(images by Kelly)
You go places, lengths that people normally won't go.
You look so sure, like there was a checklist of awesome that you had with you, loving life the way you did.
Keep moving forward, you almost said with the way you act, like you were certain that the future has something good in store for you, and that it was only a matter of time before you get to each one.
You weren't wrong.
"What do you think you are?"
"...a guy riding a horse?"
I laughed. "All you need is a cape and a costume and a sword. You'd be a funny prince."
He pouted. "I wasn't trying to be one..."
I shake my head as I cross my arms over my chest, surveying him.
"Besides, a prince needs a damsel in distress. Or a dragon to slay or something," he mumbles.
"Sorry I ran out of dragons. Where do you suggest we find your damsel in distress then?"
Then he looks at me, straight in the eye. Sitting on top of the horse made him taller than he already was.
"You don't need saving, but I'll take the damsel if she lets me."
He gallops away before I could breathe past the choking sound that came from my throat or think of a fitting reply.
"That was really cheesy you know!" I shouted out at him as he galloped farther away.
I could hear him laugh though.
I could also almost swear the horse neighed in this weird laughing sound.
You are so, so crazy.
You could have hurt yourself.
Broken a leg or an arm or a rib or cracked your head or smashed your face--
There you stand, stupid handsome smile on your face.
There was a broken bouquet of flowers in your hand, and you hide behind them insisting they looked alive enough before you squashed them into your backpack.
I took them anyway, so I could see your stupid face again.
Stupid, attractive smile.
They were there, draped over the back of the couch. Like a second skin, hiding sin and salvation in so many beautifully mysterious ways.
I don't know if I love them more on you or hanging over the back of the couch or bunched up on the floor or freshly laundered or slowly slipping off with the belt buckle hanging open.
I really love those jeans.
He immediately lets go of the (itchy) cravat at his neck and frowns (it's almost a pout, but he insists that he is already an adult, so other people call it his "frowning cutely" face behind his back. It doesn't have the desired effect, but it is effective in so many other ways.)
"If they call it dressy clothes, they should feel less like a straightjacket," he complains, thinking longingly of long ratty shirts and baggy sweatpants.
"No pain, no gain." his friend had said with a laugh, clapping him in the back. He stretches his shoulders restlessly, a ball of energy underneath all the fancy fabric. A child in the cusp of adulthood, almost there but not really quite... there.
"Why are you doing this?" he asks, but he knows perfectly well.
"Because I love the woman that would be walking down the aisle towards me and I couldn't imagine my life without her?" his friend has answered. It sounded like a question, but the tone suggested that his friend was never more sure about anything in his life than this.
He wished he had that.
He grumbles a little as he feels the starch on his shirt cling to each sweatdrop his body produces. "I don't understand the fuss of everything. Just elope or something. Do you enjoy torturing your friends?"
The groom laughed in response.
"Yes, I'm marrying the love of my life to have your uncomfortable faces in my wedding album."
"I am making you my best man in my wedding so I can do the same thing to you."
"You have to have a partner first; I think there are laws that don't allow you to marry yourself--"
"Oh shut up. We'll meet. And I can make you wear a stupid, itchy cravat too."
"Just. Please don't fidget too much later. Or worse, drop the rings."
He loved weddings, really. He just didn't like overstarched shirts.
Later they had to explain to him why he couldn't catch the bouquet with the rest. He pulled his "frowning cutely" face.
It changes to "blushing so brightly he looked like a tomato" face later though, when the garter was all but flung at his direction.
You were so brave, offering those little pieces of future cavities to kids you barely knew.
But it wasn't the trips to the dentist that the other kids they saw.
It was the promise of good stories and people to share them with.
A promise of friendship.
He was the magical fairy kid with the bag of candies.
They were more than candies.
He was scared of vampires.
Maybe there was some really weird comic books when he was a kid, but somehow he thought that when people wore braces it was to keep the bloodsucking fangs from the ordinary humans.
But there was this girl that made him believe that behind the mass of rubber and metal and patience and lovingly cooked meals was a smile worth keeping.
I stared at him in disbelief, his hands in his pockets as he hung around near the insect cages.
"You prefer beetles to a perfectly cute bunny?"
"It has large ears!" he said lamely, still standing a safe distance away from me as I cradled the baby rabbit in my arms.
"You act like this one," I remark, watching it stretch and bury its furry face in its paws.
"What, do I piss a lot and smell bad?"
"No, but you both eat a lot of vegetables."
"I care for my health and nutrition, sorry if that bothers you," he says stiffly. I reply by dumping the baby rabbit into his arms and watch him panic yet holding the baby with gentle arms. He was hopping around the pet shop like the metaphorical rabbit that he was chasing after me, whispering bloody murder at me under his breath for fear the rabbit might wake up and... do rabbit stuff.
Yeah, he's going to be a great father.
"YOU'RE A MODEL--"
She is immediately silenced by his hand over her mouth, shooting her a silent, meaningful look.
"Either you pipe down calmly or bite my hand off before I remove it. I personally prefer the first option."
She answers with a dirty look and nods, sighing against his palm before he took his hand away. He wiped it against his jeans.
"Save the drooling for when you see me on the magazine," he says lightly, and was rewarded with a hard punch at his arm.
"OW! What was that for?!"
"I didn't drool on your hand!" she said indignantly. "And I won't drool on you, I see you everyday and I'd rather barf."
"Hey!" he protested, looking injured. She ignored his kicked puppy face and looked down at the magazine. She saw it open on the magazine stand and happened to see his picture.
Not that she would instantly recognize who it was, she didn't have his face memorized that well yet--
"You're a model. Wow." she said, letting a little of the amazement and pride (and maybe a little bit of something else that shall remain unnamed) creep into her voice.
"I know... I can finally look cool," he said, sounding clearly embarrassed.
"You look pretty good on a normal basis... you'll be fine, I'm sure of it," she said, and looks up to find him staring at her.
No she hasn't really memorized his face yet.
She adds one more detail into her file: the way his face slowly flushes red when he blushes.
He looks through the lens, putting to perspective the world around him. People often shake their heads at him when they see him with his camera.
"He's so pitiful."
"He looks so sad."
"He must be so lonely."
He raises his camera to his eye again silently. Framing the picture, adjusting the lens, looking through his viewfinder. Taking a piece of the world as he sees it, then making it his own.
A laughing baby as she takes her first steps through the park.
A crying boy that accidentally dumps his ice cream cone to the ground.
A balloon without an owner, floating away.
A paper airplane landing on a bird bath, thankfully dry.
Holding hands tucked into coat pockets.
He sees the pictures he takes and laughs to himself. Sure he looks sad and stupid sometimes (a lot), but that was okay.
He was never lonely. Just alone. Sometimes, that was okay too.
He looks on under the developing fluid as another piece of the world shows into focus. Falling leaves of a tree, blown by a gentle breeze.
There were more pictures than he can take, yet more photographs to be taken. Another day, another life, another existence.
He looks around and smiles. Anyone who said he cannot see the world as something to make money off from would be very wrong.
He was there, collecting memories. Fragments of the world. For taking pictures is like collecting little pieces of the universe for yourself, as you see it, for the others to see it the way you do too.
To collect photographs is to collect the world.
Look at you, with your headphones on, an almost permanent feature that if anyone painted your portrait they'd put it in, with you wearing it over your ears or around your neck. You said you love looking for new tunes, beats that would make you nod your head and tap your hands on your thighs (or on anything like you usually do) and hum the tune to yourself.
You said that recently you started paying more attention to the lyrics, pullling out the lyrics booklets when you buy CDs and having a quiet moment by yourself as you listen. You tried writing your own songs as well, and you loved it.
Some songs, you find. Some songs, they find you.
There are a million perfect lines that you have yet to hear. Some, you will probably never hear. But know this: you'll find quite a few that would mean the world to you someday.
A plate was pushed to his chest.
"Eat." the girl ordered. Her voice was shaking.
A smirk. A step closer.
"What if I didn't want to?"
She pushes him away, turning to leave.
He knows she will come back soon.
"At least wear a shirt," she said darkly, stalking off into the big house, empty but for him and her.
He follows her a few minutes later, murmuring apologies. She forgives him (she can't stay angry at him for long) and buries her face in his chest, her forehead resting on his collarbone. His body has different planes and angles, places she had explored in content.
The both of them had places they'd like to be. But for now, in each other's arms, they were where they wanted to be.
"Ice cream!" he pointed out excitedly, running towards the kiosk. He pulled out his wallet, face falling when he realizes he didn't have enough.
"Here, I'll get it for you," she said, moving forward and paying for two cones.
"Thank you," he said, feeling embarrassed. She looked up at him and blushed, stumbling backward and almost tripping if he didn't catch her on time. She winced when she tried to put weight on her foot but stumbled, her face paling.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, leading her to a bench and helping her sit down.
"These heels hurt my feet," she muttered.
"Why did you wear them anyway? They look painful," he said.
"I wanted to look pretty for you..." she said
The next thing she knew, she held her her heels in one hand and wore his sneakers on her feet. He walked through the streets on his socks, his hand holding his ice cream cone and her hand on the other.
Too large sneakers, blistered feet and an ice cream cone.
Sounds like a good start.
I know words wouldn't be enough, but your mere existence makes the world a little brighter.
You're like a personal sun to some people, a star they can carry in their pockets and in their hearts. A smile, a laugh, a funny dance, an innocent comment, that sly look--
No wonder a lot of people fall in love with the idea of you.
I'm glad I met you, however weird or strange it might be.
I'm still really grateful I did.
"What does a kiss taste like?"
"...Oh. It must taste sour then?
You remember having this conversation when you were a child, and how from then on you learned that you had a lot to learn.
Like how sometimes kisses taste like first times and strawberry-flavored gum, stolen behind the rafters of the school gym.
Or how it can taste totally icky, with pieces of sushi caught in between the metals of braces but you couldn't care less, too caught up in the moment.
Or of bitersweet goodbyes, of the cold coffee left sitting at the bottom of your coffee cup, long after the cafe door swung shut and leaving you alone.
Of "hello" and "nice to see you again", the lingering smell of last in-flight meals lingering in their hair with the scent that was hers alone as they stood frozen in the middle of bustling crowds in the airport. Frozen in the middle of people calling for their relatives and friends, looking for their loved ones.
They didn't need to do that anymore.
Tap tap goes his hands on his thighs, on the table, on every flat surface within reach. He was lost in his own world, the music in his head. Sometimes people would give him strange looks, but he never cared much if he looked strange to other people.
Tap tap goes her hand on his shoulder, a smile on her lips from watching him from afar before going closer. He stops and smiles up at her, his gaze a little unsteady as she tilts her head. Let's go, her actions said, and he nods.
Tap tap goes her heels on the pavement as she pretends to be impatient as she waits for him to gather his things. He looks up at her and pouts, and she stops and smiles as she tugs at his arm and they began to walk through the stalls of trinkets. There was a carnival in town.
Tap tap goes her finger on his arm as she points towards a stall and she pulls him towards it, buying identical bracelets for the both of them. It was a thin band of braided leather with a musical note charm hanging from it. She sings for him often, and he would listen with a soft smile on his lips, the gentlest expression on his face.
Tap tap goes their feet on the streets as they walk hand in hand, hears beating out a steady rhythm that they go by.
Tap tap goes them.
Says their hearts.
Over and over again. Without words. Yet they shout out, speak the truth that words cannot even begin to say.
Of love and the perfect song.
He watched his brother grow, a little curious and a little scared at first ("What if he takes all my toys?" "What if mommy and daddy don't love me anymore?").
One day he looked over his baby brother's crib and held his hand over the tiny bundle of clothes and warm skin, waving hesitantly. He watched as his brother opened his eyes, grabbed his finger, and gurgled out the cutest baby laugh he ever heard.
He never had to be scared again. From that laugh (and years later, over lego blocks and Jenga and asking love advice with a blush), he promised to be the best older brother he could be.
He had a lot of inside jokes, little things that made him laugh. When he was told to do his best, he would nod his head earnestly. When he laughs he does it with his whole body, shaking with obvious glee that anyone who sees him can't help but feel happy as well. With the zest of life that was definitely his, he takes his challenges head-on.
No one can stop him.
Once, he asked himself what he wanted to do. Moving on or stopping, either can be considered freedom. Once, he pushed himself too hard, then he realized that broken wings can't fly. So he stuffed his pockets with his hopes and went on against the headwind, flying earnestly towards his goals.
He didn't have to be afraid of falling and failing. Rising to the challenge, with his playful smile and hopes and dreams, he reaches for the stars.
He has a whirlwind romance with the world, yet he keeps himself grounded. Never forgetting where he came from, always looking forward and reaching for what he wanted to be.
He is all sorts of energy: sugar rush and caffeine overdose on two (very long) legs, he's like a shooting star.
He's serious, but he too has a face that he can only show to the world when the universe conspires to give him what he truly deserves.
Just like the rest of us.
You define love better than any dictionary can ever even begin to attempt.
So, I wouldn't even try.
A candle lit.
A song softly hummed.
A soft gust of air.
Sweet vanilla icing and dark chocolate cake.
That was all he needed.
Another year older.
Another year wiser.
Another year loved.