Robbins Prose Winning Piece

Andy Bowman, Contributor

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The Taste of Hope

The boys tasted sweat. They tasted sweat on skin in the sticky memory of July, tinged with blood from cracked lips and swollen tongues. The boys tasted summer air. They tasted salt and tears and his father’s booze. They tasted each other’s lips. This is what cheating tastes like, he thought. It tasted good. They tasted ketchup and soft-serve and a nervous offering of friendship. The boy who was afraid to let things past his lips found it so easy to let him. And yet the boys tasted regret. They tasted distance and late-night phone calls in lonely mouths. The cafeteria food tasted like unanswered questions and uncertainties. It tasted like longing. Tongues clashing like swords, they tasted blood spilled by choice. Teeth gnashing with anxiety, they tasted mistakes. They swallowed memories off of each other’s skin. They tasted their first kiss and their last kiss. They tasted yelling parents and families torn apart. They tasted their own pasts, but they also tasted each other’s. They tasted pain. But the pain they tasted was as sweet as the love they shared. To them, love was bedsheets and cologne and aerosol deodorant. It was naivete and hopelessness and hope. Love was forgetfulness.

And they tasted the past: fourteen-hour drives across the country and late nights alone, scars on arms and feet, tearful goodbyes and tearful hellos, and the broken promises of people after people. They each tasted like sympathy, and a little like lemonade. The boys tasted misfortune and mistakes, but they also tasted hope and promise, hidden away between gums and taste buds. Their mouths were filled with fear and anticipation, and wonder about what would come. Their futures were uncertain, unknown. For fate is a wicked beast and tends to sever even the strongest of bonds. But the boys tasted hope, and they tasted happiness. They tasted the sweetest hope they would ever encounter. And when they looked in each other’s eyes, they could have looked forever. But soon, the night would end. The sun came up, and they tasted reality.

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