by Kyra Leon

The air was thick, and breathing was difficult. It got that way after you had been asked how you liked Europe and which was your favorite country for the billionth time. Air turned into sludge and Lance found it hard to talk after a while, to fake an interest in what a German girl thought of his eyes. He looked at the monitor and thought that he resembled a decomposing cat he saw in his old neighborhood once, killed by something unidentifiable. Its eyes were glazed and its face contorted into a fierce, permanent grimace. His made-up face seemed very much the same.

He measured loneliness with resistance. At his loneliest, it seemed that even air actively suppressed him. He didn't dance well on those days, and it was already a trial even on his best. It wasn't that bad yet today, but he already felt his lungs hitching a little every time he would inhale deeply to calm himself down.

"I love you guys," said the German girl in broken English, "but Lance most of all because of his eyes. Because I see into his soul, yah?"

"That's sweet. Danke," he said.

The girl was visibly affected, but tried not to show it, and even this touching sight of a girl nearly losing it didn't alleviate the air much. If anything, the air seemed to condense and Lance felt as if he were drowning right there, right now.

Commercial break. Thank God. He meant it sincerely.

Lance managed to calm himself down by looking at the rest of his friends. JC was his earnest self, talking to the interviewer about the German music scene. Chris and Joey, with the mikes off, started asking the teenage girls if they could be taught the dirty words. Justin fidgeted where he stood, occasionally looking at his mother who stood to the side. Patterns. There was ease and comfort in that.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. If they can do it, you can do it.

"What's wrong, Lance?"

Justin. Flash of hyper awareness, quick as light as he opened his eyes.

"Just tired, I guess. How long is this interview gonna go on anyway?"

"I don't know. I'm getting kinda sick of this though."

"Me too."

"Sometimes, I wish. I wish I could." Justin scrunched up his face, at a loss for words, then bent his head at an angle to look at Lance and held out his index finger. "I wish I could say, like our tutor on the bus, you know. Quiet. And everybody would follow. Shush. And it would be quiet."

Lance smiled, the air quietly evaporating, breaths following the other smoothly as melody.

"I know what you mean."

Justin smiled, put a hand on Lance's shoulder and left it there, a warm anchor for the rest of the interview.

Feeling this good must be a sin. He thought some more about that casual thought, and decided not to do any more deep thinking. He breathed comfortably for the rest of the day.

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