He was talking about how he was healthier now; the sentence ended and I watched him pull from it again.
I’d been watching him do this all evening, in-between breaths: neatly boxing thoughts up after breaking them down, lighting up right inside the middles of ideas…
I looked into his eyes once as he was pulling the smoke in — he was feeling goofy then, tipping his head to the side and looking up at me. I looked back at him and could see, in his eyes, how deep the unhappiness ran.
Later, I took a bit of it myself before I started on dinner. I made it, plated it, brought it upstairs with me and had just barely eaten it when it really started to kick in.
When it kicks in: It wants to show you what you’ve not wanted to see. So it eases the front door open, kicks its boots off and then steps into the hallway, then kitchen, then living room, then bedroom — and soon, he’s right there in your mind, and then suddenly, he’s you. He is you. And when I realized that, it really struck me. I looked up from the yellow scratchpad and remembered I was in and out of the words and that I was myself and everyone I loved, and everyone else too. I let this sink in a little and then returned to the paper.
Well it’d been kicking in for a while when I started laughing at something, I knew it wasn’t funny, and I laughed so much I cried. As the laughing racked my body and I struggled to take air in, I knew, already, that the sensation was going to stay exactly the same even as the feeling of it changed; that soon, these strange muscles I could feel so well would continue contracting just as steadily but that they would change their hue, differ in tone. Everything was going to take a dip. I was right there with it all and ready to watch it happen.
When it happened: It was like a river turning into a well, one that deepened and widened so much, so quickly, I couldn’t see all of it at once. And the water reacted to the pain as a deep blue. A deep, living indigo. That was interesting.
As I gazed down into it and then began traveling through it, I felt someone traveling down with me. I didn’t have to turn to look at them, because I knew.
Light reflected off water walls strangely, volume was turned down low, and the flow of the river itself began to change. It shared its ancient, hollow waves of pain with me, and the waves felt like aching bones and the color grey and winter. And they were so honest — fearless and beautiful.
The river in the well separated suddenly, streaming water left and right, and we went down the empty middle together, like a corridor. We were finally getting to see the bottom of it, for just a second. The bottom, the end. There is an end to it! I realized… I’d been so hoping there was.
A gentle and familiar hand took mine and placed it right on the slippery stone, and then I was engulfed by waves.
“I have something for you,” he’d said, smiling, “and I can’t wait forever to give it to you.”
I tried, again, to breathe.
After I had laughed and cried and gone off for a while, I just sat there, petting the dog. The tears felt cool on my cheeks now and they weren’t coming anymore.
He’d only been watching me sometimes, his phone glaring off his glasses mostly, but he noticed when the laughing became crying and said I should go to sleep. Those poor brown eyes. When will he get to touch the bottom? I wondered.
“I’m okay,” I said, feeling surprisingly sure of myself. I was already warm underneath three blankets but thought I might read for a while. “I’ll turn the lights off myself… when I’m ready.” I smiled softly at him, the dogs, the room. My colors were changing again.
Quit trying to make it work, she said, boxing things up. Bread and cheese for tomorrow. I already had my things ready. Quit trying to make it work with the idea of him, and with the idea of staying here in conservative Alabama… go to where naturally fits you, where you’ve been shaped for.
She paused, looking at my eyes. I wonder where shaped you… but I do have another question. You SEEM so open, but there’s a lot we don’t know, isn’t there?
I smiled at her. Yes, there is. And I thought about it some more. That’s the real trick of it, I guess.