elle, can we go out tonight just the two of us? phoenix asked.
what do you mean it’s always just us, i said.
no. it’s you, me, and sadness.
and what makes you think it’s my sadness?
well, he pauses, it’s simple. i don’t feel sad when i am with you.
photo by ArminBxl.
his lips burst into the kind of smile that temporarily short circuits the electricity within me; i tilt my lips against his to see if a wave of sparks could rinse between the two of us. my fingers arc to explore the curves of his stillness. they are such traitors. they love to touch him — this six foot five and a half (you must get that exactly right or you will be saltily corrected) almost three hundred pound magnificent man. my fingers don’t touch me that way. they dig and pick in their jittery desire to keep up with my frenetic heart. i’ll have wide-open spaces where my face used to be because of them… and he won’t even care, he’ll just push my fingers away like always and kiss each line in my hand until my anxiety rushes out of my ears and all i hear are the lyrics of his soft breathing.
i’ll just reach for the on off switch i keep in my jean pocket, i say.
you don’t have to.
i squish sadness into my intestines and hope that my digestive system will work like a car wash and scrub all my darkness away. but sadness isn’t water soluble; it always creeps back into my irises to show me pictures of all that i am not.
i am. i am. i am. i flash happy pictures in my mind to make it a war. i am. i am, i tell the sadness. sometimes, i close my eyes when i am with him and do this. i’ve even jumped up and down and done a semi-circle to make my point clear. yeah, i know — completely not sane. how do you explain that other than to laugh and blame it on the wine?
you are sentastic, i finally say.
sentastic? a complete sentence.
no, sensational and fantastic.
ahh. you know i hate when you do that, he says, but of course he doesn’t mean it — the grimace on his face is centimeters away from being a smile. i once told him that i make up words to describe him because normal, regular words don’t do him justice. i rubbed my thumb against the back of my neck to give myself a thumbs up sign for that one.
we sit in a happy silence until i ask what do you want to do tonight?
i’m not sure, he says, looking around.
i really mean it, i say, about sadness.
i know, he says, but of course he doesn’t really believe me. he thinks i’m in love with sadness. he said it to me once when he thought i was still asleep, followed by i wish-i wish — and then silence. what does he wish for? do i even want to know?
his fingers find my funny spot and some of the water i’m drinking follows my giggles and slips onto my chin. you are the reason they invented the adult bib, he says and the wrinkles by his eyes soften.
thanks a lot, i say in mock hurt, and push him away. we sit in silence for some time watching the flickering colors on the television. i wish we could sneak into the screen. i could be clair and he could be cliff; we would have a team of writers in charge of making us brilliantly funny each day — no sadness allowed. we would sit in the kitchen with our charming children after a long day and make brownies together.
i look over at him, suddenly nervous — he’s said that when i get quiet, that’s when the sadness starts to emanate. where do you go? go somewhere different or stay here with me.