightly the day before tests, sleep plenty and not just hours before...At least that's what I've read, haven't had the chance to try it out...Also that gum thing, when you chew mint gum is supposed to stimulate your brain and enhance your memory, then while you're doing the test, chewing the same type of gum will stimulate you again and help you remember...Although, I haven't actually compared results to see if it's worked for me..." He was leaning over the counter again, trailing off with half lidded eyes, almost drooling over his jacket sleeves and falling asleep standing up. Davi figured he could, as he himself had experience with falling asleep while showering and sitting on the toilet.
He shook Ted's shoulder and showed him his cell phone screen.
"I think you should call Jo to pick you up, it's too late and dangerous to walk on your own like this."
Ted answered with a tired groan. "Okay...Ask him if I can stay tonight, please. My roommate's going to kill me if I wake him up one more time. I swear his circadian rhythm is perfect, my envy is greater than the universe and I kind of hate him."
He grumbled at Ted but ended up making the call himself, Jo answered and agreed, his tired voice sighed out a light 'I'll be there in fifteen minutes'. He hang up and let Ted know.
Davi bit his lip and stared worriedly at his friend's disheveled hair. "You know you don't have to come here. You can call me and we can meet up somewhere else, okay?" He knew being in the store made Ted uncomfortable since the robbery had happened, but he'd started coming more often since they'd seen each other a few weeks back. Back when it had just happened he'd made the effort to see him often around campus, but on their summer break he'd gone back home while Davi had stayed and worked.
Ted didn't lift his head or opened his eyes, but his voice was strong as he answered. "I know. But I - I still don't understand why you keep working here, Davi. I know I didn't say anything before, but isn't it scary? I'm scared something like that is going to happen again, and the hours are shit, you're so thin, I'm just...I'm worried, and seeing you here makes me uncomfortable, but I wanted to keep you company even if it's just a little while. Useless, I know. Sometimes I don't know how to act, or what to say, even after all these years. It's not weariness, it's not me tiptoeing around you, I'd never do that," he finally lifted his head, chin against his crossed arms, brown eyes firm on his. "I'm just worried and confused right now, but it's not something I even know how to bring up, how to ask about, without making you feel like I want to control you or know any better than you -" he cut himself off and rubbed his forehead hard with his fingers, as if the stress and tiredness would go away with the touch. "I'm sorry, brother. I'm really tired, I'm not making any sense, am I?" He smiled half-heartedly.
Davi couldn't find it in himself to smile back; he sat down and tried to relax his posture, his shoulders and face were tense, he could feel his body trying to make itself as small as it could.
"You are, I get it, but you know what? I'm not going to sit here and tell you not to worry or try to reassure you that everything's fine. That's bullshit, I'd be lying so blatantly it'd be funny. I'm not going to baby you, Ted, we're adults and I'd rather give you honesty," he tried to be as gentle as he could with his voice, but Ted still averted his eyes to stare at his hands and Davi saw the muscles in his jaw jump as he clenched his teeth. "I can tell you a few things, though. I'm still working here because the hours fit my fucked up schedule, my boss is a good man, the other employees mind their own business, the regulars are nice and respectful, and -" he stopped himself from saying he couldn't care less if another incident were to happen and ended badly. That wasn't fair to say out loud, was it? "And I'm sure nothing like what happened that time is going to happen again. The police acted quickly, everything was handled correctly, I bet no one's going to try that any time soon. So, no, I'm not scared, I'm just a broke student who's found a convenient job. I need it too much to worry about anything else. That answers your questions, right?" Ted raised his eyes and stared tiredly at him, a defeated look on his face.
"Yeah. I guess we're pass the point where we feel guilty for making each other worry, huh?" Davi laughed without feeling. "I guess it comes with the territory of caring, and I understand it's not your responsibility to make me feel better about it, to reassure me, as you said. I just thought...You know, I went to a dark place for a moment. Sometimes I forget life doesn't stop even if you feel like shit, I forget that you have to get up and keep going even if everything feels like it's suffocating you," he stood straight and smiled with his teeth. "Those were simple answers to months of self inflicted torment, what the hell? I feel kinda' silly, now."
Davi felt like he was choking, he stared at his best friend with a sense of guilt that was weakening, he wanted to speak but his lungs felt empty.
I'm honestly running on empty here and I don't really care about much, every day is a struggle to get up. I hope you can't see.
Leaving things unsaid, keeping details and weight to yourself also comes with the territory of caring for someone, he thought, so Davi shut his mouth and kept a straight face, not at all surprised at his friend's words. Of course Ted had gone to a dark place to try and understand his lack of worry, something that could explain his disregard for his own safety. A logical explanation would have to carry the weight of his thoughts: no, time doesn't stop for you, not even when you're on the ground begging for things to slow down, to just let you breathe for a second. You still have to wake up and get up, one shitty, pointless day at a time. Half truths and bittersweet lies were the best he could offer, he really thought no one deserved to hear him say his thoughts out loud. Frankly, they were pathetic, disgusting and cruel.
Most of the time, as he made a list of all of his 'problems', he ended up feeling like they were all insignificant, so small that they could never stop anybody from moving on and living their lives. Your problems are as big as you make them. Right? He remembered someone had said that to him once.
But when you feel like waking up is a burden, speaking, eating, even breathing, all become a chore. You realize the problem is living, and how can you fix that?
He's often found himself between state of minds, times when he can pretend he's average, he has reactions, motivations, emotion, but there are other times when he's too tired to pretend and that's when isolation becomes a comfort he has never been able to find in anything else.
If you can't play, you better hide.
"I think so, yeah. It's just been too long, Ted. I worry about you because I give a fuck, and you shouldn't feel guilty about it. I think it's healthy to care about someone other than yourself, otherwise it's really easy to disconnect and get lost," hypocrisy tasted bitter, but he wasn't lying. Ted only whispered a soft 'yeah'. "Oh, and by the way, I can't believe you, brat, you're saying spending time with me is a torment?" He tried to joke to lighten up the tension at the edges of their twitching lips and unsure limbs.
"Yes, that's exactly what I meant." Ted laughed and nodded sleepily.
"Well, Tadeo, you can fuck right off and kiss Freud's 'momma's boy' ass," he took the energy drink from Ted's unsuspecting hands.
"No, please, my life source! I take it back, torment what? You're the life of the party, your old man ways are the light of my life, I swear!"
Ted was hugging him around the shoulders, shaking him back and forth on his seat behind the counter and crying for forgiveness when Jo walked in, puffy and red faced, bed hair all over the place as he stared at them with judgment in his bleary eyes.
"I regret my decisions every day, life is not fair." Ted ran to him and hugged him easily with one arm around his shoulder since they were both equally tall, and even though he was choking him slightly in the process, Davi noted Jo's easy smile and the way his body relaxed the second they were close.
"Alright, go the fuck to sleep, the both of you," Davi shook his head and pointed at them with an intended intimidating finger, but being overall smaller than them didn't give him that much leverage.
Still, he was older, so that had ought to count for something because Jo stood straight and gave a little salute. "Yes, sir!" Ted copied him and hugged his energy drink to his chest.
They said their goodbyes and walked out of the store, but just as Davi was about to close the door again, Ted walked back.
"I'll call you, okay?" Davi didn't miss the fact that Ted knew he'd have to be the one to do so. A few things were best left unsaid.
"Sure." Ted smiled and walked away, shivering against the cold winter air, Jo waiting for him inside his car.
He locked the store's door for the first time that night and stared at the sky - a dark blue with only a few stars visible. The flickering street lights seemed to push a button in his memory, they made smoke and cold swirl inside him.
Aren't you tired of running?
I hope you're home, now.