Back to Back Pt. 01

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Amateur

Miles

“Ready to go in?”

I looked down at my girlfriend and I’s tightly clasped hands and I could tell by her white knuckles she wasn’t. I also knew prolonging our goodbye would just make the process worse. Part of me wished she had stayed home, that way we wouldn’t have had to say goodbye with so many people around. But unsurprisingly, my parents had prior work engagements which left me with no other option than to have Natalie take me to school.

Ever since we met Natalie has been a constant in my life. My dad’s job has taken my family all over the country and moving every few years we never planted any real roots anywhere. When Nat and I met our senior year of high school we immediately clicked. With long blonde hair, blue eyes, and an athletic body I can imagine most guys feel like they click when they meet her. What really drew me was her steadfast personality and unapologetic attitude. I think once I was set in her sights I was toast. We just kind of attached at the hip right away and have been ever since. I think Natalie might be the first consistent companionship I’ve had since I was maybe eight.

“Yeah, I guess. I just miss you already.”

Natalie wasn’t really the type to get deeply emotional around other people and admissions like these were few and far between.

“Think about it this way, now that I’m back at school no one is going to leave the toilet seat in your bathroom up anymore.”

She let out a watery laugh in response to my lame attempt at lightening the mood. After my first year at college, my dad’s job precipitated another relocation. I decided it was time for me to choose where I wanted to establish myself. My parents left town and I stayed with Natalie’s family over summer break. Nat and I got closer than ever but I also decided I wanted to transfer schools. Transfer from the university in our town to a university in New Hampshire. You could say Natalie was upset when I told her I decided to move six hours away by car. The last few weeks at her place have been tense, and the toilet seat has been the catalyst for several arguments.

“You know I’ll probably end up missing that too.” She laughed more genuinely than before.

I brought her hand up to my mouth and give her knuckles a kiss.

“C’mon let’s move this shit in.”

After registering with my RA and receiving my room key, I was ready to move in. I learned early on to pack light and all of the belongings I brought with me fit into one large moving bin. I grabbed my forty-inch plasma screen out of the back seat and we were set. Move-in week meant everywhere on campus was packed full of nervous kids and doting parents, so the line for the elevator was fucking absurd. Nat and I decided she could wait with the rolling bin for the elevator and I’d take the stairs with the TV. Climbing three flights of stairs with one of my most expensive and fragile possessions wasn’t ideal but I’m definitely way too impatient of a person to have stood in the 50-yard-long line for the elevator.

By the time I found my room, at the very opposite end of the hallway as the stairs, I was ready to drop the fucking TV. The door was already unlocked and I was hoping it wasn’t because my roommate was already there. I didn’t want to have to kick my roommate out on the first day so Nat and I could have a proper goodbye. I barely managed to flick the knob far enough to open the door and I rushed in slamming the TV down, with extreme care, on the first flat surface I see. I took a deep breath and adjusted my slowly sinking jeans before turning around and taking in my dorm for the first time.

The room itself was unremarkable. Plain white cinderblock, plain wood furniture, plan tile flooring. Immediately though my eyes are drawn to a small, somehow familiar figure standing in the opposite corner of the room. Once I registered what it was I was seeing my jaw dropped at the same time as a huge grin spread over my face. I hadn’t seen him in over a decade but I knew it had to be him. Everything was different but somehow the same.

“Artie!?” I practically shouted, quickly advancing in his direction.

After my outburst, his neutral expression suddenly changed. He looked surprised, confused, and skeptical all at once.

“Hey, yeah. I’m Arthur. Have we met before?”

Ouch.

I immediately stopped in my tracks. He didn’t remember me?

New Hampshire was where I was born and I lived there for the first several years of my life. Over the years moving just became a part of life I had to accept but I think a part of me never really forgave my parents for moving from New Hampshire. It was my first home, the first place I ever felt safe and comfortable, and it was where I had my first best friend. Artie. My next-door neighbor and born the same year as me, Artie and I grew up together practically from the day we were born. Over the years my memory of the time we spent together had definitely faded, but I still looked back at those days as the simplest and happiest days of my life. kaçak iddaa I looked back at him as the best friend I ever had. For years I wished we never lost contact and wondered where I’d be if he was still my best friend. He didn’t remember me?

“Yeah c’mon dude, I know twelve years is a long time but I can’t be that forgettable.” I tried to make a joke to deflect from how low-key hurt I was.

After a beat, he looked into my eyes and I saw recognition and disbelief slowly cross over his features.

“No way… Miles!?” He took a long look at me with an expression I couldn’t describe on his face before he crossed the short distance left between us.

I barely had time to move my arms out of the way before he crushed me in a hug so tight my ribs kind of hurt, but I was okay with it. I couldn’t remember the last time someone gave me a powerful hug and I was reveling in the feeling. Holding him in my arms I could tell he was roughly the same size as Nat, but the hug was so different. It felt ferocious and almost desperate, and I responded with equal vigor. Hugging Artie felt as close to coming home as I had felt in a long, long time. I pulled him even tighter to me before lifting him up slightly off the ground and shaking him as fast as possible. He started laughing uncontrollably and it sent warmth down my spine, his laugh was so much like it was all those years ago.

“I can’t believe you’re my roommate, dude! What’re the chances!?” I said, still partially in shock.

I set him down and couldn’t resist maintaining physical contact. I readjusted his shirt and treasured the grin on his face.

“You’re telling me, I still can’t believe it’s you! I didn’t even recognize you! You’re fricking giant!” Then everything clicked.

Growing up I was always on the smaller side but by the time I had finished puberty I was 6’4. When Artie and I were friends he was taller, bigger, and slightly older and now I have a solid 9 inches on him. That paired with the weightlifting I had been doing in my parent’s gym in their last house, I was practically unrecognizable.

“Am I giant, or are you just mini?” I retorted, pushing him a little and returning his giant smile.

“Call me mini again and I will immediately commence swinging.” He volleyed and stuck out his tongue at me. Cute, adorable actually. I just wanted to grab him and noogie the shit out of his head. Same medium-length curly blonde hair, deep green eyes, light freckles dusting his cheeks, slightly nerdy glasses, and the same big goofy grin that always made me smile back. We just stood there taking each other in for several moments. I wondered briefly if he was feeling the same happiness as I was. I was just about to ask Artie how he’d been since I left when I heard a shuffle behind me. The grin on Artie’s face dimmed a little and I spun around to see what the cause was. Natalie walked in pushing the bin in front of her, an exasperated look on her face a few hairs sticking up out of place.

“Damn babe! Took you long enough! THIS is Artie!”

Artie

Today is the day that my roommate is moving in and marks the end of my comfortable solitude in the dorms. Last year I lucked out with a single dorm and I debated on keeping it again this year, but the sophomore dorms are so much closer to the middle of campus. I eventually decided the time it would shave off of my walk every morning would be far worth it. I haven’t even checked who it is because I’ve just been living in a state of willful ignorance about it. The anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach about who my roommate could be was really making me question my decision.

This time around I knew I wanted to take my time getting acclimated without the pressure of a time crunch and my roommate’s presence looming over me. I petitioned to move in early and they allowed me to come to campus a week before everyone else. I wasn’t leaving much in my hometown and would honestly rather be on an empty campus than in my empty house. I was sure my parents couldn’t wait to get rid of me again so there was no reason not to come back to school as early as possible. I wished campus was always this deserted. The only downside to coming to campus early is that the dining halls aren’t open yet, so I’ve had to eat out for all my meals. I readjust my grip on the bag filled with a salad, a sandwich, and some soup ready to get back to the dorm to eat my Last Supper. Seeing the crowds of people milling around the lobby was a stark reminder today was the day my roommate was coming and my appetite immediately diminished. I walked straight to the stairs not even bothering to see if there was room in the elevator. Halfway up the stairs, I realized my soup was leaking out of the container and through the bag, getting all over the floor. Honestly, I couldn’t even muster the energy to be upset, already too engrossed in dread about my arriving roommate. I fixed the lid and made my way to my room, putting the food in the mini-fridge for later. Just as I closed the fridge door I heard kaçak bahis the doorknob rattle and I braced myself for the inevitable. The hulking guy that shimmies his way in with a huge TV that he somehow makes seem small instantly deflates me.

He’s probably close to a foot taller than me, well defined, and sturdy in a way that made him seem older than someone who should be moving into a sophomore dorm. He looked exactly like the kind of guy that used to push me around in high school because I was shy and on the smaller side. I tried my best not to make premature judgments. When he turned around to face me my thoughts were suddenly quashed. His strong jaw, plump lips, bright eyes, and huge smile all disarmed me in a way that somehow felt unfamiliar and familiar at the same time. I tried my best to school my features and not give away my confusing feelings.

“Artie!?” He shouted as he comes toward me so quickly I almost jumped. No one has called me Artie since high school, and I definitely would have remembered seeing this man walking around my hometown. How in the world could he know me?

“Hey, yeah. I’m Arthur. Have we met before?” When I heard myself speak I was impressed by how even my voice was considering the physical threat level this guy posed. His huge form suddenly stopped halfway across the room and his smile dropped instantly.

“Yeah c’mon dude, I know twelve years is a long time but I can’t be that forgettable.” His bright smile reappeared on his face though it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Twelve Years? Holy crap… My eyes shot to his and when they made contact I instantly knew it had to be true. I could recognize his eyes anywhere. Immediately years of memories that had slowly faded away immediately shot back to the forefront of my mind.

“No way… Miles?” After hearing his own name the change in his expression was minute but made all the difference.

Once again I saw a genuine smile unlike any that had been for me in over a decade. My body crossed the distance between us on autopilot and I practically slammed into him, wrapping my arms around him as tight as possible without causing permanent damage. It took me a second to realize that I hadn’t talked to this person in years and he might not appreciate having his personal space encroached upon. But before I could pull out of the hug, embarrassed, he lifted me up and swung me around laughing merrily right into my ear. His laugh was just like I remembered but much deeper, so deep it sent tingles down my neck. I couldn’t help but laugh along with him, hoping beyond all hope he was feeling like I was.

“I can’t believe you’re my roommate, what’re the chances!?” He set me down much more gently than he swung me around and brushed the shoulders of my shirt down into place. I could feel the warmth of his hands through my shirt and I felt an acute loss once he stopped.

“You’re telling me, I still can’t believe it’s you! I didn’t even recognize you! You’re fricking giant!” He chuckled deeply again and I couldn’t help but smile.

“Am I giant or are you mini?” He sent back. Oh. He wanted to tussle. I might be smaller than him but I’m not afraid to fight dirty.

“Call me mini again and I will immediately commence swinging.” I stuck my tongue out at him like a little kid. I bet he was so scared. A million questions flash across my brain but my attention was taken by the face in front of me. A face that seemed to be reflecting the same elation I’m sure was I was showing. I still almost couldn’t believe he was real. I was about to jump him again for that size comment when I heard a huff at the door. Immediately I was broken out of my trance by a hot blonde with long legs and tan skin.

“Damn babe! Took you long enough! THIS is Artie!” Right, girlfriend.

Miles

“THE Artie?” Her disbelief was obvious in her tone and in her facial expression. She turned and gave me a knowing look and I silently prayed she wouldn’t embarrass me in front of Artie. Over the summer I explained to her many times what my time in New Hampshire meant to me and why it’s where I wanted to build my life. I think she knew without me having to say exactly that a big part of my decision was my former friendship with Artie.

“It’s so nice to meet you!” She grabbed him into a hug and he hugged her back shyly. I briefly wondered where the Artie who was threatening my person with physical harm went.

“You make me sound like a celebrity,” Artie said as he looked over Nat’s shoulder at me. Again I was struck by how adorable he is, especially with a slight blush coloring his cheeks. He was like a golden retriever and I was debating on giving him a noogie when Natalie started Natalie-ing. She broke out of the hug and immediately started unloading my things from the bin. She had my whole closet set up, my bed made, and my toiletries assembled in under 20 minutes. All the while she was attempting to make conversation with Artie although his responses were minimal. He seemed preoccupied and the look on his face seemed illegal bahis far away.

“Baby?” I heard Nat say from the closet.

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“My dad called me and he needs the car tonight for work. I can’t stay for dinner.” I walked over to her and I understood why she was facing the closet. There were tears rolling down her face steadily but she wasn’t making a sound. I pulled her into my arms and held her tight, slightly rocking back and forth and placing gentle kisses on the top of her head. I couldn’t remember ever seeing Nat cry, not even when she tore her ACL during a field hockey game. I did my best to reign my own emotions in, knowing from experience I’d have time to process the loss I was feeling later. I tried my best not to exacerbate Nat’s feelings. Eventually, I felt her wipe her nose on my shirt and sniffle, standing up a little straighter. She met my eye with a fierce look and said,

“I’ll see you Labor Day weekend, right?” Nat’s question was rhetorical.

“Six weeks. That’s it.” I gave her one last tight hug and kissed her, letting my lips linger on hers. She grabbed her keys and her purse and I walked her down to the parking lot. By the time we got back to the car, Nat was back to her normal almost apathetic self.

“I’ll call you when I get home, I love you,” Nat said. She quickly kissed me on the cheek and got in her car.

“I love you more. Don’t forget about me.” I responded. I could tell by her expression she didn’t want to drag out this goodbye either.

“No promises.” She closed the door and mouthed I love you one more time before peeling out of the parking lot. That girl drove like a maniac. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, letting the feeling that today was the first day of my real life sink in. When I thought about my emotions, I could only pinpoint excitement. Never did I think that I’d actually manage to reconnect with Artie again. Reminded of him, I rushed back into the dorm excited to finally ask all the questions I’ve had for years.

*********

As soon as I opened the door I was being tackled into the wall by a compact body.

“Who’s mini, now? Sucker!” Artie yelled in my ear as he tried to drag me to the floor.

He might’ve had the advantage on me when we were kids, but he was in for a rude awakening. Game on.

I hiked him up my body. back into my arms and lunged toward the bed leaping as high above it as I possibly could. With Artie still attached to my front like a koala bear, we crashed together onto the bed. While I cushioned my fall with my hands and knees I let a good portion of my weight crush Artie. He let out a huff that was almost a half laugh and I could tell I knocked the wind out of him. I bounced back up off the bed and stood over him victorious. Artie was still trying to catch his breath.

“Admit it. You’re mini.” I said as I reached toward him with the obvious intention to tickle him into submission.

“Fine! Fine! Fine! I’ll admit it!” He said frantically as he backed as far away from me on the bed.

I paused in my tracks and looked him in the eye, waiting for his admission. He met my eye defiantly and knew I should’ve gotten him when I had the chance. He slid off the bed faster than physics should have allowed and knocked out the back of my knees hard. I tumbled to the ground as he slid underneath the bed. The little shit knew I wouldn’t be able to fit under the bed after him. I lay there on the floor, laughing. Game over, I had been defeated.

I just kept going. I laughed until there were tears running down my cheeks and onto the floor. Eventually, I wasn’t sure if I was still laughing or if I was crying. Some mixture of grief over Nat leaving and relief from being reunited with Artie washed over me and I just let it happen. I was vaguely aware of Artie shuffling out from underneath his bed, sensing his presence grow nearer. When I opened my eyes he was kneeling over me, his face hovering about a foot over mine.

“You alright? I didn’t hit you that hard, did I?” Artie was smirking but his brows were furrowed.

“I’m good, dude. Just a weird-ass day.” I said to brush off his concern. I didn’t really care to elaborate, I just wanted to start enjoying my time with Artie.

I wiped my face and sat up, taking stock of our room. It was, in a word, bare. I grabbed my phone out of my pocket and pulled up Google Maps.

“What’re you doing?” Artie asked from beside me, seated on the floor.

“We need decorations,” I muttered without looking up from my phone.

The nearest IKEA was only seventeen minutes away. I immediately pulled up the Uber app.

“What would you say if I suggested we bunk our beds?” I asked Artie.

“I would say: And I’m guessing I’m going to have to take the top bunk?” Artie retorted, one hundred percent correct.

“Yes. But we could use my bed as a couch for the room and it would open up so much more space for our desks and the TV.” I said, trying my best to convince him.

I’m a larger person and even just a few extra square feet freed up in our room would go a long way as far as preventing me from feeling cooped up. I was ready to get on my knees and beg, plead, and bribe Artie to get my way.

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