Thursday, October 22, 2009
Conversation In the Semidarkness
He pulls his numb arm out from under the covers. He rubs his mouth with the palm of his hand. He flicks on the small reading light on the nightstand. He turns to her, beside him. He glides his stiff fingers over her cool hair and around her gentle face. He pulls her face closer to him, wanting to smell her.
She opens her eyes slowly. Brown eyes that had always beseeched him to love her. And he thinks he does. Love her. He thinks.
"What's the matter?" she says. She yawns. Her breath is intoxicating. Like preserved fruit.
"I can't sleep," he tells her, his own voice unfamiliar to him in the semidarkness. "Do you love me?"
"Oh, not again." She blinks. Her beseeching brown eyes disappear for a flicker, then return to beseech again.
"I need you to tell me," he says. "Please."
"I don't understand why we keep talking about this." She pulls the covers up to her chin. She looks at him.
"No, you don't understand. Period. That's the problem." He's looking into the brown eyes threatening tears, now.
"The real problem is that you don't love me," she says quietly, as if afraid he'll hear her. As if afraid she'll hear herself. "You can't accept me as I am. You can't accept me without wanting to change me. Or wanting to change my past." She pauses, hoping that he will deny her charges. Hoping that he will keep looking into her eyes in this semidarkness and tell her that none of what she just said is true. She doesn't move.
"I don't know how to accept you." This, after a long silence. "A meaningless concept to you, I'm sure," he says harshly, "but I do have a hard time accepting things or people without knowing why I'm doing it." And then he's silent again.
"It's just your nature." She wants to break the tightness. "It's who you are." She turns her back to him. But stays in bed.
"No. This is the dark side of me," he whispers into her hair, which smells like the woods in autumn. Intoxicating. "The me that doesn't know how to be forgiving or humble."
"It's the scientific you." She speaks to the wall she's looking at. She hears her voice reverberating in her ear against the pillow. "Clinical mind over intuitive heart," she says, craving the comfort of her muffled voice in her ear again.
"Do you even care for me?" But he doesn't wait for an answer. "I don't know why you ever did care, to begin with. If you did. Was it the thrill of the chase? A childlike crush? A kindly gesture to another man who seemed lonely?" But then he feels the slightest bit ashamed. What have I done?
"You're cruel," she says. "Not only to me, but even to yourself. And why would I take all this crap from you unless..."
"Yes, yes, and I thank you for your kindness." He jumps in too soon. Not gently enough. He knows she'll think he's shouting at her.
"Just be quiet," she says. Heavy tears prick her eyes. But she doesn't want him to gloat. He would, too. Gloat. "Your words are like mud," she whimpers. "I hate you." But she hates herself more. For crying in front of him. Again.
"You're too sensitive," he tells her, trying to blend a softer hue into his voice. "Or maybe not." He wraps his arms around her warm body under the covers and breathes in the woodsy smell of her skin. Intoxicating. "Sometimes I think I don't know you."
She stiffens. "You don't," she says through her tears. "Can't we talk about anything without your trying to analyze everything and everyone? Like we're all independent and dependent variables in a damn experiment?"
"I have a difficult time with gray. You know that," he says into her ear. A few strands of her hair tickle his lips. "And I don't know how to embellish what I want to say. I just say it. I don't know how to make what I feel look or sound more attractive." Then he's silent. Again. For a moment. And for that moment he asks himself if he does love her. "I want to be the only one," he tells her on impulse. "The only man in your life."
"You are," she whispers.
"But I haven't always been. And I can't love you and know that others have loved you before me. It makes it all incomplete."
She sits up, suddenly, in disbelief. "But you never knew any of them. They needed me and I needed them and it was good for a while and then it wasn't good anymore. And I'm done with that, so why can't we put it behind us?" She dries her tears with the backs of her hands. "I feel like an idiot for telling you about them. But none of them really loved me, anyway. And neither do you."
He pushes his face into her abandoned pillow. "Forgive me," he says. But his voice is smothered. And although she hears him, she knows he doesn't care whether or not she will forgive him.
Such a senseless thing to say, she thinks. Empty. Forgive me. Like the last few drops of gas in your tank when you still have eighty miles to drive and the next gas station is seventy miles away.
They stay together in silence in the semidarkness. The silence of minutes. Short minutes. Like short, labored breaths. Uncomfortable but necessary. Her smell is dripping like venom through an eyedropper into his senses. Intoxicating. He turns away from it. From her.
She climbs out of bed. She pulls up her hair. She bathes. She dresses.
She is ready to leave inside of an hour.
"Will I see you tomorrow night?" he mumbles from bed when she's at the bedroom door, on her way out.
"Mmm. Ten o'clock."
But she doesn't come.
He will miss the curve of her graceful neck above her elegant shoulders. He will miss how her eyes twinkle like stars in the dimness of twilight. He will miss how she gently bites his lower lip with her trembling lips when they kiss. He will miss her radiant smile, inhibited, but radiant. And he will miss her intoxicating smell.