“What are you drinking?” the strange girl asked. Shao turned his head slightly, a curtain of dreads covering most of his face. He sat on the edge of the dock, a bit tipsy from his drink. The dark water of the lagoon lay before him almost black from the night sky.
“The tears of small children, want to try?” Shao quipped, dryly looking up at the girl standing above him. He had seen her before in school: their eyes always met across hallways and classrooms but never lingered for long. She refused to meet his eye for long, it seemed everyone was afraid to look at him now.
The people at school were afraid they would see the angry fire burning underneath the surface again, afraid it would explode.
The girl had a young but strange face, not one you wrote poetry about, but the type that made you look closer to see the spectacle. Her almond eyes were lined in black eyeliner and her dark red lips were chapped and bitten. She stood there fidgeting, pushing her hair behind her ear. Shao wondered what she was so nervous about.
“I think that should be your next band name,” she joked, giving a breathy laugh. It was an okay quip but Simon just stared at her. Not many approached him, not because he was rude, but because he was just intimidating. He carried himself with confidence and had the quick intelligence that made you feel like an idiot in comparison. His piercing brown eyes assessed you like a bug under a microscope.
“I’ll keep it in mind. Want a shot?” Shao asked pulling on his beaded bracelet.
“Umm… no thanks. I’m a straight edge,” she stated pointing at the Straight Edge pin on her black shirt. Along with it, she wore a gray skirt and bulky shoes that added an inch to her already impressive height.
“I commend you, I don’t think I could handle this party sober.” Shao tugged her hand, feeling its warmth. “Sit down here I hate looking up.” The girl sat down next to him and Simon admired the sheen of sweat on her neck from the humid air.
“So, what is your name again?” Shao asked cringing at how rude he must have sounded. He knew her name, but he knew her face. He could see visions of tan skin underneath his dark hands and her laughter against his ear.
But like everything from that night, those visions faded, his body not remembering what his heart knew to be true.
“Alexia,” she said looking at the water, the moonlight reflecting across her face. She didn’t hold shadows behind her eyes like everyone else did when they talked to him. No, her eyes were open but guarded her hand shaking slightly.
“Parker. Shao Parker,” he chuckled at the James Bond reference. Alexia smiled with fondness, Shao wondered how she could look at her like that with such warmth without even knowing her, and then again maybe she did. He felt jealous: he had never been able to emit such warmth.
There in the night sky sat the girl that warmed the earth and the boy who made it cold.
“So I’m really bad at conversations, I hate small talk and I don’t know how to start talking about the important things,” Alexia shrugged embarrassedly. Suddenly Shao knew exactly why Alexia was always alone. Maybe they were more similar than he thought, trying to blend into the shadows. But people probably felt awkward around Alexia; they were afraid of Shao.
Alexia bit her already tortured lips and Shao wondered what they would feel like against his skin.
“Who says we need to talk? We could just fuck,” Shao deadpanned. Alexia looked up from her list eyes wide. She looked so shocked. Shao was about to laugh but her next words made everything stop.
“We kind of already did…” Alexia whispered vulnerably, curling into herself, disappearing until the world couldn’t see her. Shao felt a pang in his chest. He felt this strange girl’s sadness but it all seemed like a ghost of a memory. His fingers desperate to grasp it but always coming up empty-handed.
“Well damn you’re pretty hot, hope it actually meant something. Everything feels like such bullshit.” Shao hated how the lie weighed on his tongue. Alexia wasn’t hot: that word was not nearly enough to describe her. If any other guy had looked at her, he probably wouldn’t have given a second look, her body was curvy and thick, awkward in its presence.
But something about Alexia was like art, he couldn’t look away, he wanted to breathe Alexia in and hold her in his lungs.
“Sometimes it felt like it meant everything,” Alexia said with a small smile on her face. Shao wanted to take all the memory out of her mind and dump it in his so he could be the guy she saw in her head. They both hated feeling so lost.
“What’s it like to kiss me?” Shao asked, a smirk lingering on his face.
“It felt like drowning. Like I couldn’t feel anything else,” Alexia whispered. Shao thought about how he didn’t want to make her suffocate but Alexia still had that smile on her face.
“I’m sorry I don’t remember you,” Shao whispered picking at the scab on his hand.
“It’s okay Shao,” Alexia soothed, caressing the scars littering my arms. “It’s gonna be okay,” he could see her hand trying to make everything fine with one touch.
Caramel hands on his black skin filling him with warmth.
Shao wanted to cry, he felt like he was stumbling around in the dark. How could he not remember this girl? He could see Alexia held universes of emotions inside one body: the girl with the world on her tongue. But he felt so hollow so empty. Shao took a swig of his drink feeling the burn down his throat.
“Shit,” Alexia suddenly muttered, running her fingers through her dark chocolate hair.
“I gotta go. I’m so late,” she said, rushing up, breaking the world the two were living in. She rushed back down the dock but turned around and said “don’t forget about me again” with a wink and a smile on her face.
Shao smiled against his palm and wondered if Alexia knew she had just saved him. Before she had arrived she could see Shao’s destructive thoughts circling in his mind. Plans to jump into the black lagoon and sink into darkness. Shao wondered if she had ever contemplated the peace and silence of oblivion.
If Alexia had ever felt like a balloon ready to burst at the slightest pressure and if Alexia realized he would have jumped if her almond eyes hadn’t distracted him. Shao lit a cigarette and let the smoke curl around his throat, no longer hoping his next breath would be his last.