Stained (Creative Nonfiction)

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Sandra Day O’connor High School
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The day I drove one hundred and twenty-six miles to visit you, I noticed a tiny white line of only two centimeters in length on my favorite pair of burgundy shorts. Where it came from is shrouded in uncertainty, and what substance dared to try and desaturate them is still a mystery, but it took only moments of being in your home before it made its debut. I was in distress, making it known with the tone in my voice and a lingering, disappointed gaze at the stain. I heard a similar tone in your voice, but when I looked into your eyes, I didn’t see that tone in the way you looked back at me. I saw a deep, but distant ocean in those eyes, a harsh contrast to the radiant glow of the hair on your head and the beard that framed your face so perfectly. It was then that I felt the stitching of that singular strand of time come undone; I wished that you had felt it, too.

I started forgetting about the stain while you kissed me gently, holding me in your arms before we ventured to explore the area you lived in. The stain was less of an issue when we were both sweating in the one-hundred degree heat, a choice we should have known we’d regret. The stain was an afterthought while we drank raspberry rose iced tea, both a reasonable and futile attempt to cool down as we continued to sweat on the way back to your humble abode. The stain became a non-issue by the time you took me out for Indian food before fighting a sudden rainstorm to see a sci-fi movie that interested you more than I. Maybe kissing in the rain before seeing that lackluster movie would have washed the stain away for good, but neither of us even remembered that the stain was there.

The stain was out of mind by the time you told me “I think I just want to be friends,” words that snipped through me like scissors through silk. Those words separated the threads holding me together, the thought of us on our way to a deeper connection being torn before it could even reach the seams. The tears that followed only stained the moment after I read your text message while sitting in my parked car, though I knew this stain would bleed into other moments to come. It was then that I learned how frustrating it was to be stained by something as invisible as a stream of clear liquid coming from your eyes, your own body making it known to the world that something deep inside of you has become more jaded. 

After I thought I removed those stains, I noticed the white streak on my burgundy shorts, sending a small, panicked pulse through my nerves as I held them over the laundry machine. Not sparing a single moment, I grabbed the stain remover and sprayed the gel-like substance onto my shorts with the intention of destroying the white streak; I wanted nothing more in that moment than for that stain to just be gone. I attacked it with the rubbing motions the bottle expected of me, the feeling of rejection rearing its stupid, ugly head again because I was about to let one god-damn mother fuckin’ piece of shit stain get the better of me. I’d be damned if I let a two-hour drive I made just for one boy, a weekend only one of us thought was worth my efforts, and one moment of having my guard down taint something I loved with a simple little stain of only two stupid centimeters in length.

Days passed one after another, making the stain less and less noticeable, but only because life with the stain became more and more habitual. Through many stain-removing applications and agonizing anticipation as I spread the shorts out to be analyzed, I still see it there; I still see us there. I remember noticing it, I remember hearing what sounded like feigned concern in your voice, and I remember trying to lick my thumb and wipe it away, as if that was the simple, one-step that would keep the stain from ever existing. Though the white streak is still visible, the temptation to remove it has vanished, replaced with a sort of comforting hopelessness, knowing it was never meant to disappear. It was just an arrogant little stain, daring to suggest that my happiness couldn’t exist alongside it.

It sucks that I’ll probably always see you in that white smudge every time I pull those burgundy shorts out of the bottom drawer of my dresser. It sucks even more that it will probably always sting, not just knowing, but also feeling that you remained spotless. 

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