A Friday Afternoon in Spring

by Madeleine Luntley
age 17, Webber Academy, Calgary, Alberta

插图 Wales

We went to see a movie one Friday afternoon. It was spring; there was no snow on the ground, but I was still cold. I don’t remember many other details. Whether the movie was good or bad, whether the theater was crowded or not, I couldn’t say — I only remember that it was a Friday because we had a half-day at school, and we only ever get half-days on Fridays.

When I’m nervous, unlike most people, my hands don’t get sweaty; they just get cold, clammy, and a chill spreads throughout my entire body until I can scarcely draw a breath, engulfed in frigid paralysis. We were walking a knife’s edge that day, on either side of the knife unspoken emotions, the air between us tense with timorous anticipation. One wrong word, one misstep, and we were liable to tumble into the vast unknown. I was freezing.

I don’t remember the movie because I was focused on a hand, inches from mine, occasionally moving to dip into the popcorn we were sharing, salt and butter coating pale fingertips. I longed to take that hand in my own, but I didn’t; I kept rubbing my palms against my dark-wash jeans, trying to heat up my hands, my arms, my chest, with some small morsel of friction.

We sat in the car a while after the movie. The late day sun fell through the windshield, striking her skin and bathing it in white-wine light, and she was radiant. An old ballad filtered through the speakers, a fifties star singing about a woman in a velvet voice existing in stark dichotomy to what was happening between us.

In the end, it was her who grabbed my hand and jumped off that precarious edge we had been tiptoeing along for what felt like an eternity, throwing caution into Zephyrus’s hands. With those juvenile words everyone longs to hear in their melodramatic adolescence, when they are an insecure, doe-eyed high-school student, we fell.

“I like you.”

She whispered it like one would whisper a secret under the cover of darkness, tenebrous night making the speaker confident. The words fell heavy onto my ears, the weight of their implication pressing onto my chest, combining with the ice in my body, stealing the air from my lungs.

I was terrified.

I was terrified because I was abnormal, because no one really told me as a kid that girls can like girls and boys can like boys, and because my first kiss was followed with a slap to the face after the girl realized that I wasn’t joking, and God, what were people going to say? What would my parents say? I was terrified, so I didn’t reply. We sat in silence, listening to that balladeer croon about being rejected once again. I got out of her car after the song finished and went home.

Whenever I spoke to her after that, my hands were cold.

Her vulnerability that day was a double-edged sword, and we both ended up bloody. Leaving her words unacknowledged felt like leaving an open wound to fester. Neither of us, however, were willing to speak. We acted like nothing had happened at all, making snide remarks about everyday happenings, gossiping innocently about school goings-on. But, it was a kind of breathless normalcy — we were just waiting, waiting for a time when we were old enough, brave enough, to meet her confession head-on.

If she were a boy, I might have kissed her that spring Friday in her car. My hands might have been warm as I drove home.