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18 Feb 2013:
Here’s Chapter 7. I apologize if you’ve waited too long for this one. I really have a lot of things on my mind right now so I’m sorry if this is a little bit delayed. Anyway…ah, I guess I’ll save the rest for after the story.
A Love so Star-crossed
Chapter 7 - Leaving
It was the coldest winter I remember, but I guess I’m not being objective anymore.
There had been a time when I thought Max and I would last forever a day, but this wasn’t it. This was time when winter was colder than ever and my heart was hollower than ever. This was the worst of times in my life, and every night in bed, I could picture how the times could get even worse.
The closer to Christmas it was, the emptier my heart grew, and with the increasingly frigid weather it was hard to concentrate on pretty much anything I did. Sitting through school wasn’t the difficult part; interacting with others was. This was especially true when others asked about Max because they all thought we were the best of friends.
Max had been gone for an entire week now. I went to their house on Thursday after incessant hours of wrestling with my reluctant and tumultuously confused mind the previous night. Instead of Max’s warm hug embracing me, it was an empty house that stung into the deepest of my flesh. I remember vividly how my body trembled and eventually froze into numbness in the compelling coldness, but more vividly how my heart was burning and aching with frustration and torture.
And so I now knew heaven and hell were that close; they were merely weeks apart, days apart. I also realized that once I was in hell, there was going back.
Mum and Dad didn’t help; they couldn’t. They stayed silent mostly, and I decided it was best that I alone was left to the misery and thinking. There was no way that they could help, and there was no point passing my misery. They took good care of me and asked if I needed help regularly, and for that I was already thankful.
It was Dec 15th. Ten days until Christmas. It took me a long time to escape the protection of my blankets and get dressed for the real world, a.k.a. school. Getting down the stairs was easier than wordlessly devouring breakfast. When I was almost done, my father approached the table and put a piece of leaflet on it.
“That’s where Max went. We just found out.” His voice displayed a lack of emotions.
“A boarding school,” he continued. My mind went blank for seconds. When I was back on Earth again, there was nothing but the pain of my shattered heart.
“Boarding school?” I yelled, exasperated, angry at no one in particular. My father simply walked off, leaving me alone in a cold dining room with an almost empty plate.
I didn’t finish breakfast. I ran off without my school bag. I just ran and ran; there was no destination in mind. Through dense layers of skeleton trees I saw rays of sunlight impinging on the ground and felt a feeble touch of heat on my body. As I increased my speed, I was no longer looking ahead. I was staring on the solid ground where my feet stomped continuously. Always beside them were dancing shadows that mocked me as I proceeded. But still I had no idea where I was heading, until a familiar house emerged behind another couple of trees with few leaves surviving. I was at Max’s house.
I rang the doorbell, knowing that my best friend would answer the door with a confident smile and his gleaming eyes.
No response. I did it again.
I couldn’t stand any longer, and so I collapsed on the front porch and started crying. Real hard. There was no stopping the coming of tears, for I’d just realized that it was all really over. Lover. Friend. Whatever. None of these would happen, because Max was out of my life. I was officially on my own.
I walked to school without feeling my feet, but somehow I made it into the classroom. The teachers didn’t bug me much about my forgetting to bring with me my bag, mostly because it was the first time this happened. I finished lunch alone in silence, and I didn’t speak unless it was absolutely necessary.
All I could think about the walk back home was the picture of Max and his family arriving at some boarding school for boys, some boot camp for years to come, where the real meaning of discipline ruled unruly souls. Would I ever see him again? What occupied me wasn’t merely depression; I was also filled with anger toward Max’s parents. How could they do this? They might stop us from being a couple, but did they also consider the fact that we were also best friends? It was genuinely cruel to tear us apart, and into our hearts was situated the inexplicable pain that would linger and haunt us for times ahead.
It was also then I realized loving Max was much, much easier than giving in and letting him go. Maybe I could do nothing about it, but I sure as hell couldn’t feel nothing about it. But this wasn’t a fairytale, and we weren’t the prince and the princess meant to be together. This was real life, where dreams are constantly crushed to make room for more dreams to be crushed.
Silent Night featured the usual suspects of winter, plus a few more uninvited pains in the ass. I cursed at the night sky without relenting.
There was a point of deepness in the cold that wouldn’t go away, and Christmas trees that brought peace in general but this year brought only turmoil. There was a scene of people going out and enjoying themselves on a happy Christmas vacation, which saddened me even more. The only corresponding character was the overcast sky at night. The moon was nowhere to be seen.
My cousins came for Christmas celebration and would stay until 27th. Around the table sat us in content like it was the best Christmas ever. I was trying hard to stay cheerful, but certainly not for the sake of the others. It was really simply a selfish act to avoid being asked questions that I wouldn’t have the answer to or required a lot of thinking, definitely not to prevent my hidden struggle from ruining the holiday joy.
“So how about after dinner we head for the beach and make good use of our sleeping tents and bags?” said Jeff, my 16-year-old cousin.
It didn’t take long for my other 13-year-old cousin to respond. “Sleeping out on Silent Night? That’s a first,” said Sebastian.
“I’m in,” I almost cut him off. I missed the beach. Well, I missed Max most of all, but missing the beach seemed to drag me away from thinking about my lost best friend.
It felt weird walking with my cousins to the beach on the path Max and I used to walk on so much. Surely my cousins, unlike Max, wouldn’t notice the beauty of the natural landscape of the beach and the cold emptiness of the mall.
“So...little Dave got a girlfriend?” Jeff asked, walking beside me as Sebastian quietly followed behind us staring at the non-stop traffic.
“Nope, Jeff,” I answered casually.
“Why not?” He pressed. God. I wished I were elsewhere.
“No reason. Just can’t have one right now.”
“Ohhhhh…so you do have someone in mind!” He laughed. I could feel Sebastian laughing too, but mostly he was just listening closely without contributing to the conversation. Sebastian’s silent type.
I just walked on and didn’t respond. “Come on, Dave! Who’s she?” Jeff begged. He kept looking at me, but I was constantly avoiding eye contact. I didn’t want to let him know anything. He didn’t need to know anything.
“Is it a he then? Come on, who’s he?” Jeff laughed again, but I didn’t. I just stared at him for a few seconds not showing emotion, and then looked away again, into the cold yet welcoming ocean. We were there. The beach that belonged to Max and me.
Our heaven. Our sanctuary from all the crazy stuff out there.
The ocean was calm without apparent undulating patterns. Watching from afar, I felt as if we were looking at a frozen ocean floor. I prayed that the coldness would subside so it wouldn’t be such a cold night out. When I was certain that I was praying for something that wasn’t likely to happen, I gave God up and added extra layers to my sleeping bag. It wasn’t the first time God disappointed me anyway, and I was prepared for further times.
The sleeping bags brought warmth at an incredibly high rate, and after endless topics about the boredom of school and the frustration about girls, we gave our bodies to dreams that awaited us.
In the middle of night, the thought of Max woke me up. A part of me wanted to get out of the tent and get lost in the wonders of nature, but the fear of the cold overcame me. The tent was wide enough for the three of us, with Sebastian on the other side and Jeff in the middle slightly closer to me.
I saw Max beside me then – I was still dreaming. His eyes confidently locked into mine, and he smiled tenderly like he always did. Then his hands reached out in the dark, his body somewhat transparent and his figure appearing to merge as part of the tent.
“Max,” I whispered, hoping he too would start calling my name, or say “I love you,” or “Same.” But another strong wind swept across the tent and my heart with great force. Max was gone in a flash, leaving me desolate and helpless in the cold air that somehow managed to slip inside the perfectly zipped tent space.
“Max,” I said, nearing a total state of breakdown. I felt tears forming and the coldness of the air stinging. “Max...Max…Max…”
Then a voice broke the silence. “Who’s Max?” A half sleep Jeff asked, his eyes barely open. I sighed.
“He’s my friend, but now he’s in boarding school.” I didn’t know why I was telling Jeff all this, but there wasn’t really anywhere for me to escape so I decided I’d just get it over with.
“The way you repeat the name, it feels more like you’re moaning and jerking off to a girl,” he laughed. I decided not to respond to that. “Is this Max your fantasy girl or what?”
He seemed to smell the seriousness in my voice a few seconds later. “Sorry, but why are you calling out his name like that?”
I rolled a bit and looked up, my sight ending up at the pointy top of the tent. “I kinda miss him. His parents suddenly sent him away.”
“And leaves you wondering why, huh?” There was seriousness in his voice now, and I knew it was safe to proceed with this conversation.
“Thinking seems to lead me nowhere.”
“To tell you the truth, I’m more of an actor than a thinker.”
“I don’t know what to do.”
“That’s bullshit. There’s gonna be something you can do.” “You know what,” he continued, “You and I, let’s go for some action!”
“You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Even I don’t know myself.” My voice cracked. I could felt those tears ready to come.
“Dave...are you…crying? What’s up, man?” It would take centuries to explain, but I decided to give him the simplified version. Right now I really needed some mental support.
“Jeff, Max is an important friend, and I just think his parents…you know, I just think it’s not right…him being taken away like this.”
“I understand, David. It’s okay. But I told you I would help you.”
“But Max and I, we’re…” It felt weird having tears stuck in your eyes.
“I know, I figured.” Jeff’s voice was gently caring, and I felt like I could trust him. But what could he do?
“Come on,” Jeff said firmly, “you’ll see him again.”
“But how?” I felt a tear or two pass my lips.
“We’re going on an adventure.”
“Where’s this boarding school of his? You know, right?”
A few seconds passed.
“Yes, we’re hunting evil parents and saving boyfriends.”
I did know. But never had I thought of…finding him. Never had I thought of…taking action. How stupid of me. I had the gateway to Max all along, and I never even considered going after him. Why? Was I afraid time had already damaged our relationship irreparably?
In the end, I concluded that I lacked the confidence. I’d forgotten how weak I was without my significant other; I’d forgotten how much of my so-called confidence was only borrowed.
That night in the tent, after I heard Jeff falling into sleep, I decided to become an actor instead of a thinker who thought that thinking could turn misery into happiness and create miracles. I hoped Max would wait for me. I knew he would.
Christmas morning was full of content though there remained a missing piece. My family, including my cousins and their parents, cheered me up in various ways, consciously or unconsciously. Some knew what was really going on between me and Max; others didn’t. But it didn’t matter, because I decided that this Christmas would be a day filled with joy and laughter even without Max.
Because I knew it was only temporary. Max wasn’t going anywhere; he was just somewhere out there waiting for our inevitable encounter. I believed in fate, and though I wouldn’t say I was a faithful and loyal believer of God, I believed in a mighty power that pre-arranged our encounters and relationships. I believed in the fate in the sense that Max and I were really meant to be together. Our journeys were written in the stars and there was no erasing them.
Christmas afternoon felt less like winter. The temperature rose noticeably and we could get away with wearing less. The afternoon was passed by playing different games and singing Christmas carols in the silliest ways possible. We all laughed, and I didn’t fake any laughs. I truly enjoyed myself, still believing in my dream and my vision about Max and me. I was determined when I ran on the beach again, Max would be beside me, and we would be counting people, stars, or whatever there was for us to count.
Christmas night was a night sky full of stars. There wasn’t a single cloud in sight. The whole family sat in our backyard having a barbecue in the pure December sky.
“It never snows here, does it?” I asked.
“That’s why we’re doing this barbecue, son,” my father laughed, and my mother sat beside him looking at me with these caring eyes that could come from no one but her.
“Dave, I’ve got you a Christmas gift you’ll never forget,” Jeff grinned.
“Should I be scared about that sly smile?” I joked. I was wondering what kind of gift it was, but I guess I would find out tomorrow.
Leaning on the grass near the fence was Sebastian, the quieter cousin. Our conversation seemed not to interest him in the least, but the stars certainly did capture the entirety of his attention. Slowly I walked over.
“Hey. Watcha looking at?” I asked. He signaled for me to lie next to him, and so I did. In front of us was the galactic map, stars utterly still like dots of paint arranged meticulously by an artist to develop constellations and metaphoric representations.
Sebastian looked at me for a brief second. “You know how the stars aren’t really still,” he said. I nodded. I knew a bit, but not much.
He continued, “These planets, these stars, they’re all the victims of gravity, forced to circulate around other objects.” Silently I disagreed. Victims? But it felt so beautiful. Now it was as still as a painting. And on documentary shows stars felt energetic, all willing to comply when asked to dance in orbits.
“Moons orbit around planets. Planets orbit around stars. Gravity’s the master. There is no escaping it.” Part of me was admiring how much Sebastian knew about astrophysics, but slowly and unconsciously I was giving in to another part of me – slowly I began to search for Max and me in the vast scale of the cosmos.
“You may think it’s all orderly, but the universe is in a constant state of disorder actually. Gravity may bind planet and star systems together, but planets, stars and even galaxies crash into each other all the time. There are all these paths out there governed and supervised by gravity, but it’s like it can’t manage to direct traffic well because the universe is just an unbelievably huge place.” I smiled. This cousin of mine really knew a lot about stars.
“Stars and planets cross paths, and when the collision comes, it’s apocalypse. Just imagine Mars crashing into Earth. Both planets will be shattered into pieces on impact, and the humans, well, there’s no way we can survive. When these celestial bodies cross paths, nothing good can come out of it. When they cross paths, the damage is always catastrophic.”
“Aren’t new stars and planets born when galaxies crash into each other?” I asked out of curiosity.
“That’s true. But before that countless of stars and planets must have been lost already. This is like a constant rule in the universe. Destruction and birth are often related, one way or the other. Then again, there’s always the notion that things destroy to construct.”
“We live in a strange place,” I inferred.
Sebastian concurred, “We do. In fact, the solar system is so unique that scientists can’t really find a place exactly like our system and a home like Earth. They may be similar, but very likely, different in some ways. We’re the freaks, and yet here is where life blossoms.”
“So we’re freaks, but we’re the right ones.” We laughed.
Sebastian taught me about the constellations until we decided to go inside. Looking back, I have to admit it was one of the most memorable conversations in my life. Even after we went indoors, he still couldn’t stop talking about cosmic theories. There was the talk of supernova, about how stars ended their era in an explosion the power of countless nuclear bombs. There was also the talk of black holes, about how frequently they appeared in the universe and how it was the doom of everything. There was no mention of Max but in Sebastian’s words I found great comfort. In the dim light of our living room, still looking out to the universe that stretched back to the moment of creation, I felt another Max and I was out there holding hands and watching. At that moment, I rejoiced at the possibility of what we could become.
It was truly a Christmas of mixed feelings. Somewhere in my heart there was loneliness, but I wasn’t feeling lonely knowing that it would soon end. It was the first night in which I slept soundly after Max was gone.
The stars faded into the background; the morning sun shone on my bed like a wake-up call. Boxing Day. Presents Day.
It was another day that reminded me of how much my parents love me. Dad got me a new bicycle, and Mum got me a brand new computer game. There were so many gifts, and I can’t remember all of them. I do remember what Sebastian got me – it was a telescope. It was so Sebastian, and even if I might not ever learn how to use it properly, it would stand to remind me of the vastness and wonder of universe, a part of nature that we don’t usually see stranded in our own tiny world, at a tiny spot in the solar system, in a tranquil corner of our galaxy.
Of course, all that time I was still wondering what Jeff’s secret gift would be, and how it would blow me away. But truth was, it didn’t. Jeff gave me a notebook (not a computer notebook), and one that was even too girly for my taste, and quite possibly his taste, too.
I smiled at first, but shot him a look that said “What the hell?” The sly smile remained on his face, and that left me wondering even more.
The greatest surprise of the day didn’t come until midnight. I unpacked every single present that all in all it had been an amazing Christmas. Looking around the room, I saw gifts scattered on the floor, and near the corner, Jeff’s notebook. And there was something else, sticking out between the first few pages. When I got the stuff out, I realized something – Jeff was right; it’s was Christmas gift that I would always, always remember.
It was a map, showing detailed landmarks in California. There was a highlighted path and a few remarks, all leading to a single point in San Francisco from Los Angeles, where I was now at. The end of the journey marked a destination with the capitalized “MAX” right above a handwritten place name: “San Francisco East Side School.”
This was the time. Max and I would soon be one again.
The next morning, Jeff waited in his car outside. He told me about a lot of stuff on the way, mostly about his newly obtained license and how this was the longest road trip he’d ever been in. That scared me a little, but the thought of Max blotted out all the apprehension. Before I left home, I was responsible enough to leave a note. Well, I was being as responsible as I could, but I just couldn’t live another day without Max, knowing that he was out there waiting for me.
Here’s what was in the brief note:
Sorry Mum and Dad
I went to find Max
Don’t worry. Will be back soon
I’ll try to get the next chapter done as soon as possible, but just a heads up: I’m wrapping up this story in the next chapter or two. It was never really intended to be this novella-length thing, but since “Growing Intimacy” I decided it deserved a longer narrative.
Check out my other stories:
A Love so Star-crossed (gay/young-friends/2012Dec – 2013Feb)
Growing Intimacy (gay/young-friends/2012Nov)