Silas is the Sun

ii. don’t mistake this for the beginning

There are two opposing moments of sincere anxiety for me when it comes to social situations: the one where I’m early and I have to wait for others to arrive, or the one where I’m late and I have to walk in on everyone already settled. Both are spotlights I prefer to avoid, but are also inevitable. It’s just a matter of picking my poison.

When I walk into the restaurant, Silas is seated at a booth, distracted by his phone so he doesn't notice me enter. I slide onto the bench across from him and he looks up, smacking me across the face with a smile that twists my intestines.

“Hey,” he says placing his phone face down, and shoving it away.

I’ll never tell him just how bad it gets. I’m not entirely sure who I’m protecting, me or him. Probably him (definitely him). I’ll hurt myself first, always. I used to joke that he was the masochist. Turns out I was wrong about that, too. I try to set boundaries, to help with the hurt. It doesn’t usually work.

That’s why I’m here, now, with him.

“I’m getting the wings,” he says after he's filmed through the menu without really looking at it. He decided on the wings before he’d even gotten there.

“Figures,” I mutter lowly. I’m grinning, have been since I arrived late to the table. I’m not surprised by the wings. He always get wings. They’re a go-to for him, his hamartia, if you will. I know this. I know lots of things about him, things I store inside myself like cancer. I like that it burns.

He says, “You should just buy an appetizer. Waste less food.”

I gape at him, a little offended he’d even suggest such a thing. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You don’t eat,” he says accusingly.

“I obviously eat,” I respond. “I don’t exactly look like someone who doesn’t.”

He rolls his eyes. Apparently only he gets to be self deprecating in this relationship. Non-relationship. Whatever the hell this is. Friendship is what he would call it. We’re friends, now. It’s been months, of course we’re friends.

“I’ve never seen you finish a meal,” he says. “Ever. Not even a thing of McDonald’s fries. Who can't finish McDonald’s fries?”

It takes all my strength not to cringe at the memory. Everything about the night in question was good, better than good even. That was one of the best nights of my life. Everything that followed, not so much. If he’s thinking about it, too, he doesn’t give anything away.

“I think I have an ulcer,” I tell him, which is only half true. It could be an ulcer but it’s also definitely just him. Silas, the distraction. Silas, who makes me lose my appetite and forget what sustenance actually is. Evidently, it’s not sharing the same air as him. Evidently, I can’t live off of that alone.

“You know there’s people who get paid to diagnose things like that,” he says with nothing but cheek.

“You know there’s this thing called your sass and it’s like not appreciated.”

He punches back with a smile, a well aimed shot that fires right through my sternum. It’s not a full one, so his eyes don’t get all squinty. It is my favorite when his eyes get all squinty. And now that he doesn’t need glasses anymore, all I get is a front row seat to it.

This smile is still just as good. I barely manage to remain unfazed by it. It’s not just the smile, but the combination of it all. The too big teeth, even bigger nose, unkempt slept-in hair, and scruffy beard. He always looks like he just rolled out of bed. It’s cute. He's cute. I’d never tell him this, though.

The waitress pulls up to our table, and I look away to give her my attention, thankful for the respite. It’s a lot, too much sometimes, having to watch him and having him watch me the whole time. I become conscious of everything I hate about myself and forget all the things I do like. I spend more time lifting my chin to keep the skin taut then I do eating my food.

Still I’ll never turn down dinner with him. Even when I’ve got less than thirty dollars to my name and a quarter tank of gas to get me through the work week. Even if it means setting plans I made months ago aside. Even if it means letting him fool me into believing this is more than what it actually is, giving me the kind of loose and fast hope that hits hard but never stays past midnight, when all the doubts come washing in like high tide.

I figured out quite early that his hamartia is wings and mine is him.

He orders himself a beer to go with his wings, extra blue cheese on the side, typically enough. I get a water with lemon and wings, too. I always get what he gets because I never actually look at the menu. I need the first ten minutes of dinner to reacquaint myself with him.

We'll probably share a dessert and I’ll eat the whip cream off the top of whatever it is. That’s how our dinners usually go, anyway. Maybe it sounds like this a date, but I know that it isn’t. Even if I so desperately want it to be.

“Are you going to eat your celery?” he asks after he’s finished his wings; I’m drinking from my glass of water, washing down the buffalo sauce, which is just a little too hot. The kick is good though, keeps me sharp. I shake my head as I swallow.

I say after, “Need something to accompany the blue cheese, huh.”

He makes a sound that shouldn’t be permissible in public. It hits me square in the face, leaves a smarting pain that reddens my cheeks. “I love blue cheese,” he says as he spoons it into his mouth with the celery stick, just shy of looking pornographic.

I’m all self control these days, a marksman of self control. If I were with him the way I want to be, I’d reach over and wipe the sauce off of the corner of his mouth. But as it stands, I’m not. So I keep my eyes on the table, my hands where I can see them, waiting till he figures it out, and wipes his mouth himself.

“So,” he starts to say but he’s still eating and has to pause. Honestly, it’s a gross sight. If it were anybody else, it would drive me up a wall. My brother talks while he’s chewing all the time, and it takes every nerve in my body to keep myself from punching him in the jaw. But Silas does it, and I can’t help but smile. He turns flaws into my favorites. Go figure.

The waitress comes over and asks if we’re okay. She’s drawing hearts around our heads with her eyes as she does, but he doesn’t notice. Maybe I’m just reading into it. People definitely think we’re a couple when we’re out together. They’ve made comments before so I know its not all in my head. I wish he could see that we’re good together, that we could be even better if we were together.

Forget it. If I start crying at this table he’s going to think I’m absolutely insane and I’ll never see him again. And while I’m gearing up for his exit stage right, I don’t think I can bow at curtain call without falling over just yet.

It’s hard, with the dim lighting and soft background music, not to get carried away. I remind myself the whole time not to let it go to my head. It takes a lot out of me, trying not to overthink the way he eats off of my plate like it’s ours. It’s really no wonder I have an ulcer.

I raise both my eyebrows, questioning and urging him to continue. He’s got my undivided attention.

“So how’s Charlotte?” he asks.

I blink. He raises an eyebrow. “Charlie?”

He shakes his head. “Right. Charlie.”

“Like nobody calls her Charlotte. Except, you know, her dad.”

“So how is she?” he asks.

He met Charlie a couple of weeks ago. It was both a surprise and entirely expected that the two hit it off. Charlie's tough to win over; she’s got a good read on people but she also has high expectations. But he’s Silas — so social and so good. Just good at everything. He talks to people like it doesn’t cost him anything. Where socializing depletes my limited supply, it fuels his.

“She’s good, yeah,” I say mildly shocked he’s even asking about her. “She’s all worked up, what with planning friendsgiving and taking Nate away for his birthday.”

“How did her and Nate meet again?” he asks.

“Tinder,” I exclaim, still not over this.

I’m not entirely sure why since my sister, who’s had her boyfriend for three years now also met through tinder. I hate the app. Can’t even enthuse it for entertainment and a confidence boost. The whole concept of choosing someone based solely on what they look like, and the, grossly exaggerated, height they throw in their bios is beyond me. I don’t want to be with someone because of their looks, and I’m over the hook up thing. Was never really ever into it to begin with.

“Right, that’s right. You told me that. He’s from central jersey, isn’t he?” he says this purposely to get at me. I know he’s baiting me.

“If you mean south jersey than yes, he is.”

“It’s not south jersey, it’s central.”

“Oh my god,” I groan, dropping my head into my hands. “We are so not doing this again. Agree to disagree.”

“You’ve already agreed with me on this.”

“No, I acquiesced.”

“English please,” he says.

“I conceded. Doesn’t mean I agree. It just means you’re more stubborn than me, a feat, and I’m too nice.”

“You’re hardly nice.”

I pretend to be fatally wounded by that. “Excuse me, I’m the nicest.”

“You were bought to actual tears when that girl tripped and poured her beer down herself at Taylor's concert.”

“Because that was absolutely hysterical.”

“She broke her nose.”

I shrug. “Should’ve known how to hold her liquor.”

“Says the one who got drunk off of like two glasses of wine.”

Another sharp reference to that night, which makes me think and relive the days that followed. The five days of radio silence. The five days that nearly drove me mad. How I couldn’t even hold out for seven before I caved. My tongue swells in my mouth, making me too slow to disagree. My defense is weak.

“I was not drunk, I was tipsy.”

“Uh huh,” he says.

“You wouldn’t even know what I look like drunk. I don’t ever drink around you. Unlike you who has a beer everywhere we go.”

"First of all, don't come for beer. Beer is amazing. And completely complimentary to wings.”

“Are you gonna’ have beer and wings for the rest of your life?” I ask even though I know the answer.

“Yes,” he says without a beat, his tone synonymous with duh. “It’s going to make me huge, though. Or huger.”

I roll my eyes, now. “Shut up.”

That’s all we say when it comes to the weight thing. He doesn’t press about it anymore, and I’ve stopped trying to convince him otherwise. He has body dysmorphia. At this point, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t to some extent. But I also know that I’m not a harsh critic when it comes to him.

“Anyway,” he says skirting back onto subject. I forgot what the subject even really was. “We should change that.”

“Change what? Your obsession with wings? I’ve said we need to stop going to BWW.”

“What? No. Don’t be absurd now. And you should start pronouncing it bdubs, you’re basically a regular.”

“I will never,” I declare vehemently. “What are we changing?”

“Not knowing what you look like drunk.”

“Well, I mean I know what I look like drunk,” I respond, stalling. He gives me a look. “I’m supposed to be abstaining. You’re supposed to be my sponsor.”

“Forget it. Abstaining’s for catholics.”

“I’m catholic, you realize.”

“Yeah, but you’re non practicing. Let’s go to Hoboken this weekend.”

“I kind of hate Hoboken.”

“Ok so you pick a place.”

“You’re not working this weekend?”

He shakes his head. “Are you working?” he asks.

“Nope.”

“Ok, so good, invite Charlie and your other friends. This way I can meet Nate.”

“Why do you want to meet Nate?”

“He’s a fellow central jerseyian. That automatically makes him my friend.”

“You’ve got enough friends.” I say it mostly jokingly.

“Impossible.” He pushes my phone towards me. “Ask her now.”

“Relax,” I say. “She’ll be down. She thinks I only like to go out drinking with Leah.”

“Well we could go out with Leah instead, if you want.”

I try not to react to that. He’s done mostly well when it comes to her. And even though he says he doesn’t find her attractive, I can’t bank on him plus alcohol plus her not leading to something. She’s got a terrible track record and if alcohol affects him even remotely the way it affects me it’ll be out of his hands.

“Yeah no,” I say breezily. “That’d be a disaster.”

“She could bring Hayden,” he says, wagging his eyebrows suggestively.

“No, we’ll probably go to Jakes and she won’t bring her there. She doesn’t want the Jakes crowd knowing she’s hooking up with a girl.”

He shakes his head disapprovingly. “I really don’t understand how you’re friends with her.”

“Sometimes I don’t, either.” I glance down at my phone where Charlie has responded. “Alright, Charlie says she’s down. And Nate will more than likely join her. And she’s asking both Emily’s. Hm, maybe Halle will come, too.”

“You never talk about any of these people,” he says half smiling as he shakes his head.

“I’ve definitely mentioned both Emily’s. And anyway, pot kettle. I’ve only just learned about Abel. And he’s supposed to be your best friend.”

“You don’t ask,” he says simply with a shrug. “You’ve got to ask.”

“Asking is so invasive.”

“Yeah but how do you expect to get to know someone, then.”

I know him. I know him more than he realizes. I could write a cheat sheet to him.

“Well, I know lots for not having asked any questions.”

“You know surface knowledge, the stuff you tell everyone. But underneath that? You can’t get at it without asking questions.”

He always win arguments. “Fine,” I say holding up my hands placatingly. “Tell me something I don’t know then.”

He smirks. “That is not a question.”

“Oh man you drive me crazy,” I say and it is too much of an admission. A slip up. I hope he doesn’t notice but I don’t get off that easy in this life. The atmosphere congeals. “Alright, who is April? You’ve mentioned her once before.”

“My other best friend,” he says. “Since high school. We used to hook up but not anymore.”

I knew about the hooking up. He mentioned it during one of our first dinners. It was a thing. But he probably doesn’t remember. I told him I didn’t think it was right to hook with his friends, not if he wanted to keep things uncomplicated. Then again look at us. I’ve never even had intentional skin to skin contact with him, and this gets more complicated with every dinner.

Can all of that be one sided? Maybe it isn’t complicated for him at all. I’m just me, someone he can grab food with when he pleases. And he’s him, the person I lose sleep over.

“Okay,” I say, nodding. “And you said Abel has a girlfriend? Are you guys friends?”

“Yeah, she’s cool. They’ve been dating for a while, now.”

It goes like this for some time. I ask him things I’m not afraid to know the answer to and he answers without hesitation. He’s an open book. So I avoid topics like girlfriends and old loves and new loves and any love, really. We don’t see eye to eye on that, learned that from our very first dinner, and I don’t want to damper the mood tonight.

He comes alive at dinner. It makes me feel alive, too. I latch onto that feeling, wishing it could always be like this. That we’ll never change from this moment, but that’s asking too much.
♠ ♠ ♠
i know the elephant in the room is what I’m doin back on mibbs! I worked on this story for nano this year and really wanted to share it with you guys. This is a VERY personal story for me, most of it very real and very true, like word for word. Though it is is ultimately fiction. It’s also not told chronologically which is why the chapter their relationship is already established.