Two months later I was skating down at the park with Milo. To be honest, Milo's much better at it. I've gotta admit, I'm not much good at that sort of thing, really. I never say anything to Milo though, and nor does he. He offers me little tips in ways that make it seem like we're on the same level. I told you he's a great guy. He'd just taught me how to do a 360, but I'd only managed it once, and kept doing something like a 3/4 turn. It was driving me insane. It was getting late, and I kept telling Milo we'd go right after I landed it one more time. You could tell he didn't think I'd do it, but he waited patiently anyway.
After maybe 567 tries, I finally did it. Well, I almost did. Just as my board was about to hit the ground, I felt something small but pointed in many places slam into my body at break neck speed. When I got up, he was laughing at me. My whole body was scraped and throbbing and he was laughing. I put my hand to my mouth where his board had hit me and brought it away red with blood. It wasn't fair, but that's the way it's always been for Caleb. He'd cause the problem, and the others bled for him. And he almost always laughed. But maybe it wasn't always for the same reason.
Milo was truly angered by him. He wasn't a skinny little boy anymore, and as Caleb was small and didn't seem interested in fighting (quite unusual for him), Milo managed to drive him off quickly. He turned to me and spat. "Fuck that Caleb. I don't get people like him. They like to hurt people."
"That's not true." I was surprised to find myself almost defensive. So was Milo.
"What?! Look what he just did to you. And then he laughed about it. You heard him!"
And he did laugh, but I couldn't help but see it differently. He'd laughed, and it sounded cruel, but his eyes seemed to say something different to me. Everything else, his expression, brow, jaw, even his stance, were mocking, but his eyes were not at all taunting; even concerned, maybe? There was certainly conflict, I was sure of it.
We walked home silently. Milo usually liked to fume about everything with me nodding in accordance or at least without disagreement. If he couldn't have that, he wouldn't have anything at all. He always liked to focus on what was going on in the present, what upset him now. We are the best of friends, and in unspoken agreement, that usually means supporting each other on everything. And I was going against that. The fact that it was a case in which he was standing up for me made him all the more bothered.
I went to bed that night without doing any homework. My regular insomnia seemed worse than usual. The night was crisp and clear and you could hear the light chirping of cicadas nestled deep within the foliage of what, for lack of a better name, could be called our garden. With eyes wide open, I glanced about and found everything perfectly normal. My blankets were thin but I was warm with the weight of many. All was as it should be. But as soon as I closed my eyes my mind was flooded with a rush of perplexing thoughts.
I suppose I'm a weak person at times. Not in the most obvious manner, mind you. I mean, I can stand up for myself any time and not too many people choose to mess with me. But it's that usual crap of confronting your own self, it's hard for me to do. Sometimes I wish I could let go and lose my conscience forever. It pursues me with things I don't really like or want to know about myself. It's enough to know that I'm not a perfect person. Why do I have to have a fucking complex about it? Anyway, as you can imagine, I didn't welcome the prospect of sorting through these feelings and thoughts. I pushed them out. At least for the time being.
Instead, I imagined myself nestled deep within a roll of fog above the ocean. The moon was nothing but a shadow and the world below was chilled, but not me. For the fog was my blanket and I was embedded safe and secure in its warmth. I was falling asleep now and could almost feel the steam-like caress of the clouds against my cheek. I gazed at the moon through my lashes as I nestled finally into a fetal position, enjoying the feeling of floating. Knowledge that I was scores of feet about the earth slid between my subconscious and conscious.
Another curled next to me. Through the mist of slumber, I glanced at my new companion, welcoming the warmth and company. The moon beams dyed the cheeks a radiant white against the gray of the fog. Lovely black lashes opened to deep, watery eyes gazing meaningfully back at me...
I jolted forward, ripping myself from my fantasies. Skipper yelped as he was shoved from where he had cuddled beside me. So that was the warmth. My companion. I gathered him up in my arms and rocked him. He settled quickly, lapsing into a deep canine dream. The house settled and became silent, all noises absorbed by the thick night air. And I was left alone, sitting upright in my couch, lost in thought of my dream in the clouds.