August & Lane

They sat side by side on August’s bed, close enough so that the sides of their shoulders and legs and hips were pressed together. August’s left hand was in both of Lane’s.
August felt something building in the air around her and Lane, but she couldn’t quite place what it was. She let it build instead of filling the silence like she normally tended to do.

“You told me you used to draw,” Lane said to August. Whatever was in the air did not dissolve, thickening slightly and making its way down August’s throat and into her lungs. A weight sat in her chest as she responded, avoiding Lane by keeping her chin down.

“Yeah. Why?” she asked.

Lane let the moment come down to a silence, then broke it with a question. “Have you tried since . . . you know?” Hesitation was present in his tone. The weight grew heavier in August’s chest now. She let the question sit a while, squeezing at Lane’s fingers when she decided to answer, then letting go.

“I’ve tried.” From the tone of her voice, it didn’t take long for Lane to realize that August had been disappointed by her past attempts. He frankly felt stupid for even asking in the first place, wishing he could take back the question. She was blind, after all. But he couldn’t simply change the subject—especially since he was genuinely curious to know the answer, and more importantly, to see her art.

“Can I see—I mean—Do you want to show me?” Lane asked. “Your old stuff? Did you keep it all?”

August decided to finally face Lane. She felt the warmth in the closeness of his face, moving back slightly to put some space between them. It was hard to think clearly when she was that close to him, but what she felt from it was a pleasant fuzz. Still, she backed away a little more, leaning back on the palms of her hands against the bed behind her.

“Of course I kept it all,” August said plainly. “It’s my art. Or it was my art, I mean.”

Lane’s eyebrows knitted together. “It’s still your art, you know,” he murmured.

August putting her art in the past tense saddened Lane. But then he noticed how she didn’t answer his first question. He wanted to let it slide, not wanting to upset her, but he was exceptionally eager to see her art. She’d talked about it before, and he wanted to picture it clearly in his mind.

“Am I allowed to see?” August thought about it for a second, asking herself why she was so insecure about her art when she knew how good it was before— when she was able to see it.

She felt that Lane was holding his breath. It caused her to hold her breath, too, until she released it and responded to Lane. “Okay.”

August felt Lane straighten up-- in excitement, she assumed, the mattress bouncing slightly under them. “Really?” he asked her brightly. She heard the smile in his voice and wished she could see it. She always imagined it was wide and goofy and beautiful.

“Yes,” she said. The word came out in a nervous sigh, but it was tinged with a surprising dose of excitement. Normally, her anxiety trumped her pleasure in doing new things. She hadn’t let anybody see her art since the accident.

“Do you want me to help you grab it?” Lane offered.

August began to stand up from the bed, pushing herself off. “I’ll let you know,” she told him. Lane watched her as she walked away from the bed and towards her closet. He was fascinated by how she knew where everything was regardless of the fact that she didn’t have her sight anymore. He figured it was stupid to be fascinated by it since she had been blind for well over a year and was obliged to herself to learn how to navigate the world without seeing it—even a world as small as her bedroom. But still, he wondered to himself.

Lane continued to think about that concept. A world of darkness. Was August surrounded by darkness? Was it a blinding white? Maybe Lane would ask her someday. But even well over a year later since the accident, he knew that she hadn’t come to terms with this part of herself.

He directed his attention back to August, who had opened her closet and was kneeling down, leaning towards the very end of its interior. He observed the caution of her movements.

Lane began to lift himself from the bed, wishing to approach August, but he saw that her back straightened and her head moved to the side so that Lane could hear her when she spoke. “Stay there,” she said abruptly, panicked. But Lane watched a small smile draw the side of her mouth upwards. “I mean it.”

Lane smiled in response, leaning his back down against the headboard again. “Why are you smiling?”

August went back to handling her art. “Nothing,” she said. She hoped that Lane would love her art, but she attempted to prepare herself for any reaction, grabbing a few canvas pieces. She placed them beside her before reaching in again. She felt the smooth material of her art portfolio, grabbing it by the handle and pulling it out of the closet as well.

A wave of despondency washed over August when she remembered why she put this portfolio together. She heard Lane get up from the bed and walk towards her, reflexively holding the portfolio closer to her body. Immediately after, she put a hand on the canvases beside her. But she didn’t know why.

“What’s wrong?” Lane’s tone was sincere. It was always sincere. August wished she could wrap herself in it. She heard the swish of his sweatpants as he sat down in front of her; they were so close their knees touched. His hand hovered over her arm, ready to comfort.

August loosened her grip on her portfolio, placing it on the other side of her, where the canvases weren’t present. “I was supposed to use these pieces.” She put a hand on top of the portfolio so that Lane knew she was referring to the art it contained.

“Oh.” Lane had been told once by August that she wanted to apply to an art school, but after the accident, she saw no point, not even bothering with the application. He vividly remembered the day of the deadline and how morose August had been as it passed.

August sighed, moving to lift the art portfolio. Lane grabbed her wrist. “Wait,” he said. He felt her arm go stiff. “Please. I want you to talk to me about them.”

“I don’t have to keep them around to talk about them.”

“So inevitably,” Lane said, “that means you have to talk with me about them.” She made a sound of annoyance in defeat.

“Yup.” August heard another smile.

She stayed quiet for a few seconds, her wrist still in Lane’s hand. His grip loosened on it though, and her arm lowered with the portfolio into her lap. “What did you want to say?” she asked Lane.

“You can still get into that school if you tried,” he blurted. He immediately felt the air between them thicken, her body stiffening once more. “You can. But you’re scared, August. You’ve always been scared.”

“They’re not going to want this art,” she responded, already sounding defeated. And this was her problem, Lane thought to himself. “I made these when I had my eyes, Lane. You know it’s different now.”

“That doesn’t mean art without your eyes will be bad, August,” he said to her. “It may be a challenge, but no one ever said that it would be bad.”

“I say it will.”

“I say it won’t.”

“You’re being stupid.”

You’re being stubborn,” Lane said to her. “And you know it, too.”

There was a long silence, but still, August felt the warmth of Lane’s presence directly in front of her. She didn’t know why he didn’t just get up and leave when she was acting like a child who was throwing an eternal temper tantrum. The silence continued for a bit longer.

“I miss my eyes,” she said softly.

Lane didn’t say anything, instead deciding to lean forward and wrap his arms around August. He wrapped them over her shoulders and around her neck, squeezing her in a way he never had before. He moved closer, the art portfolio still between their bodies. August moved it aside before slowly wrapping her arms around Lane’s torso, pulling herself as close to his body as she could get. The bottom of her throat tightened, aching the way it did when she knew she was about to cry.

“I know you miss them,” Lane said. It was a simple acknowledgment: acknowledgment of her pain, her desolation, her struggle— all in only five words. And it was more comforting than anything else she had heard in the past year.

By Gwen Peralta

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