When did I know? When I closed my eyes and held my breath, unzipped and undressed my ribcage. When I beared the heart beating out of my chest and the intangible thing called my soul to you, and when I chanced a peek, for the first time, I didn’t feel naked, exposed, or ashamed. I felt seen.
I was standing there awkwardly in your living room, one foot balancing its toes on top of the other, left leg bent slightly in front of my right, without pretense, lacking a mask, facade, or highlight reel. Half regretting what I’d just divulged and already wanting to stuff the words back into my mouth and cover it with my hands to prevent me from incriminating myself even further. But magnificently, there you were, just sitting on the couch, looking at me. Not gawking or laughing. Your eyebrows weren’t raised or furrowed in confusion. You neither looked surprised or horrified. At first, I couldn’t gauge your reaction, because it wasn’t at all what I’d been expecting or was accustomed to.
Immediately, I felt too big in my body. The room was suddenly too small, and I was once again too much. I started to hyperventilate and apologize as I frantically tried to cover myself back up with one arm and bend down to clean up my mess with the other. But it was a futile act, really, because there was already blood everywhere. The colors of my insides were splayed across the hardwood floor, and I knew I couldn’t move without risking a slip and fall. “No, no. Stop! What’re you doing? You’re going to hurt yourself!” I was crying at this point and my vision was blurred so I hadn’t seen you stand up. I couldn’t see you now waving your arms in front of me just as frantically. “That’s none of your concern!” I hissed through tears, anger replacing my earlier embarrassment. When I finally gave up any hope of escape, I plopped to the floor in a huff, crossed my legs and hugged myself tightly.
When did it get cold in here? I started to shiver. “Are you done yet?” Now you were laughing, or at least I detected amusement in your voice. I looked up, ready to spit out another harsh remark, but before I could even get to your face, there was your hand, attached to an outstretched arm, blocking my view. That silenced me, and I closed my half-open mouth. “Will you let me help you? You can leave as soon as I’m done, but just let me help you over here and hear me out first,” you said exasperatedly. “I already know what you’re going to say.” You gave me a look and I was pretty much a sitting duck bleeding out anyway, so I let out a grunt, took your hand, and let you grab hold of me and lift me gently over the wreckage and back to safety.
You guided me over to the couch, careful not to touch me in any of the wrong places. Then you grabbed a towel from the bathroom and handed it to me. As I wiped myself off and then wrapped the towel around my chest, tightening and knotting it to clot the wound, I felt you sit down beside me. When I finally looked up, you appeared suddenly shy. Impatient, about ready to get up and make my departure but still feeling dizzy and fearing a collapse if I did, I breathed, “What is it?” And then like a sheepish schoolboy, grinning and shaking your head and looking awestruck, you whispered, “You’re beautiful, you know that?” I wasn’t prepared for your response, especially not in my current state, so I don’t remember anything about the night after that. But yeah, so that’s when I knew.