image courtesy of uncyclopedia
The girl scribbled narwhals and unicorns on the peripheries of her glittery purple notebook, but her eyes were fixed steadfastly on the boy sitting two rows away from her. Dark eyes, tightly compressed lips. She could have traced the lines of his nose and the hollows of his cheeks with her eyes closed, as sailors knew how to trace the paths of the stars, because she had watched him so many times, wondering, wondering. She watched him scratch down calculations with his pencil. He erased a number, changed his mind, and rewrote it. He looked up and caught her eye, and blushing, she looked hurriedly back down at her notebook.
Once upon a time there lived a white narwhal and a unicorn. They both had horns, long spirals of smooth, hard swirls lacquered glossy as seashells. Their horns had grown from bitter roots of pain in their hearts, but had sprouted from their heads as symmetrical shapes of beauty. When they looked into each other’s eyes and understood the unspoken tears that had given those horns birth, they understood each other. And they felt that that painful tugging of heartstrings that humans call the beginning of love.
She watched him push himself back from his chair, stretch as he got up. Her heartbeat quickened. She leant over her notebook, but her words had stopped flowing. Only the thick pound of blood in her ears. When she looked up, he was walking toward her. Midway he stopped, turned around abruptly, and circled the room as if hesitating. Please come, she prayed. Please, please come to me. After circling the classroom slowly three times, he swerved and came toward her.
“Did you finish solving all the math problems I gave you yesterday? Were my notes helpful?”
She looked up quickly and smiled at him. “Thank you,” she said. “They were really very helpful.”
“Do you have it with you right now?” he asked.
“In my locker. Why? Do you need it back?” She jumped eagerly to her feet.
“No!” he blurted. He blushed. “I was just…wondering…”
He turned and walked quickly away. Their fragile, shining one-minute conversation was over. He talked like this to her every day – every word a warmly glowing bubble of joy which burst and shattered into invisible fragments as soon as he turned on his heel and walked away.
One day the girl looked at his desk, and he was not writing. He was not solving questions. Instead, his head was in his hands, and he was shaking. The girl did not think. The girl acted. She rose to her feet and went to him first – for the first time. She touched his shaking shoulders.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
He looked up, but his eyes were cold and as far away as a distant planet. “Obviously,” he said, his voice clipped and terse. Obviously meant Shut up and leave me alone. But the girl loved him, and so she heard, I’m hurting. I need you. Please help me.
“Won’t you eat lunch?” she asked.
“No. I’m not hungry.” He scraped his chair forward and looked away.
She walked downstairs with a heavy heart. A boy adorned with pimples and a clean white smile semaphored her from the entrance of the cafeteria. “Buy a glass of lemonade!” he called. “Only one thousand won a glass! Cold and delicious!”
She bought two cups.
Back in the classroom, she placed the cup carefully next to the boy, who had buried his head into his arms now, sliding down deeper as if trying to be swallowed up by the dusty classroom floor.
“If you won’t eat lunch at least have something to drink,” she begged.
“Oooooooooooooh,” squealed a gaggle of girls and boys in the classroom. “Ro-maaaance.”
The girl wanted to hit them. What did they know about romance?
“I don’t like lemonade,” the boy said calmly. He pushed the cup gently away and got to his feet. “I appreciate it, though.” He walked out of the classroom, and the untasted lemonade quivered lemony yellow and clear in the filtered light.
The girl did not run after the boy. She pursed her mouth around her straw and sucked cold lemon water. It tasted bitter, like rejection. She tried hard not to look hurt, even when kids shifted to glance at her. Her face stiff with the effort of indifference, smooth as riverbed sand, she drifted slowly back to her own seat and picked up her pencil.
But the horns that had drawn them together split them apart again. When they pulled close with love and longing, the narwhal’s horn impaled the unicorn’s heart. The unicorn’s horn dug into the narwhal’s flesh until blood flowed plentifully, bathing them both in red. And they both died, saying to each other, “We are not a metaphor. Not for anybody. Not for us. But we did try.”