Men Don't Cry
like sugar water
people are fooled by sweetness,
sweet smiles and sweet lies
all contain saccharine poison.
Being different meant people wouldn’t accept you, but that wasn’t the end of life. I had accepted the facts long ago, I was destined to be alone. And as I let go of Arleen’s hand, I prepared myself for the hours of isolation I would face till we saw again. I almost wanted to beg her to stay but that was impossible. I would never impose my will on anybody no matter how desperate I was.
“At least we have each other,” she said and beamed at me as though she had read my mind.
Her gaze flitted across my face when I said nothing, carefully examining my features. “I get worried, you know?”
“Arleen,” I said as gently as possible, resisting the urge to turn away from her questioning gaze. “I’m fine.”
I was not.
“Hm,” she stopped walking, unconvinced, and before I could ask what was wrong she was at it again with another conversation. “You know, if I was a boy and you were a girl, I would fall in love with you.”
I scrunched up my nose at the thought of us dating. She was like a sister to me and I had never thought of her that way. “Why?”
“You’re really pretty! And you’d be so hot as a girl,” she gushed and tapped my forehead with her slender index finger. The spot burned, her warm skin blazing hot to my frigid face.
I bit the inside of my cheek to stop myself from pulling away. Curling my fingers into the material of my hoodie, I took in a deep breath and managed a smile. “Maybe.”
“I wish I had your lashes, they’re so long. And your pianist fingers, God was being so unfair when He made you,” she continued, shoving her hand back into her pocket.
I nodded, not knowing what else to say. I couldn’t say anything, my throat sealed shut by an invisible force. I couldn’t tell her to stop talking and I couldn’t even lie and say that I agreed with her. Her words numbed me as much as they hurt me. Each time she parted her glossy lips it was as though she was hurling daggers of ice at my gut.
It was not the first time and it wouldn’t be the last. Arleen was outspoken and I loved her for it. She didn’t deserved to be shot down by me of all people just because of my many insecurities, so I endured.
As she continued lavishing me with what she thought were compliments, I tried my best not to cry. She would never know how much those words hurt because Arleen couldn’t know how much I wanted to give up everything she was so jealous of if only I could be happy. She couldn’t know that life was a steep slope I fought to climb each time I had to give myself reasons to get up every morning.
She shouldn’t know.
So, I swallowed my pain and smiled. The lashes she adored concealed unshed tears as I glared at the snow-laden road and thanked her endlessly in my heart. Because of her, I finally realized that even my best friend couldn’t understand me.
And it hurt.
It hurt so much.
Because it meant that no one ever would.
“Stay safe, Olly!” she yelled and waved both hands at me as she ran up the porch of her house. When she got to the front door, she turned back to look at me.
I watched her expressionlessly, knowing what she was waiting for, but I just couldn’t bring myself to wave back. I couldn’t even manage a smile.
Soon enough she spun on her heel and disappeared into the house. From where I stood, the slam of the door was still loud enough to make me flinch.
It was now that the dams decided to break open. My vision blurred and my eyes burned, the emotions I had fought so hard to bury spilling to the surface.
I had no other thoughts on mind than wiping away the tears before anyone could see, the salty liquid warming up my freezing fingers, because even if no one thought I was one, men didn’t cry.