Speak & Listen

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AT THE SAME CAFE

AT THE SAME CAFÉ...

That was the agony of my existence. I can’t live in sexual desire and entertainment. I cannot allow my emotions to overflow. I cannot, most of all, risk my life by sending those letters. The key was always on my chest, the chest was always kept safe and hidden.

It was Saturday, and Sophia and I had planned to go to the mall. I hated publicity, traffic and I don’t know...people? I hated uncontrolled noises and unstill atmospheres.

But Sophia insisted. Mom thought I stayed too much indoors so she saw it fit to go with Sophia to the mall. She even gave us some money for shopping.

“Jeremiah was in your letters as well...” Sophia said as we drove to the mall.

I sighed. “Yeah...so?”

“You know him better than anyone else from those letters.”

“Doesn’t mean anything, Sophia. Let it go.”

“Jeremiah would never hurt you...he’s different.”

“And that’s a good thing?”

“Take it this way: a same typical guy that you’re used to will treat you like a usual. A different guy may treat you differently.”

“Is that one of your theories and philosophies?” My eyes rolled.

“It’s logic, Adrian.”

As anyone would think, we were two girls picking up every sweater and jeans we could find. We ran up and down the mall looking for specifics. I was having fun as well, oblivious of the crowd that surrounded me. At some point, we even fought over a male sweater which was the last pair.

We entered in a café that was in the mall for some refreshments.

“Can we please have two lattes?” Sophia sought as the waiter wrote down the order.”

“Coming right up” The waiter left us.

“So why specifically this café? We could’ve went to our favourite.” I looked at her.

“Our favourite is outside town, Adrian. Besides, this is still a café too right?” She said so blankly.

“I guess so...hey, have you...”

“HEY!!...”

Someone tapped Sophia’s shoulder. I wasn’t familiar with him, but he and Sophia seemed like good friends. After the melodramatically long hug, someone approached me from behind. I looked at him concisely. Upon realizing his face, the blood on my face sank right down to my feet.

It was Jeremiah Simone, the second-last crush I’ve ever had. He had more swag since the last time I noticed him closely. His hair for once was well combed into a neat curly afro and he had gained some muscle. He looked healthier than ever. His skin was perfectly toned, a beautiful brown shade with golden eyes to finish.

I was nervous. Angry, actually. Sophia asked about Jeremiah Simone so as to back-stab me like this?

“Adrian?” Jeremiah’s voice sqeaked in excitement.

“Jeremiah...”

I extended my hand to him. He furrowed his eyebrow, looked into my eyes as if he could see the anxiety in my eyes and laughed at it from the inside. I got more nervous. He opened both his arms. The hug...that was what I was trying to avoid.

I had finally decided to hug him. His cologne stung my nostrils, it coiled my intestines to a knot. His hug wasn’t hesitant or held back. He instead, engulfed me like a blanket. I didn’t want to stop, he didn’t as well.

“Adrian, your latte is here.” Sophia whispered awkwardly.

We both let go. I was so furious at Sophia. She knew how I felt about him. He, Jeremiah, was the only one I had written two letters for. One when I was in fifth grade and second one in sophomore year.

“Hey man...Benjamin.” He stuck out his hand.

Ben and Benjamin were separate people, to clarify.

“Adrian.”

“So what are you guys doing here?” Sophia asked.

“Well, I saw you earlier today screaming like maniacs, so I thought it would be nice to come and say Hi."

“Aww that’s so sweet. Uhm Adrian, Benjamin is my friend from Alex, my hometown.” She’s now living in Clinton Hills, on the outskirts of Belvyn.

I nodded as response. I was awkward when it came to introductions.

“Have you taken time to consider what I said?” Benjamin turned to conversate with Sophia. Their conversation seemed private.

“How come I never bump into you at school, but I’d see you anywhere outside of school?” Jeremiah whispered with his naturally baritone, flute-like voice.

“Anywhere?”

“Yeah. I mean... it’s been a while since we’ve spoken. And I miss you as a friend. A lot has been going on, and I miss having someone to listen to all that.”

“I’ve been ...really...”

“Busy...? I get it. I figured sometimes that it might be the fact that I offload too much that it becomes a burden to someone else.” He shrugged.

I felt absentminded. “Not at all. I emancipated myself from everyone because...it hurts to invite so many people in your life that wouldn’t hesitate to walk out.”

Jeremiah Simone and I were friends since fifth grade. In fact, most of the people I wrote letters to were my friends. Everyone loved me and I was well-known, back then. Just not popular.

And everything changed when I disclosed my sexual orientation and dated Alan. People changed, people walked right out of my life. And I was hurting too much to acknowledge which ones stayed and went.

So an emancipation seemed ideal at that time.

Sophia stuck up for me when I was hurting, but she couldn’t stop the bullying. Although coming out wasn’t the actual reason the bullying started, I remembered times my head would be shoved in a toilet chamber, my head banged on lockers and the various punches and kicks I got, most of the time, from Ben. Because of the history Gabriel and I had, he most of the time only watched me bleed. That hurt even more.

“And you thought that I wouldn’t?” Jeremiah’s eyebrow furrowed.

“It was getting too much! The...friendship we...had.”

“There you go again...” His hands flew to the air.

“What?”

“There you go again with your incomplete sentences. Did you know that it’s not only you that attaches to people?” Now, he frowned.

“I know, okay? Sophia...she’s the one I’d rather stick with for a while until...things make sense again.” I began fidgeting. I was becoming uncomfortable talking about it. I felt tears floating above my watermark.

He sighed, seeing the tears I wasn’t quick enough to hide in time. “We’ve been friends since fifth grade, Adrian. I don’t ever want to lose that !” His eyes looked directly into mine and it felt like soul-searching.

It, the stare, made me nervous, it always had, and like now, managed to draw a smug on Jeremiah’s face, as if my nervousness was gratification to him. His last words reminded me of the letters. His two letters. Both letters said the opposite, they wanted something beyond than this friendship Jeremiah didn’t want to lose. That’s why I had to make sure those letters don’t come out.

“Ben, we have to go.” Jeremiah whispered at him.

“Sophia...Adrian...we have to go. But it was nice seeing you again.” Benjamin smiled.

“Bye.” He, Jeremiah, whispered behind my ears.

My body vibrated a bit, as if I was experiencing an orgasm, that’s if I knew how it felt. I have never, neither with Alan nor Sebastian, had sex before.

I looked at him as both of them headed out of the café. I was spellbound and loathed every moment of that feeling. I felt it only when Jeremiah was around. That was the real reason why I had to stay away.

“I hated what you did.” I looked at Sophia. I was quite furious.

She looked at me as she drove, then looked back at the road with a smile. “What did I do?”

“I know you’re the one that orchestrated that meet-up at the café.”

“Yes...but I swear I didn’t know Jeremiah was coming.”

“Nevertheless, you said it would be just the two of us.”

She looked at me once, and looked ahead. She was the one driving this time. She let the Jhene Aiko cold weather-friendly “Trip” tunes fill the silence in the car. I had the entire album, as I was a huge fan. If I was the one behind the wheel, surely I would have met another Kelly.

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