Just To Smile [Kevin]
“Kevin.” Jeremy’s warm voice said.
“Jeremy.” I replied slowly tapping my fingers against the counter.
“You know why I am here?“, Jeremy asks not breaking eye contact.
I gave a quick look back to see my managers door closed before jumping over the counter facing him. “Jeremy, buddy. We have been friends for a long time, and you know we can’t fight with each other forever.“. I replied, “This isn’t the first time I have fucked up.“.
Jeremy’s eyes narrowed slightly, “I’m aware of this not being your first fuck up. That’s why I was going to leave you come to me for the apology.“.
My chest tightened slightly, and my heart skipped a beat. I nodded my head slowly biting my bottom lip, “Then why did you come here?“.
Jeremy’s glare flattered, “It was Nikkei who convinced me to consider forgiveness, if you agree to accompany his older brother to a party.” He sighed.
“You got to be fucking kidding me.“, I moaned.
Jeremy chuckled dryly, “I knew you wouldn’t do it. It is not like you are going to be romantic to him. Just show your face, mingle with the man and leave. It’s a College party not the Met Gala.“.
He is not wrong. I placed my hands in my pockets twiddling with the inner lint inside. I breathed out softly before saying, “Fine then.“.
“Fine. I’ll text you the details.” Jeremy bit out.
“I will look forward to it.“, I bit back.
There was an awkward silence between us. The only sound was of the chefs in the back who were peaking from behind thin plastic that separated the kitchen. Jeremy’s eyes still had a spark behind them. I slipped off my glasses and rest them to the side along with my phone.
The mischievous glint in his eyes was the only warning I got before his fist connected to my face. It was not his hardest. Just strong enough to leave a good sting on my right cheek. I cradled the injured tissue and laughed lightly.
“You happy now.” I asked.
Jeremy looked at his fist and then to my face. His hand quivered to his side like he was holding himself back.
I pressed my weight against the counter and stared into those eyes that looked more concerned than my mother’s ever was. Jeremy turned on his heel and basically charged out the restaurant.
I lifted myself over the counter returning to my former spot. I shoot a quick glare at the chefs I stared through the plastic pane before I returned to trying not to hate myself which became a lot harder. In the end I gave up in favor of listening.
The cars driving along as pedestrians go about their day.
The endless loop of humanity. Moving continuously. Never stopping to see the other humans’ pain.
When noon hit and the other cashier arrived to fill my spot, I changed out my clothes, grabbed a hamburger or two and headed over to Charlez’s place. It has started to grow colder now as winter approached. I needed to hit the store and get a hoodie before that happens or I will be found frozen on side of the road.
I was just crossing the bridge when the blaring sounds of a siren nearly stopped my heart. I placed my foot down so fast I forgot I had breaks. The sheriff’s car rolled up slowly to me. This is not the first time I have encountered the sheriff of this town. That sheriff was an older man and only pulled me over because I didn’t have a night reflector on my bike at the time. He was quite timid and did not stop me again.
The man who stepped out that car was not that timid man. This man is fit and a face like he has seen death itself. The man placed his dark shades on top of his pale balding head. I looked down at the sheriff’s badge reflecting lightly in the small glimmer of sun.
“Good-afternoon Sir.” I replied shortly.
The man looked me up and down before saying, “Afternoon boy. Where are you coming from?“.
“Just got off work. Heading over to a friend now. School projects we both need to get done.” I smiled slightly.
His eyebrows raised before falling, “Yes. You should get along with that now. I’m the new sheriff and I’m getting to know the kind of people around here. Especially people like you...the youth.” He replied not once looking away from me.
“That’s truly kind of you officer. If you do not mind, I would like to get going.“, I continue smile out.
The sheriff seemed to have relented, “I shouldn’t keep you. If you need anything just head by the department and ask for Sheriff Chestnut.“.
He slipped his shades back to his eyes before proceeding to get back into the car. It was not until he drove off my heart started to beat again. That would have been so tiring if I forgot how to breathe again. I shook the odd encounter off and continued my way.
Once I arrived at Charlez dorm I notice the door is open. He must have woken up by now. I entered the dorm to find Charlez painting on a canvas being propped up by two beer bottles. I sat on his couch and took the joint that Charlez immediately handed out to me.
“Where you go last night man?“, He questioned as he dipped his paint brush in a deep green color.
“Petra call me.” I replied taking a quick drag of the rolled grass.
Charlez looked back confused, “Why would Petra Owls call you.“.
I softly swore to myself. “It doesn’t matter anyway.“.
Charlez brows furrowed but he moved on, “Jeremy talk to you or you still haven’t groveled for his forgiveness yet?“.
“Like hell would I grovel. But yes. We have talked. He and Nikkei thought it would be nice for me to basically date Nikkei’s older brother for a night.” I replied feeling the soft feather like feeling in my head.
“So, you tell me that you are going to be a concubine to some older man at a party?“, Charlez questioned waving a paint-soaked brush around.
When you put it like that it does sound much worse.
“I’m just doing it for Jeremy.“, I sighed leaning back in the chair.
Charlez forehead crinkles like a newborn baby. “I’ve known you for a year now. You have never been interested in a man.“.
“It doesn’t make me gay to go out with one strange guy”, I chuckled.
“Even if you don’t feel a way. Other people will look at you funny. You hate people staring and you might just fuck it up.“. Charelz mused.
The soft taps of the paintbrush in the glass fill the now empty space. High Charlez was right. I have seen the way people around here stare at Jeremy and Nikkei before. The only way they ignore it is because they are both saints.
Sadly, I am not a saint.
I’m just a man who prefers to not attract the attention of the judgmental gazes of this society. The eyes that pick a part the worth of a man based solely on their outer appearance. Yeah, that’s how the world works. They say love thy neighbor while love itself is a falsehood. Love is just what it is. A four-letter word in the dictionary.
The joint burns out barely nicking my top lip, “Why you are asking all these things?“.
“Just hoping you don’t embarrass you self is all.“, Charlez replied and stepped away from his painting.
I myself stood up to get a good look at the painting. Not quite sure what it is. “Is it a green girl in a green dress?” I asked.
Charlez nodded and quickly turned the canvas around revealing a large marijuana leaf. I rolled his eyes at his childish laughing. “I’m going to use your shower.” I announced and got a hand of confirmation as Charlez decides his next work.
I stripped out of the day-old clothes and began washing away the grim of the day. I held my head back feeling the water run down my body. Any flames I had in me quenched with icy water.
When I felt sufficiently cleaned, I stepped out the bathroom and began drying myself in the small hand towel that I usually use when I am here. Staring back to me in the mirror was a person I have seen many times over. A worthless black man with scars on his back. My back, the testament to my insignificance to this world. Each day I look at this face seeing more burns in my eyes than there are in the mirror.
Maybe I should not go. Jeremy has Nikkei. He could get along fine without me. Unlike me, who cannot seem to get along with myself, Jeremy is built to last. I just wanted him to last around and be strong. I did not want to let him down. Eyes, Jeremy’s eyes, the windows to his soul. The hurt was still there at the restaurant.
I do not want him to hurt. I will do this. I will retain my friendship with him. Not for me. For my friend.
Just to smile.