The next day came and so did Adam. I had turned my back to my grave in order to watch him arrive from the other side of the street. He jogged down the street at the same steady pace he always did, dressed in a pale blue jacket.
I waited for him with a question weighing on my mind. I watched him cross the street, excitedly anticipating his arrival. The backpack bounced up and down with each step, carrying my only, precious means of communication.
He collapsed next to me, panting loudly. I’d always wondered how much he had to run to get here, and why he ran in the first place; but that wasn’t my question. I was forced to hang on to that thought, that nagging question.
When he finally unpacked, my fingers were itching. They twitched around me knees.
Before he could even open his mouth, I was pointing to letters.
‘What is the date today?’ I spelled.
“September 29th.” he said, glancing at me with wide, surprised eyes. “Why?”
‘Tomorrow is your birthday.’ I spelled, relieved. I had spent the entire night worrying that I had missed the most important day of the year. I smiled reflexively, conveying my relief to him.
He mirrored my smile and said “Yeah, I guess it is.” He tilted his head backwards, basking in the warm sunlight.
Idle chit-chat followed for a while, until the next question forced its way to the front of my mind. It had been bothering me for a long time, ever since he dodged it. Now, looking at the small smile that played on the edges of his lips, I felt he would answer me. I felt he was willing to open a bit more.
‘Hey…’ I spelled, copying the way he began awkward questions. ‘Where had that bruise come from?’
He stiffened. The smile disappeared. His eyes darkened, becoming unusually somber. He stared at me from shadows for a long, treacherous moment before sighing. “Look,” he began. “It’s nothing, really; I just… got into a small fight, but it’s over now.”
‘With who?’ I asked.
“Doesn’t matter. We moved away from him so…” He caught me staring at him. “Look, it’s over now. Really. Just drop it will ya?” He lay down, closing his eyes to the sun and to me. “I’m not gonna say anything more so give up.”
I couldn’t respond, not because I didn’t have a response, but because he wasn’t looking. I was at the mercy of his eyes, his pale azure eyes.
I didn’t ask any more questions that day and he didn’t answer any. He talked, told me about the move and how clean the new house was, but that it wouldn’t last long. He winked, releasing a small chuckle.
He told me about the book he was reading and how terribly boring it was. He revealed that he was tempted to try his hand at writing a book, in case his career as an engineer tanked.
When he left, promising to return the next day, I was left with countless thoughts and a few memories of my own life.
I’d thought of how happy he seemed and how ‘put-together’ his life was. When I was his age, I rarely went to school and the only future I had was slaving over the same monochrome wheat field my peasant father owned. I was not nearly as educated as him, and certainly not from some teachers. Everything I learned I taught myself. Unlike him, I had no ambitions.
I’d thought a lot about the next day too.
What would I do? What could I do?
I wanted to celebrate his birthday but… How? I can barely wish him a “Happy Birthday”, let alone celebrate it. I was powerless.
I sat there, wallowing in self pity for the longest time. The sun was pushing the moon away by the time I gave up. There was nothing I could not, nothing I could say, that would measure up to what his real friends and family would do.
Could I really consider myself a friend of his? All I did was sit here all day. I didn’t help him in any way. I didn’t have anything useful to offer him.
And yet, he’s the most important person to me; more important than my own family. He’s more than just a friend to me, but can I assume the feeling is mutual?