When he appeared at the corner, I was sitting on a lot of things I wanted to say; a lot of things I wasn’t sure how to say. I stayed on them, trampling them into the ground below my feet.
There was only one thing I had to say, one thing that stood on the tip of my mute tongue, waiting for his arrival with heavy impatience. Something that I kept hidden behind my smile.
When he arrived, he wore a similar smile on his face. He collapsed beside me with that grin shining through his short, gasping pants.
‘Happy Birthday.’ I spelled quickly the moment he set up. My hand shook slightly so I withdrew it before he could notice, smothering it beneath my legs.
“Thanks!” he exclaimed with an even wider grin. His eyes shone in the golden sunlight. The grin turned into a sweet, joyful smile as he added “Hearing that from you has made me really happy.”
Then, his smile faltered. He forced it to remain on his face, but it was different now. His eyes had changed as well. Instead of conveying joy, they had become sad, hiding deep sorrow behind their fake smiles.
I wanted to ask what was wrong but something in those eyes told me I shouldn’t, that I should wait for it to disappear. Something in those eyes told me I didn’t want to know, that he wouldn’t tell me anyways.
I looked away, relieving him of his act. We stayed that way, avoiding each others eyes for a while; several minutes probably. Neither of us knew what to say or what to do.
“Oh!” he exclaimed suddenly as though he remembered something important. For one long, terrifying moment, I feared he was going to leave me, that he had remembered something relevant to his seventeenth birthday. I searched his face for reassurance, and must have worn a panicked expression for he stared at me with one eyebrow raised.
Stumbling a bit over his words, he continued. “I bought a book on sign language the other day.” he said with a smile. “I thought it would be easier for us to communicate.” His facial expression was somewhere between shy and nervous, with a pale pink blush painting his cheeks. His smile was genuine, but he was trying to hide it by biting his lower lip, which only made his embarrassment more obvious.
I was about to reply when his expression changed to a somber one. His smile remained but it was more of a grimace now, no longer conveying happiness. His eyes were on the verge of tears as he said, “ And, that way, if something happens to me, you’ll be able to communicate with other people.”
His words wiped all thoughts from my mind.
Adam? Gone? No, that would never happen. That could never happen.
I couldn’t–wouldn’t— live without him. I didn’t need sign language because he would always be there. He would. He had to be.
‘Why do you keep saying that?!’ I spelled, hastily thrusting my finger at each letter. I was angry now, furious even. He was the only person who had seen me, who had spoken to me for centuries and he kept talking like he was about to die. I didn’t want to think about it, let alone hear him talk about it.
“I… I just…” he stuttered, staring at me with wide eyes. He looked down. “I’ve had a bad feeling about things lately… Whenever I thought of turning 17, it would fill me with dread, and for this whole day, at the back of my mind or somewhere deep inside me–I don’t really know–I’ve felt fear… I don’t know why but I’m terrified of today…” He looked at me with wide eyes that were filled with tears. “I’m scared Jeremy…” he said, a single tear rolling down his face. “I don’t want to die.” Others soon followed, staining his cheeks as they cut a path over his skin. A small sob, choked and desperate, escaped his quivering lips.
‘There is nothing to worry about.’ I spelled, choosing my words carefully. I desperately wanted to reassure him, to set his frantic mind at ease. ‘You are not going to die; you’ll be fine. I promise, there is nothing to be afraid of.’
That promise would soon be broken.
He wiped tears from his eyes, drawing his sleeve across his face. He sniffled, then smiled and said, “Yeah, you’re right. Thanks, Jeremy.” His grin widened and his eyes soon followed, losing their despair.
It was the second time he had spoken my name that day, and, for some reason, it made me smile.
The sun set as he began telling me about the book. He glanced at the horizon, then looked at his wrist, checking a watch I’d never seen before. I couldn’t help but stare at it; I’d never seen one up close.
“Oh, this?” he said upon following my gaze. He held it up so I could see it better. The golden metal bracelet reflected the sunlight. Two thin black lines travelled around the face of the clock, telling the time. It was rather late in the evening. “I just got it this morning, as a gift from my mother.” He grinned. “It’s a Rolex, one I’ve always wanted.”