In the end, there wasn't a right thing to say, only a right thing to do. So I sat further up on the bed and put my hand on Manuelle's cheek and our mouths did the rest, finding each other even though our eyes were closed. I ceased to care about anything that wasn't her body or mine as we wrapped ourselves around each other on the flower patterned quilt and I was closer to her than I'd ever been before. It wasn't that we left the rest of the world behind; it was the opposite. I could feel the world turning underneath us, I could hear birds outside and people laughing, and I felt that I was part of it at last. With no part of my skin not touching Manuelle's, I was part of the world at last. Or maybe I'm romanticizing, and we were just two kids doing everything two kids can do in a cramped room at the back of a caravan.
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Every person comes with a place. It can be a house, a park, a building. When you meet someone, you are unknowingly meeting a place, a two-for-one deal that neither party is really aware of yet. Regular Joe's is Marcus' place. Mine is the library, second floor, nonfiction, the table between the Poker aisle and European History. Two-thousand days of friendship means that we share.
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I wanted to tell him then how loneliness can become a tangible thing, after a while. It's something that you carry with you on your shoulder, hold up like a friend with a twisted ankle. It sits with you and walks the streets with you. It's a selfish thing and it refuses to let go or even split its attention. Of course, like a particularly annoying itch, you can convince yourself for a while that it's not there. You can go to libraries and sit with friends and drink more coffee than your body can handle and you can feel surrounded and happy. But eventually you have to scratch it. Loneliness steals you away from the world, as if you've been cut loose and you're lost, untethered, somewhere far above everyone else. Just you and this feeling that you just need someone to put a hand on your shoulder and turn you around, to look at you and tell you the three words that matter most: You're not alone. Don't be scared. I am here. It's not about love or lust or any other inadequate word; it's about being touched and realising that you are no longer by yourself.
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People aren't always what you want them to be. Sometimes they disappoint you or let you down, but you have to give them a chance first. You can't just meet someone and expect them to be everything you're looking for and then be angry when they're not every hope and aspiration you projected onto them. It's foolish to believe that someone will be what you imagine them to be. And sometimes, when you give them a chance, they turn out to be better than you imagined. Different, but better.
When you meet an extraordinary person, it's like they get inside you, under your ribs, and shuffle everything inside you around until they find space for greatness to grow. But extraordinary people always get away. And when they leave, they take that little part of you with them. Suddenly you find yourself with a gap in your chest that you don't know how to live with. Suddenly you're frightened of being yourself without them.