BY JAMIE HAN
“You’re not real.” The words puncture the silence, and bleed with finality.
Val doesn’t move, doesn’t blink. He just stares at Oliver from where he stands, lips barely parted. Shadows flit over the contours of tanned flesh and sharp collarbones, sadness carved into his countenance.
“I’m real to you.” Val’s voice is barely above a whisper, just enough to fill the space between them.
He doesn’t deny Oliver, it’s as if he is trying to spare him. But there is conviction heavy in his throat: he says the words like they matter, like reality is nothing more than a suggestion, like there could be a sweeter conclusion to the tragedy Oliver had written for himself.
Val reaches a steady hand out towards him, stopping half a breath away from touching the curve of his cheek. It is only now that Oliver recognizes the absence of warmth from the closeness of his fingers.
A figment of his imagination.
He stumbles backwards, calves bumping into the bed where they first kissed all those nights ago. Oliver shakes his head in disbelief. What hope left completely wretched from his desperately wrapping his arms around himself as if it would prevent him from shattering completely. He lets out a miserable shriek of laughter. Tears well up hot in his eyes as laughter dissolves into dissonant wails and heaving chests in the darkness of the room.
“I made you up. You don’t exist,” he whispers, albeit knowing full well that there’s no point in speaking to an empty room. Val doesn’t respond, knowing the words weren’t for him but for Oliver himself. Instead he watches Oliver like he is witnessing a moth catch fire for the first time.
Through his tears, Oliver can still make out Val’s figure in the low light. The curve of his neck, the plush seat of his lips. He looks more and more like a ghost with each moment that passes, the kind that died waiting for the impossible to happen.
Oliver screws his eyes shut. Something soft and warm presses against his mouth, it tastes like freshly picked strawberries and unwanted apologies. He falls asleep with tears on his face and a boy-sized hole in his heart, praying that reality would be one of the things that disappeared with the night.
When morning comes, Val is gone.