He’s small and skinny when I first meet him. There’s not an ounce of heart in his eyes and no sign of a flush colouring the pale, unblemished skin that coats his bones, but I’m no judger of appearances. How can I be, with hair the colour of mint ice-cream so pleasurable on a hot day it’d be a sin, a sun-baked tan body and three piercings, all in questionable places?
But he’s small and skinny when I first meet him, and when I last see him, lying in a coffin with hands clasped to the front, prosthetic leg covered neatly by a charcoal-gray pant leg, he’s thick—thickened with muscle. I can tell that his eyes are more alive than they ever were, holding more heart than they ever had since the time I first met him. ‘Cause he fell with his eyes open and that’s the way he was buried.
Taking a first look at him back when he was small and skinny, you’d suspect he was just one of those kids who lived down the block and who had no girlfriend and no siblings to speak of, just a plain young boy living in scruffy sneakers and jeans edged with scruff and too-long hair that acted as dandruff curtains sweeping his eyes. Not a good look for a boy, but he wasn’t any kind of boy.
He wasn’t just that kind of guy. He was actually a huge surprise.
He was a surprise when he was born; ‘first slid out of his mother’s womb. He wasn’t a planned child and hence, even after his birth, remained an unplanned burden of his biological mother’s. She gave him up. That was in the plan as soon as she saw his face and his little body—instead of thinking about the times they’d share together, she thought about the expenses saved if they were lived apart, as soon as the umbilical cord was spliced and his connection to his mother was gone forever.
He was small and skinny the second time I met him. We met in a shed, at a party—our mutual friend Davis thought that holding parties in the shed was all things Great and Rad and Cool and Hip. I went because I’d wanted to treat myself. A week of tests was over, and I wanted to get drunk. I wanted illegal drink to burn down my throat and the feel of others’ lips on me burn through my skin.
I spotted him huddled in the quietest corner of the shed. Shed-parties were squeezy and too warm, and he was wearing a sweater. It reached til his jean-clad thighs and I threw away my cup of drink before sauntering over, chuckling, bubbly laughter flowing out of all my holes—
“Why’re you wearing this? Are you dumb?”
He just stared at me with those owlish, enlarged eyes, and didn’t speak. My eyes trailed from his face to his lips and they quirked in a smirk, as if proud that he hadn’t answered my question.
Idiot. His lips were pink and his flesh was so pale it seemed tinged pink, too.
I turned away from the small, skinny boy. I was looking for someone else, someone with hungrier lips and hungrier eyes and a hungrier heart. The drink wasn’t enough to fully consume me; I needed a stronger intoxication. That scared me.
It was then when he spoke. “Don’t you think it looks good on me?”
Well, I only saw him for a total of three times, and in fact, I didn’t know his name until the third time I saw him—he was in his coffin and no longer a small, skinny boy. It had been fifteen years since he asked me that question, and I could finally answer.
I glared down at this boy, once small, skinny, now lying pressed in a suit with hands clasped over and flower petals paler than his complexion. I hadn’t known his name but apparently he’d known mine, because I got invited to his funeral.
“Yes, you idiot. I do think that you look nice in that big sweater of yours.”
I fully intended to leave the venue, but I took one last look at him and muttered his name in the darkest tone I could muster. I turned to leave and knowing that despite attending the funeral, his name would be lost in my mind, somewhere far, far away—and he sat up.
He sat up. In his bloody coffin. And without a word, stepped out of it, my mouth still agape, and smirked. “I look good in my skin, don’t I?” He peeled it off and there stood the smallest, skinniest boy I’d ever seen.