Edited by Iana Araújo
Translated by Natalle Moura
Copyedited by Vanessa Guedes
“I’m afraid to live my whole life and realize that in the end, nobody ever felt that having me around made any difference.”
The sincerity in Gael’s confession was scathing. He was swaying the bottle of some sweet alcoholic beverage, which he did not bother to read the label when someone offered it to him. He took a sip and stared at Cairo in silence.
The way Gael acted made it clear that he wished to carve in his memory everything about that night. At that moment, he was memorizing the man in front of him, his braids done close to his head, eyes slightly angular, dark pupils, long eyelashes, thick lips, and black skin. His style was aggressive: combat boots, black t-shirts, and flannel shirts bought from thrift stores where grunge still resided. He smelled of woody perfume and books. That was how he would like to remember Cairo.
In turn, Cairo matched his friend’s earnest gaze. He was analyzing Gael, not because he wished to memorize more than he already had in his mind, but because the contrast between how he was perceived in school and how he behaved himself next to Cairo in informal moments was astonishing. Gael had dark hair and light eyes, the tanned skin of someone who liked to spend time in the sun. One of the best students in his class; it was easy to find him in the library sitting on the floor amidst broad bookshelves. Quiet, Gael usually didn’t mingle, but Cairo had never crossed paths with someone as sensitive as him. When they became friends, he found out, for example, that Gael spent so much time in the library because it was much like the one in his hometown. He sat among books to feel closer to home.
They were at their college friends’ place, celebrating the end of one of the hardest subjects: Statistics. Despite being in different years and undergrad courses, both of them had that class in common. About twenty people got together to drink, dance, and make small talk. However, at some point a game of truth or dare had begun, bringing laughter and revelations about everyone present.
By that time in the earliest hours of the morning, the other guests had already left – intoxicated and, who knows, happy with their night out. Cairo, however, chose to extend his stay. He always had a captive room in the Green Lemon Student Residence for Girls – the women there were all friends with him. Perhaps one or two aspired to be even more than that. Among empty bottles, forgotten clothes, and the organic mess after a good party, Cairo and Gael were left by themselves. The game was over and had turned into an intimate conversation, where they both revealed things about themselves without the need for any dare.
Gael had already said some nonsense about being late and that he should leave soon, but a good conversation, deep and substantial like that one, did not happen very often. Anyone who had any experience with human relationships and watched them closely could tell that this was a life-changing moment for both of them. Gael was the one who broke the silence. “What about you? What are you afraid of?”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” Cairo replied. “There was nothing monstrous, scary, or violent that happened to me and that I didn’t survive. Knowing that you can keep going after the disasters makes fear smaller. At least in my case, that’s how I felt.”
“I admire that in you.”
The blue-eyed Gael said without looking at Cairo, and ended up not seeing the smile in Cairo’s face when he heard the compliment There was a touch of shyness in the reaction that rarely came to the surface. Gael finished his drink with a long sip, got up, and threw the empty bottle into a trash can before saying:
“I think I’m going to drink some water to sober up and go home. It’s late.”
Late… Or maybe he was just uncomfortable with how much of himself he had revealed to a man who just told him that he wasn’t afraid of anything. Love is a game of chance and both of them were competitive. Such a position was like being at a disadvantage: Gael feared that his feelings would become too apparent.
Cairo shrugged. “I can still talk for hours.”
“You are tougher than I am,” he admitted, grudgingly. “I’ll just go to the bathroom first.”
“I’ll bring you the water, so I get a glass for myself too.”
It was a polite gesture, but usual for Cairo. Although his clothes exuded an attitude, he liked to take care of those around him. Like a prism, he required the right light to reveal his colors. He got up and went towards the kitchen.
Cairo put his hands on the kitchen counter and laughed out loud, possibly satisfied with the night he had so far. He opened the fridge and took a soda bottle filled with water and poured two plastic cups.
That was the moment. He would leave the kitchen with the one cup in each hand, return to the living room, and he and Gael would face each other; finally, they would stop dodging one another in that dance without touch. Their eyes would meet, and these young college kids would kiss with the passion and the connection that only the intimacy they slowly built could create. “It would be perfect,” I thought to myself, as I pulled my arrow and targeted Cairo’s back, anticipating the love I was about to see the couple consummate.
“I think I’m pretty drunk…” Cairo admitted to himself out loud. He was all smiles; he probably pictured the same scene as I did. I released my arrow. The plastic cups fell, spilling the water onto the red tiled kitchen floor. Cairo let them go without hesitation. In a supernatural reflex, he had turned around and now held my arrow in his right hand, just centimeters away from his chest. “Drunk, not stupid!” he said, looking at me with irritation.
“You can see me? But how?” I asked in shock. Even if he could see me, catching one of my arrows in mid-air was an impressive feat.
“Family of witches. It’s in my blood” he said, nonchalant. “Look at the mess you made me do…” he complained, retrieving the cups from the floor to refill them again.
“Wow! Even for a witch what you did was…”
Cairo interrupted me. “What anyone with an ounce of common sense would do. Why are you here?”
“My mother sent me. She just didn’t warn me that you would be so stubborn.”
“Your mother… like… The goddess of love? Aphrodite?” He asked, still holding the arrow, and pointing it at me as he spoke.
“The one and only. She likes you, says you are very loving, but you were in need of a little push to live the next stage of your romantic life.”
“She likes me? Does she remember my ex? What does she put in the way of the people she hates, just so I know?” he said.
“She usually curses them… Mom is creative but quite temperamental, I must admit. The point is: this is a gift” I say, pointing at the arrow. “Let me do my job and give it to you,” I ask, displaying my most captivating smile.
Cairo took a deep breath and cleared his throat. I knew he was attracted to me. Everyone is attracted to Passion, no matter how much some people may resist. His heart was already pounding when he said:
“If this is your gift…” he hesitated, probably trying to catch his breath before my figure; me, a nakedGreek god. He was staring at me, unblinking. “I want the receipt. I want to be able to exchange it for a new jacket”.
I frowned trying to recall some precedent for such a situation. Mortals didn’t behave this way, what was the matter with this boy?
“Do you know why I caught your arrow in the air as if I’m Xena, The Warrior Princess? Because I knew it was coming. I can see the future, Cupid, and let’s say that falling in love is not an attractive option for someone with that kind of skill. I’ve seen enough people yearning for things that I knew would not work out in the end. Myself included.”
“It’s not just your clothes that come from the nineties. Your references too…” I tried to soften the tension with a joke. Although Cairo could pretend it didn’t work, the little smile I saw told me otherwise. “I understand. You are afraid of falling in love again because you’ve been hurt before.”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” he said, nonchalantly.
“Psychics mustn’t tell lies, don’t you know? It affects their powers.” I warned him.
“It’s not a lie,” Cairo grated.
“You certainly don’t think it is,” I shrugged. “But what if I assure you that this time it’s going to be different?”
“You can’t give me that guarantee, Cupid.”
“Ah, okay then! The god of love cannot guarantee anything, but your certainties of which the sources are ‘The Voices Inside My Head’ and ‘It was revealed to me in a dream’, are unquestionable, aren’t they?” Cairo couldn’t resist anymore and laughed. “See? That’s what love can do for you. Give me one more chance and you will still laugh a lot, next to someone who admires you, who respects you, and who thinks you’re a stud. Trust me; I’m very close to the gods in charge of dreams and what they showed me about Gael’s would make even my mother blush.”
Although he still laughed, Cairo was adamant. “It doesn’t work like that. I’ve seen dozens of people swearing eternal love and cheating on one another. I’ve seen my best friends crying while drinking liters of coke and eating buckets and more buckets of ice cream because someone broke a promise and hurt them. I don’t have time for this. I will not fall in love. Never again.”
I snorted at the young witch’s petulance. The truth is, however powerful he was, his choice was limited to how he would act in the face of his feelings. Cairo could even foresee the possible futures born from such a link. Still, no mortal could choose not to fall in love. Nobody could.
Ending the discussion, he picked up the cups and headed for the living room. Gael had just left the bathroom and took the cup offered by his friend. Curious about the changed expression in Cairo’s face, he asked: “Is everything ok?”
Indeed, things were not bad. They were just confusing. Sudden and fleeting was the moment when mortals realized that they had been overcome by passion. They could deny it, try to bury it, run away until it was gone. They could choose to not live according to the cravings that burned like flames within themselves, but not to feel it was beyond their power. Touched by everything they had shared that night, Gael thanked him, already preparing to leave. “Time to go home. Thanks for the talk and the company.”
“You don’t have to go. It’s dangerous to walk home alone so late. And besides, if you don’t mind sharing a mattress, I’ve got a room here. Or the sofa, if you’d like. The girls wouldn’t mind.”
Cairo looked at him intently. Almost too close. Gael shook his head, closing his eyes for a moment.
“I have to go.”
“Why do you have to?”
Silence, and then:
“Because if I stay here for another second…”
Gael hugged Cairo for a moment and as he stepped back, he kissed Cairo goodbye on the cheek. However, neither of them broke the hug. Cairo kissed him back on the cheek.
The third kiss they shared was on the lips, intense and sweet.
“This happens…” he sighed. “Good night, Cairo.”
Before he could walk away completely, Gael felt his friend holding his arm.
“You still don’t have to leave. Unless you want to. I for one want you to stay… having you around would make all the difference” he admitted, pulling the other one back for another kiss, and then leading him to his room. Gael was wrong in assuming that Cairo was the fearless one.
That night, when they kissed for the first time, Cairo was not concerned with the future, with predictions or whatever. He was completely in the present moment and that was when my arrow struck him by surprise, without him being able to anticipate it. I had witnessed enough couples coming together to guarantee something: no matter how many arrows were caught in the air, when the time was right, one would hit your heart.
Miguel Dracul is 27 years old and is a fan of 90s series, RPG, and videogames. He was born in Campo Grande/MS, but grew up in the countryside of São Paulo, in the city of Presidente Prudente. He has an undergrad degree in Psychology at UNESP de Assis. During his undergraduate course, he created the blog, Obscuridade e Claridade [Obscurity and Clarity] in 2013.
He participated in the anthologies Além do Arco-Íris [Beyond the Rainbow] (Rouxinol), Decididos - Uma Celebração Bissexual [Minds made up - a celebration of bisexuality] (Margem), Entre Portas e Histórias [Between Doors ands Stories] (Bilbbo), Histórias do Cotidiano [A Daily Story] (Verlidelas), Taverna Bode Mágico [The Magic Goat Tavern], and Além do Sangue [Beyond Blood] (Sem Tinta), among others. Miguel is also a contributor to the Seleções Literárias website and an editorial producer for Razzah Publishers.