Introducing Armin (Whoever That Is)
By the end of our second day, the novelty of the trip had worn off.
The van was littered with chip bags and empty water bottles, and Eren seemed to become worse and worse at driving as the time passed. I couldn'tcount how many times I'd gripped my seatbelt and yelped, or how many times he'd flipped the finger at the “jerks” that had apparently done himsome injustice. It had gotten to the point where, whenever Eren spat out an obscenity or lifted that one particular finger, Mikasa would grab his earand yank him towards her as punishment. Unfortunately, all this did was make us swerve. I was beginning to wonder if this road trip was honestlygoing to help my anxiety, or whether it would just make it worse (if Eren didn't swerve us into an accident and kill us first).
To make things worse, we'd unanimously decided to sleep in the van the night before, and we all stank. Or, in Eren's words,
“This car smells like sex, and it's driving me nuts. Is there a place we can shower?”
“How do you know what sex smells like?” I asked dryly.
He rolled his eyes. “Honestly, I don’t. But I’d imagine it smells like this.”
“Like what?” Mikasa challenged, the smallest of smirks resting on her lips.
Eren sniffed, and his face wrinkled in disgust. “Old fish and puberty. And maybe my parents’ room sometimes.”
Mikasa and I gave expressions of revulsion, silently asking if that last sentence was truly necessary. Eren ignored us, half-grinning at his accidentalrevenge.
“Anyway, back to the subject. Who's up for our first hotel?”
Deciding to furthermore ignore the cause of our grief, we both gave a fervent “me” in reply. It was only five o' clock, but then again, it wasn't likewe had somewhere specific to be at a certain time. And besides that, we needed some real food. We'd grabbed so much fast food that I felt like Iwas going to throw up, and all it would have taken was the sight of another greasy french fry. Eren had no problem with our diet so far, but thatwas because Eren could eat silverware if he wanted to and not have a problem with it. And all Mikasa requested was that we stop at conveniencestores so she could buy protein bars and shakes. Either way, I was looking forward to the hotel's food.
We were already out of Colorado and going into Arizona, where we'd find the Grand Canyon and other tourist attractions. Eren had cheerfullyagreed to our first destination, probably because he really wanted to see an actual, potentially dangerous thing.
I'd been snapping photos of the scenery and writing things in my journal, but the things that I wrote were mostly things I already knew.
I feel just fine. Mentally, at least. Physically, I'm not doing so well. Eren has a couple of bad habits on the road that I've never had to experiencelong-term, and Mikasa's mood is generally getting worse as the minutes pass. Fast food is hell. Also, I don't think I've heard the F-word as manytimes in a day as I have today.
We're sleeping in the van tonight, pulled over in the middle of nowhere. Eren says that if a cop asks what we're doing, our excuse will be that wewere all too tired to drive, and I have to give him my most pathetic face from the back seat. Out here, though, I don't think anyone's going to comearound.
So I guess I'm supposed to talk about my issues?
I really do feel okay most of the time. I don't know if my breakdown was, for lack of a better word, a fluke, or if I have some pent-up energy behindfalse happiness. I asked Eren for his opinion two days ago, and he noted that I've always been a little anxious about a lot of things. However, healso said that I seem fine most of the time, too.
I asked Mikasa today for her opinion. All she said was that she was glad I was finally doing something about my mental state. I guess she thinks I'munstable.
Personally, I feel like it's possible that the breakdown wasn't really a fluke. Sure, that one thought was the trigger, but how much anxiety must Ihave had inside of me for something as ignorable and (really) childish as a long-debated question that even twelve-year-olds ask themselves totear me down?
As an added point, Eren's right about me being anxious all the time. It's never been this serious, but I can recall several occasions where I'veadmittedly overreacted to a minor fault in a project or assignment. I'm no perfectionist, but- if this makes sense- sometimes I feel like all mistakesI make are a result of exactly how inadequate I am. It's an irrational concept, and usually, I'm able to look back and wonder how I ever believed it.But sometimes, I just stare at my failures, big and small, and I forget that being human means making mistakes. I pin everything down on myselfpersonally, as if the fault is in my own personality and soul and not my innate nature, and it crushes me for a second.
In middle school, I had to make a model volcano. The project was so cliché, I couldn't even believe it was real. My teacher had a vast love for allclichés (and their debatable irony), however, so it wasn't that incredible, after all.
Anyway, so I almost paired up with Eren, but then I didn't because he's a sort of pyromaniac when he gets the chance to be. I recall that in mysophomore year, I forgot this fact and innocently teamed up with him for our chemistry lab, which involved many flammable/explosive substances.It was terrifying to watch him pour everything in together like he did, grinning with all his might. When the fire alarm went off, I hadn't obeyed anyprocedures, running for my life and taking my bag with me. Eren was laughing and whooping, and I'm pretty certain part of my hair had been onfire before the water began to spray.
Surprisingly enough, that incident wasn't what got him kicked off of the basketball team.
Okay, sorry. I went off on a tangent. Actually, scratch that. I'm beating around the bush.
I didn't pair up with Eren, for reasons elaborately explained above. I was with a classmate named Thomas. We agreed that I would do the planningfor the volcano, and he would put the plan into action.
But when all was said and done, it didn't work out. When the teacher asked us to make the volcano erupt, Thomas pressed the button, andeverything just kind of blew up. The tomato sauce we'd used as lava was suddenly all over everyone's face and hair, and broken chunks of theactual volcano had been blown across the room.
The mistake here, I found, was not in Thomas's building, but my planning. I'd been studying some advanced chemistry at that point, and as Ilooked back at my simple blueprints, I realized that I'd mixed up a simple “make the sauce packets explode inside the volcano and overflow out”instruction to what was pretty much a “make the everything explode” one.
Even without a look at my plans, I knew the incident had been my fault. Embarrassingly enough, I started crying and wheezing, to the point wherethey thought it necessary to escort me to the nurse.
I had made a mistake, a considerably disastrous one. It wasn't something I could handle, so I broke down.
There are various memories I have that are similar, and that fact leads me to believe that Eren was right, and that the breakdown was not a “fluke”.
Well, that's all the personal adventuring I'm willing to do right now.
Eren was disappointed to find that we weren't headed straight to the Grand Canyon, complaining that it was way too early to settle in a hotel roomyet (though he'd suggested it in the first place). Mikasa and I weren't having it.
“I'm putting you under my armpit if you don't make the turn now,” Mikasa threatened, unashamed.
Eren's face twisted in disgust. “Ugh. Fine, whatever. But I call first shower.”
“Hey, ladies first,” I said on Mikasa's behalf.
I saw his eyes roll in the rear-view mirror, but he said nothing in argument. Mikasa nodded in thanks.
As it turned out, hotel was a generous word for where we were staying. Not only was it a motel, but it was old-looking, old-smelling, and generally a faintly unpleasant place to be. On the bright side of that, it was very close to the Grand Canyon, and our room was given at a very generous price, even for a place like itself.
I did most of the talking when it came down to it, asking for our room and when dinner was and all of that. Mikasa just kind of blankly took in oursurroundings, and Eren was warily watching any stranger that looked at him.
When we got to our room, as Mikasa rushed to get into the shower and Eren flipped on the TV (though I warned him that all hotel TV is weird), Itried to come up with a situation in which we were all comfortable sleeping. There was a normal bed, and then a couch that pulled out into anuncomfortable bed. I didn't want to have to make anyone sleep on the floor (who knew what crawled around at night), but the only alternative wasfor someone to share the bigger bed.
Once Mikasa came out, as Eren was running into the bathroom, already removing his shirt, I asked, “Who wants to sleep where?”
They both looked at the situation, glanced at one another, and answered simultaneously, “We'll share the bed.”
Eren hopped into the shower, leaving Mikasa to answer me.
“Long story short, we're comfortable with it,” Mikasa said.
Her expression flattened. “For reasons,” she said, and I decided that maybe answers were overrated.
“Okay,” I said dismissively, proceeding to tie my hair up and remove my sweatshirt. Now that our most immediate problem had been solved, Irealized that it was so hot that I was in danger of a stroke. Even Mikasa was just wearing some basketball shorts and a tank top.
Disappointingly enough, the cool, humid weather that had manifested as we'd left failed to follow us down the road. Summer had always been myleast favorite season; I was more of a spring and autumn person. Heat is just unbearable to me, especially since I usually have to wear less thanusual to keep myself at a healthy temperature, therefore letting my self-consciousness distract me from pretty much anything important.
After a while of reading on the couch in my sticky shirt, Mikasa yelled at Eren to get out of the shower. He yelled something back, but neither of usunderstood him. Nevertheless, he was promptly out of the bathroom less than a minute later, in nothing but his cargo shorts, unintentionallylowering my self-esteem with his well-muscled body.
“Your turn, Ar,” he said, glancing at me.
“Right,” I replied, gathering my clothes.
The bathroom was surprisingly nice, at least in comparison to the rest of our room. The shower was roomy and clean, the towels were fluffy andwhite, and there were absolutely no cracks in the walls or on the floor, assuring me that no cockroaches would creep up on my back while I wasbathing (unfortunately, I do know the feeling).
I undressed and untied my hair, which was stuck to the nape of my neck. I turned the shower on cold, shivering at first, but soon welcoming theshocking sensation.
I'd gone last on purpose; I liked to take my time in the shower, since it was essentially my thinking space. After reaching to adjust the head, I curledup in the tub and closed my eyes.
In my journal, I'd established that my breakdown wasn't a random event. The question now was whether I'd gotten upset because of my littlethought, or if it was a sort of “last straw” situation.
Psychological healing is no walk in the park, Eren had said.
I got the frustrating feeling that that statement couldn't have been more true.
The Grand Canyon wasn't nearly as grand as people made it out to be.
Part of my disappointment was born of poor presentation on the attraction's side, and part of it was born of the high expectations that manyartistic photographs had stuck into my head. In the end, it was just a canyon. A big, red canyon.
Mikasa and Eren liked it, though. Eren flipped through his pamphlet furiously, looking for answers he couldn't get from me. He was completelyfascinated and intrigued by it, wondering how deep it was and why the rock was red and what world records were associated by it.
Mikasa simply sat and took in the scenery, almost unmoving. She'd always generally enjoyed nature; I was sure that she liked the canyon almost asmuch as Eren did.
After fifteen minutes or so, I decided I'd seen enough. Eren and Mikasa weren't done yet, so I said I'd wait for them by our van. Eren made a crackabout me getting mugged, and Mikasa quickly told him to shut up, shooting a semi-worried glance over her shoulder at me. I waved and headedback. She turned around.
Curiously enough, I found I had company in the parking lot. And I'm not simply implying that other people were around (because why would I evenbother to imply that?). No, I mean that a complete and total stranger was sprawled on the hood of our big, rusty van, staring at the sky.
He was tall but stocky, wearing a white T-shirt and jeans rolled up to his calves. He could've been my age, and judging by the expensive-lookingcamera he cradled on his stomach (and despite his taste in resting places), I doubted he was homeless or anything of the like.
“Excuse me,” I called, a little alarmed. The stranger sat up, almost dropping his camera.
“Oh, uh- is this your car? I'm so sorry, man, lemme get off right now, I just-”
“No, it's okay. Did you need something?”
He paused, scratching the back of his neck sheepishly. “Actually, I kinda do. If you don't mind helping me out, that is.”
I moved closer. A complete stranger was taking my originally empty offer for help. This was interesting.
He lifted his sunglasses and squinted at me through the sun’s fading glare, revealing round, friendly eyes. A nervous chuckle found its way out ofhim as he mulled over his request.
“Two things,” he said finally. “Maybe more. First of all, I kind of lost my friend.”
I stifled a laugh. “Um. Lost how?”
“Well, I kind of left him a couple of hours ago, and he hasn't caught up with me yet, and he won't answer his phone, and he's a bit of atroublemaker, so I'm worried. I know a complete stranger may not be much help, but I'd feel better if I had someone by my side, y'know? I mean, itsounds stupid, yeah, and I'm sure you've got your own things to do-”
“Actually, I don't. I'd be glad to help you out, mister.....”
The guy held out his hand, covered in freckles like the rest of him. “Marco Bodt. Thank you so much.” He grinned with gratitude and warmth, asthough I were already a good friend of his.
“Armin,” I returned, smiling back. “What was the second thing?”
“Oh.” His smile dropped for a second. “This sounds ridiculous, but we need a ride to Texas. Are you just wandering, or do you have somewhere tobe? Because we can just get a cab, but I can pay you, and my friend has a thing against cabs, so-”
“That's just fine with me,” I interrupted. It was reassuring to find that I wasn't the only guy in the universe that rambled on when I felt stupid.
“Oh, really? Well, thank you so much,” he said again breathlessly.
“It's nothing,” I said. “Let me just ask my friends if they're okay with it.” I could only see Mikasa being upset, but I figured that she'd have nolegitimate reason to be. The van may have been old, but it could seat at least six people comfortably, even with luggage and carry-on items. Andbesides that, even with my list of sights to see, we had no destination and no real deadline to get back home.
After explaining to my sincerely confused friends why we had to get going right then and there, I introduced Marco to them. Both Eren and Mikasaseemed to like him, which was unsurprising, but pleasant nonetheless. We loaded into the van, Mikasa the driver this time.
“So where did you last see your friend?” I asked Marco.
“Um, I think I left him at that one diner not too far from here...”
“Chester's?” Eren guessed.
“Yeah, that's it,” Marco agreed. Mikasa began to drive. “He went to the bathroom, and he was taking a really long time, right? So I told him I wasgoing to go ahead, and he was like, 'okay, I'll catch up with you', and I left without worrying because he usually does catch up with me. But I haven'tseen him yet, and it's been a few hours. I think his phone’s dead. I'm worried he might have gotten hurt, but knowing him, he probably just got lost.”
I nodded in sympathy, glancing at Eren. I'd never lost him, exactly, but there had been several occasions on which he hadn't showed up where he'ssupposed to (and Mikasa and I have had to rescue him before his parents found out). The situation was ridiculous, at best, and terrifying at worst. Igot the sense that Marco's problem felt like a strange mix between the two.
“We’ll probably find him,” Eren said in an attempt at being reassuring. “He’s probably still back at the diner. He’d have to be a real moron to leave,and even dumber to go very far.”
“Crap,” Marco muttered sincerely. I stifled my snort, instead having my own try at being comforting.
“So what’s with your camera?” I asked, pointing to the one he was clutching like a stuffed animal. “Are you sightseeing?”
Marco’s entire face lit up. “Oh, I’m actually an amateur photographer! I’m trying to build my portfolio right now, and I just thought of all thebeautiful things here in Arizona, like the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon. I think this entire state has turned out to be gorgeous, though.Mom’ll be proud of me once I get back.”
“And where did you say you were from?” Eren asked.
“Texas,” Marco answered. “I live near Austin, just a little north of it.”
“But you don’t have an accent,” Eren noted with confusion.
Marco shrugged. “Where I’m from, not a lot of people do. I don’t know about the rest of the state, though.”
“Huh,” I said, racking my mind for more distracting questions. “So you plan to be a photographer? What kind?”
Marco shrugged again. “Any kind, really, though I’d prefer a job where I get to deal with scenery or travel. My mom always wanted that kind of ajob, too. She ended up teaching elementary school, though. I just hope I don’t end up the same way.”
“I guess we all feel that way, huh?” I mused, more to myself than anyone else. “We’ve all got this one dream that’s just out of reach. It’s so close, but so far. At least, I know that’s how it is for me.”
Marco gave me a rather startled look. It was the look most people gave me when I thought aloud. I was about to apologize when Mikasa asked, “Is that him?”
We all snapped to attention. We had slowed down near a guy around Marco’s height, sunglasses glinting at us from where he was.
Marco jumped up and grinned with relief. “Yeah,” he said, “that’s Jean.”
Jean had unquestioningly hopped into the car once he saw Marco, chattering on to him about where he’d been and how his phone had died like we weren’t even there. He did this for a good ten minutes before he finally stopped and looked around.
“Wait- where are we?”
“My dad’s piece-of-poop van,” Eren answered. “Welcome.”
“I was asking him,” Jean said irritably, jerking a thumb at Marco. “So where are we?”
“His dad’s piece-of-poop van,” Marco repeated. Jean rolled his eyes, but Marco continued before he could come up with a reply. “These guys agreed to help me find you. On top of that, they said they’ll take us home. Be grateful.”
“Whatever,” Jean muttered. Eren started to say something, but Mikasa elbowed him before he got a word out.
“Hey,” I said, offering a hand in greeting. “I’m Armin. That’s Eren and Mikasa. Glad to meet you.”
“Ditto,” he said, shaking my hand. “How much are we paying you to take us?”
I shrugged. “Whatever you’re comfortable with.”
“How’s 600 sound? Would that cover anything?” Marco looked almost guilty at the cost. I didn’t fault him; I got the feeling that if he really had the money to, he would pay a lot more. And besides that, the only things they were costing us were gas and time; even 600 felt generous to me.
“Sure,” I said. “Thanks.”
After a few minutes, Jean asked, “Where are we going now?”
“Back to our motel,” Mikasa answered. Jean straightened up at the sound of her voice. It seemed to finally hit him that a girl was in his presence (though I’m not sure how he missed that fact when I gave him her name).
“Is there any room there?” Marco asked, already doing the calculations.
“Yeah, and it’s real cheap. Like, 20 a night,” said Eren.
“Great!” Marco said sincerely. “At this rate, we may be able to make our budget.”
“Nice,” agreed Jean. “My folks’ll kill me if we don’t.”
“Yeah, no kidding. I’m sure they’ll come after me once they successfully hide your body.”
“Where would they hide it, though?”
“I know, right? I bet that even in death, you’d fart loud enough for the neighbors to hear.”
Jean shoved Marco and laughed. “That was one time!”
“But it still happened!”
“Oh yeah? Well how about the time when you pissed your pants during the school play?”
Marco’s face flushed as he realized we were all listening. “Whatever, man,” he chuckled despite his embarrassment. Jean smirked, but said nothing more.
With new company, we watched the sun start to set. My stomach began to growl.
The motel food cost us extra, but it was worth a real meal. I dug heartily into it while Marco attempted to get to know us better.
“Okay. Favorite color?”
At this, Eren nodded in approval. “Good one. Don’t kill me, but Pacific Rim.”
Marco made a visible effort not to groan. Jean didn’t try as hard.
“Hear me out,” Eren pleaded. “It wasn’t anything incredible, but it was a good movie, and I liked the idea of it. I mean, can you imagine? Fighting giant monsters for a living. And aliens coming from the ocean. That was a cool idea, too.”
“He just likes the fact that the robots had the same name as him,” said Mikasa.
“That too,” Eren admitted. “To be honest, I hadn’t known what my last name meant until I saw that movie. Pretty cool to find out.”
“Wait, your last name’s Jaeger?”
“That’s a pretty neat name.”
Jean cracked a smile. “Coming from a guy named Butt, that doesn’t mean much.”
Marco shoved his elbow into Jean’s arm, but otherwise ignored him. “Anyway, Eren, I can see where you’re coming from, I guess. I really not a big action fan, so I guess I wouldn’t know what’s good and what isn’t.”
“You kidding me?” Jean interrupted again. “Pacific Rim was way overhyped. If you ask me-”
“-Like anyone was-”
“Shut up, Butt. If you ask me, Oblivion was where it was at.”
“I thought Star Wars was your all-time favorite.”
“Star Wars is everyone’s all-time favorite. Oblivion, however, was a masterpiece all its own. Sure, Pacific Rim had the cool repetitive theme music and the nice worldbuilding and such, but it didn’t have Morgan Freeman, did it?”
Eren’s brow furrowed. “Is that your deciding factor of whether a movie is good or not? Whether Morgan Freeman is in it?”
Marco nodded in agreement. “Seriously, dude. Look at Dolphin Tale.”
“Hey, Dolphin Tale was alright.”
“Look at Evan Almighty,” Mikasa offered.
“That movie was at least a little funny,” Jean defended. “And besides, I never said Morgan Freeman was my deciding factor. I just believe that he’s a convincing one. Look at the Dark Knight.”
“Lego Movie,” I added, receiving a couple of surprised glances. My face flushed as silence ensued.
Jean chuckled first. Then Eren. Marco caught on, and then I was laughing, too. I caught the faintest of grins from Mikasa as we made the ruckus.
I wasn’t sure if we were laughing at the random silence, memories of the movie, the mere mention of the movie, or all three. All I could think as I slapped my hand down on the table was that about a week or two ago, I was screaming because everything was pointless.
Because, I suppose, everything is pointless.
That fact, however, didn’t keep me from laughing so hard my head ached. Neither did it hinder the staff from pointedly clearing our unfinished plates.
After saying our good-nights and setting up waking times and plans, we went our separate ways for the night. Jean and Marco were staying up on the third floor; Mikasa, Eren, and I had gotten a room on the second floor.
We all changed at the same time: Mikasa in the bathroom, me and Eren in the bedroom. I freed my hair from its ponytail once the room was cold enough, proceeding to brush my teeth.
I had a bad habit of watching myself. It had always bothered me that we could see anyone but ourselves, especially since we’re supposed to know ourselves better than anyone else. I was always curious- what did I look like in this light? Was I really as pale as I thought I was? Do I really tense my eyebrows as much as everyone says I do? What about that scar from two months ago? Was that still there?
Most of all, I think I was constantly trying to connect the Armin I knew with the one I saw.
Mature, Eren had once called me. I could see it.
Creepy, I’d once heard a kid say. I could see that, too.
There were a couple more I saw. Intensity colored my lowered brow. Carefulness was in my light touch, even as I brushed my teeth. Analyzation was the most obvious, written all over my body and branded into my eyes.
But the one I heard the most? I couldn’t find it.
Not in my skinny limbs.
Not in my concerningly pale pallor.
Not in my frowning, foaming mouth- actually, nowhere in my feminine features.
And- even though I searched and searched until my gums began to bleed from too much brushing-
The dull, unfocused, sensitive eyes colored my least favorite shade of blue?
There was no brilliance in there, either.
As a matter of fact, all I could see was emptiness.
Who was I?
I jumped as Eren appeared at my side.
“Uh, yes?” I asked, my mouth still a foamy mix of white and red.
He leaned on the counter to get a better look at my face. “What’s up?”
“Nothing- nothing’s up. Just….thinking.”
His eyes narrowed, scanning me like Mikasa had earlier. I was never sure if, when he did this, he found the truth and covered it up, or if I was a better liar than I gave myself credit for. I knew for a fact that most of the time, Mikasa could read me like a book. She told me so.
Eren was another story.
I didn’t want him to know. I didn’t want anyone to know. I was lost, so confused by myself and who I was. I had always been that way. It was so easy to ignore when I was everyone else’s Armin.
You know. Brilliant.
But once I took a real look at myself, I got scared. I didn’t know this Armin. I didn’t want to.
I think that, despite whether he knew the full truth or not, Eren at least saw the fear. It wasn’t his Armin’s usual fear. Whether he ran away from it or simply respected my wishes to leave it alone, I don’t know, but he left it all the same. I was grateful.
“Don’t think too much,” was all he said. He tousled my hair before heading back to the bed, flipping on the weird hotel TV again.
Mikasa came out and, after brushing and flossing and doing everything she needed to do, she insisted on brushing my hair. It was something we’d always done as little kids, a couple of minutes taken during a sleepover to talk and joke.
“You doing okay?” she asked softly, starting at my ends.
“I’m better,” I dodged. With most people, how are you was an easy question. They were just being polite. You were supposed to answer fine. With my friends, unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. I’d gotten good at keeping them away from my inner issues, always dodging their questions with indirect answers.
Mikasa took my substitute. “Good,” she said.
After a pause, I asked, “What do you think of them? Marco and Jean, I mean.”
“I like Marco so far. Jean creeps me out.”
I laughed. “Sounds about right.” He'd had his eye on her constantly. If hadn't known any better, I would've said he had a crush on her.
“How about you?”
I thought before answering. “I feel as though Marco’s a genuinely great guy. I like him. I like Jean, too, even if he’s a bit…..gruff, if that’s the word I’m looking for. He reminds me of a certain other scowling, tempestuous stubborn mule.”
We both glanced at Eren, who was already showing signs of sleepiness.
“They don’t seem to get along very well,” Mikasa noted.
“They’re just too alike,” I said. “Excepting that Jean tends to stick his nose in the air, from what I’ve seen.”
She finished. I stood up and unpacked my blankets, unfolding the couch. Mikasa moved to the bed and crawled inside…...facing Eren?
This was new.
I acted as though I hadn’t seen anything. When Mikasa turned out her lamp, however, I watched, curious.
Eren reached a sleepy hand over and combed Mikasa’s hair behind her ear. She held his hand there. She said something, but I couldn’t hear it over the AC. He said something back. I turned my head back to the wall.
Mikasa and Eren. Eren and Mikasa. How could I have missed that one?
What did this mean for the three of us? Would it break us up, as everyone said things like this did?
No. I knew my friends. They wouldn’t abandon me for anything.
But what if it didn’t work out? What if taking this step forward was a mistake, and once it was over, everything between them- a relationship they’d built up over the entirety of their lives- was soiled?
Before I could go on, I stopped myself.
Maybe there was a reason they were waiting to tell me. What if they’d known I would freak out like this? I was almost like an overly attached parent, obsessing over so many what ifs. I just wanted to protect them, sure, but they could also protect themselves just fine. I’d seen it in action.
If my grandfather were here, he’d laugh at me.
Oh, Armin, he’d say, the world is doomed to be thrown out of balance someday. But you know something? Today is not that day.
As I calmed, something else came over me. I hadn’t thought of the future since we’d left, but a vision popped into my head, a ridiculous and romantic idea. I wasn’t one to jump the gun on these sorts of things, but new what ifs surfaced in my mind.
What if it worked out? What if it worked out really, really well, and they ended up as partners for life? What if, right now, my two favorite people in the world were discovering a happiness that most took years to find?
Warmth spread through me at the thought. I smiled as sleep overtook me.
Mikasa and Eren. Eren and Mikasa.
How had I missed it?
I’m doing fine. Now that I’ve gotten some real food in my stomach, that is.
So, a few things.
Firstly, we have company. Marco and Jean are their names. Marco’s the kind of guy everyone wants to be, that one likeable all-around kid everyone respects. Jean is a lot like Eren, but with a little more sense and a much bigger ego. We’re taking them home to Texas for 600 dollars.
Secondly, just to get this out of my head, Mikasa and Eren are apparently an item. At first, I was scared, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. The funny thing is that they’ve hardly done much out of the ordinary thus far. I wonder if it’s just because they’re hiding it from me, or if one of them is shy about PDA. I’d place my money on Mikasa.
Thirdly, some development in my “journey of psychological healing”, as Eren likes to call it. I don’t know if this improves things or worsens them, but it’s been discovered that I have no idea who I am.
Doesn’t that sound so cliche? I used to be so confused by what the phrase meant, but now it applies to me.
There are so many different versions of me. Eren’s Armin is someone to be protected, but he’s also the one who knows what to do when things get rough. Mikasa’s Armin is precious and trustworthy. My parents’ Armin is a great kid. He’s a little fragile, but he’s so selfless and smart.
Then there’s my Armin. Or, rather, the Armin I want to be.
He’s strong-willed. He’s selfless. He needs no protection- as a matter of fact, he’s the protector. He’s wise and funny. Most of all, he’s brilliant. Not just intellectually, but in his mannerisms, he’s bright as the sun. Everyone likes this Armin. I like this Armin.
Finally, there’s me. I suppose this is the “real” Armin.
I feel as though Armin isn’t even my name. Its root name, Arminius, basically means “whole”.
I am not whole.
I’m not brilliant, either.
I’m just me. Weak, calculating, unstable and nerdy in the worst way.
Everyone has to worry over me. What have I ever done for anyone else? What trait could possibly be redeeming enough to justify my existence? I think and think, because that’s all I’m good at, but even thinking can’t save me. I’m worthless.
My Armin is deserving of his name, my grandfather’s name. He is whole.
I am not.