It's messy, here, but a lived-in sort of messy that makes this room feel like someone's home, the place where they live, rather than just a bunch of clutter. A desk, a bed, a few chairs; flat surfaces are covered, taken up, used voraciously so that every inch of table or desk is home to something. A computer case, a box of documents, a file folder, a stack of towels. In the fading purple light of winter sunset, outdoor light is more memory than reality, hints of it at the windowsills barely noticable. On the other hand, two lamps -- a small white porcelain base with a blue shade and a nightlight-level bulb inside a gold paper star -- fill the room with a low level of molten gold, incandescent orange painting some things with brightness, others with amber-edged dark shadows.\n\nTo whom does any of this belong? Why is any of it here?\n\nA few things stand out.\n\n* [[The star lamp]]\n* [[An old answering machine tape]]\n* [[A photograph]]\n* [[A bed]]\n* [[An open laptop]]
Boxes, connected by arrows. A GUI, apparently?\n\nA mail client. The open message is a lengthy discussion about hookup apps.\n\nThe music player is stuck on a loop, playing [[one sad-sounding song|]] over and over again.\n\nThe background is autumn leaves, in the rain.\n\nA cursor blinks, presenting a bizarrely visual border between the potential of nothingness and the concrete reality of somethingness.\n\nA sentence half fi\n\n[[Another?|The Room]]
[[Go back|The Room]]
Tree arches. It's a perfectly shaped natural corridor; either time, or nature, or some combination of these bent the trees on either side of the long path toward the center so that they seemed like row after row of cathedral pillars, lining an arched hallway. Perhaps not so much near the one end you know about -- the one that spills somewhat unceremoniously into the parking lot of a local pharmacy.\n\nIt's a railroad, or it used to be. Now long covered up, called the "Scott Track." Lined by trees on either side, the raised trail in the center is perhaps eight feet wide, with gulleys on either side. In the fall, it's an explosion of colored leaves; in the spring and summer, a sun-dappled and shady place.\n\nBut it's in the winter that it really takes on its fullest character, because the snow hangs overhead in great drifts in the trees that somehow never fall, the sound on the path itself muffled by piles and piles of snow. You can remember standing at one end of this path -- which runs straight and narrow farther than the eye can see -- in winter for years, and years, and years, at different stages of life.\n\nAs a child, Bridge to Terabithia was on the mind, and you imagined that the path was a magical one, somehow, leading to a space that only you knew about, perhaps you and one other. Somewhere secret and safe where the rules don't apply, though of course, the story makes clear that neither of these things are true.\n\nAs a young adult, it became something different, maybe even fae. The idea that if you just walked down the track in a snowstorm that you wouldn't come back. That somewhere on the other side of the seemingly eternal road, that secret place even better than Terabithia might exist.\n\n[[Another?|The Room]]
How long has it been since you moved here? Maybe 3 months, maybe more. Third high school in two years, but you're starting to adjust, to adapt. Not fit in; that's not possible, or conceivable. But little by little you are making it through day to day. Not //everyone// who sees you in the hall greets you with the leering stare of frank, undisguised curiosity mixed with disgust.\n\nBack in the last school, in your hometown, it was the same thing. That's maybe what makes things easier: knowing that even in a town where you and your family were a known quantity, a building full of mostly strangers treated you like a visitor from another planet, a harmless thing upon which to project all of their anxieties about being different. Something that won't fight back, because fighting back is pointless.\n\nDrama club was the ticket. It means late afternoons -- heading home on a late bus, hitching a ride with friends -- but part of you wants to believe that something good will come of it (it never does; you're stuck playing the fat villain or the gay waiter for three entire years, but that's beside the point). The current stars, the favorites of the drama teacher, don't like you very much, but since you're never going to be an important role, the point ends up being moot.\n\nIt's late, winter-late and thus dark, when you get home. Your mother looks concerned and confused, inclining her head at the wall, where an ancient-seeming (looking back, anyway) phone with answering machine hangs on the wall. "They're both for you."\n\nYou listen to the messages. One is a friend from the last school, and the message is short, but cryptic. "I got your letter, thanks. For some personal reasons I might not be able to reply, but I wanted you to know I got it."\n\nHe was bisexual. Terribly rail thin, a blond beanpole in a Brit glam rock sort of way. It was a thing he told you, a trust he put in you, when you announced with stupid fervor in your advanced English class that you were going to write about gay youth for your paper, an act of stupid rebellion. The exhiliaration and fear combined of exploring the taboo, but perhaps more importantly of daring the question to be asked. The act of putting your head in the lion's mouth.\n\nMaybe that was why he spoke up. Because you came just shy, but even that distance was more than he could travel. And then you moved and that was that.\n\nYou sent him a letter a few months after you moved, to say hi. To ask how he was doing. To thank him for offering to take you to a coffee house in the city, 30 miles away, where he did open mic beat poetry about his experiences (you never went).\n\nThe second message is from your grade school best friend, a person you've come to appreciate less and less as time's gone by, where absence makes his treatment of you as a human being seem less like friendship and more like pity. But the message is cryptic, just as cryptic as the previous one: "Can you call me when you get home?"\n\nHe hung himself, you find out. That's what Casey wanted to say. "I know you two were friends, kinda," he says offhandedly. "And I thought you'd want to know."\n\n(He got your letter, but due to "some things" he might not be able to respond)\n\nAt the time, things seemed impossible to deal with. It would prove not to be the last suicide you've ever dealt with, of someone you know, but it was the first, and made all the worse by the constant refrain in your head: If I'd stayed, it wouldn't have happened.\n\nYou don't know, don't really ''know''. Hindsight is 20/20. And your family moved 600 miles away, across five states, and you fought it -- you and Mom //both// fought it -- but lost. There was nothing you could have done.\n\nAll of these things sound like excuses in your head. You could have done something. You could have prevented it. Was the last thing he saw, that letter? Why take the time to acknowledge it? Why leave that message? Questions that would never find satisfactory answers. At the time, though, the world was ending. Everything seemed indefinite and unsettled, undefined, insecure.\n\n18 years later you know -- you THINK you know -- his first name was Steve. His last name escapes you, and the more you reflect on that fact, the worse you feel.\n\n[[Another?|The Room]]
All your thinking happens here, because this is the only time you're really free of everything, with only the darkness to stare into.\n\nSometimes you stare at the ceiling, or just shut your eyes. Sometimes you drift right off to sleep.\n\nSometimes you think to yourself: I've managed okay. It's not easy but I've kept going. And things aren't going to be any different, so I need to keep going.\n\nYou can be happy by yourself. You don't need someone else to complete you.\n\nSometimes that thought hurts you so much you can't finish the sentence in your head. Sometimes you even start to whisper it out loud and then it is as if someone is pressing a cinderblock into your chest. It gets hard to breathe. The pain is in your suddenly empty-feeling lungs, in the choking feeling at the back of your throat, the stinging of forming tears in your eyes, the painful tightening of muscles as your brow knits and unknits.\n\nIt is as if someone has wrenched a hand directly into your chest and squeezed it around your heart, HARD.\n\nIn the dark, avoiding the clock, it is hard to tell how long this goes on. Sometimes it feels like forever. Sometimes it stops the second you know that this pain is your body's way of saying that everything you just said is a lie, that you cannot do this on your own, that the idea of dying alone -- of simply vanishing from peoples' everyday lives until someone notices your absence -- fills you with an unknowable, terrible agony.\n\nBut eventually it stops and you can sleep, knowing that you've paid the tithe that makes the lie real, at least for now.\n\n[[Another?|The Room]]
[[Welcome|The Room]].
Dorm beds have never been comfortable, even for one person; for two, it's proving entirely too cramped. But these are two people who were separated by distance from the beginning of their relationship and are only now just putting actual physical bodies to the test; this is the moment in which something that slept as potential for months suddenly bursts forth like incandescent sparks, impossible to direct, sometimes making sensible patterns and sometimes simply spinning off into the darkness before burning out, unnoticed.\n\nHe is naked and hovering over you, his palms biting hard into the mattress to keep him upright, arms straight. The lamp on top of the dresser behind him -- a small simple bulb in a paper star -- covers his back in gold-ish light and leaves his face and body in shadow, enough that you have to squint. One hand comes up and grips your shirt at the shoulder and you realize that he is //trying// to get you to take off your shirt, but there is a voice in your head saying ''Stop. Now. Don't.''\n\nBut your shirt comes off because the part of you that is filled with terror is at war with this part of you that wants to devour him whole, and their conflict is a dull roar in the back of your head which could be the rushing of blood instead. Everything else follows. And then you can't do anything about it; you are naked, and he is naked, and...\n\n...and that's when everything changes. It's when it stops being about hunger and starts being about fear. It's about the sudden realization that you're physically twice his size, about being terrified that you are pale, or scarred, or disgusting. About knowing that you're laying on your back and the feeling that it makes you some sort of slug.\n\nHe opens his mouth to say, "They are going to have to rethink what 'beautiful' means."\n\nThis should make you happy.\n\nIt does not.\n\n[[Another?|The Room]]
Building Blocks
by Todd Harper (@laevantine)