Carpe Noctem

Like the beginning of a dozen cliche romance stories, Hana lives next to a cute boy, it's summer, and they're bored. But Sebastian hates cliches, and Hana hates romance. Fortunately, this is no love story.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 122:00 min.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 218:00 min.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 321:00 min.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 416:00 min.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 519:00 min.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 620:00 min.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 716:00 min.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 814:00 min.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 919:00 min.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 1015:00 min.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 1121:00 min.
Carpe Noctem - Episode 1214:00 min.


18. Eighteen: Fly


"If I love you, what business is it of yours?"

-Johann Von Goethe 


    “Sebastian,” I said, coming up behind him. He was standing on the edge of the street with his hands in his pockets, looking up at the stars. He turned at my voice, a smile sliding across his face. 

    “Hey,” he said. 

    “Hi.” I was too nervous to smile. 

    We stood there for a minute. Though I’d texted him asking to meet just a few minutes ago, it felt almost like running into him unprepared. I wasn’t ready for this. For the moment, we were friends, and I savored the feeling. My heart raced at the thought that this could be the last night for that.

    “Want to walk?” Sebastian offered, his calm cutting through my panic.

    “Yeah,” I replied. “Where to?”

    He set off down the road, and I followed. “The most obvious nighttime hangout spot that I haven’t taken you to yet.”

    We reached the empty park in only a few minutes, the scene spreading out still before us like the opening of a horror movie. Weather-worn swings stood in one corner, creaking in the gentle breeze, and a round spinny thing next to a play gym and slide took up the rest of the space. Sebastian headed for the swings. 

    “This feels cliche,” I said when the stiff rubber bent under my weight. “When did we become the angsty teenagers in an indie movie?”

    Sebastian smiled over at me. “That angsty teen has been in you all along,” he intoned, teasing. 

    I rolled my eyes, but didn’t meet his gaze. The cold metal chains felt grounding beneath my palms, but I could still feel the sweat forming.

    “You’re nervous,” Sebastian observed, his eyes still on my face. “If you don’t want to explain anything to me, you don’t have to. You can say no to me and not need a reason, I really hope you know that.”

    “I do,” I promised, kicking at the mulch a little with my toes. “But I do need to explain. I just… need to.” I struggled to find the words for what I meant. I need to see how you’ll react. I need to tell you before I can call you my best friend. I need to tell you because it’s who I am

    Sebastian nodded. “Okay. But don’t worry. I’m not going to get mad or hate you or anything.”

    “How do you know?”

    “Try me.”

    I took a deep breath. It was hard to know where to start, hard to explain something that so many people just couldn’t seem to wrap their minds around. “So, I guess, first of all, I didn’t say no to you because I’m not… attracted to you,” I began, the words sounding clunky and awkward on my lips. “It wasn’t anything you did wrong, I just… I don’t do relationships.” I paused and waited for him to reply.

     “Okay,” Sebastian said easily. He shrugged. “You’re not looking for a relationship right now, I get that. Why were you so nervous about telling me?”

    There was a small green weed growing up through the mulch a few inches in front of me. I fixed my gaze on it as I replied, “It’s not just right now. I’m not looking for one ever.”

    “Ever?” he echoed. “Surely you don’t mean tha-“

    “No, I do,” I interrupted, finally looking over at him. I didn’t hold his gaze for long before sighing and turning back to that little burst of green amongst the dead wood. “I’m aromantic. I don’t experience romantic attraction.”

    Sebastian blinked at me, a strand of brown hair falling across his eyes. “I’m sorry, not to be insensitive or anything, but you’re going to have to explain that.” 

    I hated this part. I had only ever explained it to someone once before, and that had ended one of the best friendships of my life. “There are two main kinds of attraction. There’s sexual attraction, like homosexual, bisexual, asexual, etc, then there’s romantic attraction. Usually they’re the same. If you find guys sexually attractive, you tend to want a relationship with guys,” I explained in a dry matter-of-fact tone. “Or whatever. But if you’re aromantic, you can still be straight or gay or bi or ace or whatever sexually, but you don’t feel the need for a romantic connection with anyone.”

    There was a slight frown of concentration on Sebastian’s face as he tried to understand. “It’s a lot to take in if you’ve never heard about it before,” I sympathized. “I’ve done a lot of research in the past year, so.” I shrugged. 

    After a moment of silence, Sebastian began, “Okay, so… you’re still, like, attracted to people, but you just… don’t want to turn it into a relationship, ever?”

    “Mostly, I guess,” I replied, frowning. “Like I would much rather have really good friendships than a relationship. I just don’t see the need to make it anything more than that. And I’m not good at it if it happens.” I paused. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I’m making a lot of sense.”

    “You’re fine, I just…” He shook his head. “I want to understand.”

    I hesitated before speaking next. I wasn’t sure if I was ever planning on telling anyone about this, but something about Sebastian made me feel like it would be okay if I did. It was terrifying that a boy I had only known for a month or two would know more about me than almost anyone else by the end of the night, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself. After all, he had shown me his most vulnerable side the night before. It was only fair that I did the same. 

    “So, you know Anita?” I began, somewhat out of the blue. Sebastian glanced up in surprise, but didn’t comment. He nodded. “She and I were best friends for years. She was the best friend I ever had, and I was happy with how we were,” I told him. “Well, one day senior year, we were hanging out, and she kissed me. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I’m bisexual, so it wasn’t that I was against that aspect of it, it was just… she was my best friend, and that was totally uncharted territory.” 

    I swallowed, scuffing past the mulch under my feet to the dirt beneath. “So I went along with it. I liked her, obviously, and I liked spending time with her. I went along with it when she called me her girlfriend, and I went along with it when we started secretly dating. But I never really got it.” A slow breeze rustled the leaves around the park, and I let the sound fill the silence as I thought of how to continue. “Then one day, she just kind of lost it. She said that I treated her like a friend, that she was always the one reaching for my hand, planning dates, asking about my day, giving me pet names. And she was right. I thought I should feel guilty or sorry or something, but really… Really, I just wanted to go back to the way things were before she kissed me.

    “Until she brought it up, I didn’t realize that anything was all that wrong. I figured it must be me who wasn’t normal. So I did some research,” I continued. “And I realized that aromaticism was a thing, and it seemed a lot like me. But when I tried to explain it to her, she just didn’t understand.” I huffed a humorless laugh. “She was kind of the poster child for what not to do when someone tells you they’re aro. She accused me of making it up, of ‘not being able to love,’ of leading her on. She thought it was something that needed fixed, and that if I didn’t, I was going to die alone.”

    “Wow,” Sebastian muttered.

    “Yeah,” I agreed. “But please, don’t take this the wrong way. Anita is really great, and I know you’re friends with her. She was just emotional and… you know. It’s a lot.” He nodded, and I felt a little relieved. I’d made my peace with her. “So, anyway, we broke up. She said we’d stay friends, but… you know how it goes.  I didn’t miss not being in a relationship at all, but that took away my best friend. So then the other night, I kind of wanted to say yes to you, but it took me almost a year and a half years to find another good friend after her, and… I don’t want to lose that.”

    Sebastian was nodding. “I understand. It’s totally okay.”

    There was a moment of silence, and I managed a laugh. “So. Do you think I’m some kind of emotionless robot now?” I tried to joke.

    “No,” he answered immediately. “No, I don’t. To be honest, I don’t entirely understand everything yet, but your story… It makes a lot more sense. I still have questions, but if you don’t like to talk about it, I’ll do some research on my own.” 

    “I don’t mind talking about it,” I said. “But you don’t have to go to any trouble. I just wanted you to know the general reason why I said no. It’s nothing to do with you, not really.”

    Sebastian shifted to face me, his eyes piercing in the dark. “Hana, for you to be this nervous about it, it’s clearly pretty important to you. I’m going to understand it,” he promised, and I had no doubt that he meant it.

    Tears pricked my eyes, and I forced them away. “Thank you.”

    “Can I hug you?”

    I nodded, not trusting myself to speak, and in a second he was pulling me off the swing and wrapping his arms around me. We stayed like that for a second or two, and I relaxed. Finally, I could. When he let me go, I sat back down on the swing. He did the same, asking, “Why were you so nervous to tell me? Did you think I would think there’s something wrong with you and not want to be your friend anymore?”

    I shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t know if I had any rational fear. It’s just that Anita and I had been friends for so long that I don’t remember how it began. I just met you a month or two ago, and I’ve already become so dependent on having a close friend again… I don’t want to mess this up.” I didn’t know where this honesty was coming from - whether the late hour or the emotional soul baring of a few minutes ago - but I hoped I wouldn’t regret it later. 

    “You didn’t. You won’t,” Sebastian promised. “I don’t mind at all, actually.” He looked at me. “I like you, Hana. But not because you’re a girl and I’m a guy and the fact that we’re neighbors and it’s summer means we have all the potential of a Nicholas Sparks book.” I cracked a smile. “I like hanging out with you, and going on these nighttime adventures. I like having someone to share my favorite places with, and having someone to talk to. Someone’s room to sneak into when I’m pathetically crying in the middle of the night. None of those are purely romantic things, are they?”

    I shook my head.

    “Look,” he continued, “I tried to kiss you the other night, and that was a mistake, I think, for more reasons than one. Mostly because I was going about everything in the wrong way. All I wanted was to be closer to you. I wanted kind of a guarantee that we wouldn’t stop hanging out, or drift apart at the end of summer like casual friends might. I don’t want to lose this either,” Sebastian promised, his gaze intense. “And, in my past experience, that next step has always been dating, but it doesn’t have to be. All I know is that I like you, and I want to keep spending time with you. Aromantic or not.”

    By the time he finished, tears were pulling at my eyes again. “So we’re still going to be friends? I didn’t screw this up?”

    “Of course we’re still going to be friends. You can’t rid of me by friendzoning me, Hana Lau-Shaw.” Sebastian grinned over at me. “The friendzone is where I thrive.”

    I laughed, genuinely this time. “Thank you.”

    “Anytime, friend.” He cast his gaze up at the stars. “I still have a ton of questions,” he said, his tone back to normal from the heavy emotional confessions of before, “but I think those should wait for another day. Right now, we have more important things to do.”

    “Really?” I asked. “Like what?”

    Sebastian threw his head back and kicked off the ground. “Swing!” he answered. 

    Laughing again, I pushed off with my feet and went soaring into the air. For a few seconds there, I could have sworn I was flying.

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