Finn and I
I’m cracked. Broken.
They never let me use those words. Doesn’t help a positive self-image, and what else could I want?
That’s what I want, although I’m not sure how I want Finn. Finn’s not entirely there – sometimes I’ll say something, and I’ll have to wait before Finn looks at me, and when that happens I wonder how loud a heart can beat, and is it loud enough for Finn to hear? But then Finn will smile, and I think how a smile, Finn’s smile, would feel, and I think it would feel like almost-asleep and just-waking-up.
‘Are you awake?’ Finn asked, as we’re driving to a place none of us want to go to. It’s a strange question, and Finn must realise, because the question’s asked again.
‘Are you awake?’
I smile because it’s honestly all I can do.
Finn’s eyes close, and I know that this world isn’t where Finn is now, not for a while, so I settle into the pleather pale and wonder if clouds are softer.
We’re still driving as the sun streaks ribbons of orange across the sky, and Finn opens big blue eyes. Seeing those eyes makes me hunger for something, but I can’t, I can’t look anymore. I don’t want to be hungry.
I look instead out the window and the rolling stationary green waves have given way to speckled sands and bleached bones of forgotten things. It’s surreal, because we’re flying on the ground and the car’s interior is warm and I wonder if the car is the sun, and the thing beating down upon us is a car.
‘I don’t think so,’ I say, and I know Finn is listening, and it’s known, the question I’m answering.
There’s a pause, filled with the symphonic flurry of hearts.
‘But it’s ok,’ I continue. ‘Because it doesn’t matter if this is real or not.’
Finn’s smile feels like lingering rain, and in that moment I could close my eyes and glow.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” says the Warden. That’s not her real name, but in all honesty, it’s better. They tell me honesty is good. We’re all standing in the small living room with peeling eggshell walls and chairs which I hope are more comfortable than they look. Warden pinches the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger. We – the “young adults” – stand shuffling and scuffling in the pools of light thrown across the polished wooden floorboards.
Finn is standing nearest to the window, and my fingers flutter against the soft material of my overly large jumper. It’s in moments like this that I can take note of Finn. His hands, unlike mine, are still, sentient things. Taller than I am, not skinny nor slim, but subtly built, hidden underneath soft flannel shirts and woolen jumpers of bitter greens and crumbled-earth browns. Thick, fair eyelashes that hold clusters of otherworldly pictures – has Finn traveled with the circus? Even the ringmaster would’ve fallen in love with Finn – the pretty painted ladies and the smoking boys with grease stained hands and overalls.
Has Finn ever smoked? I place an imaginary cigarette between those stationary fingers, and see the figmentatious smoke fill the room. It’s beautiful, the glowing embers and the soft grey. Finn’s smiling, not looking at me, but I don’t care. An ache grows in my lungs, and I look away.
The Warden directs us to our rooms – separate rooms, of course, she says raising an eyebrow meaningfully. I admire the raising of the eyebrow, something I aspire to do in my later years, when I have wisdom to give.
Warden has my suitcase, and places it down in front of the door that leads to my room. I’m given a dull silver key and a “take it easy,” from Warden, before she walks off. I take the key and jam it into the lock. The door opens easily enough, with a plaintive sound – yet I wait for a moment before entering.
I don’t respond right away, because it isn’t Finn. It’s the girl with bedhead hair in the dirty blonde #3. I’ve seen her smoking, but it does nothing for her like it does for Finn. Kat, I think, mulling the name over. Kitty cat Kat.
Turning, I’m rewarded with Kat’s big smile and she makes a pleased noise, somewhere between a purr and a squeal.
“Isn’t this great?” she exclaims, gesturing rather enthusiastically to the hall around us. I nod, knowing not to say anything, because she starts again. “Smells, though, doesn’t it, like fish, though that’s expected if we’re so close to the beach, but you’d think it’d smell like salt, or sand, that salt-sand smell, you know, but I’m not sure if sand has a smell, because it’d smell like salt, wouldn’t it… yeah.” Letting Kat catch her breath, I glance down the hallway to see if anyone else has caught sight of this somewhat spectacular monologue. Funny how a chest can tighten so when Finn’s visible – further down the hall, trying to fit a key into the lock of a door. “Hang on,” I say to Kat, and she nods, walking into my room. Sighing, I make my way down the hall to Finn, the key and the door that won’t open.
“Hi,” I say, and Finn turns, a smile softly spreading.
“Hi yourself,” Finn replies, and sighs, glancing towards the door. ‘Door troubles?’ I enquire, and the laugh I’m given in return makes the corners of my lips twitch in response. ‘Let me try,’ I offer, and move closer to Finn. Reaching my hand out for the exchange of the key, our fingers linger together for a moment. Finn looks away, and my cheeks flush. I jam the key into the lock and rattle it about to no avail. I growl at the door, and in the corner of my eye I see Finn wearing a bemused look. ‘Are you a grizzly?’ the question is asked innocently, and I have to turn around. ‘A grizzly?’ I repeat, and Finn smiles. ‘That’s right,’ I say with little humour. ‘My father was a bear, and my mother…’ but I stop abruptly, because there’s a different look on Finn’s face now. Something’s wrong, misplaced. I’m still trying to open the door, and suddenly it does. My fingers leave the key as if it burns, I look up and Finn’s gone, the door’s being pulled shut. It takes me a moment before I realise I’m gasping for breath, my eyes pricked with tears.
The next thing I know, I’m in my room, and Kat’s on the bed, smoke pouring out her lips.
‘What the fuck happened?’ she asks bluntly, as I stand there wordless. Sighing, she somewhat elegantly removes herself from the bed and walks towards the door. She pauses in front of me, and I can’t quite decide if the look on her face is amusement or pity. Placing her hand lightly on my cheek, a wan smile is given, followed by a ‘be careful.’
Then she’s gone, and I go to the bed, curl up, and wonder, as I inhale the lingering smoke, why I’m not crying.