“You’re not even listening to me, are you?”
Just like that, the magic words that bring me back to the surface. Suddenly and not suddenly at all I’m sitting across from you, my eyes scanning your too-familiar face and reading the hurt, the disappointment, these things familiar too, urging me to retreat back into myself. I like to think I’m not a cruel man. I summon my will, cast about for some balm to offer you.
“I’m sorry,” I hear myself say. For a moment we stare at each other, my mouth slightly open as I wait for appropriate words to arrive, your parted lips reflecting mine in an attitude of incredulity–though you’ve watched this struggle over and over and I can’t fathom why it still amazes you. In the end I leave it at that instead of tacking on the usual excuses. This is different; you raise an eyebrow a fraction of an inch and tip your head toward your right shoulder as you do, regarding me in that way of yours, like you’re turning me inside out on a microscope slide.
“Ok,” you say eventually. Relief, but I feel a bit cheated; you’re satisfied by that? All the time I’ve spent trying to describe my chain of thought to you so you can understand where I got lost and why, and all you wanted was a simple apology? Then again, of course that’s what you wanted. You’re not interested in what I’m thinking about, let’s be honest. Who would be? Oh shit, you’ve been talking and I’ve tuned out again. I can imagine what you’re saying without hearing you. I watch your lips move and let the soothing bubbles of your words ease around me. I’m a tree in your river, this river of nothing much. But I do love your face, I realize with sudden passion as I watch you from deep within myself. The way it changes as you speak, lights up and darkens again, your eyebrows so expressive, the whole countenance alive in a way mine never is. This is what I love about you, your aliveness, your humanness, the way you unthinkingly participate in the world in a way I never could. I watch you live the way a dog must watch its master–bemused, but trusting. You gather your hair up off your back, twist it in your hands and drape it over your left shoulder, your face momentarily pensieve, still, your pale eyes settled on something in the distance. Where did you learn these gestures, these almost exaggeratedly feminine movements, the ongoing unconscious conversation your body has with me?
“Wait, what?” I interject, something I’ve nearly heard jarring me to life.
“What?” you ask, widening your eyes slightly. I feel for you, I really do, it must be painful talking to me.
“What did you say about your dad?” I try to pass this off casually, hoping it’s believable that I’ve heard the rest of what you’ve been saying and missed this one bit. I can tell from your heavy sigh that you aren’t buying it.
“I said he’s adopting Martha’s kids.”
Your face is passive, cool, as a constellation of thoughts and images unfurls in me, reading between the lines of you as I always do, dipping in like a bird to cast an eye over the dark little pools you never acknowledge, the wounds which it is your privilege to ignore and mine to fixate on, seeing all the broken things that make you beautiful to me. I keep your secrets even from you, just how you want it. Your ignorance is what I use to build the pedestal I keep you on. How nice it must be, not knowing how much pain you are in.
“Why do you ask questions when you’re not interested in anything I have to say?” Oops. The reproach in your eyes, more of it this time. “I am interested,” I tell you. It’s only half a lie. In a way, I am obsessed with you. Your eyes turn toward the window again, reflecting two squares of light and my own tiny twin distorted dark silhouettes. Now I’ve lost you. I wonder how long until I lose you entirely.
what a perfect desription of the wandering mind. its a slow tragedy of misdemeaners, their relationship, not intentional yet not unaware. thanks for sharing, it was a fun read
Thanks for your comment! I love your take on it: not intentional yet not unaware. I was inspired by the curious stage of developing self-awareness when we understand what our patterns are but still are not necessarily able to change them–or when maybe we don’t know yet that we might be able to change them.
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