Before she drifts off to sleep, her mind whirls with images, a miscellaneous array of snapshots – of him. However, the memory that always stands in the foreground is the night they met. The way his blue eyes wouldn’t meet her browns at that party, but how she was captivated by their intensity all the same. An undertone of sadness seemed to permeate his being, a subtlety that was only noticeable when he’d laugh. His laughter was cut in half, broken. As if he couldn’t, or didn’t know how to, let the sounds continue.
But Christina pushed through an abstract barrier, and she started to talk to Eric; she began to connect with him, surprisingly.
“Our words seem to hold more weight when we say them to each other late at night, or technically early morning,” one of his emails said. “They seem heavier.”
“Well, according to Ray Bradbury, 3 am is when the soul is the most vulnerable.”
“I can see that.”
“Yup. The daylight isn’t as daunting. We’re not as exposed.”
And it was true. Her heart naturally expanded during that interim; any wall that may have been residing faded away as they talked before sunrise.
Yet, they had had nothing to show for these words, these exchanges that were crafted and sent to one another through the digital realm in the middle of the night. Of course they’d theoretically plan and muse about doing this and that, or going here and there, but the two of them were frozen in a bizarre standstill. Their dynamic hangs on a delicate string in the universe, balanced and unshaken. Christina would question silently, never aloud, if they were both cowards. If they were afraid of disrupting this spell, of disclosing their feelings. Because let’s face it, once truth is expressed, there’s a chance that this fragile thread will disintegrate. Where it will it go? Nobody really knows.
Time passes and seasons change. The first frost hugs the once-bare trees, and softly cushions the pavement in a thin, white blanket. A palpable chill seeps through the wintry air as the New Year approaches, tempting everyone with change and rebirth and starting over; allowing the initial snowfall to purify, to wipe the earth clean.
It was in this spirit that Christina receives a text from Eric at 10 am on New Year’s Day.
“Hey, I’m outside.”
She stares back at her screen in disbelief. This can’t be real, she says to herself. He must have meant to send this to someone else. It breaks protocol.
“Outside….by me? Haha, no you’re not.”
“Yes I am. I’m here.”
I’m here. That one sentiment alone said more than anything else that was echoed between them during these last twelve months. He’s here, she repeats on loop. We’re here. It’s New Years Day, and we have a shot. We could at least try.
He peers at her carefully as she runs toward him; expressions of curiosity, hesitancy, and calm mark the contour lines on his face.
“I love you,” Christina says. As if on automatic cue, her hand immediately covers her mouth. Suddenly her lips are dry. Her mouth is numb. “Did I really just say that out loud?”
Eric lets out a quiet laugh; he allows the laughter to reverberate throughout the space between them, amused by the nervous aftermath of what just slipped.
“It’s really no big deal,” he earnestly conveys. “I love you too.”