I feel so relaxed. This feeling so pleasing. I’m lying down on grass, but it feels so soft. Like a soft mattress, safe and cosy. I look up at the sky. It’s a purple pink ombre. I see stars. They’re moving.
“That looks like a heart.” There’s someone lying down beside me. I know this voice. But the sound is dampened, like through a thick fog. It’s not real.
I have no control. I look at him. Kai. “Yeah it does.” I smiled at him.
I look up again. The sky is a blue ombre now. There are no stars. Just clouds floating away. There’s a heart shaped cloud.
The clouds aren’t white. They are in different colours. I feel like the sky is moving, but it’s the ombre gradient changing. I ease into the surrounding. It’s calm. There’s Kai beside me. There’s a sudden warm feeling in my left hand. Kai’s holding my hand. I have no control. I want to have control. Ask him. Understand those eyes.
As soon as I had this realisation, our world started crumbling away. No clouds. No stars. No beautiful sky. Just the dark purple black sky. I tried to concentrate more on the dream. But I can already hear the sounds of the real world. Just a little longer. I focused on the dream. But I’m drifting away. I’m waking up.
“Marc...” It’s the same tone. I turned towards him, smiling. He’s staring intently into my eyes. Yes, tell me. Why is your gaze different? Why isn’t it the regular, uncaring gaze? Why are your eyes so full of emotions? I don’t know them. I can’t understand them.
You look so vulnerable, Kai.
I woke up. I look at my left hand, there’s still a slight tingling sensation. Or maybe it’s just in my head.
I’ve tried lucid dreaming before. But as soon as I realise it’s a dream, I wake up. But realising it’s a dream makes my senses heightened and my emotions intensified. I feel uneasy and heavy when I wake, if that happens.
It’s already 11 AM now. I woke up really late. So I had some cereal. But I’m so glad mom or dad didn’t wake me up. Though if it wasn’t for the sound of things moving, I’d have been able to dream a little while longer.
What was that weird dream, anyway? I don’t remember all of it but a clear tingling sensation in my left hand, the sky and clouds. And Kai. His eyes. Why did I dream of that moment? I felt like he was trying to say something else. Weird. Well, Kai was the last person I talked to last night. So it makes sense right? Ugh that dream and now thinking so much made my head hurt.
“What’re you thinking so hard about? You’re frowning.” Mom joined me at the table. She started replying to some messages on her phone.
“Nothing. How was the movie yesterday? Let’s watch one today.”
“Hmm,” she said, eying me suspiciously. “It was good. And I knew it.” Mom banged the table with her fist in excitement. She gets excited over movies like me.
“I told your Dad, that dude who confessed is not the killer.”
“Yes you did, okay.” Dad said from the living room. Mom had a proud and pleased expression on her face.
“Are you guys done with arranging everything? Want my help?”
“Yeah. It was just some stuff we don’t need that we were moving. We’ll get rid of those later. And I know you won’t help.” My mom shook her head and laughed.
“Hmm that’s true.”
“Let’s watch another movie together tonight. Look for one that doesn’t exceed two hours.” She gave her attention back to her phone. “I gotta call sis now.” Mom left me alone again to call my aunt.
Oh right. I was supposed to call Books today. I went back to my room and shut the door. I needed some privacy.
It had already been weeks since I talked to him. We texted each other, but I hadn’t called him much.
“Hey Marc! How’re you doing there? Made friends? How about the Big city? When’ll you visit me? How-”
“Books stop! Let me breathe.”
We both chuckled.
“I’m fine here. I made some friends. A lot more than there. I like the city, though there’re too many people. I don’t really know when I can visit you right now. But you know I will.”
“Of course. I’m glad you made friends there. You’d never leave my side here. I really miss you.” There was sadness in his voice.
“Reaaaally? You are friends with tons of people there. You really miss me? And here I thought you just tolerated my presence.” I tried teasing him.
“More than you can imagine. And no, I don’t tolerate your presence, I enjoy it. But, tell me about your friends, are they treating you well?” He swerved fast. I let it go.
“Yes, they are. Better than any of the people in our class ever did. I’m truly happy... I miss you.” It was a mere whisper in the end but I know he could see the sad smile in my words.
“Tell me.” His two words had the exact feeling of understanding I needed. That’s my Books.
So I did. I told him about all of my friends. How I met them and all that has happened. I told him about the Marce drama (yep, I’ve named them Marce now. It’s just easier). About how kind Felix is. How funny David and Duke are. About Kai and how we became close friends.
“I love how the guys understand each other so much. Like how Felix can just read the air around Duke. It was so simple for them. It made me realise, it’s just you. It’s only ever been you who understood me. That’s your specialty. And I’m so grateful. I can’t understand people like you do. Or I’d have had friends there. What if I mess up here as well? I’ve told them about my fears and they accepted me still. What if they’re just words? They don’t know just how insecure I’m about friendships. I’m scared... Scared to not have genuine connections. You know me, Books. I can’t maintain social connections like we’re supposed to. I can’t make people like me. You are my only genuine connection. That’s why I stuck to you. I’m so grateful you let me.”
I spilled everything.
Books was patient all this while, like he always is. “No Marc, you can’t ever really understand anyone... Because we’re fluids. We’re changing. Always. We conform, we mold ourselves. We maintain social connections. Most of us don’t have a shape. We’re not real, not even to ourselves. You can’t even understand yourself completely. If you think you do, someday you’ll surprise yourself. But we still try. I just learned to maintain social connections, even though superficial. I don’t have a shape either. And it’s exhausting. That’s why I stuck to you, because I don’t need to conform or have a shape with you. That’s a genuine connection and you’re mine just as I’m yours. But... I understand you because I don’t even need to understand you. This is you. You’re genuine. That’s your specialty. I’m sure someone will see that. Sometimes, you don’t need to understand people. You just have to be you and let them be them with you.”
It immediately reminded me of Kai. Not now. Focus.
“Maybe that’s where things go wrong with me. Should I just see people as just friends or acquaintances? Because that’s what we’re supposed to do, maintain a social life. Till we move on and find a different crowd. Should I not look for a real connection in people? Something deep? Because I feel I would mess up if I don’t understand them. I can’t seem to stop, even though I’ve burnt myself many times. Maybe that’s my specialty."
I heard a soft exhale from the other side.
“I know you have a fear of fitting in, Marc. And now you’re questioning it. Questioning the whole friendship. But we all get burnt one way or another. We try again. But do you think those tries are futile? Friendships and relationships form you. They’re like bases in your emotional DNA, always mutating and changing you. Some deep, some shallow. But always there. Even if you think you’ve wasted yourself on someone, they still had a role in forming you. And you found people who genuinely like you! Are you not happy when you’re with them?”
“Yes. Yes, I am happy when we talk. Or when we study or play together. I’m happy with them, just like I’m with you.” I know he heard my fear again.
There was another deep exhale.
“I know you have a fear of parting too. I saw it when we said goodbye. Of course it hurts to leave. But what good will thinking of the end when it’s just the beginning do? You’re scared they’ll leave. And that’d be it. But why think of the end and not live now? Also, I’m here. I’ll always be here. Well, figuratively. So, I suggest you experience the moments now and start embracing the changes in life.”
“But I don’t like change. I’m not fluid.”
“I know you don’t. But you have to learn to embrace it. You didn’t get all of what I said. We’re fluids. We change. But we’re still we, right? Water is still water, no matter if it’s in a jug or a glass. I’ll always be Books. Do you think you didn’t change in all these years? But Marc... you’re still you. You just don’t change yourself for others. But you still changed. For yourself.”
“Yes, I did...Thank you Books.” I had no words to even thank him properly. Sometimes his words just add a fresh perspective to things.
“So I suggest living in the present with them. You understand them plenty from how you’ve told me they treat you. They’re happy and free with you too. You don’t always need years to build up a friendship. And Felix told you that! Just believe him. Just because you know you’ll part with them shouldn’t stop you from being their friends now. You can still be friends if you don’t meet them in real every day. This is the 21st century dude! We’re not meeting in real, are we not real friends? And even if we can’t talk often or meet, you know I’ll always be your genuine connection.” He tried to disperse my fears. I couldn’t hold back a sniffle.
“Aww...I made you cry. Stop or you’ll make me cry too.”
“What noo. I’m not crying. It’s just a runny nose.”
“I said okay.”
We both chuckled. “You’re great at this.”
“Honestly, I just winged like half of it. I’m happy it worked. I even made you cry.” He snickered.
“Don’t bring this up ever again.” I warned him. All serious.
“It’ll die with me and our secrets.”
I hope this made you appreciate your friends, online and offline.
I dedicate chapter 10 and 11 to all my friends. Both online and offline.