I don’t see you a lot anymore. Well, I see you, but you always have those sunglasses on that make you look like everyone else. We only say a few words to each other now and then, all just friendly formalities. You talk to everyone like that, like you’re some kind of cross-clique ambassador that has to be good with everyone.
You also always have your sleeves rolled up now. It doesn’t look bad; it’s just something I noticed.
There are pictures of you all through the halls for student counsel, or future leaders today-whatever one of the thousand clubs you’re a part of. It makes me so mad seeing your face up there because your smile isn’t your real smile. Your real smile is slightly wider to where you can see the tooth you chipped in sixth grade at Nick’s.
And I’m the only one who can tell.
I can’t quite pinpoint what made us grow apart. It was freshman year in the fall. You started hanging out with the preppy kids. Freshman year everyone grew a part. Everyone left me. I just didn’t think you’d be one of them. I was the only one who didn’t change, and I was the one abandoned.
It’s not fair to anyone that you left…especially not me.
You used to ride your blue Huffy bike over to my house. I’d be sitting in my room, and I’d see you pull up to my driveway. I started seeing every bike rider as you. It’s hard to tell, from so far away. They pedal their bicycles the same as you. When they get close enough I can see what color their bike is. Not a lot of people ride blue bikes. Not a lot of people are like you.
That’s why it hurts to see you try to blend in with everyone, try to be the one that everyone looks to as the cool guy. The one they want to talk to. The one who tip toes the borders of the school’s niches. The one whom when they look at me give a passing smile and a “how’s it goin’?”
The nicer you try to be the more insincere you become.
I understand. I really do. If people found out that we were together it might make you a little less popular. It might make for an explanation to your new friends. But to me, that’s how you know you aren’t with the right people. I can talk to David. Brian doesn’t care. Luke supports me. Hannah talks a lot but you don’t. And I don’t think she cares about you. And I don’t think she’d support you no matter what.
And if you abandoned her, I don’t think she’d hold onto it for so long.
But if she did, hold onto it for this long I mean, I don’t think you’d leave her. You wouldn’t want to hurt her that much. You would notice the small twitch in her eye every time you’d pass each other in the hall.
That’s the worst part.
Not that we don’t see each other anymore. Not that we started on different paths. It’s that you don’t see the pain in my face when I look at you, because I see the pain in yours. I know what it looks like. I memorized it.
But you didn’t.
more by TYLER CLIFTON
photograph by Pavan Trikutam