rating: +6+x

It's been on my mind lately.

Maybe it's because I'm getting older, maybe it's because my brother is getting married, maybe it's because of nothing at all.

I can't say, which is the cruelest part because that's always been something I couldn't do, to you or anybody else: say. I tried to say something recently, but I'm not sure it was all that helpful.

But I've kept thinking about it and I think I was wrong. I'm still not sure, it feels like I'm writing this because I need to try to sift through the memories that keep tugging at me.

I think it was you.

I think it was when you tapped me on the shoulder in sixth grade and forced me to be your friend simply because I was drawing. When you showed me your sketchbook. You've always been a much better artist than me. I found myself not caring, me: an insecure child who was still unsure of who he was, seeking to be good at something. Up to the end I loved to see your art. I'd still love to see it now. The thick, rough lines on a paper tinted gray in a sketchbook that was falling apart.

I think it was the time we spent in the corner during P.E., hiding away. Spinning tales, scattering eraser shavings, and praying that the coaches didn't confiscate our stuff. We created stories about us and then threw them away. Match after match after match, striking and not even being given a chance to burn to the wood. They were terrible, for the most part, but kids aren't geniuses.

I think it was your insistence on hugging me every-now-and-then. I don't like hugging most people and I didn't enjoy it from you for a while, but I found myself missing it eventually. I found myself wishing I could hug you. But I don't think I ever was the one to initiate. I don't know why.

I think it was when you and them got me to enter that competition with you two. Back then, no one could have made me do it. But when you asked, I said yes. I remember the single practice over Skype and the black paint we smudged on our cheeks to match our black clothes as we tried to follow in the footsteps of beatniks and ragamuffin street performers, like ashes spread by the mournful. It was a mess and I loved every second of it. When we did it a second time years later, a teacher said that she'd never expected me to be one to participate. I remember telling her I wasn't, but you pulled me in.

I think it was when we'd talk. Whether it was conversations about nothing or moments of vulnerability, it didn't matter to me, I enjoyed both. Whether you were looking at me with full eyes, your head tilted slightly back, or if your eyes were half-open, voice reaching a greater level of monotony. Both were beautiful.

I think it was so many things, far too many to list. So many are so small in scale or too nebulous to extrapolate on. But they rest on my heart, lead weights pulling the hook further into the murky Southern rivers, but there's no bait. No worm, no bread, no foul smelling putty. It sinks so that it may sink, a vague notion obscured by mud.

I'm sorry it ended the way that it did. I'm sorry I chose like I did. There's nothing I could have done, the roadkill far behind me on the highway. I can scream my apologies into the wind and the guts can spell out acceptance, but it all came when we were already parting. There wasn't time to truly make amends.

I haven't spoken to him since the fog melted away and hindsight kicked me in the ass. I've heard so many things, but I don't know the truth from fiction. So much of him was shrouded in deceit and flux, the end of it all only served to make it worse. I was fed up with rumors, so I believed nothing. It bled into how I saw your message to me. It bleeds into how I feel about you. I can't seem to staunch the wound, the bandage keeps soaking up doubt until it's sodden.

I remember the last time I saw you. Friends all gathered to wish each other goodbye, grilling food and sitting around as we tried to deny the future. We all knew the purpose, but no one wanted to say anything. I remember sitting alone by the campfire, the rest scattered around the area. You showed up, breaking through the night into the warmth of the fire, Malibu rum in one hand and a boy interlocked with the other.

We hadn't spoken in a while and I desperately wanted to say something to you.

I wanted to tell you how sorry I was again.

How much you meant to me.

How much I'd miss you.

I wanted to go back, drop a joke that only you and I would get.

But I didn't. I sat in that fucking lawnchair and gave you a small wave, I exchanged brief pleasantries. You never were one to smile a whole bunch so when you smiled then it crushed me. You walked into the shack and evaporated into the ether because I was such a self-pitying coward that I didn't even try to chase you. I didn't even try to find true closure in that moment because I was scared of it.

When I left the Ranch, I had done the same thing. I had a friend, another biological kid, and we hung onto each other because we were both in the same boat. He found out I was moving away and he was mad that I was leaving him behind. Years of close-knit friendship dissolved in mere minutes, but I never looked back to see if it was merely the paint that burned away. I was so afraid of it happening again when the dispute started that I made stupid, selfish choices. I ignored blatant patters and facts because I wanted to avoid burning any bridges, but two seemed to fall to ashes because of it.

I don't even know if what I feel is what I'd been missing for ten years, if it's lingering guilt, or some other esoteric happening of the human psychology. I don't talk to most people from my time in that awful county, but not talking to you feels less like the natural separation of people drug along different winding roads and more like veins in a wound. I don't understand, I may never understand.

I'm sorry.

I love you.

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