I told him I wouldn’t go anywhere. It was a promise. However, he never promised me the same thing. He pulled away after that night. I don’t think he was ready for me to see him feel the things that he was feeling. He didn’t speak to me for four days, which doesn’t seem like long, but I was used to seeing him at school every day. I missed talking to him about stupid things that didn’t matter. I missed his fruit puns. I missed his stupid floppy hair. I miss his pretentious literary taste. I searched for him in the hallways after each class. I tried to call him a few times, but I didn’t want to overwhelm him, so I just left a voicemail saying I was here for him and asked for him to talk to me when he was ready. Part of me wished we hadn’t kissed. I wished we hadn’t tried to have anything other than what we had before. I was greedy. Maybe if I we hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t care as much right now. I mean, of course I cared about him as a friend, but this was different. I cared way more than a friend would. The fact that he wasn’t speaking to me and left me in the dark hurt and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. All I wanted was to see that he was okay.
Finally, after four days, his name popped up on my phone.
“Peterson,” slurred a low, raspy voice on the other end of the line.
“Are you drunk right now?” I asked, shocked. Silence. “Harvey?”
“I’m drunk,” Harvey giggled. “And I miss you.”
“I’ve been calling you,” I sighed, trying not to seem annoyed. I pulled on my dirty yellow converse. “Where are you?”
“That’s an hour away!” I exclaimed.
“I’m coming to get you. Send me your location.”
“No, no,” he hiccuped, “I’m with some people. We’re having a great time.”
“Some people I met at a diner in Aderhold. They bought me alcohol," he said the word “alcohol” like he was throwing confetti in the air.
“Why are you in Aderhold?”
“I don’t know, I just took a drive and ended up here.” There was a silence followed by a soft exhale. I could almost smell the cloud of cigarette smoke through the phone. He continued, “I might be spiraling. I might be having a great time. I can’t tell yet.”
“Send me your location,” I ordered, slipping on a pair of grey sweatpants.
“Only if you promise to have fun with me. We never go out or drink or anything. I guess that’s not very us, but we can make it us!”
“Fine,” I lied, knowing that as soon as I found him, I would bring him home. “I’ll be there soon.”
This was the first of many times Harvey had wondered off and called me, drunk off his ass. I understood that he was going through a lot and I wouldn’t dream of ignoring the rescue mission, but this wasn’t the Harvey I knew a few days ago. This was what he was hiding. Who he was when he lost control. But, I wanted to see it. I’d said I wanted to know everything about him.
The deep forest trail I was following tapered out. My creaky VW Bug couldn’t go any further. I stepped out of my car and slammed the paint chipped, yellow door behind me. In front of me, partially hidden by a thick mist, were tall trees covered with moss and ivy and no trail in sight. Their limbs waved at me as a gust of wind that felt nothing like the normal calm, summer breeze blew past. I pulled my phone out of my back pocket to check how far away I was from Harvey’s location. It was only a five minute walk from my car, but I couldn’t hear or see any sign of human life.
“Harvey?” I called out, stepping into the dense scene in front of me. I turned my phone flashlight on and said a little prayer, asking God to give me the patience to not kill Harvey on sight. The forest was eerily dark and silent. The only natural light was the little soft moon light of a full moon that the fog allowed in. I walked a few steps before looking down at my phone to check the location again. No service. I shined my light into the trees again. I stopped in my tracks. Something was sketched into a tree a few steps in front of me.
AETERNUM. Eternal. That wasn’t creepy at all. I heard someone yell nearby.
“Hey, don’t leave yet! My friend’s coming. Okay, she’s kinda lame and isn’t really into this scene,” a familiar voice echoed through the trees, followed by the rustling of leaves far away.
“Harvey?” I exclaimed, relieved that at least I didn’t have to exist in this dark, creepy forest alone anymore. I followed the voice.
“It’s me! Keep talking,” I pushed my way through some vines, a thorn tearing the skin on my arm just enough to leave the trace of a small drop of blood.
“Peterson, I’m sorry. Everyone left and now I’m all alone. I have some drinks left though,” his voice was still slurred like it was on the phone earlier.
I pushed through the last bit of leaves and burst into an open clearing. There was a dim light still trying to survive under a few logs in a makeshift fire pit. Harvey sat on an old blanket near the fire, clutching a half empty bottle of whiskey. The holes in his black jeans opened to tell stories of his fights with the ground and his red flannel was marked with mud and twigs. I hovered over him, hands shoved in the pockets of my sweatpants.
“Are you okay?”
“I know what you’re thinking-” he began.
“No, I want to know if you’re okay,” I demanded.
He looked up at me, a little surprised, and I saw his expression soften into concern. The wall began to come down just enough for me to peak over. He shifted his weight to the side, making a place for me next to him. I sat down on the blanket, pulling my knees to my chest. We existed in silence for a few minutes before he spoke.
“I’m sorry, Maeve,” Harvey whispered. The quietness of his words echoed against the forest surrounding us. I looked up at him. He met my eyes with his own for a split second before looking away. I placed my hand on his arm and squeezed reassuringly.
“You don’t have anything to be sorry for. It’s okay.”
“It’s not. I’m sorry for bringing you here. I don’t even know how I got here. I didn’t mean to bring you into this.”
“Where is your car?” I asked. I knew he couldn’t drive. He smelled like a mixture of whiskey and marijuana. His signature scent of vanilla and cigarettes gone.
“I do this every time something bad happens, but I guess you wouldn’t know that. How does it feel to know I’m a wreck? God, I’ve done it. I’m broken and messed up. I’m not this intellectual good boy writer I’ve wanted you to believe I was. It was a lie. Fuck, I even started to believe it. The person you think I am is way better than this,” he stared at the blinking stars above us as tears in his eyes begged to fall over.
I moved closer to him. I could feel the familiar warmth of his body radiating onto my own between the slight touch of our thighs. He looked down at my hand, pale and illuminated under the moonlight, and took it in his own. Chipped black polish decorated the torn nails on his fingers. The veins starting at his knuckles made a pathway up his arm that I knew lead to his heart, which I could hear beating in the silence and his fingers curled around my own like they were made for them.
“You’re the only good thing I have,” he stated, and looked intensely into my eyes. I squinted back at him, not sure how to respond. He was taking me in the same way he had before we kissed, but the alcohol made him look so tired. “I’ve never noticed your eyes before,” he blurted.
“What?” I laughed nervously, looking down. Harvey touched my chin lightly, causing me to meet his gaze again.
“I hate myself for not noticing your eyes before. They’re haunting me- in the way that I know I’ll never be able to forget them and I know that I can’t look away right now. I’m scared I’ll miss something. I’ll miss you, Maeve.” The shadows of his face bounced off of my own in the moonlight and I could finally smell the faint scent of peppermint as his breath caressed my cheeks. There was something else too... his breath carried the faint smell of lavender.
“Harvey, I don’t think-” I stopped myself, remembering our last kiss. My mind began to think of how it would feel to disappear into him again. He would taste like whiskey and- no, I couldn’t. Not now. “I don’t know if this is a good idea.”
I watched his face for a hint of how he was feeling, but it didn’t move. The next thing that happened was weird and completely unexpected. Harvey collapsed in my arms, unconscious. At first, I thought it was because of the copious amount of alcohol running through his veins, but something was off.
“Harvey? Harvey, wake up!” I shook him, only to receive a small grunt in response. His eyes flickered open and back shut again. I began to panic and tried to pick up the half conscious, six foot, one hundred and sixty pound adult by myself. After a few attempts, I finally slung one of his arms over my shoulder and got him to his feet- sort of. I kept having shake him a little to get him to take even a little bit of weight under his own feet. I lugged him towards the direction I hoped my car was in and we entered the forest again. The mist seemed to stick in my nose, the air almost too thick to breathe. I passed the word, AETERNUM, sketched into the same tree as before. I shuddered. Creepy, but at least I know I’m going in the right direction. Through the last bit of the trees, I could see my beaten up, yellow car and I sighed with relief. I was ready to get out of there. Harvey began to mumble as I lead him to the passenger door.
“Stop, that tastes funny,” he giggled, half asleep. I pulled on the passenger door and it opened with a grateful creak. After basically shoving Harvey into the car, I found my way to the driver’s side and fell back into the familiar leather covered seat. I put the keys in the ignition and looked over at my friend.
“Hey,” I grabbed his shoulder and shook him gently. His eyes flickered open.
“Oh, hey, Peterson,” he greeted groggily. “What are you doing here?”
He was confused. He looked around, disoriented, pressing a hand to his head. “What happened? Where are we?”
“What do you mean? You weren’t this drunk a minute ago,” I laughed, thinking he was joking with me.
“I... I was drunk?” He questioned.
“As a skunk,” I scoffed, still trying to figure out if he was messing with me like usual. He stayed silent, eyes fixated on the dashboard, thinking intently. He looked scared. That’s when I realized he wasn’t kidding around. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“The diner. The last thing I remember was the diner.”