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The Five Times I Saw, the Sixth Time I Didn't
by C.R.M. Nilsson

We had been classmates since middle school, but I never paid him any notice. Sure, I noted with envy his skill with a ball and how easily he spoke with girls. But otherwise he was too much of a sissy, too much of a teacher’s pet, to warrant any interest from my side.

When we returned from summer-break after the first year of high school, he had grown up. Gone was the scrawny thing who could do magic with a ball and chat as easily with girls as with boys, who could answer the teacher’s every question. In many ways he remained the same. He had only turned out more handsome than the rest of us. We looked like scarecrows, caught between childhood and adolescence, while he looked like perfection.

The girls noticed. I noticed as a competitor.

He walked with the casual elegance of a man that could fight and knew that he would win. He was eloquent and sure himself. Everything we were not.

I watched him with envy and maybe that’s why I was the only one who saw. Saw how he sneered at us and thought himself better than the rest of us.

Maybe he wasn’t so perfect after all, I thought in malicious glee.

He bled red like the rest of us. Maybe he could fight, but brute power can sometimes defeat pure skill. He hit the floor and bled from his nose. But he smiled and showed off bloodstained teeth and I thought that he must have bitten his tongue.

“Hit me again,” he said and added darkly. “I dare you to.”

I felt a chill and looked away. So did the rest of my peers.

Maybe he was more than he seemed, I thought.

I was rather like everybody in many regards, but especially in the one that every other place than the one that I live in seemed so much better. My town seemed so gray and boring, while everywhere else seemed, if not more exciting, than at least to prefer. The girls in town were plain, while those from another town brought in an exotic breeze.

The late autumn made nothing to make my town less grey. The dead trees made it seem almost like it was abandoned. The library especially. It was a dark, concrete building with a lot of windows. Once upon a time it had been an innovation of design, but the fact that nobody cleaned the concrete… it looked dirty and misplaced.

It was also where I had been dragged on a Saturday. He took his studies seriously, I knew from my observations. It also seemed like he didn’t need to sleep and I was the unlucky soul dragged to the library, on a Saturday, to do schoolwork on a godforsaken time.

While I looked bleary-eyed, he looked disgustingly awake. It was enough to make me contemplate throwing him out of the window. But I cannot follow through on that thought, since my grade would be in jeopardy. It only pissed me off to be paired with him, as I was sure he was not even aware of my existence. Thought he was superior, did he?

The silence was a bit awkward, but he quickly took command.

“Look, I wouldn’t mind doing the assignment on my own,” he said. “We can just put your name upon it.”

I snorted. “I believe it should be a joint effort, don’t you think?”

We bent over the books in silence. I really didn’t know what point it was to analyze The Divine Comedy without reading it, but, well, here we were…

“What should we say about Beatrice?” he murmured. “That he was pining for her love and turned her into his muse?”

“Or that making her his character was just another way of owning her?” I suggested. “Or if you are more romantic: that by writing her he was keeping her alive and thus his love, which I feel wouldn’t make much sense since they didn’t meet that much if I remember correctly…”

“I don’t think anybody has made that interpretation before,” he smiled and I noted that his eyes crinkled as he did so.

“Literature is different for everyone,” I replied and was sure that I was quoting one of my former professors. “There is no right or wrong answer, because everybody views a text differently. And your own opinion changes over time of the same text…”

I saw him look at me with something akin to respect.

Maybe he could be made to see that we were not all inferior to him, I thought.

Against the odds, perhaps, we became best friends after that assignment. Where you saw one, the other was sure to follow. It was a mismatched friendship, but we got along. I was the only one allowed to see him without his perfect mask on, when he bitched in my room about our teachers or insipid classmates. His words, not mine.

Our graduation came soon enough and I was going off to college. So was he. But while I could see my smiling family from where I stood, I saw him eagerly look over the sea of faces looking at us. His face was filled of hope and expectation. It went out when he realized that his mother could not take time from her incredibly busy schedule to come watch her only son’s graduation.

What good did it have good looks and brains if you were that lonely?

Maybe he was worth pitying, I thought.

We had applied, and got in, to the same college and the friendship formed in high school continued here. We could easily by found arguing about different points to this and that while walking across the grounds. He attracted his fair share of girls, but always turned them down. It made a bit envious, as I had only a few girls asking me out.

“What was wrong with that one?” I asked bitterly when he turned down a pretty brunette with big boobs.

He only shrugged.

“She’s just like everybody else,” he murmured. “Nobody is special enough.”

If I saw that his gaze was a little to intent, I made no comment.

Some things were better left alone, I thought.

Her name was Sara and she was not beautiful. At most she could be considered cute, but otherwise she was a rather ordinary looking girl. But she had the most beautiful smile you’d ever see and it could light up a whole room. Or maybe it was only my world it lit up.

We started dating in college and it was only now when we both had secure jobs that we considered engagement. I saved up money for a year to buy her a ring and asked her to marry me. Sara said ‘yes’ immediately.

When he came over to my job to ask me out for lunch, I happily told him the news. I didn’t notice the strange look that flashed over his face. Instead I happily chattered on as I took my jacket from where it hung over my chair.

I never saw the paper weight swinging through the air. The impact with the back of my head was so quick, that I barely felt it. My mind was in a haze as I went down. My cheek collided with the cold floor. But it was not cold so much longer. Soon it was warm and sticky from the blood that was pooling around me.

“You don’t know, but that’s okay,” he hummed and I had hated that song before, but even more now, “but you might find me anyway. Don’t know that I belong arm in arm with you, baby…”

My conscious was fading. And I did not know where it goes when it goes and suddenly everything was going so slow and I missed Sara so.


Copyright C.R.M. Nilsson 2010

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