Note from the author: “I wrote it after finding out a close friend had HIV (the title is an acronym, and the “red banner” I talk about in the piece is a metaphor for HIV)”
This boy I know, wears a red banner over his heart. It is hidden below the many layers he wraps himself in, exposing it to no one. I’ve unwrapped him though, many times, felt the bare skin of his vulnerability, seen the reality of it all. He brushes it off like it is nothing, preferring not to talk about it, covering up again, quickly, pretending the red banner isn’t there-
But it is.
I wish I could take the red banner away from him, take its place, mend the scars with hope, but that won’t happen, he is the only one who can do that. All I can do is keep his company, play along with his masquerade of denial. I sometimes wonder what he was like when he was younger, carefree and unable to comprehend the significance of the red banner. “Never grow up,” I want to tell the younger him, “never lose your spunk.
I knew, somewhere in me I just knew, the second I first made eye-contact with those verdigris eyes of his, that he was here for a reason, that is, in my life. I knew in that instant, that he had something under that grayscale expression of his- something I had to find. I don’t think the red banner is all I had to find though, it came too easily for that to be true. In all honesty, I believe I’ve just hardly scratched the surface.
He’s a diamond, hard to find, hard to crack, but energetically scintillating from each quirk, flaw, and facet-
Red banner and all.