"you're kind of a a *****", he says, kicking a rock with his shoe.
"big talk coming from you," i respond, my shoe scuffling in the dirt, "at least i don't wear stupid t-shirts."
it's all i got. i don't have much in my arsenal toward this kid, no matter how much i want to hate him. he walks a little bit ahead of me on the path. he talks a little bit too loud. the messy brown curls falling down his back need to be brushed.
"you should brush your hair more," i tell him, and he laughs, but it quickly falls into an overly-exaggerated annoyed groan.
"you're gonna hate hearing this," he laughs again, quieter this time, "but you sound exactly like my mom. our mom."
"you should be nicer to her, too," i say.
"you should be nicer to her, actually," he says, rolling his eyes, "because i can already tell you're not much better."
i laugh at that. i wasn't expecting him to be so sassy.
he turns to look at me. my face, a young, chubby face, awkward with buck teeth and pale skin.
"why do i laugh less?" he asks, "in the future, i mean." he's stopped walking, to look fully at me, awaiting an answer, expectant.
"i don't know," i genuinely don't, "you just get sadder. not like, sadder in a bad way, because you know you're not as sad as you used to be, and you know that you're doing great and it's all there and you should just be happy but you can see all the way you have left to go, but you already walked the whole way here, and you're... tired. you're just a lot more tired."
"oh," he says, before frowning and turning back around, "alright."
we emerge from the forest and walk toward the gas station.
the young girl buys a can of arizona tea and walks back to church, where his youth group is.
the young girl pays for his gas and goes back to his car.