Reposting from old account. Everyone is the same age.
"Do you believe in soulmates?" I ask Johnny. He pulls out his knife from his boot and flips it into the air.
"I wish I could." he says. I watch him as he watches the knife. The silver dances in his cerulean gaze.
"Do you want one?" I ask. He grabs the knife and shoves it into the wood of the bench we're sitting on, and turns his eyes up to meet mine.
"Doesn't everyone?" he replies.
Dib is waiting for me at the bus stop. Zim stands beside him. I glance at them and take my place between them. The only real noise is the scrape of a cellophane snack wrapper blowing down the road.
Dib makes a comment about short aliens. Zim shouts a returning insult. I contemplate how the puddle at my feet distorts the sky.
Johnny leans against the fire escape railing. I sit on the third step. One higher and my toes wouldn't touch the ground. One lower and my knees would brush my chin.
Johnny is casually winding a length of twine around in his hands.
"They can't see me, you know." Johnny speaks suddenly. His voice is smooth. This is something he has been thinking about for a long time. I glance up and find him watching Dib and Zim. They stand toe-to-toe, hissing poisonous, hurtful words at each other.
"Can I see you?" I ask hesitantly. Johnny said things sometimes that meant one thing on the surface and another underneath. I would search and search for his meanings, would think I found the truth, until I looked in his eyes and caught a mocking smirk or flare of disappointment.
"Sometimes." he says. I find his eyes and there it is. A fleeting, brilliant smile.
In the evening I climb into bed and pull the covers up, reaching over to turn off the light. When the darkness is folded comfortably around me I close my eyes, put my hands together, and murmur a prayer to a God I'm not sure is listening.
"Please, come home."
Then I roll over and wait for sleep.
"Are you sure…?" Johnny looks at where our hands connect with trepidation, as if I were a mirage that would evaporate before he could get close.
He looks up at me and I discover that falling in love is as easy as taking a step over the edge into the blue, blue sky.
"Dear, is there something you want to talk about?" Pepito's mom places a gentle hand on my shoulder. I do not turn to look at her. I am listening, but it's hard when everything is so far away.
"No." I say after her words have traversed the miles of ocean between her and I. I must examine her words for meaning, picking them over for hidden jewels.
"Todd, I know this was hard for you…"
My island is calm, the blue ocean slipping rhythmically against my shores.
The echo of the school bell rings around us, even though we have left school far behind. We are trying to squeeze the last drops of summer out of the air, the last of the lingering warmth. Johnny sits by me on the bank of the pond, our fingers laced together, while Dib swims and Zim throws pebbles at him.
I leans my head on his shoulder and I learn that love can fall again and again and again. As naturally as breathing. After a while he leaves.
We leave when the sun goes down and Dib asks where Johnny has gone. I shrug and glance back at the pond. The surface is a disk of mirror, reflecting the sky perfectly.
"Todd." Pepito is talking to me. I blink and shake my head lethargically, trying to listen.
"Yeah?" I ask. Pepito is looking at me with an expression I don't try to read. My gaze slips past and finds the clouds behind him, mind wandering to the formless nothing I can feel blanketing the world.
"Todd, you have to let this go. You have to move on." Pepito brings me back to earth, tugging sharply on my balloon tether. I look back at him.
"Let go of what?" I ask after a long minute's contemplation. I finally connect his expression with an emotion. Concern.
"Johnny." he says. My eyes slip away again. The sky is a brilliant shade of blue. I am nothing, not part of this world. A non-entity. Shapeless. Thoughtless. Nothingness.
His black trenchcoat is the first thing I see. It lies at my feet.
Blood is what I see next.
Brown marks on the walls where it has dried. Fresh red pools on the floor. The carpet is soaked in it.
Johnny sits in the middle of the macabre sweeps of blood. There is a razor blade in his hands and as I drop my bag it descends into a final sweep across his fragile ribs.
The sound of my bag hitting the ground lifts his head. His eyes dim when he sees me. It's a shame, because the blood loss is dimming his eyes too much already. That heady, electrifying blue should be eternal.
"Hey, Todd." he whispers.
"Is this why you never let us come over?" I ask. He slumps to the side and I run to him.
His weight is nonexistent. I lift him and he looks up at me. His blood is soaking into my jeans, becoming a part of the material. His eyes dim, dim, until they close and he stops breathing in my arms.
I lean over and press my lips to his cold ones. They taste of new pennies and cherry soda. I pull back and touch my mouth. Warm blood trickles down my chin.
I stand, leaving Johnny's body behind me, and return to my bag. I pass his jacket and pause before picking it up. The door closes behind me and I can read the battered sign hanging off one nail: 'Robbie's Room: little brothers keep out!'
And I know he'll come back to life. He's died twice before, and he always comes back.
The bus pulls up, the sound somber. I climb on first and settle into the seat.
The world around me moves rhythmically, shifting and swaying like a boat at sea. I have nothing to say. I am disconnected from reality, a balloon tethered to the earth by the thinnest of strings.
Johnny sits cross legged on the ground. I settle in front of him and he looks up at me. His eyes are the same feral, electric blue. They contrast oddly with his gray hood.
He pulls something out of his lap. A sketchbook.
He grabs a pencil from behind his ear and scribbles something on the pad. He turns it so I can see.
See, can you See, can you See Me?
I wonder what he means, looking at him helplessly. He returns to writing on the sketchbook. After a moment he shows me his new words.
I can See you. Do you See Me?
I shake my head.
"Johnny, I don't understand." I whisper. Johnny shakes his head, exasperated, and scribbles something else in the book. He thrusts the words at me this time, almost angrily.
I can SEE. SEE ME.
Understanding dawns. I push back his hood.
"Of course I can see you. I've always been able to see you."
This seems to be what Johnny wanted. He smiles, looking relieved. He takes the book back gently and turns the pages. He seems to be looking for something.
He finally hands the book to me. I take it and look at the drawing under my hand.
It's a picture of a hand, reaching towards the viewer. Or maybe the subject is falling away.
Suddenly I understand. This is Johnny's hand. I am not sure if he is drowning or reaching for salvation.
I look up.
I am alone.
I look at the note in my hand. The signature of a concerned teacher slashes across the bottom. Certain phrases linger in my brain, catching briefly in my empty head before disappearing.
Unable to concentrate in class… turns work in blank… never contributes to discussions… seldom speaks, even when confronted…
I hand the note to Rosemary and slip out the back door. Behind me she is calling but I can't hear what she says. The trees lining the street are evenly spaced, distances surgically perfect.
The pond will reflect nicely this time of year.
The old man next to me spits to the side and I wrinkle my nose with distaste. He evaporates into the distance and I move to take his place.
There are three gravestones sticking haphazardly out of the ground. One is a double, meant for a couple. The other two are single, too close for them to be anything but family.
I crouch to get a better look. The names are weathered. The double stone is the hardest to read. I reach out and brush off the caked dirt and lichen. Only a few words are visible. I can read the last name.
The death dates are the same. Each three years ago.
The next tombstone is new. The letters are barely weathered.
The death date is less than a year ago.
I sit back and glance at the next grave. The dirt is newly turned. The stone is fresh. The footsteps where people have trodden on the soft earth are crisp.
I get up and take a step toward the stone.
"Don't." Johnny takes my hand and pulls me back. I turn away and he guides me down the gravel path out of the cemetery.
His jacket hangs in a tree over the pond. Its color is dull now, washed out by the rain and snow that has fallen on it, but no one has moved it. Every time it fell from his branch someone returned it. It's a silent prayer flag.
I sit under it and look at the sky in the pond. That is the reason I chose this branch. I can see the sky perfectly in the water from underneath it.
Johnny is floating in the water next to me, arms outstretched. There is nothing around us but water, from horizon to horizon. It reflects the sky perfectly. The sun is rising majestically, red and orange and pink.
"Do you love me?" he whispers.
"How much?" He turns his eyes from the sky to me. They reflect red and orange.
"More than this ocean." I run a hand through the water, sending ripples lapping over him. He smiles, turning his head back to the sky. He reaches out and links our hands.
"That's a lot." he murmurs. I nod and fall back into the water with him, watching the shifting colors of the sky.
"Todd, shouldn't you finish your plate?" Senor Diablo gestures to the piles of food on my plate. I turn my eyes to them. They are an unappetizing color. The hues are too artificial, the shapes too uniform.
"I'm not hungry." I slip away from the table. I feel lighter when I am not constrained by the arms of my chair. The outside beckons, open and full of colors that do not assault my eyes.
"Dear, you haven't eaten enough lately." Rosemary reaches for me. I drift away, a balloon just barely out of reach. Pepito looks at me strangely.
"I'm just not hungry anymore." I give them a smile and wander out the door.
I am standing under Johnny's jacket, staring at where it hangs from its stubby tree branch. It's on fire. Traceries of flame scratch at the sky, spitting sparks down at me.
"You know, you can lose your soul and still keep walking and talking and being." Johnny says.
"It feels like floating." I reach for the fire, chasing the warmth that I know I should feel.
"Like there isn't anything real." Johnny takes my hands and draws them to his waist. I do not look away from the flames. The jacket doesn't burn. The fire flickers over its surface but it does not char.
"Does that make the world not real?" I ask.
"It's only real when you're looking at it." He replies. The fire flares in a wind that tosses the trees but does not touch us.
"Are we real, Johnny?" I whisper. I look at him at last. His eyes are closed.
"We are the realest thing in the universe." He opens his eyes and I have to close mine. That is the way things are.
The air is fresh, snapping and crisp. I run my fingers through the snow and breathe. My breath forms smoke that drifts into the clouds.
The world is clean with a layer of snow. My footsteps lead a straight trail, pointing out my exact location. I don't like it. I do not like being pinned to the earth like that.
I lay back. White shards of the sky are falling around me. If I stay in one place for enough time, the tracks leading to me will be erased. It will all be clean again.
I huddle in the corner, between the vending machine and the wall. People walk by, talking and laughing, and do not notice the sad boy hiding in the shadows. I wonder what would happen I were to scream. I wonder if I would be heard.
I look up from the contemplation of the ripped knees of my jeans.
Johnny kneels in front of me, extending a hand. I eye him distrustfully.
"Nny?" I ask. Under the weight of my wary desperation, my voice cracks down the middle.
Johnny nods simply.
I launch myself into him, holding tight. We clutch each other for a long time, tears traveling long trains down our cheeks.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He murmurs in my ear. And: "Never again. Never again. I promise. I'm never leaving again."