“I would trade this sleep for you in a heartbeat…”
I did it, I finally did it: I opened an entry with a song lyric. If anything, this kind of flourish is long overdue, given both my penchant for hyperbolic emotional statements and my embarrassing reliance on bittersweet music.
Regardless, a couple of months ago, I went to the DMV (in Los Angeles, no less) for 4 hours. My appointment was early in the AM and I had an appointment but, because no good deed goes unpunished, I left with nothing to show for it, got hit on by a stranger in the parking lot, almost lost my TAP card while getting on the Silver Line (which, I didn’t know, runs its route in the middle of a freeway??? LA, what is wrong with you), and then ended up paying part of my fare with cash anyway because unlimited TAPs apparently only work for regular fare lines, which seems to negate any benefits of having a monthly pass besides small-measured convenience.
I’m not writing just to complain about that morning.
I’ve only ever seen him cry, twice. One: the week after Valentine’s Day. Someone in his life had passed away and he’d clung to me, and despite my much smaller stature, I’d held him up, the mass of his hair rustling by my ear as I cried with him. Some people have whiny sobs–not their fault, just unfortunate–but he cries damn near silently, the tears manifesting not because he sinks into the sadness but because he’s trying so desperately to dampen it down, chest heaving as the salt streaks down his face anyway. He squeezes the air out of my lungs when he hugs me a little too tightly, but I fear moving away because there’s nothing else holding him up.
He tells me later that night that he loves me.
Two: we’re watching a movie on his bed, touching shoulder-to-hip. I hadn’t heard him talk much during the film except for the occasional laughing appreciation. The credits start to roll; I’m trying to hide my own tears, because it’s late and I shouldn’t be crying and neither of those reasons makes sense, but then through the glow of the screen, I see his face, and I know he too felt the suture split.
We turn the lights out, and turn toward each other instinctively. I curl into him and he coils himself around me; he cries into my hair and I cry into his chest. My arm goes numb before I move away. He’s feverish from what we later determine is food poisoning, but he stays awake long enough to tell me what I already know.
“I didn’t think it’d affect me this much…”
The “still” is left unspoken.
I have, at various points in my life, found myself playing the role of “relationship counselor.” The couples who console in me (always separately) latch onto the same qualities that make me a decent writer — I’m a burrower, a silent listener, and I’m quick to offer resolution. Clubs to the end, meddling with the best of intentions. I know this, and I carry these instincts with me like remoras. For as much as they feed off of me, they provide me with an uneasy authority to speak about human nature.
That sounds so completely full of shit. All I’m really doing is feeling out for frustration and taking it on, wearing it like a second skin — What would I do. How would I feel. What’s working. What isn’t. He said she said she said they said he said and I say stop. Why are you angry. Why are you sad. Why do you open the door with a stone in your throat. When was the last time you went to bed with their smile in your mind.
My “advice,” as it were, often goes unheeded, or is immediately challenged, or is later held against me in the wake of a nasty breakup. A friend turned to me for help with his girlfriend and when I told him she wasn’t the one who needed to change, he stopped talking to me as a confidante. When she came to me later telling me that he’d kissed someone else, I kept quiet until her voice stopped shaking. Even after she sighed and said “That’s just how he is.”
It’s not as though I’m right about people, it’s that people are easier to understand when you see them as yourself. I’m a million times more upbeat in a get-to-know-you setting than I am at home with the covers drawn over my head, clenching my teeth and digging half-moons into the palm of my hands as waves of anxiety attempt to sink me into my mattress, through the floor of my bedroom, straight into the core of the earth. I know what it looks like when someone smiles with no light in their eyes, or with the clicking of mental gears behind every upward curve of their lips.
And I know what it feels like to want things to fall into place. This is who you are because I know you. This is what we are because I know you and I know what I am to you. This is where we stand because
we say it is?
One year flies back and I marvel at the time. I am out of school and into the mythical real world and yet, I sleep in more and probably have less money than when I’d first started paying my own rent. How cruel. I hold fast to my friends who are still in LA and I let go of my starry-eyed expectations. I look into the future and see an hourglass streaming with tiny grains of rice.
How could I have known. He holds my hand and soars and I feel my feet grip the ground. There is work, and then there is the work, and he sees me through the former but keeps his eyes fixed past the latter. I don’t blame him. I can’t. And I’m getting better, sometimes, maybe, but it still stings me when I wake up with a shadow of a voice in my ear, verbal pins and needles left lingering in the air — “How do you feel?”
Two rings meeting and becoming one. And then, collapsing, and then there is none.