Tag, I'm It

Date: 8/26/2017

By InvisabelleSpasian

I felt smaller, tinier. I was in my front yard, in my neighborhood, feeling that familiar suburban vibes in late August. I noticed the sun was higher and brighter than when I would usually look up at it. It was hot, sweltering even, to a point I wanted to go inside. I don't even remember going outside in the first place. I wasn't one to be outdoors. I was about to when I saw the old, tall oak tree, standing proudly in the middle of my yard. An uneasy feeling dropped into my stomach. It had been years since that oak tree had been cut down by my father and my mother's father. Why was it still up? Staring at it, I heard a voice from behind me. "Isabelle." Whipping my head around, I saw a boy. And instantly, I felt like throwing up. But I tried to keep my fluids inside me. Leon. It was strange. My best friend stood in front of me, and I haven't seen him in years. That was because he died, in a car crash. I stared at him. He already died his dark hair into a blonde mess and was going through his slight punk rebel phase. We're both probably 13. This was probably the August of the year before his death. He started at me, raising an eyebrow, asking if I was alright. I nodded. I knew this wasn't real. It was all a dream. When I knew I couldn't really talk, I knew I was asleep. Or when absurd things like my dead best friend standing in my old front yard suddenly appears in front of me. He gave me a warm smile, the kind he only showed to me, no matter the situation. "Are you ready?" Confused, I stared at him. Always able to read my face and my mind, Leon laughed out, "We're playing tag, silly! Better catch me, if you can." He turned and began to run. As if, by instinct, I ran after him. I started to remember the feelings. I remembered what it was like to have the adrenaline build up suddenly in my chest, to have my heart ready to burst out. I remembered the heavy pounding of my feet slamming on the narrow street. I remembered almost losing my breath and not being able to breathe until I took in another breath again to repeat the suffocating process all over again. Everything was blurry around me, which made sense as to I didn't pay much attention to the details of my street back then, but I could tell which houses were whose and the long stretch of the wooded area was more abundant before some people came by and decided to cut most of it away, to cut another important memory away from me. I chase Leon, and I listened to his heavy breathing and cheerful laughter. His British accent would kick in from time to time as he called for me to get him. And it would get more faint as he continued to run farther than me. I was trying so desperately to catch up. I didn't want him getting away from me. I wanted to tag him, so he ends up chasing me, and I would do it to a point to where he can never chase me, so I can always see him. Leon disappeared into the horizon of my street, leaving to the dust and what was left of his voice and his laughter. I collapsed on the ground. It was sizzling and rough, and even though I could feel it, the pain didn't bother me. But I could feel the burning sensation of my tears, the melting disappointment constantly booming in my chest and in my skull. I've never felt such a failure in my life. I let my best friend slip from my hands again. I cried, baking myself in the high noon sun. There was a point I was getting so depressed to where I knew I was waking up. I could see the sky and the houses slowly shattering away, in a way that was like dust of crystals, shining brightly by the sunlight. I could feel the stiffness of my body and the messiness of my hair. I was so ready to wake up, to be pulled away from this false paradise of broken memories and be awake in reality. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I glanced up to see Leon. His face looked so worried, the blueness of his eyes shimmered in a way that always reminded me of nervous waves and the beach before the storm. I felt so horrible. I was worrying Leon. He helped me up, and I took quick glances around, seeing the sky and the houses frozen, as if they paused in their deterioration. Even the light breeze wasn't noticeable at this point. "Are you alright?" Leon asked. Of course I wasn't. How does one comprehend all of those feelings about being in front of your best friend that's been dead for years? I nodded, smiling. "I can tell you're lying. You can fill everyone else, with your shy smiles and little giggles, but you can't fool me." I forgot how it was like to have someone know how you truly are, not having to hide anything and just be yourself, whether you like it or not. I forgot what it was like being with someone like Leon. "Well anyway, you tagged me. So I'm it now." I started at him, confused. He looked down. So I did as well, noticing our hands were linked together tightly. And when I noticed, we held onto it tighter, as if by instinct as we looked back up at each other, staring deeply into each other's eyes. Never had I longed for a person or for physical contact. It's been so long since the thought of Leon every crossed my mind. And don't get me started on how long it's been since I've ever gotten a hug, craving for something that way or of my reach. Leon gave me a kind, patient smile. It was the type that said that he would always be with me, no matter what. "I'm here for you, no matter what." I felt so much warmth. It's been so long... He suddenly lifted me up, carrying me bridal style, and he stared at him as he gave me his usual silly smirk. "I would never leave you, Isabelle." The words stabbed deeply into my heart, as I knew he would never keep his promise to me. But I nodded and smiled, letting the fake warmth take over me. Leon began to walk, slowly increasing his speed into a run, and we laughed and screamed as we made our way to the other end, almost reaching the cul-de-sac and nearly approaching my house. We ran and ran and ran- And we collapsed on the grass, lying on our backs as we stared up at the clear blue sky. We did our best to catch our breath, to ease our muscles into the ground and the bearing in our chests. I sighed in pure content, truly happy. It's been so long since I felt that happy. That's when I noticed the sky began to shatter away again. Frantically, I looked over to Leon, who just stared back at me and smiled. This time, it was the one where he tried to cover up his sadness, to cover up the secrets he knew. Desperately, he reached over for me and hugged me, and he began to whisper in my ear. "Please don't forget about me, Isabelle." Shaking my head and clinging onto him tightly, I let the burning sensation fill me up again, I let the rapid heartbeat appear again, I let the tears pour out of my eyes. My mistake was that I blinked. I saw myself in my bedroom. I was awake. I would never be able to catch Leon again.