There was a gentle knock on the door, and Hayao poked his head through the gap.
“Hey, Hay. Come in.”
Hayao pushed the door open, walked in and sat down on the floor next to where BrX already was, cross-legged, looking incredibly uncomfortable.
“Yeah. It’s… not working. Not sure my legs are meant to bend this way, and my shoulders… well, I don’t want you to think I’m bragging, because I’m not, but I literally can’t rest my arms like that. My muscles are too big.”
“I guess the positions are more designed for Buddha body types, eh?” Hayao laughed.
“Heh, yeah. Maybe I just need to find one that works for me. It’s… not this one.” BrX unknotted himself and collapsed, lying down, on the floor. He exhaled in one long sigh.
“Anyway. Enough about me and my… gloriously unwieldy body. What’s up?”
Hayao looked awkward all of a sudden. “Uh,” he began, clearly unsure of how to say what he needed to say. “Listen, BrX. I… I found something… saw something… I wasn’t meant to see.”
BrX sat up sharply. “What was it,” he asked, but it was more of a statement than a question, a sentence with a hint of fear and a hint of threat.
Hayao reached into a pocket and pulled out a small piece of paper, printed with an image. “This photo. I… I know you hid all the photos of your… family, but I’ve never seen this before. Who is it?”
BrX took the photo gently, and looked at it with soft, sad eyes. The man in the photo was tall, incredibly skinny, young, and happy. His hands were on his hips in a not-quite-by-accident superhero stance, and his smile shone with confidence and hope.
“It’s me. It… was me.”
Hayao’s mouth hung open. “Uh… wow. Man, I’m sorry, I didn’t recognise you… at all.”
“Yeah, I changed a lot. I’m, what, 16 in this photo?”
“Ha, yeah. That’s when I met…” BrX trailed off, his eyes glazing over with sadness and hurt.
Hayao wasn’t quite sure what to do, so he put an arm around BrX and took the photo from between his fingers.
“I’ll go put this back where I found it, ok?”
She was sitting under a tree when I first saw her. Surrounded by these huge guys - guys who looked like they spent all their time playing sports and doing press-ups. Not because they wanted to be strong, but because they wanted to look strong. Big difference.
Strong muscles hide weak hearts.
I hated them, then. I thought they were everything repulsive about humankind - the need to show off, to cause envy, to avoid confronting their feelings. Pathetic, really.
Now I can only wonder what they had to hide.
But her - she was beautiful, inside and out. Nothing to hide. She was authentic, she was unafraid, she was bold and flawed and wonderful. Perfect, not because she was flawless, but because her flaws were visible and lovable, like a teddy bear that had been torn and stitched up again and again. It shows character, I’d say, it shows that it has been places and seen things and been loved, and sometimes love leaves you with scars, but those scars… that’s beauty. That’s perfection.
And she would laugh, and tell me to say that again when she was old and wrinkled and sunburned and stretch-marked.
And I would say, “I look forward to it.”
But she lived and died without wrinkles, and I will live and die without getting to see her, flaws and all, for the rest of my life.
But strong muscles can hide weak hearts.