by Erynn Wakefield
It occurs to me that I’ve never had an adult conversation. A weight falls to my shoulders, like I’m being pushed back into my thirteen-year-old body; when things felt like they were never for me. My sixteen-year-old brain takes over; “what’s there to talk about,” I say to myself. My thoughts fold over themselves, trying to believe that once again, I can figure everything out alone, no matter who the situation involves. Just sit and think. Figure it out. Asses actions; yours and theirs. You can do better. Think.
Part of me wanted the words to pour out of my mouth with no thought at all. Talking wasn’t important in my last relationship. All my last relationship had was wasted years, empty promises, and the space between our bodies after going through the motions once again. Things ended long before they were actually over, she knows this; why does she think I need more time?
He looks at me with heavy eyes, deep seas of brown. They’re kind, it was the first thing I noticed about him. I hate to reminisce on the past, it hurts all over my body – and days after the thought I ache and I ache. As usual, I say nothing. Words almost always fail me when I’m right in front of what could or couldn’t be. It seems to be a trend in my life and only mine.
I stare, trying to hide the fact that I’m being broken by another person I love. She doesn’t know she’s doing it either, I know it. She is the sun beaming down on a July afternoon, simply shining light on the people for them to play. She’s a breeze in an over-crowded city, sweeping through to provide air. Just like the sun doesn’t intend to make you sweat through your shirt. Just like the wind doesn’t mean to blow your hat off, she means no harm.
My brain relays the same thought, I am left to tape myself back together after finding someone who belongs to someone else. Every now and then I will find a bright light in someone that shines from every crease and crevice and the harder I look at them, I find, hanging from the corner of their ear; a return label.
I like to think about how we met, the way she unfolded in my hands. It was as if I was peeling back the pieces of her, of us, one day at a time. There were days that she was sweet, like hot sugar, hard candy, and caramel. And other days, she’d stay silent and I could feel her eyes on me from afar. We were two sides of the same coin, we are. When things got too good, I’d withdrawal; too much good is never nice in the end. But I couldn’t hide the fact that I wanted to crawl into her skin and live there with her. Two sides of the same coin would never be enough, I wanted to be one.
He reaches for my hand and I immediately pull away, soft and swift. His eyes grow sadder, something I didn’t know could possibly happen in that moment. His eyelashes grew with every blink; coated in the wetness of his eyes. It was as if we were mirroring each other. “Be here with me,” he says, placing his hand back in his lap.
“Please,” he pleads, knowing that I’ve already checked out.
For a split second I see her, and I immediately want to walk away and build a wall of bricks of pride, ego mortar between each and every brick. I want to slam my hand on the table or scream or curse because she won’t speak to me; but I don’t. She’s not her and I know that.
I stare at him, tears pooling in my eyes; then quickly look down. Tears drop one by one on the wooden table. My parent’s wooden table that we’ve had since I was thirteen. At least it’s not our wooden table, that we’d have to get rid of; we never got that far. I look back up at him, barely able to make out his face through the tears.
“I have nothing to say,” I say sternly, trying to hide my very apparent emotions.
He raises his eyebrows and tilts his head, waiting for me to speak again. Sadness washes over his face in the time that it takes me to string words together. I look down, trying to get myself to say everything I’ve already said to him in my head.
“It’s not that there’s nothing to say. It’s that there’s nothing to say that really matters,” I explain.
He stares at me and I’m unaware of his thoughts or what they could possibly be.
“I’ve been trying to get you to tell me exactly how you feel since the day we met,” he says, reaching for my hand again; this time I let him grab it. He rubs his thumb across the top of my hand and waits for me to respond.
“Don’t,” I say, looking away.
I hate to talk about when we met.
I pull my hand away in an attempt to disconnect for a second. A knot in my throat sat there, I could hardly speak. I tried to be strong for her, I tried to be strong for us. “Would you just talk to me?” I ask. All I wanted was for her to feel like I did. All jumbled up, bursting at the seams to saty everything she has ever wanted to say to me. I could handle it; I could handle all the emotions, but she won’t let me. She wants to crouch over, carrying the weight of me and everyone else she cares about.
Relief washes over me at the thought that this may be our first and last conversation like this, I know it. It feels familiar, to be swept off my feet by fate, to escape the hard conversations because I’m afraid to have them. I wipe my eyes and look up at him, waiting for him to say what I’m afraid to say, what I will not say. He leans across the table for a second, then stands up to walk over to me. He scurries over and places his hands on both sides of my face, rubbing my temples with his thumbs as he kneels in front of me.
I needed to touch her; if I could just touch her maybe she could feel my warmth. Maybe I could transfer this feeling to her, the jumbled-up phrases and flustered thoughts. I continued rubbing her temples, simply staring into her eyes, waiting for her to let everything out. Her eyes began to well up the longer we looked at each other, her breathing became heavy and labored. She parted her lips slightly to get more air, she tried to stay calm, but I knew she was about burst into tears. I removed one hand from my temples and placed it over her heart. She furled her eyebrows, unaware of what I was trying to do. I took long, deep breaths; signaling for her to do that as well. But the more I slowed my breathing and calmed down, the more worked up she got. She let out a whimper and I pressed down on her chest a little harder, I began rubbing over her heart. “Here,” I said.
“Be here with me,” I repeated.
I took a deep breath, trying to get enough air to speak. I let out a choppy sigh, “be here with me,” I repeated after him.
“I am here with you, I really am,” he said almost immediately.
I didn’t believe it for a second, how could I know for sure that that he didn’t think of her, that he didn’t compare the two of us or think about what they had compared to what we have.
“You can’t let things build up so high, I can barely see you,” he said, furling his eyebrows. He looked stressed; eager to know why I let it all build up. But I didn’t feel like I knew anyone at all. I asked no questions; I didn’t want to be told lies. It all allowed me to assume motives and I liked that, because I was always honest with myself. It seemed comfortable to operate on my own, I wanted to relay ideas with myself, I wanted the blame, the glory. I mostly didn’t want a person to blame or a person to thank. And with every decision to hold something in, I broke away at him. “Lean,” he said. I felt a warmth fall over me, “lean, if only for a little bit,” he whispered. And I leaned, I collapsed into him and he caught me. Someone finally said it, someone finally meant it.
Suddenly my desire for pride bricks and ego mortar crumbled. I began to want bricks of compassion, love mortar layered thick between ever brick; not to be a shield but a wall for her to lean on. I wanted to hold her as she tried to hold the weight of the world and if she fell slightly short, she’d still be held up, by me.
I had always wanted to be there, the rock, the one to be a helping hand. I never imagined we’d switch places, that I’d find solace in his arms and not the other way around. I had swallowed tears for too long, the salt was beginning to dehydrate my soul with every tear; burning away at my insides. I was itching for peace, for solace in another soul.
I was unaware of the power I held, the power that came with holding someone else up. The power and the strength it takes to simply take a finger and lift someone’s chin up when there’s a weight on the nape of their neck. More strength than it took to be in my last relationship, more strength than carrying on through an unfulfilling connection. It was a weight that I was willing to carry, I would have carried it ten-fold.
His voice echoed in my head.
I can barely see you.
I can barely see you.
I can barely see you.
It was the first time that I had ever wanted to be seen. I wanted him to see me and I didn’t have to beg or cry, like I thought I would. But there I was crying because it was all too much and it felt like I was eighteen again, when everything felt like too much too soon. I was expecting to feel like I always had, sore from arms outstretched to prevent anyone from getting too close. Everyone stays at arm’s reach and no one hears my thoughts, no one touches what just might break with the right amount of force.
Say something. I want her to say something.
I want to say the right thing.
She could give me chopped up words and I’d be satisfied.
Everything is out of order.
“I don’t want to say the wrong thing,” she said, placing her hands on my face this time; rubbing my temples with her thumbs. “I want to keep you here with me, I want you to stay,” she continues.
“Then why are you trying to push me away?” I ask.
She leans forward, pressing her forehead against mine and closes her eyes, tight. I close my eyes with her and wait for her to say something else but she’s silent for what seems like forever. I open my eyes and look at her, still thinking. She opens her eyes and slides her hand into my hair and removes her forehead from mine, along with her hands from my head.
“I feel…” I started. He raised his eyebrows, waiting for me to continue, but I couldn’t.
“Like alphabet soup?” He asked.
He said it.
I nodded my head and giggled, I couldn’t help but laugh. He smiled wide and pulled me in to kiss my forehead.
“Tell me exactly what comes to your mind, don’t try to articulate it,” He says.
“You need to heal, and I want to be the tape, but I don’t know if you want me to be. I want you here, but you have to heal, and I don’t want you to scar. My heart aches for you and I need you to know that,” I respond.
She looks away, trying not to think about the moment too much. I take my finger and touch her chin to turn her towards me again.
“Ready for my alphabet soup?” I ask. She grins through her welled up eyes and nods quickly.
“It was over long before it was over, and I knew that. You helped me realize what could be and I’m sorry that you had to see it all end. I wish I could apologize in all the languages a thousand times. But I want you to know, that my heart aches for you,” I said. She wrinkles her forehead, the way she always does when she’s trying to be strong. I could hear, though she spoke no words; “you don’t need to feel bad for me,” she’d say. I reached up and pressed my thumb against her forehead wrinkles, “I never asked you to process my pain for me, you did that all on your own,” I explained. “I never asked you to weigh my options,” I continued. She pulled back a bit, looking stunned by my words; surprised by my candor. I care far too much to sugar coat things for her, she’s meant to know exactly how I feel, so we can last.
“I’m not trying to hurt you,” I said.
“I know,” she blurted out.
But it felt like he was, like he was saying the very things that could imitate the feeling of a knife buried deep into my skin. With my love language being to strap the other person’s baggage to my own, and for him to refuse to let me do that for him, was painful. Every word he said felt like he was reaching right into my chest and pulling my heart out.
Her eyes were wells, so deep, it only seemed to get darker and darker until all I could see was my reflection in the gloss of her eyes. I finally knew what it was like to be her. Knot in her throat, tears ready to escape, and still, focused solely on another person. I understood because it was happening to me, I wanted to do what she always had. I wanted to load her baggage onto my back and carry it for miles and miles, with her taking only what she could carry and healing it as we walked; and only once it was all gone, I could rest.
There was a decision to be made, and it seemed like it was all up to me.
There was a decision to be made and it was hers.
“What do you want to do?” I asked.
She shrugged her shoulders as tears began to drop from her eyes.
“I want you to myself,” she said under her breath.
I nodded almost immediately.
“Will you promise me something though?” I asked.
She nodded immediately, mimicking my movements.
“Tell me when you feel…” I started.
“Like alphabet soup?” I finished, smiling wide, eyes still irritated from my tears. He smiled softly and all I could see was the first time he looked at me like that. Almost a full year ago, he’d turn and stare for a bit before smiling softly and waving. I remember he looked clean, like nothing had touched him, ever. And I wished for that same cleanliness to wash over me, to consume me. He seemed peaceful, like he does now, like he could finally relax. He leaned in and kissed my forehead and I knew.
I just knew.
About the Author
Erynn Wakefield is a twenty-one year old writer who has been writing almost as long as she has been reading. She writes short stories, novels, poetry and prose, and screenplays. This is her first publication. She dreams of publishing her novel.