I never wanted much to begin with, to be honest. I suppose it was only over time that I somehow carved myself into a place I never imagined I would be -your thoughts. And you resided comfortably in mine. And we were happy.
We were a communion well worth thousands of words, and perhaps that many and more had been expressed over time. We both began to see the possibility of an “us” somewhere down the way. And us is what we became.
It was such a small but powerful word -us. That meant you and I and everything else that would come with it. The good, the bad, the whatever. It was us. We were us.
But there was more to it, perhaps, wasn’t there? What exactly, I can’t say. But if I told you the truth, it would be that I don’t really want to say. Once your nebulous eyes grew increasingly distant in thought, I always knew there was more room in them for just me alone. Still, I chose to remain silent.
You can’t help but wonder. And no one can control how they feel. That’s something I always tried to accept and live with. I never wanted to hold the reins to your thoughts. I never wanted to intrude. But sometimes, it seemed as though I may have intruded without having even been aware of it.
I told you I look into your eyes searching for answers. But I never knew the questions. I just wanted to see something, anything, however it would present itself. Consciously, I didn’t want to ask you. I probably never would. But subconsciously, I knew I wanted to know.
Whenever the Arab atmosphere engulfed our senses, we were contented to suddenly find ourselves in a little foreign place among our daily mundanities. It was while we were there once when the tide hit me with such violent force, and then immediately shrunk away leaving my shores stone-dry.
I understood from a quick glance at your writing. You wouldn’t let me read, I didn’t press on, but I perhaps immediately regretted having even asked in the first place. I understood, then, that a part of you perhaps remained elsewhere. And would perhaps forever remain unattainable.
I wasn’t upset. Perhaps just a little flustered in the moment. There was nothing to be upset over for something I had already known for so long. I knew, and I respected you still. Knowing didn’t change anything. Or so I thought.
I always heard people say that knowledge is power. That knowledge enables a person to have an upper hand. But from my own experiences, I knew the nature of knowing to be otherwise. Sometimes knowledge meant defeat. To know is to accept that defeat. It is a kind of defeat I have tasted so many times before, I could tell it apart from everything else from the moment it grazed my fingertips.
“What’s wrong?” you asked. “You look really lost right now.”
I was. I was lost in the aroma and the haze of hookah. I was lost in the swirls and rings. My thoughts were as opaque and as heavy as the smoke. “I’m fine.”
You reached over from across the table and held my held. Without a doubt, you could read me. And you knew I was no longer there. “I wish I could tell what you’re thinking right now,” you said.
I smiled. “You know, I usually wish you could. But for once, I’m rather glad you can’t.”
You didn’t understand. But a part of me wanted to say that you did. We often spoke without words, but I suppose sometimes we weren’t consciously aware of what it was that was being said.
But in that moment, for the first time, I felt as if I had intruded. As if I had barged in and took command of your attention, as if I stole you away from something you needed more than me. Something you wanted.
Even if it was just a thought, it suddenly felt as if my timing was off somewhere. And I felt terribly sorry for it, but I had no way of expressing it.
When the tide pulled away, for the first time in a very long time, my surface cracked. Those fissures you spoke of in regards to yourself, the ones I intended to fill and seal, they became evident in me then. And for the first time, I felt barren. For the first time, I began to doubt.
Not you, but me.
I doubted myself and questioned whether I belonged where I was. Whether it was right after all. Whether you ever thought of it as a mistake, even for a slight second. The questions began to surface, like the cracks, and I thought a horrible thought: maybe I should leave.
I wanted to think that I could and that I would be fine if I did, but I knew that would require a lot of pretending.
I couldn’t lie to myself. Because I needed you. And I wasn’t entirely certain if you needed me the same way, but I always hoped that perhaps you did.
What I really needed to know was if I was enough. If I was enough sugar for your coffee, if I was dissolving in you properly or not at all. Were we two sides of the same coin, or was there a face you preferred better?
Later in the car you asked, “Why do you look like you’re in deep thought when you’re kissing me?”
“Do I kiss you as if I don’t mean it?”
“No, I mean, you do.”
And I did. I meant it. I meant everything I did, everything I felt, everything I said. I even meant everything I didn’t say (but always meant to say). I meant it all.
And I suppose what helped make sense of things was that you did too. You meant it. And for me, that was enough. Still I contemplated whether I should stay, that maybe my role in your life was only to make you smile and nothing more. That maybe, once you had gotten used to smiling and learned to smile on your own again, I should leave without a word.
But I didn’t.