They were sat outside a club watching the snow, hands buried deep inside pockets of jackets that weren’t nearly as warm as they needed them to be. Flushed cheeks and lips bitten down to flesh was what Dan saw when he looked to his right. The boy was shoving an unlit cigarette into his mouth a cancerous stick of smoke that always made Dan cough like his lungs were on their way out of his throat.
He caught Dan staring and smiled a half-smile gesturing for him to try.
Dan just shook his head and said, “I don’t smoke.”
It was already past midnight and the city was still wide awake, he had no idea how he ended up sitting on a bench someone had probably puked near with a boy whose name he couldn’t recall. He wasn’t even that drunk.
“So what brings you here then, rough breakup?” He asked while lighting up the cigarette. He didn’t look at Dan, he just stared ahead like there was so much to see in the empty street glowing with snowflakes shimmering under the streetlights.
“No, I just couldn’t sleep.”
His answers were short because for some reason the words kept getting lost in his mind, he’d forgotten how to speak and the letters jumbled themselves up together. Making it harder for him to fathom sentences out of the crosswords of answers to the other boys questions.
Here’s the thing, Dan didn’t know why he couldn’t sleep, or why he hadn’t been able to sleep through a single night without waking up screaming since he was ten. He didn’t know why his therapist kept shoving bottles of pills in his hands and he didn’t know why he never took them.
He didn’t know why the world is round or why he couldn’t always see the stars when he looked up at the sky. Dan Howell didn’t know a lot of things the list was probably endless. But if there was one thing that Dan knew it was that the boy sat next to him, so close his arm brushed against Dan’s thigh every time he he moved. The boy with hands so bruised they were covered in hues of purple and blue melting into his pale skin. Knuckles covered in cracked up skin forming scars Dan could never imagine fading. The boy was beautiful. Endlessly, utterly beautiful.
And when it got quiet, so quiet that Dan could hear every tiny sound amplified. The shuffling of his fingers in his pockets as they glided against the cloth of his jacket. Some songs that topped the pop charts blaring out of speakers inside the club made their way outside turning into faint whispers of Katy Perry singing about zombies or some shit.
“What are you thinking about?”
And there he went with the questing, Dan knew the boy was just trying to make conversation but there were things Dan wanted to ask him too, like why his hands were so blue but not bluer than his eyes? Why his fingers were decorated in colors that weren’t supposed to be there? Or what he was doing outside a club at midnight sat next to a boy who had forgotten what language he was meant to be speaking.
But Dan didn’t voice any of those thoughts, he just lied. Lied about what he was thinking. Hey shut his eyes for a moment before speaking.
“I’m thinking about the snow. How it’s so much like us, humans.”
That was the first time he turned his head to stare at Dan like he was actually intrigued by Dan’s sudden spilling of thought.
Was all he said as his eyes sparked with a sudden burst if excitement, Dan could now see how blue wasn’t the only color there, no his eyes were compiled with green and specks of yellow like star-dust, Dan had never seen something like that before.
He cleared his throat as he spoke, looking away from the boy whose name he still didn’t know.
“Well I think that the snow and us humans, we’re very much alike. Thousands of snowflakes falling one after the other with no real sense of direction, they’re just falling. And then before they know it, before they can even realise they melt away vanishing into water running down drains. Only to be replaced by new ones. Kind of like us, we’re born with no real purpose in mind and then we die. Fading from the now to become corpses underground.”
Dan didn’t look up from his shoes only now realising how his laces had been undone the whole time, they were strewn over the concrete path forming shapes that were unrecognisable. He blinked a few times waiting for the boy with bruises to say something. Or maybe even laugh. He just hated the silence, hated the thought of rejection. The thought of the other boy thinking Dan was too dramatic or too depressed.
“I’d like to think it’s the same with rain, you know countless droplets of water coming out of nowhere and going nowhere. Like you said, just like us humans.”
Dan looked up to meet his gaze, nodding to let him know that that’s exactly what Dan meant to say. The boy just smiled at Dan as he got up from the bench, dropping his cigarette to the ground and crushing it under the weight of his foot. He threw something Dan’s way, into his lap but Dan was to mesmerised and confused and out of it to notice.
“I’ll see you around Howell.”
And just like that he was gone. A walking talking mystery and Dan felt nothing more than regret for not stopping him in his tracks. For not telling him how beautiful Dan thought he was. For not asking him how he knew Dan’s surname.
And the bruises, how did they get there?
He got up to try to follow the boy even though he knew it was too late. But that’s when something bright yellow went flying out of his lap and there it sat staring back at him from the pavement.
Dan picked the piece of paper up with minimal hesitation, unfolding it to see what lay inside,
+44 3327 113594.
And the name’s Phil if you were wondering,