love, lise

United States

18
she/her
LA

Message from Writer

i write about emotions a lot (especially death and loss) and literally none of it is from personal experience. im just dramatic. honestly. so if i post something particularly sad or something, u dont have to comfort me. many ppl have and its very sweet!! but im fine fr

Logan’s Ceremony

February 19, 2021

FREE WRITING

3
Sawyer was never told about how easy it is to die.

He had this idea of ceremony about it that only those who have yet to experience it from the splash zone have. No one talked about how the front row could be anywhere— you could see a car crash from the sidewalk. No one told Sawyer this.

Sawyer is an oil spill.

Not the oil contained before the spill, and not the rested pools of black after it happens; Sawyer is the middle frame— the hands that slowly consume, an accident devoid of structure. He’s uncontainable in a way that is entirely less lovable and sought after than any other ‘uncontainable’ he’s come across.

With hair the color of hatred on his shoulders, he is an oil spill both physically and emotionally. His thin wrists speak a passive language of asking a question and accepting the answer before it is said. I’m not a danger to you, his slouching posture says. He exists in a shade of porcelain that looks sickly under the streetlamps.
Sawyer used to have this idea of a buildup of moments, diagnoses, a birthday cake crowded with dozens of candles, all cheerily lit to say, “I should be dead by now.”
You’re supposed to see it coming, you’re supposed to have time to make it to the hospital, to whisper a final prayer, to hold onto your loved one’s hand so tightly their soul would have to untangle itself from yours; you’re supposed to have hope that they wouldn’t go— at least this is what he thought.

This is how Logan Kekoa should have died—with ceremony.

Logan, a sun kissed child with a conniving smile and the biggest, most beautiful brain full of bad ideas, was never someone Sawyer expected to die before he grew up and changed the world. He was a creature of recklessness, a being made of shafts of light and warmth. He was born looking tousled and loved, with sun freckles that would pop up in the summers, and hair that could never truly be controlled, but he liked it that way; tousled and loved, just like the rest of him. He wore his freedom so beautifully. His presence projected a kind of sunshine no one had ever been able to capture— no one holds the sun in their hands. We live under the sun; we bask in her glory. When we hold our hands up to the sky, our palms are filled with only the tiniest fraction of her light because she cannot be contained in only the palms of one person. So, it was with Logan.

No one ever told Sawyer about how easy it is to die; when Sawyer stood in the gutter of a busy city street, dodging cars and pedestrians alike, no one stopped to tell him that Logan might not come back to him once his mother drove him away.
They were supposed to see it coming, they were supposed to light his 90-something candles on a cake he no longer had the teeth to eat, they were supposed to hold onto his soul so tightly the stars would double check his arrival time, plucking over the earth only to find him still intertwined with the boys who loved him more than life and held his soul down so he couldn’t go.

A white Chevy pulled up to the sidewalk of their southern California city on River’s birthday. Shannon Kekoa rolled the window down, with the same smile she passed onto her son already playing on her lips. Logan hung on the parking meter that the boys surrounded. “Get in, boy.” she had called, nodding gentle, silent greetings to the boys who surrounded her son. “God, you’re such a pack.” she had laughed, glancing over the boys one by one. Sawyer, Seth, Averie, River, Ethan, Logan.

Their last day with Logan came to a slow end; River had laughed uncontrollably over a tasteless joke Averie grumbled about the bumper decal of a passing Subaru, and the skateparks and shopping mall food courts blurred in Sawyer’s memory as the sun began to set, falling beneath the horizon and taking Logan with it. Seth tousled Logan’s hair lovingly as he stepped off the curb. River shimmied Logan’s beat up school backpack off his shoulder and into the crook of Logan’s elbow. “I love you all!” Logan cackled. Seth scoffed. Ethan sucked at a cherry lollipop, smiling around the dissolving stick between his lips. Averie rolled his eyes. Sawyer knew he meant it.

This was Logan’s ceremony. This was all he got.




[]




On the day Sawyer met Logan, the air had been soured with the smell of impending rain, and electric with the lightning storm that was slowly rolling in. A group of teenage boys took shelter from the wind in an empty carport outside an apartment complex.

Sawyer had arrived first with a stack of history textbooks cradled in his arms and an empty stomach. Ethan came next, sheltering his face from the drizzle with a binder from the wrong class, a written warning from a teacher, and a wax pastry bag containing a jam-filled croissant. 

On that Wednesday, they fit together like two halves of a whole under a stranger’s carport, Sawyer carrying the schoolwork that Ethan did not do and Ethan carrying the lunch that Sawyer did not eat, two blocks from the gate of their school. On Wednesdays, they waited for Seth to come around in his truck and take them home.

Ethan and Sawyer were very much opposites. They were carved from such vastly different materials into such vastly different shapes that the easy fit of their souls against each other shocked everyone, including themselves. Ethan was shorter and prettier and angrier than Sawyer. He scowled more and yelled more and cried more, he fought the world and everything it threw at him, whereas Sawyer laid down and accepted everything that came his way. Ethan would take a dish towel to a house fire—he’d stomp out every flame before he let it consume him because how dare a fire try to destroy the things he loved. Sawyer would wake up to the fire alarms and lay back down when he saw the flames because what’s done is done. This is how it’s meant to be. Sawyer believes in fate in a bad way, Ethan thinks the very concept is stupid.

Despite having missed last period for a jam-filled croissant, Ethan excelled in school whereas Sawyer struggled. Unlike Sawyer, Ethan made friends easily. Unlike Sawyer, Ethan tutored middle schoolers at the library when he had free afternoons, and that is where he met Logan.

Unlike Sawyer, Ethan loved Logan from the very moment he met him.

“Hey,” Ethan had grumbled around his croissant that day. “Seth is giving him a ride home too.” He jutted a thumb over his shoulder at the absurdly large middle schooler who was not, in fact, behind him, but was already making his way up to Sawyer.
“I’m Logan.” Logan had smiled. His crooked baby teeth were less than endearing when he planted himself so unreasonably close to Sawyer. “I like your shoes. Do you have games on your phone?”

Logan, Sawyer soon learned, took up more space in life than most people; he ran through the library, and controlled the stereo even from the backseat. He laughed when he shouldn’t have and could never cry at the right times; Sawyer believed it must’ve been because his older sister had died in an accident when Logan was eight and he never learned how to cry after that. 

He was like a playlist on shuffle— a familiar jumble of things that made you feel so much because it was so full of life, but still unpredictable.

“How old are you?” Logan had asked Sawyer absentmindedly, between his acappella versions of old rock songs and popular ballads. He had picked at his hoodie zipper with one hand, and balanced Sawyer’s phone on his knee with the other. Sawyer remembers Candy Crush swimming silently across the screen. “Sixteen,” Sawyer had hummed.

“My brother is sixteen, too. Everyone always thinks he’s older, though. Mom says he’s tall for his age,” Logan had mused as he swiped animated candies across the face of Sawyer’s beat up phone.

That day, the three boys sat on the cold asphalt beneath the edge of the carport and waited for Seth. They waited 30 minutes, maybe, but it felt like longer with Logan who couldn’t sit still for more than a few seconds. That day, Ethan tore a corner off of his croissant and begrudgingly dropped it into Logan’s palms after he’d asked. Logan had looked like a king in that moment; he wore the pride of a ruler, smug about the bite shared with him, and then he had promptly broken it into small pieces and scattered it in the gutter for the parking lot’s population of crows to devour.

By the time Seth pulled up in his inherited pickup truck, looking chaotic and expensive behind the wheel with his summer tan and Hawaiian shirt, Logan had unlocked seven levels of Candy Crush and asked Sawyer every inappropriate question he could think of. 

Under the carport that day, Logan was only fourteen.

“Ethan, you multiplied,” Seth had said when Ethan pulled the passenger side door open. “What’s the baby’s name?” He then asked, to which Ethan rolled his eyes.
Logan’s smile burst out of him with excited breaths, all pearly teeth and electric joy as he interrupted, “Logan. It’s nice to meet you.”

He was only fourteen— too young to be home alone overnight, to sign off on his first set of ear piercings, to even consent to someone’s hands on him yet. He still asked, “Which way is left, again?” every time Ethan called out directions from the passenger seat of Seth’s truck.


Unlike Sawyer, Ethan had loved Logan from the very moment he met him with a quiet, begrudging love. A love that never asked Logan to follow him but looked over his shoulder to make sure he did; that was the way Ethan loved everyone.
Unlike how Averie would pick Sawyer when he joined the group a few months later, Logan picked Ethan as his best friend, the older brother his parents didn’t make him. The next few years would be a mosaic of Logan moments made up of split croissants, chatting up bus drivers, and breaking everything in sight by accident. 
All throughout these years, Logan would pick Ethan, again and again. 

Unlike Sawyer, Logan picked Ethan. 




[]




Logan Kekoa died in an accident shortly after driving away from them on River’s birthday. He was only seventeen.

The car barely made it past the intersection in front of the boys before the collision took place. The ambulances that took Logan away took Sawyer’s very soul with them.

Ethan spent nine hours in the hospital, sobbing uncontrollably outside the heavy doors of the ICU. River had tried to stay but had to be taken outside when he couldn’t control his hysterical screaming. As far as Sawyer knew, Seth had driven him home. Averie had disappeared early on, but Sawyer hoped he had made it into the backseat of Seth’s truck.

Logan was only seventeen— too young to drink, too young to vote, still entrusted to the public school system. He still couldn’t drive a car, still chased baby lizards across the scorching sidewalks in the summer, still fumbled around the controls of the clothes washer, still went trick or treating with River. The soft love of a child’s body still clung to his edges, just around his hips, kissing at his jaw. His bosses at the greasy pizza parlor he worked part time at after school shortchanged him because they could, his paychecks’ hourly rate hit just a few dollars beneath minimum wage because there were no laws in place to protect him from that.

He was only seventeen— too young to die.

On the morning of Logan’s memorial service, the church was bursting at the seams with mourners; relatives and high schoolers filling every pew in sight, half of the cheerleading squad sitting in mismatched chairs in the foyer, neighbors spilling out the open doors. Kids from his school crowded the hallway. A mother sat on the steps outside the door with her baby boy whom Logan had lovingly nicknamed during one of the weeks that he helped wrangle kids in the church nursery. The entire youth group surrounded her on the steps.

Only Logan Kekoa’s memorial service could outgrow an entire church within minutes of starting, Sawyer thought.

“I’ve never seen so much sadness in my life,” an usher at the door muttered. He slid bulletins into the boys’ hands as they made their way inside the church. Logan’s face was plastered over the entire front sheet, the gentle edges of his smile looking sick on the yellow paper. The picture was from his 11th grade yearbook. River had stood behind the photographer.

Sawyer herded them inside from behind, letting Seth lead the way to block Ethan and River from the prying eyes of those who knew them. Someone let out a wail within the sanctuary and

Sawyer stopped to tug on Averie’s sleeve when the younger boy turned to watch the usher dab at his eyes with a tissue, making sure of the intentions of the comment. Averie had never been a gentle person, but Logan’s absence had done a number on his patience with outsiders. He let Sawyer guide him into the sanctuary, though he was on edge like a dog, bristled and ready to maul someone should they act out of line.

“Logan Kekoa was a bright young man,” the pastor began. His voice boomed over the speakers into the foyer, and over the outdoor speakers to accommodate those who couldn’t squeeze into the sanctuary. Sawyer had tuned him out after that, looking out through the open doors they stood beside, but that didn’t stop River from listening. Every time River would finally pocket his tissue, the pastor would let someone who barely knew Logan recount a sweet memory, something awful and funny he had said to them, and the tissue would come right back out. Averie always averted his eyes from River’s sadness, and Sawyer couldn’t blame him. River’s grief was meant to be private. He mourned Logan differently; it was meant for closed doors and long nights, not for sunny Thursday morning memorial services with the entire town watching.

River, tall, beautiful, whiny River, was part of the tall, beautiful, whiny trio that was the Cari family. He was the highest corner of their triangle, the star on top of the tree, the only child they ever had to love. He found a friend in Logan Kekoa, a best friend, a brother. Sawyer knows the story well.

The beginning goes like this: River met Logan at a school fair in third grade. Logan had showed off, like the ever-shining star that he was, by doing tricks on the concrete in his wheeled sneakers, and he had fallen on his face in a matter of minutes. He split his lip and River laughed. They had been inseparable ever since.

The middle part was a friendship built on reckless games and bad ideas egged on by starry eyed boys with no sense of their own mortality. As two of the youngest in the mismatched group of boys that came to love each other more than life, they had a bond the others often marveled at. “We’re synced,” River used to say, after they accidentally spoke in unison. “Bluetooth,” Logan would chime in.

The end of the story brings you back to the sanctuary.

“I can’t do this,” Seth had hissed, leaning over Averie and a sobbing River to reach Sawyer. “I’m not going to let them put Lo in the ground next to some old bastards he never knew,” and that’s when the plan was born. In the back of the sanctuary, leaned against a wall, five teenage boys stood shoulder to shoulder, dodging the eyes of wondering cheerleaders and curious well- wishers.

Averie slowly smoothed out the bulletin he had been given, the one he had crumpled immediately. Pressing its edges flat against his thigh, he knocked Seth’s hip with his elbow. “Yeah? Well, I thought of something,” he mumbled. He brushed the sleeve of his dress shirt beneath his nose and something cold bloomed in Sawyer’s chest; in all the years that Sawyer had known the younger boy, Averie had never been one to display concern over anything. He didn’t cry after the accident, at least not in front of them. The sour seeds of anger and distrust were planted in him long before Sawyer found him, planted by a deadbeat dad and an overly emotional mom that threw dinner plates at him every time he walked out the front door instead of listening to her cry. Averie hated crying, but he sniffled then in the back of the church as he scratched something down on the backside of his crumpled bulletin.

It only took a moment and a few swipes of the pen Seth found him for the general shape of their city to become visible, and after that, the highway leading out of town.
The first time Averie looked up, his glossy eyes caught Sawyer’s and they reached an unspoken understanding. “He belongs to us,” Seth had whispered.

Ethan, crying angrily at the edge of their small huddle, choked on a sob. “He belongs more to me than to you,” he hissed.

“And they stole him,” Seth hissed back, voice wet and angry, egging on Ethan. 

“Yeah,” Averie huffed. “So, let’s steal him back.”




[]




It happens like this: the boys sit through 45 minutes of speeches about Logan’s character, his life, and his legacy. The strangers do an absurd amount of ego-stroking for the boy with the biggest ego in heaven already. Then they wait for everyone to clear out of the church and onto the lawn in anticipation for the reception hall to open and the trays of finger foods to be uncovered.

“You’re all so stupid,” Ethan snivels, pressing a wet tissue under his eyes. “I hate all of you so much.” River lets out a suffocating sob at this.

Averie tucks his hands into the pockets of his slacks while crowds of people pour out the front doors, occasionally making the most insincere crying face he can possibly achieve at anyone who looked too hard at the group of boys.

Seth shakes hands with just about everyone in town after the service ends, still playing the part of the grieving friend, still faking a sniffle for every other person. It looks better to cry, but Seth has never been much of a crier, so he fakes it for the bleeding hearts of the grandmothers who paid Logan to mow their lawns. The 10 AM light that filters into the sanctuary through the stained- glass windows makes the church look solemn and sad, rays of faded blue and royal purples playing off of the silver communion trays that sit precariously in a stack beside the foyer doors. Someone has decorated the entire church with bouquets of lilies and baby’s breath, thick green vines and white roses also make an occasional appearance around the pews. Here, everything feels breakable.

They’ve got a bad idea that goes something like this: River grabs the urn and they make a run for it. They’re going to lay his ashes to rest. Logan belonged to them in life and they’ll be damned if he belongs to anyone else in death.

Once the sanctuary is empty, Sawyer, blinking his glassy eyes at the last church staff leaving, asks for a moment alone with the dead boy; at this time, the boys break away from the wall, each running for the exit Averie had assigned them before the service ended. The foyer door shuts with a gentleness that feels wrong as they orchestrate their crime. There’s a gentle charge in the air, a silent crackle of energy that sparks to life when then the room is finally empty of the last mourners. Ethan almost smiles.

“Find your exit,” Seth commands, sounding kingly and sure of himself. The boys do as he says. They move around the sanctuary like it’s a battlefield, ducking in between rows of pews and around windows. Careful not to make noise in his dress shoes, Sawyer falls into an alcove beside the small stage. “Go get the car,” Sawyer tells Seth. “Try to look like you’ve cried.” Seth, with a silent laugh playing his lips, slips out of his place by the foyer doors and bolts through the sanctuary, running out an emergency exit with more speed than what seems appropriate for a funeral. The door shuts behind Seth with a quiet click that cues River over to the urn. His face twists into something pitiful. River, their willowy blonde made of fragile bones and too much praise, is the weakest of them all. He barely aligns himself with the black box that holds Logan before his hands fly up to his face and he lets out an ugly gargling noise that sounds more like he’s choking than anything. His knees give out, either by sadness or for the sake of dramatics, soon after.

“Crybaby,” Ethan hisses under his breath, tacking on a handful of creatively arranged swear words for fun. “Averie grab the urn.” Sawyer catches Averie’s eyes before he moves and gives a gentle nod. Averie sprints across the room, forever unbothered, and picks up the urn with a caution he had never used with Logan when he was alive. He drags his fingers across the top gently before gripping the sides, unsure of what is allowed when it comes to Logan.

Logan Kekoa, it says; Loving Son, Brother and Friend. It’s a basic inscription meant to look mild between the headstones of the great grandparents he never knew. He would have wanted something more lighthearted, so Seth had sarcastically offered up “Logan Kekoa, Now Forever Pissing Off Jesus” but they all knew he would have liked that more than sharing an inscription with half of the other cemetery residents.

“Seth is—” Ethan’s voice drops off at the sound of approaching footsteps outside the foyer doors. The boys freeze in their places, Ethan and Sawyer on either side of the stage, River crumpled between the pews, Averie with the urn cradled in his arms.
What happens next happens in slow motion: the door swings open painfully slow on its creaking hinges, the room shrinking around them. All the oxygen that had previously occupied the room is sucked out through the open door. No one speaks.

A cheerleader from the boys’ rival school stands in the open doorway, shock painting her face. For a beat, no one dares to move— and then Averie spins on his heel and books it for the same door Seth had left through. Averie runs faster than Sawyer has ever seen him run— actually, it’s the first time Sawyer’s ever seen him run. He speeds down the aisle faster than any of them can react, his dress shoes thumping against the matted blue carpet. He’s gone before the girl can exhale.

In the next moment, Sawyer is less sure of the mechanics of his movements and more certain of the feeling of air rushing past him, the edges of River’s ribs beneath his palms, and the burst of sunlight that greets him outside. Somehow, in the chaos of it all, Ethan had found the good sense to follow.

The door slams loudly behind them. “What the hell?” Sawyer hisses, tangled in River’s limbs. Averie cradles the urn to his chest like a frantic mother with a newborn, and just opens his mouth to speak before Seth comes flying around the corner of the lot in his truck.

“Get in, idiots!” Seth hollers happily as he comes to a screeching halt over four parking spaces, and River wails on the grass, “We’re going to get arrested!” before untangling his uselessly long legs from Sawyer’s, and shuffles towards the truck.

Following behind them, Ethan growls with not a hint of innocence in his voice, “It was Averie’s idea. I’m an innocent bystander.”

The truck doors fly open before the church ones do by some miracle. The boys throw themselves in like they were drowning and the stained polyester truck seats are a warm beach. 

Seth’s arm swings out of the driver’s seat and finds immediate purchase on River’s collar. In one fell swoop, the lanky blond is yanked from the open doorway and secured in the seat directly behind Seth. ‘Go, go, go!” Averie yells, pushing at the mass of flailing bodies from the back of the line. Sawyer shakes as he climbs in, Ethan’s legs swinging at his face while River rocks unsteadily in the farthest seat. Somewhere above their heads, Sawyer is aware of the urn being passed from Averie to Seth and dropped somewhere in the front seat. Finally, Ethan finds his way into the middle seat and Sawyer follows. Averie climbs into the passenger seat. Rearranging will have to happen at the first rest stop. The truck doors slam with a finality that hangs heavily in the air.

Flying through the parking lot, Seth voices, “We’re committed,” as they nearly knock over an entire family in mourning on their way out. Seatbelts are thrown around as they speed away from the church. “We’re all going to hell,” Ethan spits. Averie laughs at this, cold and amused.

“Take the first exit and get on the highway,” Sawyer says with the authority of a king.




[]




Sawyer had never thought he would be thankful for how tiny their city is until he runs away from it with a truck full of his best friends and their best friends and the ashes of their collective best friend tucked snugly between Ethan’s feet beneath the passenger seat. 20 minutes of speeding gets them out of the church parking lot, through downtown, out the other end, and onto the highway. Far enough away that the buildings that occupy the blocks around the southern exit grow smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror. Quickly, the buildings turn to low-lying desert mountain ranges, the streets melting into sand and gravel and dirt, the sidewalks becoming shrubs and succulents. All traces of the city are gone in under an hour.

Ethan lights a cigarette he finds in the glove box and hardly touches it to his lips, only lets it crumble between the fingers that he hangs out the passenger side window. Their freedom goes unclaimed— no one says, “We did it, we took Logan back,” while the dead boy in question rides on the floor of the truck.

The air is different here in the desert. It’s a loving air, warm and earthy. It hugs the boys with kicked up minerals and leftover sunrays, carrying their laughter long distances and quieting their crying. The sun sets on them as they drive but the heat hangs in the air. It creeps in the cracked windows and kisses the backs of the boys’ necks, drying their tears, hugging their ribs inside their dress shirts.

It’s here, as they drive —as they put miles and hours and years and the world between themselves and the church, between themselves and the car crash— that the claws of anger begin their slow creep up Sawyer’s spine, piercing the soft flesh of his back every time he breathes. He’s more aware in the quiet moments than the loud ones of just how much life they have lost.

Logan Kekoa was not just sunlight, freckles, and bad ideas. He was an explosion of all things bright and lively, yes, but he was also the quiet moments. He was the arms that slowly wrapped themselves around the other boys’ shoulders to share in their sadness, even if he couldn’t cry with them. He was a little brother to older siblings and a dead sister, but also to the boys that now fill the truck with their sadness. He was the mastermind behind every “good idea” that landed them in the police station or a rundown diner after midnight. He was the scrawled graffiti that decorated dumpsters and bridges, beautiful and illegal. He was a kid. He was afraid of the other boys’ paper cuts and broken arms alike; he couldn’t stomach the twisted ankle River came out of a soccer game with. The black eye Averie came to church with the morning after he stood up to his mom’s boyfriend made Logan choke on his instant coffee. He left the service before it was over. Logan carried around his dead sister’s memory like a backpack, the trauma wound tightly around his waist. “I can’t look at your face,” he told Averie that morning in church. Sawyer knew that Logan couldn’t see his bruise without thinking about his sister, bloodied, broken, and only twelve years old.

These are the things they lost; this is what Sawyer finds himself missing as they drive through the open land.

When Sawyer was 16, the girl who had taken his first kiss dropped a plastic pregnancy test in his hands during lunch period. It took him three minutes to figure out what the symbols on it meant, but it took two months for the severity to set in before she told him it was gone. “I had a feeling it was a boy,” she had choked out through her tears.

A few weeks later he overheard Logan telling Seth, “Sawyer doesn’t talk anymore,” but he didn’t say “because of the baby he almost had.” Because they didn’t talk about the son that almost was.

He tries not to compare, but he can’t help but wonder if being responsible for four teenagers in a pickup truck headed for nowhere feels anything like being a parent. Two years have wedged themselves between the day the girl he tried to love lost his baby down the shower drain and today, but it only takes two days for all the healing that time has done to become undone. If anything or anyone has ever been a son to Sawyer, it was Logan. 




[]




Close to midnight, the pickup truck rolls into the cool blue light of a gas station carrying a handful of dirty teenagers with nothing on them but the funeral clothes on their backs and enough cigarettes to keep them going through the night; their final destination remains undecided, so they go where the string of desert convenience stores and vacant motels take them, down the long, long highway. 

Ethan, who has slept for a while, sits upright the second Sawyer shuts off the engine like he had never even closed his eyes. “Good,” he comments after surveying their surroundings. He then turns, leaning on the center console, and checks on the boys in the backseat. He lets out a gentle sigh at the sight of them, nodding his chin at them when Sawyer looks up at him. “Stupid kids,” he whispers lovingly.

When Sawyer leans over also, he finds the sight of the two tangled boys just as endearing as Ethan had found it, despite his word choice. Seth, who sits wide awake in the seat behind Sawyer’s, grins at their attention. A sliver of space physically separates him from Averie. Averie has never been one for touch, so he keeps himself as contained as possible— which in this situation means only avoiding touching Seth because River’s all-consuming sadness had overtaken the left side of his body. River sleeps curled up on his seat, his back pressed against Averie’s shoulder and his head rolled against the younger boy. His golden hair looks comical blended into Averie’s jet-black strands, like a splotchy bleach job or a bad wig. Their heads don’t touch, because even while unconscious, Averie can’t find it in himself to forgive someone for touching something as intimate as his head. Despite this, his hair is long enough that it just mingles with River’s hair on his shoulder.

“It’s a miracle Averie can even sleep with River so close to him,” Seth whispers through a smile. Averie hates River. Or, at least, that’s what he says. It doesn’t mean much coming from Averie, though, because he says he hates everyone. Still, River is the embodiment of Averie’s hate— the clinginess, the overwhelming sadness, the undeniability of having been Logan’s best friend. He was the same age as the other two, but while River and Logan were the sun and the moon, Averie was simply misplaced. Their campouts on private property and sneaking into house parties were never activities Averie could ever find himself participating in.

“I’ll pump the gas,” Ethan says like he means to break up the silence, but Sawyer catches the slightest glint in his eyelashes when he turns away, and he knows. Sawyer also turns away from the sleeping mound of the younger boys when Ethan does. Maybe we should have left Logan, Sawyer thinks quietly. It hurts to not see his familiar brown hair in the mix of their golden and black.

Seth’s phone rings as Ethan climbs out of the truck, clumsily finding his footing against the warm asphalt. “It’s my mom,” Seth says quietly. Sawyer tells him to answer it and he does. It’s not the first call they’ve gotten, no, they’ve been drenched in them all afternoon. The calls have been pouring in like the boys were a crisis hotline. All of them went ignored.

Sawyer slips his card out of his pocket and Ethan feeds it into the gas pump while Seth calmly listens to his mother’s screaming on the other end of the call. When she’s done, he mumbles something short and hangs up. The quiet hangs in the air for a beat before Seth’s voice gently rings out in the newfound silence. “They called the cops,” he says first, sounding more defeated than Sawyer had ever heard him sound. “Call your mom back,” is Sawyer’s first response. “We’ll negotiate something.”

“Why are doing this, Sawyer? Where are we going?” It’s a weird vulnerability. Seth doesn’t ask for his power, he doesn’t pride himself in it, it’s given to him. He wears like a second skin, his humble, given power, so to hear his voice stripped of it does an odd thing to Sawyer’s brain. Where is Seth? Where is their king? Why has he shaken off his power? Why is he holding it out to Sawyer? It’s a weird vulnerability, because if Seth doesn’t know where they’re going, no one does.

Outside of the vehicle, Ethan hooks the nozzle of the pump into the mouth of the tank and, leaving it there, leans his back against the cab of the truck. He listens through the open window.

“We’re going to spread his ashes like he may or may not have wanted us to do,” Ethan growls the last part. The hostility in his voice puts Sawyer on guard. He wraps his hands around the steering wheel. His knuckles turn white as Ethan gives an experimental kick to the gas pump.

“Were we supposed to ask him what he wanted?” Averie’s voice bubbles up from beside Seth. At the same time, Sawyer hisses a hushing noise to Averie. Over his shoulder, Ethan knocks his head against the truck.

“Shut up,” he mumbles. “You never spoke to him in life, I would hate to see you fake some civility and speak to him in death.” And this is the blow that undoes it all.
In less than a minute, the quiet, mournful boys become themselves again, all of them fires burning in their own way.

“Don’t start, Ethan,” Sawyer snaps, leaning his head out of the window. In the backseat, Sage rustles to life again. “Sawyer.” Seth reprimands and, ah, there it is. His powerful coat, his humble authority.

“No, really,” Ethan says, pulling himself off of the truck. The way his tone changes makes Sawyer’s stomach turn. It’s familiar, he knows this tone. He leans dangerously close to the driver’s side window, holding eye contact with Sawyer even as he speaks to the backseat. “You hated Logan,” he snaps. “Why are you even here, Averie?” his voice pitches with the last word, already coming undone with emotion.

“Ethan, knock it off.” Seth commands.

“Don’t pretend you ever looked past yourself at the rest of us enough to think you know who I am,” Averie says. Sawyer knows that Averie has never feared Ethan.
“Okay,” Ethan spits. “Who are you, Averie? Who are you secretly? Who are you in the dead of the night and behind closed doors? Tell me, because I only ever saw you belittling Logan, if you even looked at him.”

Their voices rise steadily but are carried farther by the loving desert air.
“Someone roll the damn window up,” Averie says, sounding tired and resigned, much like Averie on any given day.

“At least acknowledge it,” Ethan’s voice rings out, loud and soaked in something hateful and nasty. “Can’t you just acknowledge that you hated him?” He looks around Sawyer at Averie, small in the backseat. Though Averie has never needed protection, he still looks pitiful between the golden masses of Sage and Seth.

“I didn’t hate him,” Averie answers firmly.

“Don’t give me that.” The gas pump clicks, tank full. Ethan yanks it out and let’s it fall, not even lending it enough attention to secure it on the pump.

“What do you really want from him, Ethan?” Sawyer steps in.

Something undeniably hateful flashes through Ethan’s eyes. “That’s brave, Sawyer. Stand up for your kid.”

“He’s not my kid,” Sawyer spits.

“Sure,” Ethan says, pulling his hands off the window track. He gives Sawyer a small, unkind smile. “Was Logan? Was he your kid? Because we all know who he loved most here.” At this, a whimper escapes River, sounding like a child, and Ethan hisses, “oh shut the hell up, River. Does mommy and daddy’s fighting scare you?” Averie rolls his eyes at this.

“Not a single one of you have any damn idea where the kid wanted to be buried,” Ethan hisses, pointing an accusatory finger at each of them one by one. “We stole his burnt up body in a flower vase, for what? So you all could feel good about yourselves, pretending you are doing something sad and heroic? Pathetic,” Ethan spits.

His words linger in the silence, each boy stunned silent by something different. No one speaks as Ethan moves round the front of the truck, and no one speaks when he climbs in. “Start the car, Sawyer,” he demands.

“Where are we going?” River asks in a whisper.

“Either to dump this damn kid on the side of the road just so we can say we did it or we’re taking him back to his family to be buried with the great grandparents he never knew. It’s up to you men, his most trusted friends.” He is all venom and bite in the front seat, all seething anger as Sawyer pulls out of the parking lot.

“Call your mom back,” Sawyer says to Seth. “Tell her we’ll turn around.”

Their sadness hangs in the truck’s wheel wells and dances over the engine, spilling out of the windows while they cruise down the deserted highway. A flash of blonde flies up in the rear- view mirror and River materializes beside Sawyer. “Are we really turning back?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Sawyer answers. “They called the cops, what else are we supposed to do?” 

In the backseat, Seth blinks away a tear.




[]




The rest of the story goes like this: the five living teenage boys and the one dead one turned around at the gas station and drove through the night to avoid criminal charges and bad marks on their report cards.

They don’t get to have the burial anyone imagined; at 11 AM the next day, two miles outside of the city that killed Logan, Sawyer pulled off of the highway and into the dirt that trailed around a blueberry patch. Inside the truck, they blasted the favorite playlist of their dead boy so loud they almost woke his ghost in the urn. But the desert air still loved them.

They delayed the deed for too long, never came to an agreement on where it needed to happen. Breathtaking strips of desert scenery passed by them as they bickered and fought and cried in the car. The blueberry patch was the best they could do. It was a decision made partially out of desperation and mostly out of a joke. Logan hated blueberries. But, Sage chimed in, he would have liked to have gone when summer began next month.

No one talks about how they never really figured it out—Logan’s final resting place was a shot in the dark, a mere guess at what he would have wanted, because the five teenage boys who owned him in life would be damned if anyone else owned him in death. No one says anything about his family. No one asks, “What if he wanted them? What if he wanted to be near his great- grandparents, the old bastards he never knew? What if, between the lines, behind the closed doors, somewhere deep inside him, he only wanted his sister?” They don’t talk about these possibilities, and Sawyer was thankful for it. He was too sorry about dumping him in a blueberry patch like litter to even consider entertaining the heartache of Logan not wanting them in death as well.

The one thing they were sure of, though, always sure, was that Logan picked Ethan as the older brother he wanted. He didn’t pick Sawyer. “I need to do it,” Ethan had repeated for almost the entire drive back. He had chanted it, whispered it, vowed it. He needed to do it, he needed to do it, he needed to do it. It needed to be him. Logan had picked him, Logan had picked him, Logan had picked him.

But then, when the blueberry patch had first materialized on the horizon and Seth said, “let’s do it there,” Ethan had lost his handle on his emotions in proper Ethan fashion, and swung one too many times at Seth from the front seat. He lost the privilege in less than ten minutes and the responsibility fell to Sawyer’s shoulders, because he wasn’t hysterical like Ethan and River, and he loved Logan more than Averie was capable of, and Seth volunteered to keep Ethan inside the truck.

Sawyer had walked a respectful handful of yards away from the chain link fence that kept hitchhikers and the homeless out of the patch, and there he pried open the lid of the urn.

Logan was only fourteen when Sawyer met him. It had been less than a week since Sawyer had seen him last, driving away from them that night in the city, yelling sentiments and waving like he knew he was never going to see them again.
On the side of the road, after he’d cried himself dry, Sawyer met Logan again for the last time.

Sawyer, who has always been one to lay down and let the world beat him senseless with hardships and heartache, chokes on nothing at the very thought of Logan’s sun freckles and wild hair being inside the urn. In his hands he holds Logan Kekoa. 

In his hands is the boy who swam in the ocean and hoped to meet a shark, this is the boy who they loved. It’s a strange reality, a heavy one. Logan didn’t go on a trip, he wasn’t oversleeping his alarm, he wasn’t flipping through comic books in River’s room. They wouldn’t find him playing hide-and-seek, they couldn’t pull up to the skatepark and see him riding the ramps fearlessly. They would never see him skip steps on the stairs again, Sawyer won’t find himself forking over a few dollars for Logan’s chips at the gas station anymore. River will never again have to bring Logan his homework for him when he skipped class. Seth doesn’t need to pick him up from parties anymore. Averie won’t have to pretend not to see Logan waving at him, Logan won’t be there.

They didn’t leave him at home, they didn’t lose him in the grocery store, they didn’t forget him. Logan was there, he had been all along. His freckled smile sat in ashes on the floor of the truck the entire time.

No one told Sawyer that he wouldn’t find fine dust inside the urn; no one told him that when he pried the lid open, he would find bone shards and fragments of Logan that were never meant to be seen. No one told him that he would look like a burnt-out campfire in a jar, no one told him that tipping it over would only spill the finer pieces of Logan, or that he would have to turn it over completely. The sight of the ash makes his stomach flip. Sawyer presses the back of his hand to his forehead and steadies himself against the fence. 

This is Logan, he thinks, this is all that’s left of him.

The others watch in horror as he gives the bottom of the urn a heavy smack and shards came tumbling out. It wasn’t supposed to be like that in the end, there was supposed to be a ceremony. No one told Sawyer about how easy it is to die; he had this idea of ceremony about it that only those who have yet to experience it from the splash zone have, no one talked about how the front row could be anywhere— you could see a car crash from the sidewalk. No one told Sawyer this. 

Logan was supposed to be diagnosed; he was supposed to have grown old. He was supposed to be there, with them in the truck, laughing into the desert air that would love him most. He would have loved to run away, he would have laughed about speeding and made jokes about begging on a street corner when their gas money was nearly gone. He would have loved to lay someone to rest by a blueberry patch. He would have loved all of it so much.

There was no warning when he died. There was no ceremony to it, and he deserved the ceremony of an expected death. He deserved hold onto their hands so tightly that his soul would have to untangle itself from theirs; they were supposed to have hope that he wouldn’t go. But this was it. Now he was the earth. Now he bones mingled with the minerals of the desert sand.

Sawyer laid Logan to rest on the side of the highway, because he had belonged to them in life and they would be damned if he belonged to anyone else in death.

This was Logan’s ceremony, this was all he got.
my rejected short story c:

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2 Comments
  • anemoia (#words)

    btw, i borrowed the name sawyer from this for a short story i'm working on... it just fits so well! i hope you don't mind; i can change it if you'd like. i don't think the characters are all that similar.


    3 months ago
  • anemoia (#words)

    OH MY GOSH. THIS IS BY FAR ONE OF MY FAVORITE STORIES I HAVE READ ON WTW. by that i mean it broke my heart the most. you conveyed every ounce of aching emotion, you developed each of the boys beautifully, your mastery of language, your flow, everything. i loved the dynamic between the boys. it was so fresh and authentic and intimate and heartbreaking. everything about this was golden.


    3 months ago