By: Monica Chen
Their friendship develops like the tuning of an orchestra. A single violin plays and slowly, slowly more are added in until the harmonies swell and fill the room. They’re in the same high school. Same grade. Same chemistry class. Their parents are friends so they see each other at parties. They sit next to each other on the couch in one house, at the dinner table in another, on the floor at someone’s potluck, on the bed at another’s graduation. His gaze rests on her a little too long when he should be paying attention to the movie. She giggles and brushes her hair behind her ear.
Harmless, her mother calls him. Harmless, her brother calls him. When he sees her, he sees the sun, whole and bright, warm and strong. When she sees him, she sees bruises and blood. She sees force and pain and a man as old as her father who shouldn’t have but did anyways. When he tries to hold her hand, she flinches and pulls away. She apologizes and apologizes and says it’s not him. She’s just not comfortable with physical affection. He doesn’t push her. He never pushes her and yet all she can see is force.
All he wants to do is take care of her. Find out why she’s so sad. How could someone so bright, so warm be so sad? Her smile may be his favorite sight in the world, but it’s so rare. So rare. He tells her jokes when she cries. Her laughter is breathless as it escapes from her mouth. She looks up at him with her deep brown eyes and whispers thank you’s in his direction. He sits next to her when she cries. They greet the silence like an old friend and she thanks him for always being there. He tries to hug her when she cries. She squirms out of his reach and apologizes and apologizes and wishes things were different.
He tells her he loves her. He’s never felt like this before. He tells her that he would never hurt her and that she’s all he needs. He tells her that he loves her. She tells him not to. She tells him she’s too broken to be pieced back together. He can’t piece her back together. She loves him too. She loves him too, but she’s not ready. She has to figure herself out, solve her own problems. She tells him that one day she’ll tell him why she’s like this. She doesn’t. He tells her that he’ll wait for her. He doesn’t.