“You’re using English again,” Reki said. “So you’re hiding something from me.”
Langa stopped playing at the wheels of his board to look up. The sun dwindled overhead, purples and blues splashing across the sky as night pressed its lips to the day. Faint rays caught on the metal of the skatepark’s ramps and rails, blazing in Langa’s eyes with a final glory. He squinted finding Reki’s face pinched in a pout. Slowly, he blinked.
The words slipped from his tongue when Reki claimed that it would be impossible for him to nail his latest trick by tomorrow. He didn’t necessarily think that would be the case, muttering a liar under his breath. Yet, his mind didn’t catch up with the words until Reki pointed them out, nor did he notice his growing habit.
“Really?” Langa asked.
“Yeah, all the time,” Reki said. “Earlier you said something about me having a unique face.”
Langa winced at the butchered word. It came out sounding more like uni ‘q’.
“I don’t do it all the time.”
“You definitely do. I can recall ten at the very least.”
“Do you even know what they mean?”
Reki stopped talking; instead, he started toying at the rainbow sticker on his board.
“Then don’t worry about it,” Langa said. “If it was important I’d tell you.”
Reki’s expression softened at that. His eyes melting into soft crescents with a shimmering smile collecting all the fading swaths of light. Langa averted his gaze before Reki could open his eyes. His body inched a millimeter closer.
“Alright then! Let’s head out, I’m starving!” Reki said pumping his hands in the air. Langa looked down at his board and the half pipe.
“I wanna do–“
His stomach cut him off, giving a loud rumble. He stared down, mind warring with his body. When he looked up, he met Reki’s eyes, and the sound of a chiming bell of laughter filled the air.
“What’s up with that? Come on lets go before your stomach gets any louder.”
Langa’s lips pursued, but watching Reki’s bemused smirk and bouncy stride, he softened down to his core.
Reki chose to eat at their typical spot. The italian restaurant kindly had a bike rack where they left their boards on Langa’s motorcycle and entered as the sun gave rest to the stars.
Langa trailed behind Reki as he hollered to Joe about their arrival. At the usual call, Langa expected for Joe to poke his head out and yell at them to calm down and that he’d be out in a minute. But he didn’t hear that. In fact, he didn’t hear anything.
The nighttime rush Langa grew accustomed to disappeared, and in its place were empty booths and no waiters. Langa blinked and glanced over his shoulder at the sign. The typical hours were still posted, but the open sign faced towards him.
“Joe, we’re here!” Reki said, blowing over Langa’s statement to charge farther inside. “Where should we–“
It’s almost like a film how Reki stopped. His body halted, his face frozen. He gaped and blinked twice before twinges of red brushed his cheeks. Langa tightened his face and tilted his head forward. The pause button hit on him as well.
Inside the booth were Joe and Cherry wrapped together, hands splayed on each other’s waists and hair while their lips interlocked At least, for a small moment they were before their eyes flew open and they pulled apart quicker than a lightning strike.
Langa didn’t mean to stare, but he did because something about it clicked in his chest. Maybe it was the way their lips fit together like puzzles pieces, or perhaps how their shape merged to one.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Joe asked, springing upright. “Didn’t you read the sign?”
“Yeah, but I thought it didn’t apply to us,” Reki said. “I didn’t think it was reserved for uh…”
“You better watch what you say next because if it’s something unsavory, I’ll make sure you don’t skate another race.” Cherry said.
Reki swallowed his tongue.
Langa watched him for a moment, before turning back to Joe and Cherry.
“Well since you’re here, I’ll get something made up for you two,” Joe said, pushing away from Cherry whose eyes continued to roam over him. “But I’m charging extra. It’s after hours anyway.”
Joe bustled off, and Langa couldn’t help but notice the loosened state of his apron. He decided to keep his lips glued.
“While he’s doing that, I suppose you two need some sort of explanation.” Cherry said with a sigh.
“I mean yeah. Didn’t know you two were–“
“Watch your tongue.”
“Dating,” Reki finished. “I was going to say dating.”
Langa and Reki clambered into the booth while Cherry’s tapping foot grew restless. There was a pink to his cheeks that reminded Langa of his hair. It was full of life and something akin to love.
“So…?” Reki said.
“So?” Cherry said.
“How long has this been a thing?”
“The dating, I mean.” Reki said.
Cherry sighed and relaxed into the chair. The padding squeaked underneath as he turned his head up as though the memory hung above his eyes.
“About three years,” Cherry said. “Unofficially.”
Reki’s lips fell. Langa just stared.
“It was pretty on and off at the beginning but now…” Cherry looked back into the kitchen. “It’s better. We’ve made adjustments according to each other, so I think we’re on a steady path.”
“Adjustments?” Langa asked.
The padding squeaked again as Cherry brought his head down.
“Relationships are complicated,” he said. “Communication between each other can be quite difficult, but is simultaneously necessary for the relationship to work. We weren’t on that page for a while. Now, I think we are.”
Langa blinked, staring down into his lap. He messed with the little seams running down his leg in matching strands.
“How did you know you liked him?” Reki asked. “You two kind of seemed like you hated each other.”
Langa spared a glance upwards. Reki’s face glowed with curiosity. It took a second for Langa to look back towards Cherry.
“That was the side effect of our emotions. We didn’t know how to handle what we felt,” Cherry said. “See, there was a pull of sorts. In a room, only he mattered. I wanted to spend all my time with him. I wanted to be with him. Even when we bickered back then, I enjoyed his attention. Over time, it all piled on me, and, after much denial, I realized that he was different.
“And here we are.”
A key clicked into place in Langa’s heart. It shuddered within him, waking hidden information from a slumber so deep it could’ve been eternal. As blood pumped through him, Langa pulled his arm closer. His skin brushed Reki’s jacket and blazed with a fire.
He blinked once, twice, and a third time.
“Wow you’ve really got it bad.” Reki said. His laugh drifted into Langa’s gut where it burned.
“And these are the reasons we didn’t want to inform you,” Cherry said. “Especially you. So listen here, if you mutter a word of this to anyone not present here, I will personally ensure that your board is drowning in the ocean. Do you hear me?”
“Yes sir!” Reki said.
Langa’s eyes turned back to Reki, taking in the small details of his face. The more he looked, the more detailed it became, drawing in every piece of Langa’s attention.
Oh was this–
“Food’s ready!” Joe said, slapping down three pizzas. Langa lurched at the sudden movement, jolting from his head space.
He didn’t eat much, or at least what he was used to. His stomach was all fluttery after Cherry’s speech. His mind churned over and over with new information. It was though there was a fence he stood upon, and on the other side, light began breaking through the mist.
Did he like Reki?
A cough came from beside him as Reki choked on his pizza. He gagged, Joe laughing across the table and telling him to slow down. Langa’s eyes narrowed, and he slapped at Reki’s back until his fit passed.
Once calmed down, Langa handed Reki his glass. Their fingers brushed at that moment and again that rush found him.
“Thanks, you’re a lifesaver!” Reki said, downing the glass in one gulp. “Unlike some people who’d rather watch me suffer.”
“You’re the one who barged in here!” Joe said.
Langa took another glance at Reki, before he looked down at his plate. His reflection greeted him in the grease, and his mind continued to churn past it.
Langa concluded he did in fact like Reki when, instead of spending his birthday with only his mom, he goes to Reki’s house instead. He stared at the invitation on his phone, and he knew. Because there was no one else he’d rather be with. There was no one else who mattered quite the same.
So Langa packed his bag for the night, headed out after celebrating with his mom, and rode under the starlight to Reki’s house. All the while his heart pounded with the knowledge rushing past his ears.
He arrived early, ten minutes in fact, and parked his motorcycle at Reki’s gate. He grabbed his bag and board, walking in moments later.
“Happy birthday!” Reki greeted him at the door, throwing his arms over him in his typical enthusiasm. But this time Langa froze. It was only for a moment, but his muscles tensed as though electricity hit him. And it did, sparking through his toes to his head.
“Everything alright?’ Reki asked after he.failed to respond. “Anyone home in there?”
Langa pouted to reanimate himself. “Yeah I’m here. Thank you.”
“Don’t be thanking me just yet; there’s still a lot more coming for you tonight.”
And there was.
Reki presented his homemade poutine dish for him, that tasted odd, but the thought alone had Langa staring in amazement. Reki’s sisters had baked him cupcakes, and his mother a cake which they downed after singing.
Afterward their dinner, Reki handed Langa a gift wrapped in purple wrapping paper. Langa stared at it with uncertainty. He shook it once.
“Hey don’t be doing that!” Reki said, hands reaching out as if to stop him.
“So it's something delicate?”
“I mean it could be. If you want to take that chance then you totally can.”
Langa smiled as Reki pouted, arms crossing over each other. There was a flicker of eagerness along Reki’s face that pushed him to swipe open his gift.
It was a wooden box, but upon opening it there were many items inside. It was like a little treasure chest.
There were all sorts of skateboarding accessories from small bearings, to bandages, to a little blue wrench with the Canadian flag and some stickers, one of which said over the rainbow on it. Then in the corner, Langa spotted red.
“I wasn’t sure what you needed for your board so I kind of bought everything,” Reki said, scratching at his face. “There’s even stickers since I don’t think you’ve put any on yet.”
“What’s this?” Langa asked, picking up the headband in the corner.
Reki froze, and the faintest snow of red covered his cheeks. His head dipped down and eyes looked away. Langa’s chest swirled with blue.
“Oh, I noticed that your bangs sometimes get in your face when you’re skating. I thought maybe that might help. You totally don’t have to use it or anything.”
Langa looked between it and Reki, noticing how they were matching. He smiled.
Reki blinked a few times.
“I like it.”
“Oh… oh yeah! That’s awesome! Need any help putting it on?”
Langa examined the band, about to dismiss it even as his heart ached at the thought of Reki being close, but he realized he didn’t know how to put it on.
Reki bounded over, hands wrapping around the band. He positioned himself behind Langa, pressing his body close with his hands pulling at the strap. Langa tensed, heat searing across his back in waves. His body unconsciously moved back, getting closer and attempting to fit into the space Reki allowed.
The band twisted across his face, brushing back his clumps of hair and moving them out of his eyes. Reki’s hands were warm near his face. Langa wondered if they were soft.
“Turn around I wanna see it.”
Langa complied, facing Reki. He noticed then their distance, or lack thereof. Their breaths mixed as Reki stared. His eyes were wide and shining like rubies.
“It looks awesome!”
“Well yeah. You look good in almost anything!”
Silence descended between them as Langa kept his eyes on Reki. A pull sounded in his gut; a need to be closer. His breath hitched and the impulsive part of his mind pushed forwards–
But his body didn’t. Because this was Reki. This was the person he wanted to be with. But what if they weren’t on the same page? What if their adjustments weren’t in place? Would he be back to spending his birthdays alone?
And even if that wasn’t the case, how could he say it correctly? What did he know about communication?
“Yeah, thanks,” Langa said, pulling away. “I’m keeping it.”
“Awesome!” Reki grinned. “Now let's go put some of those stickers on your board. It could use a little spicing up.”
Langa watched as his Reki gathered up the box and sprang away. Langa wondered if he could hear the pounding of his heart. Maybe then he’d understand how he felt without saying those terrifying words.
It was two in the morning, and Reki passed out next to Langa. His faint snores carried through the room, light but still drawing Langa’s full attention.
In his hands, Langa played at his headband, stretching it and releasing it. He stared at the small dinosaur looking shape and sighed.
He shouldn’t be upset. It was a fun birthday. He spent it with Reki and had his favorite dish and ate cake and talked skateboarding. But he still didn’t say what he wanted.
He still kept those thoughts and desires locked up inside of him. And they didn’t want to stay there. They wanted to be spoken into existence; no, at this point it was a need. The words didn’t belong in his head, even if they were to change everything. But if he said them, he could never take them back. So as his heart screamed to let them out, his brain, for once, locked onto them holding them so he kept them back.
Yet maybe… he could. Maybe Reki didn’t need to understand. Langa’s chest burst to say it, and he could in his own special way.
“Reki?” Langa said. He heard no reply, except for the buzzing in his heart so he sucked in a breath. “Reki I want to be with you.”
And as if a dam broke, the ringing in Langa’s chest rushed out before calming into a tranquil stream. He stared at Rek with that pull driving his thoughts and body. And he smiled because the words were there. They were in the air. He could say what he wanted to say, albeit in his own secret language. And maybe… someday… he could say it between them.