A roller coaster of emotion, ultimately leading to a soft resolution.
*Warning: this chapter contains the use of marijuana.
There is a certain weightlessness to swinging, an exhilarating freedom that many don’t experience beyond the playgrounds of long forgotten childhood. A small space in time where gravity doesn’t rule the whole world. At the moment when gravity had begun to regain the upper hand, just a millisecond before it would pull him back to the earth, Andrew opened his eyes and instantly his breath was taken.
It was good that he was holding tight to the chains, or he may have fallen.
The Atlantic ocean stretched forever in front of and below him. The swing he rode was one of a set that was placed close to the edge of a large stone bluff. The peak of the upswing afforded a framing of the breathtaking vista. All the evidence of being grounded, the trees, the rocks and the ground, were all to his back, invisible, lending to the illusion that he was suspended in mid air.
The sun shone on the calm water, turning the vast expanse into a tinkling tarmac. The line of the horizon blended so intimately with the sea and the sky that its exact meeting place was indecipherable. He caught his breath, as the moment he was captured in snapped and gravity swept him backwards, back toward the bringer of such an amazing moment.
As he glided past Kevin, he momentarily caught his expectant gaze. He knew that he must be wide eyed and slack jawed. His breathy 'whoa' was lost in the whistle of the draft that he sliced through.
Kevin offered a satisfied small, as if knowing that words weren't needed. He mounted the second swing. Despite his earlier run, he effortlessly pumped his strong legs until he had matched Andrew's rhythm.
They swung like that for a while, neither speaking. Andrew felt lighter than he had in weeks, possibly longer. The rubber bands that had become his every muscle had released, leaving him relaxed. His legs continued with the momentum, folding at the knee when he had reached the precipice of his backswing. Each upswing brought another faceful of beautiful oceanscape. With every breath of the chilled salt air, his lungs felt as if they were able to pull in more oxygen than usual. The cool air filled his whole being, soothing the hot festered areas that had permeated his consciousness. He quit pumping his legs, gradually coming to a gentle swing and just watched Kevin. He realized how young the guy seemed, though he knew that he was several years older than himself.
Kevin pumped his legs, streamlining his body until he'd shot up to the height of the view. There he leaned forward slightly before folding in and returning to start again.
He looks free.
He looks beautiful, Andrew thought. Something about this private moment, this private place put Andrew at ease with Kevin. He felt no need to hide behind his shell, no reason not to trust this boy, no matter how peculiar he seemed.
Kevin had been right, too. He had needed this, even if he hadn't recognized that need. It was a freedom so pure that it lacked name. The closest he could come to a label was magic, lacking any logical explanation. Now more than ever before, Andrew needed to know, needed to see, feel and taste the magic that was still out there, if only he would let himself to have it.
Dragging his toes into the snow and coming to a rough, unsteady stop Kevin parroted his thoughts.
"This place is magic."
"It really is" Andrew agreed softly. "Absolutely breathtaking.
Kevin grinned mischievously. "And it doesn’t stop there." he said dismounting the swing and stood behind Andrew. He grabbed the swing by the sides of the seat, bringing him to a complete stop, his feet dangling inches off of the ground. He lowered him until his feet touched back down. His abdomen and his groin were pressed against Andrew's back.
"Are you willing to try something? Trust me?"
"Do I have to close my eyes again?" Andrew asked, knowing that if Kevin asked him to he would.
"It helps to close 'em yes."
His hands found Andrew's, enveloping them against the chains. He then leaned in and whispered softly, his warm breath sending a slight shiver through the seated boy.
"Think about what makes you mad, and hurts you. That one thing about the world that makes you absolutely hate it. Lemme know when you have it. "
Andrew thought for a moment. The thing he hated the most was that losing had so effortlessly, so cunningly become his lot in life. His mother, his father, David. He always lost the things he never wanted to lose.
"Got it." They were both whispering now.
"Alright." closer to his ear now, "Now let that horrible thing fill up your heart, your chest, your lungs. Hold it there until it feels so tight that it could split you open."
It wasn’t hard. He had only to focus on the back of his eyelids to bring back the pain of when he realized his father would never be coming back, that his mother would rather work than be near her strange son, that David didn’t want to love him anymore. He remembered the times he had cried, and it was like salt on a scab picked away by an impatient child. He felt the mental strain he had felt over the years, trying to figure out the how's and the why's. He felt the incompetence of not being able to keep the ones he loved. His leg began its thumping, violent this time.
Kevin knew it was time. "Fill your lungs as full as they will go."
I know where this is going, he thought, but said nothing, following Kevin's instruction. He drew cold air until his lungs burned.
"Now let it out." Kevin let go of his hands and Andrew heard him walking away.
Andrew let the bubble inside of him crack slightly, and that was all it took to start the flood that now poured from his throat.
The sound that ripped from his soul was guttural, one that shuddered from the deepest part of his being, causing his hands to shake the chains. It lasted longer than he thought possible, and when its' tail end had faded, he slouched to his knees in the snow, sitting on his feet.
The tears came. Big tears that raced down his face to join the snow. Hunched over he sobbed uncontrollably, his body shuddering with the force of the pain. He buried his face in his hands, his breath coming in short gasps as he tried to get oxygen into his lungs. He wailed hysterically, knowing that this was something he could no longer run from. This pain was eating him alive, stealing every good thing that had ever existed inside of him. It was trying to force him down a road that he had no desire to travel.
He didn’t know how long he knelt there crying. It wasn’t until his wails had turned to faint whimpers that he felt Kevin's hand on his shoulder.
Oh yeah, this makes you a total keeper, crying like a child.
He ignored his conscience, looking up at Kevin as he wiped the tears from his hot face.
"I'm sorry." he sniffed, more tears beginning to flow at the thought of how he must have appeared, broken. Yet again. Twice in two days. He buried his face again.
Shame on you, you pussy!
Kevin took his hands and helped him stand.
Andrew didn’t want to look at him. He just wanted to hide his face until this anguish that he felt, the very thing that made him hate himself, disappeared.
"Please don’t look away Andrew." he said still holding his hands, which had stopped shaking. He looked directly into Andrew's eyes. "There is absolutely nothing to be sorry for. What makes us human is that we hurt. We have feelings. Things, events, people- they break our hearts. But we can't let it consume us. We can't let it take over who we are. We can't give up, because it's just not an option."
Andrew just nodded, taking in the gentle voice that spoke to him from behind those pale blue grey eyes.
"There will be people willing to help. But you can't shove those people away. " Kevin continued. "Here let's sit."
Andrew sat back on the swing, pretty near to empty, not really knowing what to say. Kevin straddled the other swing, facing Andrew.
"I haven't always been like this you know, this pent up and bottled. It used to just hurt, but now it makes me angry." he offered all that he had. He was glad that he had regained his composure.
Kevin nodded. "Nobody starts out this way, it’s extended periods of pain that make a person hurt like you are hurting. How do you feel now?"
He didn’t even need to ponder the answer. He immediately knew.
"I feel emptier, but in a good way, like the pressure is off and like a blow up has been avoided."
"Good." Kevin replied after a moment. " Was I wrong to say you needed it?"
Andrew shook his head, "No. You were definitely right. I'm just glad you knew it, because I didn't. Thank you."
"Nah, don’t mention." Kevin waved it away. "Sometimes it just takes someone on the outside to see in."
Andrew smiled, "Touché."
Kevin fished in his pocket as Andrew kicked himself into a soft low swing and took a few deep breaths. He was trying to burn this into his mind, this relieved feeling that made him feel open to breathe.
He hadn't seen what Kevin had pulled from his pocket, so he was surprised when he was asked if he smoked.
"No, not unless I'm drinking. Cigarettes stink too much." he replied nonchalantly, still gazing out at the ocean.
At that, Andrew looked over. Kevin was holding a glass pipe and a lighter.
"Trees?" he asked curiously.
"If that means pot, then yes, trees." Kevin said with a chuckle.
"It's been awhile." he replied truthfully. Somewhere to the tune of a year. "But yes."
"Partake with me?" Kevin implored.
He thought for a moment.
"Sure, what the hell."
Haha. He smokes trees.
Kevin busied himself packing the bowl full of the green leafed herb.
"Don't worry about quartering it or anything." he said when he'd finished, referring to a technique of lighting the bowls contents in quarter increments to increase the burn time.
Andrew was surprised when Kevin handed him the bowl before taking a hit. To offer first hit was a symbol of kindness amongst regular smokers. He himself had only offered first hit to people he trusted and had come to respect.
He stood and sat facing Kevin, straddle style and accepted the bowl.
He raised the bowl to his lips, pressing the choke on the side. He lit the lighter, touched it to the green contents and inhaled until the plant began to burn. When he was sure it wouldn’t go out, he let go of the choke and dropped his lighter hand to his lap. He inhaled deeply, holding the thick sweet smoke in his lungs. He passed the bowl and lighter back to Kevin, who now had a wicked grin on his face.
"Pretty good at that. You an ex-stoner or somethin'?"
Not wanting to exhale just yet, Andrew shrugged and see-sawed his outstretched hand, as if to indicate 'kinda'.
Kevin expertly hit the bowl, just as Andrew slowly released his smoke, head tilted back, eyes closed. He had held it until he was lightheaded.
They passed back and forth several times before Andrew slashed his hand across his throat, the universal symbol that he was done.
"You high?" Kevin asked.
"I'm not feelin' it yet, but I'm sure I will in a minute or two."
Creeper weed probably. The kind that sneaks up and leaves you stoned off your ass.
"Well at least you sound relaxed."
Andrew had been thinking the same of Kevin's voice.
He's just suave.
"You do too," he said with a grin, "coulda been that scream and all the crying that did me in."
"Did it really help or are you jus' humorin' me?"
Andrew wasn’t humoring him, it had really put the barking negativity at bay, relieved him of a burden that he held for a long time. He told Kevin.
Kevin nodded. "I do it sometimes too. It always helps me feel better, a little more in control."
The drug hit Andrew then, reminding him of how long it had been since he had last smoked. He was beyond relaxed. He giggled softly at the pleasantness of it, coaxing one from Kevin as well.
"I see you got there." Kevin said.
Yep. You got me there.
Andrew nodded cooly several times, his lips pursed fish fashion. "Yup yup."
"Awesome blossom." Kevin rhymed.
"Thank you for all this. All of it. This place especially. I feel so far away from all the bad stuff."
"You're so welcome. That’s why I like it here. I'm just glad I could give you something to help with your troubles." He was swaying forward and back gently, his knees grazing Andrew's.
He was glad that Kevin had kept it vague, 'troubles'. It kept it from seeming like the diagnosis of any specific issue. It made it a little less invasive for Andrew.
Kevin cleared his throat. "A few last orders of business."
"Oh?" he asked, grinning as he explored those pretty eyes once more.
Kevin grinned back. Licked his lips. "First we have to get this bowl empty."
A bitch is already high though.
He decided to just go with it. "Ok. So finish it. I got first hit anyways." he said, intentionally acknowledging the kindness.
"Or…" Kevin suggested, dragging the word out.
"You know how to shotgun?" A glint in Kevin's eye, nonthreatening, hardly concealed at all.
He wants your lips!
"Mind if I give you one?"
Might has well have just asked for a kiss.
I can't, he thought. I still love David, even if it's over. Besides, I can't be a skank so soon after a breakup.
It's been over a month! And besides it's just a kiss. Do it you pussy!
But I barely know him, he fought.
Come on just do it.
His hesitation had been noticed. "No worries." Kevin said "I won't push the issue."
"No. I will!" Andrew blurted. That shred of him that thought maybe he could get over David, the part that wanted to get over him.
"You sure?" Through raised eyebrow. "Like I said, I'm not gonna push you, especially since now you seem a bit more comfortable around me."
Before he could over think it, or decide against it, he leaned in and planted a gentle but short kiss. He was surprised at the softness of Kevin's lips.
Kevin just sat dumbfounded on his swing, his eyes closed, a small smile curling his lips.
He inhaled sharply before speaking "That certainly was not a shotgun but I'm definitely not one to complain"
Andrew giggled again. "Then fix that."
Kiss me back.
Kevin lit the bowl and inhaled until all the herb had been reduced to ash. He tapped the bowl the side of his boot to empty it before stowing it in his pocket. He leaned forward and put his hands on Andrews knees. Their slightly parted lips met and as Kevin exhaled, Andrew breathed it in and held it.
Oh yeah. Soft lips for sure. And sweet breath too.
When he had exhaled he smiled. Kevin looked about to speak, but Andrew cut him off.
"Let's not talk about it today." he said gently, placing his hand on Kevin's knee.
"Fair enough." Kevin held his hands in the air. "Just one more piece of business."
"What is it?"
"You have to find a stone." he said, so serious that Andrew was glad he resisted the urge to laugh. "It can be a tiny pebble or a big stone, but it can't be just any rock, you have to like it for some reason. I'll look for one too."
He agreed and began to search the ground.
"But there's snow everywhere?"
Kevin answered simply. "Look harder."
Well that’s a lot of help.
He scraped his boots around in the snow, eventually finding a large patch of pebbles. He plucked through several of them, not finding any that appealed to him. All browns, grays, all rough and chipped.
This is harder than I expected, he thought.
It wasn’t until he had searched several other pebble patches that he found the perfect stone.
It was rough like all the others, an ugly gray slag like rock, but on the side there was a small reddish orange crystal shining through its ugly captor. The entire mass was about the size of his thumb.
"I think I found one!" he called excitedly.
Take it down a notch stoner.
Several hundred feet away, Kevin was squatting and sifting through a handful of stones.
"Found mine too." he said as he approached.
Andrew opened his palm, offering his rock.
Kevin took it in his hand, turning it over several times. "Why did you choose it?"
Andrew thought a moment, piecing the words in his head before he spoke them.
"Because it's like this moment."
How do you mean?" Kevin asked him feigning puzzlement, but Andrew was almost certain that he understood.
"Well," Andrew explained, "The pretty red part is like this moment, and by moment I mean the whole time we have been here. The other gray part signifies all the day to day drudgery."
Kevin smiled knowingly. "And do you know what 'the pretty red part' is?" as he handed it back.
He shook his head. "Ruby?"
Wouldn’t THAT be somethin'!
"Garnet." Kevin corrected, "Very pretty. But also used in jewelry."
"Really?" Andrew was interested. "That’s cool. Is it worth anything?"
"Being this small, not much. Less than fifty bucks if you got lucky. Besides, we aren't taking them with us."
"So what did we do this for? Are we going to throw them off the cliff?" he wondered aloud.
"Creative, but no." his tone was light, almost softly teasing. He walked over to what had appeared to be a snow drift. Using the scraper he brushed the snow away to reveal a mound of stones about three feet wide and a foot tall. There were varying sizes and colors.
Andrew got it. An offering of sorts. "You put a new one on every time you come up here?"
"Right. Every time." he confirmed.
"Neat." Andrew bent down, stone in hand. "Anywhere?" he asked, looking up at Kevin who only nodded.
He tucked it between a large gray rock and a piece of quartz the size of a lemon.
When he stood up he asked what Kevin had found. It was a sharp chunk of rough granite, filling Kevin's palm. It was tan with purple and black specks.
Playing the role in reverse, he asked why Kevin had picked it.
Andrew blinked a few times, not understanding.
"It reminded me of you." he clarified.
I remind you of a rock, he thought wryly.
"How? Cold? Hard? Boring?"
"You're hardly boring." he explained. "And those other things you said are just on the outside. Just your armor."
"Oh really?" He drug out the word. "Go on."
"Granite is useful, beautiful too. That’s why people polish it up and put it on counters. It's beautiful like you, and just like you it’s a bit rough on the outside. Unyielding. Needs some care and attention, but has an insane amount of beauty and potential. Just needs some time."
Andrew noticed that as he spoke this he didn’t take his eyes from the rock, as if looking at him instead of the stone would somehow break his concentration.
He's shyer than he lets on, Andrew realized. Maybe we aren't as different as I thought. "Well that’s very sweet of you Kevin." he said softly. "Nobody has said anything like that to me."
For the first time since he met him, Kevin blushed.
He turned to hide it, and Andrew didn’t mention it. Kevin placed the rock at the very top of the pile, on top of a flat piece of blue grey slate.
"We should probably go. We don’t have much light." Kevin said as he grabbed the snowbrush and headed from the clearing.
Andrew didn’t speak, afraid to break the moment. He wasn’t sure at exactly what point it had occurred, but the entire experience had leveled the field on which he stood with this boy that he now followed into the woods of Maine.
A roller coaster of emotion, ultimately leading to a soft resolution.