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Sing, pretty boy, sing

THERE is a quiet buzz around the smaller than usual room, almost a hush of words which encapsulate the intensity with which the people wait, the tension that seems to be furrowed under the cells of their skin. Nicotine stained lights scatter across space, illuminating the heads in the bobbing mass; the set is gloomy, which is contradicted by the hum which is emitted cheerily from the crowd, and the yellow light dances eerily to the rhythm of its movements. The people, they wait, a collectively massive beast, ready to devour.

She stands inconspicuously in the fourth row, not too far, not too near, a grey blip in the radar. No one notices as she rests on her tiptoes, her hands clasped together at times, but, mostly, the right knee buried in the palm of her left hand as she rubs the tip of her nose, brushing the delicate smoothness of the curve, trying to straighten the dip. Her nose bears the burden of a pair of power one glasses, a set of horizontal, glistening ovals. Indiscernible amongst the crowd, she dons a tee with a view of his stature against a black backdrop, leaving his face vulnerable to speculation. Her jeans are faded navy, the epitome of normality; on one hand she wears a silver wristwatch and on the other, a friendship band, blue. She waits too.

Yet, she is different. And she knows that.

There is a stage. It is barely lighted, a few green neon lights blinking his name, unlike the audience which seems to thrive in the mere possibility of his presence. It is elevated, and stands a few feet away from the railing which separates the audience from their dream. There is a set of instruments that are dispersed across its surface, and immaterial people walk around or along them, doing things to them, consequently emitting high-pitched noises and low-pitched whirrs, things none in the audience care about. They are cloaked in darkness, the light focusing mainly on the mass, its faint refractions barely making them out to be shadows of their own selves. They move about, robotic actions which speak of their adaptability to irrelevance. There is an exception among them: the mike stand; an electric guitar lies alongside it. It captures the attention of the eyes of most in the crowd, lids torn apart in wondrous expectation, unmoving.

She notices none of these. She doesn't care for the mike. She has her eyes on the door silhouetted at a deep subtle corner of the stage. And she blinks. She is different.

She came with a friend who pokes her every now and then, comments passed in breathy, loud whispers into her ear. She doesn't pay much attention to him; only hmms and uh-huhs escape her lips. She can't care much for what he has to say. For the moment, she belongs completely to the person she waits for.

The lights go out and for the tiniest moment, the crowd is completely silent. A golden spotlight emerges from a source unknown and lands on the door she has been staring at since the yawn of the evening. The door opens and the second the tip of his foot enters the stage, the crowd erupts in passionate screams of absolute love. The mass is wild now; hands go up in the air, grabbing for things they can never have. He wades in amidst the cheers, sliding across the smooth sheen of the stage, and ends up near the mike. His lips softly brush the silver of the microphone.

“How're you all doing tonight?”

The audience goes wild again. Shouts and screams and puppy dog dreams. The crowd surges forward and for a brief moment, its activities border on the edge of chaos. He speaks into the mike again, shushing, and they listen, giving into this apparition of their fantasies. The momentary push that she feels coming from behind her unsettles her for a moment and for the first time that night, her forehead cringes, a tense frown which reveals her worry. But it's a fleeting change, and her face reverts back to as serene as it once was, lips locked together, the only movement that of her finger on her nose.

The others continue to scream and shout. She smiles. She's different.

He bends down, picks up the guitar and slings it over one of his shoulders. The gray tee shirt he is dressed in is neither too tight nor too loose. It hugs the contours of his stature, wrinkling inwards under his arms. The pair of jeans he wears mimics hers, faded navy that clings to his legs. A halo of golden light encompasses him, shimmering him in glory in the midst of all the darkness. It reflects off of the sheen of his guitar. It is borne of a smooth surface, and gives off a brownish-red tint of a glare.

His hair is of gold, much like the light he bathes in. His face is chiseled to meet the perfect expectations the people he addresses. Good looks, as they say. Not too rugged, not too immature.

He is a god. And he sings.

And her mouth, it cannot hold on for much longer; it breaks free from its strict line. The smile bursts through, a perfect smile, a perfect set of upper teeth shines through. She breaks her pose, and looks up to this idol who now releases sound which soothes her ears, a voice that is heavy; heavy with visions of perfect love, and light with meaning.

She drowns in her admiration for him. She belongs to this god who resides in her heart, this pretty apparition so perfect; she loves him. She loves how he is on the stage, and out of it. Not like the people who surround her, her love is different: her love is true. With a smile she cannot stop and does not want to, a smile which resonates how happy she now is, like she's never been, giddy, she runs her hand through her hair, enlightened.

He sings and he sings, and with her mind on him so completely it hurts, she gives in to him. At that moment, she knows she will do anything to be his.

By S. N. Rasul

Eskimo friends

“What are you doing here?”

He cranes his neck, sideways, tousled hair flattened against the cold linoleum floor. Long legs bent at the knees, the sleeves of his hooded jacket pulled over his clenched knuckles. He watches, pupils dilating against the falling darkness of the winter twilight, as her bare feet come into view. He is surprised, but only barely, to see her next to him.

“It's cold,” she says, lowering herself to the ground, crossing her legs. The fabric of her jeans is slightly damp to the touch.

“Colder than cold,” he agrees, and they pass some moments in silence.

“So,” she starts again. “What are you doing here?”

“Clinging to the ground,” he says, lifting a shoulder in a shrug.

She scoffs, the sound meant to disguise her wry smile, but he catches the flash of her teeth in the darkness that is now lying thick on the ground.

“Ground-clinging is no fun,” she harrumphs.

“Your face is no fun.”

“You did not just go there.”

He turns on his side, propping his head up with his arm. She tosses her hair in indignation, but he catches the strand that falls across her face and tucks it behind her ear.

“You're not wearing socks,” he notices.

“I'm not?” she looks down, absently, and wiggles her toes.

“You're just asking for Mr. Rhino Virus to come get you, you know.”

“Ack, Mr. Rhino V and I are old friends.”

She stretches out now, jeans-clad legs unfolding, arranging the length of her on the cold floor. She lifts her head, sweeping the mane of hair from underneath her and wrapping it in a loose knot, and they look at each other and their eyes find the familiar moles and bumps that despite the darkness are as apparent as daylight.

“You're cold,” he remarks, after a while.

“I knew I was born with a heart three sizes too small but gosh, you don't need to rub it in you know.”

“I love it when you agree with me.”

She glares at him, her eyes slits behind her glasses.

“You know what?” she says, jabbing a ringed finger into the soft flesh of his belly.

“Ouch,” he winces. “What?”

“You're a gooberface.”

“That's not even a word.”

“I just made it one.”

She turns around, her back to him, harrumphing again. He sees the muscles quiver under her sweater and smiles.

“Give up already, I know you're laughing.”

“I am not laughing,” she insists, and then an explosive snort ripples across the still air.

She turns around. “Fine, I was laughing.”

He grins, wider now, and sits up. She turns around, facing him again. He peels off the sweatshirt, the heavy fabric clinging stubbornly to the shirt underneath, and passes it to her. She puts it on, wordlessly, three sizes too big.

“That's better,” he says, not meaning the sweatshirt at all. She shakes her head at him.

“You're a lecherous old man.”

“Hey!” now it is his turn to be indignant. “I object to that!”

“To what, the old or the lecherous?”

“I'm not lecherous,” he says, putting on the best lecherously lascivious voice he can muster. He inches closer to her. His elbow scrapes the curve of her shoulder, the knot of hair tickling the exposed skin of his arm. “Who says I'm lecherous? I just think you look particularly attractive tonight.”

She looks up at him. He looks down at her. She unfurls a finger and squashes his nose.

“You always did look slightly Oriental from this angle,” she says.

He bows his head, eyes downcast. “Just say it. You think I'm ugly.” He sniffles, loudly.

For a moment she looks faintly bewildered, but his shoulders start to quake and her face breaks out in another smile and they are united in mirthful laughter.

“You crack me up,” she says, sucking in air to catch her breath. He grins, not modest at all, and rolls onto his back again.

“This ground-clinging thing you do…” she begins.

“What about it?”

She shakes her head. “I don't like seeing you down, down, down.”

He smiles. He cannot help it. “You just know me like that.”

“How could I not? You spend almost all of always with me.”

“You say it like it's a bad thing,” he says, a dramatic tinge to his words.

She pretends to consider it.

“I knew it.” He draws up his knees, curling up into a fetal position. “You just don't want to be my friend anymore.”

“What?” she exclaims. “That's not what I meant at all.”

“I know.” He reaches out, scraping a finger along the skin of her wrist, and she turns her head as the blush starts blooming across her face. “You're my Eskimo friend, after all.”

“Eskimo friend,” she mutters under her breath, and almost falls headlong into the hollow of him when the phone in the hallway starts to ring. “I'll get that,” she says, standing up, shaking her foot to loosen the hand that is clasped around her ankle. “Let me go, it might be,” and as his fingers detach themselves she shuffles off into the hall. He hears the phone coming off the receiver, the faint creak of particleboard as she leans against the bookshelf. “Hello, oh, hello dear, no, we weren't doing anything at all, no, no, your father was just being ridiculous again…”



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