potpourri and neil gaiman.
"Tell me something you've never told anyone else." Charlie passed the flask to me, her breath smelling of the unmistakable potpourri combination of gin and lime.
"Why in God's name would I want to do that?" I took a generous swig from the flask, staring directly at the branches stretched above us. Charlie punched my arm gently enough to not make me press charges, but hard enough to potentially leave a bruise.
"Because you're my friend, and friends tell each other stuff." she pressed on.
"Unless we are on social media, our friendship doesn't count."
Charlie propped herself up on her elbow, inching her head closer to mine. Her other hand poked at my chest and my ribs. I held on to it, trapping her fingers between my hands.
"Alright, I'm ticklish." I gave in.
"You rat, that doesn't count! I could've easily guessed that about you." she tried to pull her hand away, but I simply would not let her. I continued to grasp her hand, pressing it against my chest.
I look back on that moment often. Why did I do that?
Why did I hold on to her freckled knuckles?
Was it the gin? Or was it that in the few months we had known each other,
I had grown to feel like I could really tell her anything, but still felt
terrified of that idea at the same time?
At that moment I was not scared. I felt bold.
I felt like I was the closest version of myself-- of the very person I aspired to be.
I also felt mildly tipsy.
I could tell she was blushing in the dark. But Charlie was never one to walk away from what she perceived as a challenge. At the end of the day, let's face it, the only reason why I kept holding on to her hand at that moment was because she let me. She did not lean in closer. She stayed exactly where she was at, flexing her fingers beneath mine.
"When I was younger, I wanted so badly for magic to be real." I let go of her hand, and sat up, my arms wrapped around my knees. "I wanted to be in a Neil Gaiman story. You know, the sort where you could go through a small door or knock on a wall and you'd end up in this whole new universe. You'd see all sorts of crazy shit, and everything would be this...greater than life experience. There'd be meaning in things that actually were supposed to have meaning, even if they were nonsense. In here, nothing really has meaning. Nothing important has meaning. We look at most situations and think, 'Oh shit, well that's complicated,' but it actually isn't. Most things are easier than we think, but we make them complicated ourselves because there aren't any monsters or demonic angels or Other Mothers with buttoned eyes. We are our own goddamned worst enemies, and we are masochistic bastards who think this is better than just..." I faltered, realizing I was ranting.
"Than just knocking on a wall and see it open up in front of you." Charlie finished for me. She sat up as well, her shoulder bumping against my own as she leaned her head against her knees to look at me.
"Then I realized. Ghosts wouldn't choose to talk to me. Fairies wouldn't pop up from plants. Doors would just lead to other rooms in the house. Walls wouldn't open up."
"There is magic around you, though. Even if it isn't in the way you expected." she whispered.
I turned to look at her. The wide space between her eyebrows. Her almost comical angular nose. The red sweatshirt I let her borrow as we climbed out the window and onto the rooftop, because she hated the cold. I shook my head slightly.
She nudged closer against me.
"Ever thought that maybe people and the connections we make are the real magic in this world, Pete? Look, hear me out. It isn't the same as the Canterville Ghost walking around, or with fairies popping up left and right, or with these giant quests to show your own bravery. Maybe it's all in doing what's right just because it's the right thing, instead of focusing on all those complications you mentioned we get stuck in. That is magic. It isn't loud or show-off-y, but it is real, and it is there. And, hey. Can I tell you something I've never told anyone?"
There was an inch between us.
"You are proof magic exists in the world."
Her eyes glinted. Her thin lips widened into the most Charlie-esque of smiles;
the sort that made me believe there was merit in what she was saying,
but it wasn't applying to me. Not really.
It applied to her.
I had a choice. Did I have a choice? Was she giving me a choice?
I could close the space between us.
Or I could stay where I was at,
just looking into her eyes for as long as she allowed me to,
holding on to this moment exactly as it was.
"Just hold that happy thought, Peter, and it will lift you into the air."