Much, Much Later

We sat in silence as you drank your tea, the leaves no longer visible in the swirl of foam and color.

“I’m sorry,” you said, seething slightly, reeking of regret.  The smoke billowed from the paper cup as you set it down.

It had been a while since we sat together in the cafe where we knew more of each other, where we knew our own selves with each other.  And here we were, you a slightly different version of yourself, what with the hair and ID strap tied tightly around the belt loops of your jeans.  Other than that, your lips still danced along the lines of mischief,  your arms still capable of carrying the weight of your world, and your shirt clinging tightly to your body.

Your eyes, however, told a different story.

“You handled it terribly,” I said, surprised to find calm instead of anger laced in the hollow of my voice.

“I’m a mess,” you admitted, tapping nervously on the sides of your cup.  “A twisted, mad kind of mess.”

“Yeah, you were.”

It was the first time we agreed in months.

“Perhaps you know the question coming after that.”

You nodded slowly.  “I do.”

“So,” I asked, feeling nervous too.  “What made you do it?”

“What made me run away?” you answered.  It was always questions with you, questions that I would have loved to answer in a heartbeat.  But it was your turn now.

You breathed out, the air from your lungs giving way to the next inhale you take in.  You weren’t good with words, you told me one night as we sat together on a bench, our knees knocking.  Instead, you held me in your arms and spelled it out.  Or at least that was what I thought.

“I was afraid.”

“Afraid?” I repeated.  “What could have frightened you more than beginnings?”

“Endings.” You stated.

“My life never began and ended with you,” I said.  And suddenly, I realized, that while your hand was inches away from mine, the distance felt miles and miles longer — as if I never wanted to admit that we were both strangers.  A different kind, the one where you know everything and yet you have to pretend like you don’t.  How can you spell that kind of complicated out to someone who can’t seem to tear herself away from people in general?

“I know, I–” you stammered, your words staccato.  “I just can’t seem to wrap around the idea in my head that someone like you could care about me so much.  Like it’s impossible.”

“And yet you became a possibility.” I offered a small smile, and you offered one in return.

“But why me?” You asked, meeting my eyes for the first time in a long time.  “What made you possibly think that I am capable of being loved?”

“I like the mess more than clean,” I said.  “Because the clean would never admit the smidges of dirt, of variety on their white slate.  And you are so much more than you claim to be.  I only wished for you to know that.”

“But I can never be the superhero you expect me to be,” you said.  “I’m not the ideal one for you.”

“You loathe the world, I know,” I replied.  “And I never asked you to be an idea.  I just wanted you to be you, and you were enough.”

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