The Awakening

Writer: Hannah Sutherland

The following poem is written by Hannah Sutherland, one of our Twitter Competition Winners!

I used to find beauty everywhere. In the sweet peonies that bloom underneath my bedroom window, the mountains that fade into the sky as the harr blurs the edges, the gulls as they duck and dive around the lapping harbour. But now, my thoughts are only of him. So singular I am blind. The beauty of the world around me fades and darkens as my mind prevents me from seeing it properly. 

I am seventeen. It is summertime and I am at a party. One I do not particularly want to be at, I would rather be with him. It is noisy and vibrations run through my soles to my fingertips making me dizzy. I am not a sociable boy. I prefer my own company and find people exhausting. The constant need to figure out what facial expressions my face should wear, if the syllables I speak are normal and acceptable. The only time I am truly myself is when I with him.

I also find I am terrified of most of our peers, at this party which I do not want to be at, clasping wine in plastic cups and bottled beers, especially without teacher supervision, as though they may lunge and hurt me if they wish. From boredom, or cruelty; they don’t need a reason. I blame my friend, Char, for her insistence I join her. 

I hang back, awkwardly. Shy. There is a boy she likes, Roy, home from university for the summer. I observe them chat with fascination. How easy she finds it, to communicatewith him, head tilted back in giddiness and glee. She is entirely herself and Roy is reciprocal to her attention. 

My life has always been the same, on the outside looking in. Never fully included or at ease. I tiptoe around the cusp of adulthood, of friendships, yet never quite make it. I do not know how to cross that line successfully. 

I pat down my shirt which has crumpled with movement and itch the cut on my jaw from shaving. More evidence ofpretending to be a man yet feeling inadequate. 

I am sipping from my plastic cup when I see him.Emma’s arms around his waist as their bodies move with the beat, grinding. He kisses her. He did not say he would be here, last night, beneath cotton sheets of love and lust and limbs.

A thunder bolt jolts my body and I am frozen. He sees me and blinks. Swallows. I feel the roots that connect us begin to untangle and unearth. With every beat of the music, they are cut, and we are no longer one as we believed we had become. He stares, guilty. I turn and leave, unable to watch any longer as the audible shattering of my rib’s echoes through my head as my heart breaks beneath. 

The air slaps my cheeks, unwelcoming and painful yet I nothing can hurt more than the internal agony I am in. I run. I am good at running. My body is built for it; lean and small, skinny in its youth. I do not know where I am running to only that I need to be far away from him.

I’m sorry: he tells me the next morning. We are sitting in his room, as we always do. The emptiness of his house normally welcomes our secret tryst but today, it feels tarnished. Seedy almost. As though his actions last night have muddied the purity of our love. As though what we do when we are alone together, in intimacy, is somehow shameful although I have never thought it to be. 

I only desire secrecy because what we share is our moment and ours alone, so precious; not to be discussed or ridiculed by others. But I am not ashamed. How can something that brings such pleasure be considered wrong? I still feel his lips dripping down my stomach and I only feel joy. I do not understand him and his actions. 

I have to make it look like we aren’t friends: he says.

We are more than friends: I tell him. 

He sighs and rubs his forehead, leaving a red mark which returns to normal within a moment. Fleeting. 

We have been friends since childhood. Since I was seven, although the others don’t know. He keeps me as his secret companion, for after school hours only. I don’t mind. I cannot be picky when it comes to friends; I don’t have many. I concluded he may like me more than a mere companion a few months ago, when he kissed me before swiftly apologising. The lingering looks, the brushing of flesh, the blushing of cheeks.

It puzzled me. I do not offer much while he is popular and handsome and masculine. I think this is why I am so inclined to love him, despite his embarrassment of me, because I feel undeserving of his love. If I was him, I would feel it too.

Okay: I tell him: I understand. 

Although I betray myself. I want to ask him why I am not enough, why I have to be his secret. But I don’t. 

He tells me he loves me that night, as we lie together. I listen as his words float in the air between us. I let them sit on my skin, absorb them greedily into my body as though I really might be as special as he says I am. I play with them in my mind and try to keep them there so I can replay them when he has gone, but they leave me just as quickly as they arrive.

He leaves me the following week, to go to university. He leaves while I remain, fading. He wants to experience it fully, without any ties and I let him go. He was never mine to have. Our summer fling a decade in the making only exists in my memory now.

I miss him instantly.