Toxophilite's Lament | Teen Ink

Toxophilite's Lament

April 13, 2022
By cork BRONZE, Fort Lee, New Jersey
cork BRONZE, Fort Lee, New Jersey
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
Quorate?! The room is only 75% conscious!

I'm 10 years old when I almost kill you.
I didn't really grasp it back then, not fully, but looking back at it now I could scream.
I have a 20-inch arrow nocked and I don't see you downrange until my dad grabs the arrow-rest one second before I let go of the bowstring.
The shaft peels off a thin strip of his palm, around the same place where you get those little round blisters from hanging on monkey bars.
You were just trying to get closer to your target because you wanted to show me what a 'real' bullseye looks like.
Your dad pulls you back by the hood of your coat and tells you to never do that again.
My dad pulls me to the tree line and tells me to keep my chin tucked when I draw back.

You're 12 years old when you kill something for the first time.
It's the crack of dawn and you're throwing stuff at my bedroom window.
I open it and narrowly dodge a wet acorn.
You shout up that you need to show me something, getcher coat, come quick!
I get my coat, I come quick.
We cut through the snowy woods until we come to the big tree at the edge of your backyard.
There are a hundred gashes in the trunk where your arrows missed and one ruffed grouse where you didn't.
It doesn't look like it's just sleeping, despite everything your dad tries to tell us later.
We go to school, and everything is fine for 8 hours. You even say 'here' the same way during roll call.
That night I dream that we lock eyes in the space of a heartbeat before you loose your arrow and blind me,
and I feel every second of it, right up to the moment I scrape my wings on the tree bark.

I'm 15 years old when I start to think you like me. I'm 15 years old when the notion of meaning that much to anyone seems narcissistic.
One day I ask, "If someone had a crush on me, how do you think they'd show it?"
I'll admit, I got that trick from a book. It was about American serial killers, and it said that police detectives got Ted Bundy to confess to his crimes in third person by turning them into hypotheticals first. It feels like the stakes here are just as high.
"I dunno, they'd probably leave a note in your locker or some other sappy stuff like that."
You write in the margins of my essays, is that the same thing? You wrote 'hello world' on the inside cover of my diary to christen it, is that the same thing? I'd let you write all over me, is that love?
I'm 15 years old when I start to think I love you.

You're 19 years old when you get engaged to your high school sweetheart,
and for a while, it's the talk of the town.
You invite me to the wedding, and I can't tell if you know how I felt.
I read and reread your handwritten message for any sign that you knew,
and I'm so relieved to find nothing,
and it's the heaviest card in the world.
I attend just to give a speech and finally tell people the story of how I almost shot you when we were 10, just barely learning to hunt in the snow, in the woods.
I frame it as a joke and people laugh, and I figure that's as close to magic as I'll ever get.
The two of you cut the cake side by side and I watch you mash it into each other's faces the same way I might watch a video of the Hindenburg going down in flames, because it's the death of something.
I laugh, cross my arms, wave at the camera guy, grab a gift bag, call an Uber while everyone else is busy getting drunk, the whole nine and a half yards.
I spend most of the ride staring out the window and trying to name the phase of tonight's moon, but a headache forms in the space just behind my eyes,
and it's as though the arrow you loosed 7 years ago has finally, finally hit its mark.
I decide I'm glad to have had you in my sights, if only to be able to say that I had you at all.

The author's comments:

Neither the narrator nor the person the narrator talks about actually exists, but I think childhood friends growing apart is a common enough occurrence to dedicate a little something to.

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