On Fanta Peak

Everyone around me is crying. The soft background noise of sniffling and tissues crumpling is the only thing keeping me in my seat as some old woman sobs at the pulpit. My tie is choking me. I only wore it because Matt told me to; he has the same one. Black, the color of mourning. I can feel his leg trembling against mine.

I turn and look at him, but he doesn’t seem to see me. I take in the pile of used tissues sitting off to his other side and the water stains on his new slacks. He’s looking straight ahead, but I don’t think he’s really listening to the woman.

I try and think of what Matt does to calm me down when I’m upset. I’m not sure what to do because he isn’t yelling and he hasn’t broken anything, but he still seems upset. When I’m upset he just talks. He talks to me until I’m sane again. He always touches me softly. I think it helps him more than it helps me. I’ve never been in his position before. He’s never looked like this before. I study him again, he’s normally so full of life but now he just seems . . . lost. My brain panics a little at the thought of him staying like this. What will happen the next time someone upsets me, if he’s not there to talk me sane again? He can’t stay like this. I knew I never liked Stacy.

I hesitantly reach out and touch his leg softly. Surprised, he looks at me and whispers, “Daniel, you alright?”

I think about my answer for a moment; I could say so many things that I don’t really feel. But as I think about the last few days, I get lost in my memory.

I remember everything so clearly. It all started on a Monday, pretty typical now that I think about it, that my life goes to hell starting on a Monday. It was early, before school even started, when Matt called me.

“Daniel, you’ll never guess what happened! Remember that really cute girl that I’ve been in love with, for like ever? Stacy?”

“Uh huh.” I’ve been hearing about Stacy for like seven years. The topic doesn’t interest me. Maybe that makes me a bad best friend. I don’t know, but it’s true. I just don’t care.

“We hung out last night . . . and now we’re dating!”

“No way, man. That’s sick. Really, but look I’ve got to get dressed for school or I’ll be late. I’ll see you in a bit, yeah?” I say as I head out the front door.

That’s how it all starts. On Sunday you’re best friends. Monday he’s dating someone. By Tuesday he’s stopped answering your calls. Then he stops coming over because apparently this chick is more interesting than 15 years of friendship.

I honestly tried to calm myself down. Every day Matt didn’t come over I moved one of my many fish into a little bowl and poured in a little bleach. It’s funny how soothing it is to watch the wriggling body. They die fast but not too fast. First, they lose a little strength—then a little more until the float uselessly upside down. Soon I had to take the plastic bag full of little skeletons out; that’s when I saw my hands trembled. This is why Matt can’t be with stupid Stacy. It isn’t right for my hands to tremble.

On Saturday night, it’s me, Matt, Stacy, and Stacy’s best friend—Terry? Mary? —watching the sunset on Fanta Peak. The colors blend and swirl together as the light fades. It could be considered romantic. Matt and Stacy act like it is. I see them out of the corner of my eye, fingers interlocked and googly-eyed looks passing between the two.

I feel the jealousy rise in my chest. It burns. I’ve never felt anything so strong. It feels good to feel, to really feel.

He’s mine, not yours, Stacy.

The sun finally sets. On Fanta Peak after the sun sets and the moon and stars shine, it’s bright enough to see without a flashlight. But tonight, there’s only clouds and darkness.

I whisper in—Terry’s? Mary’s?—ear, “Wouldn’t it be perfect to play hide-and-go-seek tag right now?”

She looks back at me, trying to see if I’m serious.

“It’d be a great opportunity for Matt and Stacy, if you know what I mean.”

“Sure, I guess you’re right,” she whispers back. Then louder she suggests the game to the others.

They agree. And I volunteer to be it first. I leave my eyes open a slit and slowly count to 20.

Slowly I check under bushes and around trees. I can hear Matt’s breathing. The clouds part for a moment letting in enough moonlight to see what I was looking for: Stacy’s bright hair clip. She’s behind a pine tree, the closest tree to the edge. Silently I laugh; it’s like she knew.

I make my way towards her, still checking under bushes so she doesn’t know my real destination. I started to move big rocks around, on the off chance that someone was hiding behind one. I move a large one to the side of Stacy’s tree. And I go around the other side.

She stares at me for a moment, looking for a way past me. But she won’t get past me because I already blocked off her only other exit. There’s no reason to prolong this, so I walk towards her. She takes a couple of steps back. Pebbles slip off the edge. She stops and looks at me. I can see the concern in her eyes.

“Daniel, stop. There’s no more room.”

I don’t stop. In fact, I walk a little faster.

“Daniel, seriously, this isn’t funny. It’s just a game.” She puts her arm out in front of her. “Here, just tag me. You win.”

I reach for her arm but not to tag her. Instead I give her a little push. It’s too dark to see much, mostly I just hear. More rocks slide, bigger this time. I don’t even hear them hit the bottom. Stacy lets out a little gasp.

In a moment of weakness, I reach out and grab her hand. She’s dangling over the side, and I’m lying on my chest.

“Daniel, please. Daniel, please. Help me, please.” She says over and over. I almost wish she would scream, she looks pathetic. How could Matt like her? She doesn’t even realize what she’s done to me. She took away my best friend. My only friend. Matt is the only thing that keeps me sane. He understands me when no one else does. Not even my parents nor my therapist. He knows how I get sometimes, and he knows how to calm me down. Without him I’m not myself. I need him, and she took him away from me.

The clouds part again, the moonlight reflecting off her hair clip allowing me to see the fear in her eyes. I look right into them, and slowly, ever so slowly, loosen my grip.

The sound of crying fills my ears again as the memory fades. I look back at Matt, remembering his question. His eyes look concerned so I decide to tell him the truth. “Yeah, Matt. I’m fine.” I don’t ask him how he is.