12. Little Ego

June came along too fast. He wasn’t ready for summer, his pale skin turning red at the smallest ray of sun, and it became too warm to hide himself in layers of clothes. The sky was the bluest of blue, the kind of blue that only exists on a Swedish summer day, and he was still wearing his scarf. The bus stop was deserted, people had already left the sleepy suburb hours ago to gather in the city park and soak in the sun with their little families, their sweet red strawberry salads, their sugary Festis drinks, perfectly manufactured smiles – everything perfectly artificial, society’s drug.

And yet here he was, at the bus stop, the last one of the line. It was where bus 2 took him to school and back every weekday, and to band meetings and back every weekend. Not this day, though. There was no school, no band meeting. He had nowhere to be other than here. His white and blue striped scarf fluttered on a breath of warm wind, and he noticed he was sweating underneath the knitted wool. Yet he pulled up the collar of his jeans jacket a little bit more, to hide his face, as he pretended to lean against the timetable post casually. He was never casual, he was always anxious and awkward. But he could pretend, like the best of them. It was in his genes, his DNA.

Any minute now. A shiver ran through him, he pushed his hands deeper into the pockets of his jeans. He chewed his bottom lip, the only sign of anxiety he had never been able to conquer so far, because the tiny jabs of pain when he bit too hard kept him grounded. No amount of his mother’s Nivea creme had ever cured the rawness and the scabbing. He didn’t care. It wasn’t like those lips were ever going to kiss anybody. The sun burned on the back of his head and his shadow in front of him looked weird, like a fat gnome without a face.

Then it happened, finally. The door of the house across the bus stop opened. He tried to be even more casual, if he could he would drown in his casualness right now. The hedge blocked most of his view, but he saw a tip of blonde hair move towards the car parked on the driveway. He heard a boyish voice, and recognised the little brother, then another voice, the one that was also boyish, but less, the one that had never managed to lose the westcoast accent, the voice he heard in his dreams and in his head constantly. He swallowed thickly and held his breath.

A blue and white striped t-shirt, matching his scarf, football shorts, knee high football socks. Football bag thrown carelessly into the trunk. Messy blonde hair, tanned skin. Blue eyes that didn’t see him. The doors of the car closed one by one, 4 times including the trunk, the car drove away, past him. A glimpse of those blue eyes, then it was gone.

He let out his breath and noticed he was trembling. Sweat ran down his face, down his back, the palms of his hands were burning. The bus came to start its round, he got on, he was alone. As the bus made its way towards the city centre, he counted his change. Just enough to make it to the football field up north and back.

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