She didn’t know how to answer his question in a graceful way. She was taught to emit grace, speak nicely, mind her manners and not hurt people’s feelings. Do not ruffle feathers, do not be aggressive, do not speak in a way that will cause conflict or retaliation. This question…this honest, raw, pleading question was going to be hard to answer because she was out of energy to abide by the rules. She didn’t have the energy it would take to think of a graceful, kind, considerate answer. She was tired of overt-thinking responses. She was tired of not saying exactly what she felt.
They are in her car drinking tea and staring out at the frozen lake. He is waiting for an answer. Ten seconds; ten long deafening seconds have passed and she still hasn’t spoken. I suppose it is hard for people unlike her to understand how hard it can be to speak once you have already shut down; how hard it is to bother saying words that you know won’t be received how you intend them to be, no matter how hard you try to formulate them. Perhaps it is faulty communication, perhaps it is disinterest – perhaps she is just utterly hopeless.
The lake shifts and the deep crack of ice brings her back to the moment. He is still waiting. Shit.
She shifts in her seat and shoves the zipper of her puffy down jacket away from her cheek. The fucking zipper is always scratching at her face! Fuck!
She sighs and watches the cloud of her breath spread out in front of her.
“I didn’t imagine this. Before I got to know you, before I loved you, I didn’t imagine this.
The freckles in your eyes…the golden flecks. They used to draw me in. I used to gaze into them while I felt the wisp of your breath against my cheek and imagine what it would be like to feel your hand on the back of my neck, pulling me in closer for the long, forbidden kiss that would change everything.
Your cheeks…your well defined, chiselled cheek bones. I used to imagine what it would be like to wake up beside you and run my fingers over those freckled cheek bones before I kissed you good morning and made you breakfast. Breakfast would be our favourite time of the day.
The silver threads in your hair…I used to imagine what stories were woven into your waves, before I actually ran my hands through them. What happened in your life during the years before we crossed paths? I imagined you were a little boy who loved to play in the woods and would come home at dusk with a filthy, smiling face. You would hold out your cupped hands to show your mother a slimy, muddy toad that you had jammed in your pocket earlier in the day and saved to show her. I imagined you always wanted to make her proud.
Your smile…your huge, joyous smile. I used to imagine it meant something about me. I used to imagine the feel of it growing against my cheek as we slow danced in my living room to the latest Norah Jones CD, or maybe even something ridiculously remarkable like James Moody’s, “Moody’s Mood For Love”. That song….the things it does to me. It makes me weightless – like your smile once did.
You…the you I imagined, the you that I wanted you to be, the you that you were in fleeting moments, did things to my heart and to my soul that make right now, this moment, unbearably suffocating. If I had the energy I would be smashing on the windows trying to break out of here and run as fast as I could away from this moment. I would run until I only had one ounce of breath left, and was forced to suck some fresh life into my lungs. Some air that didn’t sting! Some godforsaken air that didn’t feel like cement! But I don’t have the energy. It is exhausting for me to say even these few words.
What’s the matter?
I don’t know.
The things that I imagined are hurtful. The things that I remember are hurtful. The things you did and didn’t do, the things I did and didn’t do, the moments we shared and the ones we didn’t tear at my heart every day until I want to rip it out of my chest and throw it across the room.
What’s the matter?
Everything. I don’t know.”
He is staring at me, blankly. What is he thinking? Does he think I’m crazy? I know I sound crazy. I feel crazy.
I look back at the lake.
The sun is going down and adding a glint to the crusted snow. It burns my eyes and they begin to tear.
There is a pink hue to the sky. Watermelon skies, as I like to call them. Pink skies are my favourite. They make my body feel like it is springing back to life. They bring me childish joy. Like his smile used to.
I start the car and back away from the lake; the sound of the crusty snow beneath the tires deafening in relation to the silence in the front seat. He hasn’t said a word.
Wordless; the drive home is wordless.
I pull into the driveway and turn off the ignition. We sit.
He turns and looks at me, “Are you coming in?”
“Give me a few minutes.”
I watch him go inside, as I lean my head back against my headrest. A tear escapes my right eye and freezes as it rolls down my cheek.
I recline my seat, and pull my scratchy jacket up against my face.
I close my eyes.
I am too tired to move.