i’m sitting in the tree house that my father made for me when i was a kid. leaning against the sturdy tree trunk — one that’s been growing and thriving and alive for longer than i’ve existed — i feel the dips of the bark pressing against my spine. it’s God’s fingerprint on his creation. an artist mark.
k is on the floor, her legs crossed. she has a pack of playing cards with her and is laying them out on the mossy slats of wood. “this one is q,” she announces, setting the king of diamonds next to the queen of the same suit. she shoots a smug smile at b, who is hugging herself and staring into space. “the queen is you.”
b blinks. “really?” she laughs, her pale cheeks flushing red. then she points at the king and queen of hearts and suggests, “then these are you and t.”
a smile breaks out on k’s face. one flickers over my lips, as well. there’s something about seeing my friends happy over simple things that makes me think the world isn’t all bad.
k sticks her tongue out at b. with mischief sparkling in those clear cerulean eyes of hers, she settles her gaze on me. a joker card is pinched between her fingers. “this one is you, loren.” she casts it off to the side. “sorry, but your love isn’t coming back.” she laughs and gives me a sympathetic look.
i know she’s joking.
and i know that i’m a joke.
of course i’m the joker, and everyone else are the queens.
jokes always have a bit of truth to them. that’s why i’m the most fun to tease. everything about me can be turned into something for others to laugh at, and i won’t stand up for myself. why should i? it’s just a joke.
my friends are singing softly, smiling at their hands as the words leave their mouths and spiral through the air.
“cause all of me loves all of you. love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections”
they don’t sound perfect. but they sound real. real and deeply in love and daydreaming of someone that makes them feel something sought after by the whole world. the memories playing through their heads and the names written on their hearts may be different, but the feeling they’re pouring into the song is the same.
once they finish, a breeze rushes through the delicate leaves of the tree. it sounds like the earth is applauding.
with a faraway expression one k’s pixie-esque features, she tilts her head up at me. “come on, loren, won’t you sing something for us?” she asks.
a hundred songs race through my head, filling me with a sea of notes and favorite lyrics. but they feel too secret to share, as if opening my mouth will unleash all the memories and feelings and ideas attached to each song. the music is woven into my soul.
“i can’t think of a song. sorry.”
my friends shrug and pick a new song to sing.
the sun is going down. pastel shades of pink and orange and yellow creep along the horizon. it’s warm and the crickets are joining the melody and the stars i hung on the tree’s branches are beginning to glow.
it’s a perfect moment. but i wish you were here.
my friends are in love and the sky is a masterpiece and i am lonely.