|The Hedgehog's Dilemma
Author: glow vomit PM
Hedgehogs seek to become close to one another in order to share heat during cold weather. They must remain apart, however, as they cannot avoid hurting one another with their sharp quills. Craig/Tweek.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - Tweek T. & Craig T. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 24,439 - Reviews: 32 - Favs: 35 - Follows: 51 - Updated: 11-29-11 - Published: 08-21-11 - id: 7310735
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Remnants of a past here
Pass like light through dust
As memories fall bleeding like pain."
The Hedgehog's Dilemma
Every day, I was careful not to check the back of my closet. Some sort of negative energy radiated from it; if I got too close, I'd be sucked in. I grabbed my clothes hastily if I needed something that wasn't thrown on the floor.
And if I looked where I shoved those collages, well, who is to say they would still be there? And if they weren't, that was the worst.
Sure, no one would ever go in my room but my mother—but that wasn't definite. Who knew, really? There was no way to lock the window.
But I didn't need those collages, no, because now I had a Band-Aid from Craig's finger. I had a cigarette butt that, though smoked by me, came from Craig. It lived in my pocket with one of Craig's cigarette butts, symbolizing our union. These little tokens kept me company during school. Constantly checking to make sure they were still there was a bit tiring, but when I touched them and knew they were, it was comforting—until a second later, when I couldn't remember if I'd checked or not.
Monday passed without Craig and I so much as acknowledging each other's existence. Tuesday too.
On Wednesday, white snow coated the ground again, choking all the plants in my mothers' garden that had only begun to regain their vitality since the last storm. The weather was always uncertain, erratic, and vindictive this time of year—I couldn't trust it. It ruined my routine entirely, demanding a hoodie one day and a winter coat the next. I couldn't keep up with that and ended up always freezing my ass off.
Also on Wednesday, I made the mistake of not skipping English even though going home and curling up with a nice cup of coffee would've been a much better idea. So there I sat, shivering in my hoodie that was still a bit damp even though I was already a few periods into the day and it really should've been fucking dry by now, but it wasn't, and the fact that the school's heat barely worked didn't help.
"Tweek, Tweek, Tweek."
"Gah—fuck off," I said automatically, flinching away before even registering that it was Clyde jabbing his chubby little fingers into my shoulder.
I had sworn to myself that I'd be kinder to Clyde, but that didn't stop me from taking a different route every time I noticed him coming toward me in the hallway. And whatever made me do that was also probably what made me spend Monday and Tuesday hiding in the nurse's office all morning.
I glanced up at Mrs. Barnhill, who was looking at her computer intently while filing her nails. She would not save me from Clyde's incessant talking. She was, to me, really fucking useless, but I couldn't blame her. She probably definitely hadn't wanted to go into teaching. She probably had another talent in life, somewhere else that her mind was instead of here, and there, she was brilliant. I could relate to that, if only I knew where there was for me.
Everyone in the class was talking without any consequence.
"What are we supposed to be doing?" I asked Clyde.
"Starting our vocab sentences or some shit."
"Yeah, so, you want some lemon bars?"
"They're my mom's recipe. So they're really fucking good. Plus they're magic lemon bars."
"Magic lemon bars?"
"Yeah. Like pot brownies, only with lemon bars! Genius, right? And they were hell to make—I had to hide the smell in the kitchen with Febreeze, incense…and Token found out that burning vinegar helps. It was nasty. And I think my mom still knew what I was doing! So I'm eating one, and I'm getting out of here after this class. Craig said we need to. He has one of his ideas."
"Fine," I said, "Give me a lemon bar."
While I was a cautious person, especially when it came to food, the promise of illicit substances was always enough to seduce me. That was contradictory and made no sense. I didn't trust the lemon bars, and they were probably full of parasites, but hey, maybe I'd be too high to care if I died.
So that's what Clyde and I spent English doing—eating magic lemon bars. Maybe if we'd worked on our vocabulary sentences, they would have been interesting. The lemon bars were, to be fair, really yummy. I liked the crumbly bits on the top best, but the gooey stuff underneath was pretty good—and the most buttery part and therefore the most important part. Yes, Mrs. Donovan had a good lemon bar recipe, and Clyde had certainly improved on it.
Since I didn't get the kind of instant high I'd get from smoking, I had more lemon bars than I probably should have had—and that, to me, was the perfect amount.
"Come on, come on," said Clyde when the bell rang, snapping me out of whatever daze I was in. I wasn't thinking of much of anything at all.
He dragged me through the hallways, which were full of far too many voices and people, and then before I knew it, we were outside where Craig and Token were waiting.
He has one of his ideas.
I hoped it didn't have to do with me. I was flattering myself by thinking it even could—but Craig could have told Clyde to get me because he was planning something. Kenny could have told him about my weird little hobby by now. It was always a possibility. Or maybe I did have an overactive imagination. But I could see Craig in my mind's eye, holding me against the brick wall of the school and demanding (but not really demanding, because he wouldn't want a real answer, because who would)—
"Why are you obsessed with me."
But I kept following Clyde anyway. I felt the high through my entire body. The lights reflecting on the snow covered sidewalk kept changing, and I had to pay extra attention to each straight step I was taking, but after every few steps, I'd forget the previous steps and feel as though I'd jumped in time and space.
And leaping in time and space brought me to Craig and Token.
"You're coming too? You're skipping," Clyde said to Token, poking him in the shoulder. "What happened to getting good grades? An Ivy League school? Everything your parents want from you?"
"Oh, shut up, Clyde," said Token. "Fuck that shit. I'm getting good grades anyway. It's not like anyone in this town is smart."
"But then what if Kyle gets into Harvard and you don't! We need representation from our group in high places too!"
"Then you can go to fucking Harvard, Clyde," said Token.
"Maybe I will. Maybe I'm secretly a genius. I could totally be there."
"Yeah, you could be there. Shitting on the lawn. That's not the same as getting in," interjected Craig.
"Fuck you, Craig! Fuck you!" snapped Clyde. "It's not like you have any goddamned ambitions!"
"Oh. Ambitions. Right. Big words make you hard," said Craig.
"The only thing that makes you hard is my big dick."
"We're not talking about what makes me hard."
"Fuck! You're talking about sex again, Craig!" said Clyde, getting visibly flustered. I liked when people other than myself were flustered. "This is going to make me talk about sex! I always talk about sex! My mind goes straight to it!"
"We don't need to hear about this," said Token. "Seriously….last time was bad enough."
"It's not me! It's Craig! Craig brings up sex! Craig is obsessed with sex!"
"Clyde, you retard, what Craig said was that he thought sex sounded like a lot of effort. And then you went and started going on about how it would be great if you were having your dick sucked because you wouldn't have to even do anything at all—Fuck, I'm talking about this. I'm high. My parents would be so proud."
"Man," said Craig. "Can we just go already."
Apparently, Craig's "idea" was to go to McDonald's. Was there somehow more to this? I didn't eat McDonald's, didn't trust it at all, but I was so ravenously hungry that I would have eaten anything. We didn't have to walk especially far, but it seemed like forever, and according to Craig—
"You guys are so fucking slow. I am hungry as shit right now, and we are on our way to get food, so if you could stop walking like fucking slugs, that would be great."
"Slugs don't fucking walk," said Clyde. "They slither. You don't know anything."
"You fucking idiot," said Craig, stopping in his tracks, and the rest of us did the same in order to pay attention to him. "I said walking like slugs. That means that the pace of your walking is similar to the pace of a slug slithering. You don't understand similes."
"You just told us to hurry up!"
"Yeah, well, I guess I can't tell you what a loser you are and walk at the same time. It's hard work."
But soon enough, we were at McDonald's. Clyde started running as soon as he could see it. And I ran too, because I had something important to say.
"You have to order for me," I told him. I spoke smoothly, confidently—and that was how I felt, too, even though I was actually really scared at the same time. "Because if I have to order, I know I'm going to get paranoid."
"So demanding. Fine. What do you want?"
"Fries," I said, because that seemed like the safest thing. Well, maybe the safest thing was actually the fruit and walnut salad, but then I thought about how stupid that sounded—plus, it had yogurt in it, and yogurt was one of the foods I avoided like the plague. Because eating yeast creeped me the fuck out. Yeast were alive, and they made bread rise, and what if they just started jumping around inside me? Plus wet things just seemed more likely to be full of germs.
"I hate ordering food high," Clyde muttered.
"Hey Clyde," I said, grabbing his shoulder before he could go up to the counter. I usually didn't grab people that way due to how much I hated being grabbed, but I needed to ask him something, and I only had a few seconds before Craig and Token would catch up with us—"You said this was one of Craig's ideas…what are his other ones?"
"What? They're always like this."
Token and Craig entered, and Clyde immediately said, "Token! Want to order food for all of us? Tweek just wants fries."
"Clyde, you are a dumbass," said Token. "Fine. And what do you want?"
"A kids meal. I want a Transformers toy. And get me an extra Big Mac," said Clyde. "And Craig wants chicken nuggets like he always does, I just know it. That slut."
Waiting for our food felt like it took an eternity due to my uncharacteristic hunger. Having an appetite and enjoying food was so nice.
"I wish we had a bunny," Clyde said when we were all sitting in our booth and shoving our faces with greasy food. "Then we could play with the bunny while high."
"Clyde is naturally even dumber than he acts, but he normally filters it so no one knows he's retarded," said Token. "It only takes a tiny amount of weed to remove that filter and make Clyde act like his true self."
I realized Clyde and Token were talking to me, that they'd taken it upon themselves to entertain me in some way. Craig, on the other hand, didn't look up from his chicken nuggets once. I wanted to be like that. I would've preferred to be left alone.
"Sometimes, I look at myself, and I think, I'd fuck that," said Token, staring at his reflection at the window. "Yeah, that is nice."
"See?" said Clyde. "Token talks about sex way more than me!"
"No one wants to hear you talk about sex, though."
"Hey," said Craig suddenly. "Did you guys get any mustard?"
"What? No!" said Clyde. "Get your own damn mustard! Mustard is gross!"
"Fuck you," said Craig, trying to get out of his seat. "Token, get the fuck out of my way. Mustard is the food of the gods."
"Craig, stop being a bitch," said Token, but he got out of Craig's way.
"I've never tried mustard before," I admitted when Craig returned with a big handful of mustard packets.
"What?" said Clyde. "How the fuck have you never had mustard? You're like worse than Craig! Even Craig eats mustard! And Craig eats fucking dry, unbuttered toast! Sometimes he even eats untoasted bread!"
"Clyde, shut your fucking stupid face," said Craig. "I'm trying to show Tweek something. I don't have time for how stupid you are right now."
Craig went to work, tearing open all the mustard packets and squeezing their contents onto Clyde's pile of ketchup, despite Clyde's protests of, "Hey!" Craig swirled the mustard with the ketchup. I felt as though I was intruding on something intimate, like he should not have been sharing this with me at all, like his finger swirling the yellow with the red was just gently prodding open a portal into his soul. And it was just mustard and ketchup, nothing more, but this was Craig Tucker. Watching him open up in this way fascinated me, and it made me feel like I had the upper hand, because I wasn't showing him anything. He was the one reaching out.
"Try it," said Craig. "If you want."
I did want to try it, and when I did, I contemplated my relationship with condiments. I never used them—not even ketchup. And all these years, I'd missed out on these magical inventions. I tasted every bite of each salty fry with the even saltier mustard, complimented by the sweeter taste of the ketchup. Craig was a genius. Maybe I could feel justified in being so drawn to him after all.
"So, wait, Tweek," said Clyde. "Are you a vegetarian?"
"You're only eating fries. Oh man, does it offend you that I am eating these chicken nuggets? I could never imagine not eating meat. Like is that hard? Seriously? Like, how do you live without bacon? Do they make vegetarian bacon?"
"I just, uh, it's like, meat and things that could have diseases," I tried to explain. I hadn't set out to be a vegetarian exactly; meat was just one of the many, many things I refused to eat.
"The fries aren't vegetarian, though," said Token.
"You know. They're just made out of meat fat. Like, they fry them in the meat fat?"
"The…meat fat?" I said in a small voice. It was a traumatizing visual—knowing chickens and cows were slaughtered and made into nuggets and burgers—and they were from these big factory farms I really did not trust. But grease—grease from the fat of these animals—was what the fries were made in.
And my throat felt strange, dry—swallowing was weird. I tried to swallow. What if I couldn't swallow properly anymore? Was it because I'd eaten those fries drenched in animal fat? You always feel like this high, I told myself, and you know it's fine—but I could feel my heart beating in my chest, and what if this time it really did mean something bad? Greasy foods could cause heart attacks, right, and I wasn't used to eating fries! Did that mean this really could be a fries-induced heart attack?
Now, I wasn't naive. I fully understood that panic attacks felt like heart attacks but weren't. Really. I understood that so fucking well. It never really mattered.
There were too many people around, talking, and I could feel each and every one of their words cutting through me.
Without a sound, I got up from my seat and dashed for the door. I plunged myself from the warmth to the cold, but the cold felt good compared to the stifling heat of the building.
I didn't need to go far. All I needed was to suck the dry air into my lungs. Actually, that didn't really make me feel better at all. What if I permanently damaged my lungs somehow with the cold? They were probably already messed up; I didn't smoke too much, sure, but maybe I was just unlucky. It was a possibility. My lungs could have had a hole in them.
The door opened, and I jumped.
I expected it to be Clyde here to annoy the shit out of me, but it was Craig.
"Oh, you're still here. Let's get out of here," he muttered without really looking at me.
I wanted to be safe. Craig wasn't safe, but Craig was quiet, calm, unexciting. That may have been why following him seemed like a good idea. Following Craig, I was still while the world around me was not.
"W-what are you doing?" I said, hating how my voice wavered when I was shaken.
"I just needed a smoke," he said. And that didn't explain a thing.
We didn't go far—only to the back of the McDonald's, where Craig plopped his butt in the snow and leaned back against the wall before lighting his cigarette. If anyone needed to smoke, it was me, not fucking Craig. But when I sat down next to him in the snow, I couldn't bring myself to demand a cigarette. I couldn't keep outright voicing things that revealed my morbid curiosity with Craig.
One thing I liked a lot about myself when high was that I could read the feelings in people's eyes. Or maybe I only thought I could. Once, I'd looked into my mother's in a photograph. I'd seen that they were shallow and pale—impossible to see into because her mind and heart were wandering.
Craig's eyes were pools filled with black. I was looking at them before I even realized it. There were many emotions buried within him—I could see that—but his eyes did not sparkle with them like Clyde's did. No, I had to look deep into Craig's tunnels, and most people probably didn't do that. And I felt how cut off and dead and isolated he looked. I wondered what people would see in my eyes. Would they find a secret darkness? Would they find, well, Craig? Would they see me separating papers from filters, inhaling fingers that had touched nothing but cigarettes and my own dick?
Craig flinched away, avoiding my gaze. That was smart of him for both of our sakes.
I was shaking from the cold, and that was a beautiful thing. I hated being cold, but it was nice to reach such a level of cold that I was distracted from the racing thoughts in my head. I wanted my mind to be as numb as my body, and I almost could have tricked it—that's how cold I was. The icy water seeped through my hoodie and pants and into my boxers.
I shuffled into Craig, shifting my frozen ass, which had grown relatively warm (or at least numb) in its spot. This was the sort of nestling that I did with my mother. My mother's breast was warm, soft, made me feel like a baby. Craig wasn't that warm. He wasn't totally solid either though. There was totally nestleable land there.
Craig must have a bit of a belly, I thought to myself. Craig isn't a totally skinny piece of shit like you are. Craig's body type was normally hard to tell considering he wore such baggy clothes; I had to be pressed up against him to know, it seemed.
But my mother, she would have stroked my hair, even though her fingers would have gotten caught. Comparing Craig to my mother was definitely the wrong thing to do. I knew that, but I couldn't stop where my thoughts were going.
Certainly this was the first time I'd been so close to another human being other than my mother, so that was probably it.
I picked at a pimple on my face—it was big, painful, oily. Washing my face never seemed to help that since I always picked it and made it greasy again. My chewed up, jagged nails were perfect for digging into pimples and popping the fuck out of them.
And I had to pick my face, I reasoned. I was trying to stop, trying to cut down on the nasty scars I kept giving myself—but I had to look busy. Because now I felt awkward about nestling and wondered if it had been a good decision.
"That's disgusting," said Craig.
"Picking your skin. I can't watch you do that. It's nasty. It's like nails on a chalkboard."
"I just need to pick it," I said. "It's like there's something on my face. I can't not."
I kept picking my face. I liked grossing out Craig. I liked Craig noticing. Disgust was better than indifference.
"It's disturbing," Craig said. "It really, really unnerves me. I can't explain it. Maybe because I'm high…."
I still wouldn't stop picking my face. Craig closed his eyes.
I wanted to rest my head against him and just keep it there, wanted to be more relaxed, but I kept shifting. I'd never imagined we could be so uncomfortably close. This had to be important. But no—it was wrong. Craig and I had to be separate entities. He was cold, still, calm, unaware. And I was aware of too much, too invested in him, and it was unequal, as he did not acknowledge me in turn.
For Craig to just be my friend on the same level and in the same universe, he was crossing plains; he was bringing balance to something sick and twisted that was meant to be unbalanced.
I poked Craig to see if he would open his eyes. No, he'd fallen asleep. Would he notice if I looked in his bag? I decided I'd go ahead and test that. I didn't need to be a good person. Craig didn't even flinch when I stuck my hand in his backpack. He must have been pretty stoned.
Craig's backpack was a maze; my hand snaked through it, probing. There were so many things in there, like old, dusty, crumpled papers that were taking the shape of limp, fat slivers more than flat sheets. I had to look. I saw all these old, squished up candies too, slightly leaking their sticky, fruity juices onto all the papers. And there were pencils, stubby little pencils, and then—a jabbing thing. It was especially harsh against my already-dry skin.
I'd found a piece, a piece I'd been searching for all along, something to add to my collection. A sliver of a pale yellow plate with a brown rim—the colors of poop and pee.
This piqued my morbid curiosity once again.
But why, I wondered, did Craig carry around this broken plate piece? At ten years old, after seeing Craig dumping a bag into the school trash can, I'd snuck up to it while everyone else was in class and fished out the bits of ceramic. They were under my bed now.
I didn't understand, and not being able to understand hurt. There were times I really could tell myself, "There is nothing interesting about Craig Tucker. This fascination is all in your head. You have problems. That's why you have to take Zoloft."
But now I had visceral proof that Craig really wasn't a completely boring shit. There was truly and definitely something special and fucked up there. Maybe he was even as fucked up as I was. That made him really appealing.
The moment I looked up and saw Clyde and Token approaching us, I slipped the broken piece into my pocket.
"Craig, bro," said Clyde. "Wake the fuck up. Tweek is going to molest you. Sorry Tweek. Just kidding. I'm the only one who is molesting Craig."
Craig still didn't move. Clyde leaned down to his level, removed his hat, and ruffled the hair underneath. "I love you, man. Gimme a kiss. Gimme!"
"I love you too, Clyde," Craig said without even opening his eyes. "Sleepy."
"Your butt is going to freeze to the ground. You'll have to get it removed. I won't be able to fuck you anymore."
"You can't have your butthole removed. It's a hole. You can always fuck me."
"Precious, completely precious," said Clyde, and he kissed Craig on the forehead, "but you should get your lazy butt up. We'll make hot chocolate!"
"Clyde, you want hot chocolate. You are offering me hot chocolate as if you are doing me some kind of favor."
"Tweek, you make Craig get up," said Clyde.
"We could just leave him," said Token.
But I decided to handle this.
The problem with being outside in the cold was that Craig had a lot less exposed flesh, so I had to go for his hand. And I sunk my teeth into his thumb. Hard.
"God fucking damn it, Tweek," mumbled Craig, but he still wouldn't open his eyes.
It was Token who won the contest.
"We'll go to my place for hot chocolate," he said. "We'll make the shit I have."
Craig shot up instantly. "The fancy shit? Like not the chocolate water Clyde has? I'm in."
"No, I'm just fucking with you. We can't go to my house."
"Token, you asshole, why the fuck not?"
"My parents are still home, and we're supposed to be in school."
"I hate you," said Craig. "I hate you so much, and I just want you to know that you are a terrible person, and I hope your parents find out you skipped school anyway."
"Look, we need to be back at the school anyway," said Clyde. "If I don't come home on the bus, my parents will be suspicious!"
"But couldn't you just walk home?" said Craig.
"They know, okay, they know I hate walking and always talk the bus!"
"Going back is a stupid fucking idea. The point of skipping school is to skip school," said Craig, "not to then go to school."
"I don't care, Craig! My parents already know I skip all the time, and they're going to ground me and take my phone! And they'll blame you for it, and they'll say I can't hang out with you anymore because they already think you're a bad influence."
"Your parents are dumbasses. I'm the best fucking influence in your life."
"My parents are great people! That's why they're aware that you're stupid!"
"Whatever. I'm not going back to school," said Craig. "I hate it there."
"Then where the hell are you going to go? It's cold out."
"I don't know. Somewhere. I don't really give more than half a fuck."
Craig began to walk away from us, and none of us tried to stop him. I wondered if he really knew where he was going but didn't want to tell.
"Having a friend who's as weird as Craig is great," said Clyde.
"But you've always been weirder than Craig," said Token.
"That's a lie, and you know it."
"Tweek, you're not going to become Craig's new best friend, are you now? Craig isn't going to leave me for you?"
"I wouldn't want to be Craig's best friend anyway," I said, feeling myself sobering a bit. The world around me was still if I let it be still.
And that was really all I wanted. But I wasn't still.
When I got home from school, I dug through all the shit under my bed until I found what I was looking for—a shoebox. Nervously, hesitantly, I removed the lid. What if, at some point, my mother had decided to clean my room while I was at school? What if she thought all my valued possessions were garbage?
I was relieved to see that the box was still full of shit and piss colored plate pieces.
One by one, I set them on the rug and crudely tried to place them back together. There was a piece missing. There had always been a piece missing.
And slowly, I removed the piece from my pocket.
It didn't match up. Now I just had two incomplete plates.