Last Friday night I leaned across a narrow wooden arm rest and proffered my friend a Coke Zero into which I had poured white rum. I would have normally chosen whiskey, but the circumstances of a crowded theater prevailed. Once you have experienced the cheek-burning realization that every stranger in your immediate vicinity is delivering you some serious side eye, you learn to pack a liquor without a distinctive smell.
As my friend was passing the bottle back to me her fingers brushed mine. “Your hands are cold!” she mouthed over the opening credits as she grabbed my closest hand and held it between her own. And this simple action cut me down. I was a dog slowly rolling over, surrendering belly to the entire room.
I don’t know if it’s a condition of being an only child, but I’ve long had this response when people touch me with sincerity. A tap on the shoulder, a grasp of the elbow; I melt in a pool of gratitude. I wrap up the experience and hurriedly stuff it between my ribs, carrying it with me all day and sometimes well into the next.
Dear Diary, all my husband does is read paperbacks about medieval fantasies.
“It’s tough having such a judgmental wife,” he says, jokingly. Fair enough, broseph. But I still don’t get the appeal.
Lately we are separate planets orbiting the sun that is our life. We live in the same house, we share the same bills, we shoulder equal parts of the same workload, but we are entirely checked out of each others’ lives. It doesn’t help that I get my second wind around midnight, when his eyes roll down like shutters over a bodega and his head yo-yos on an invisible string. It’s too bad, because midnight is when I feel compelled to spill my guts. Freed from the distraction of books and computers, I scour the murky waters of my consciousness and come up gasping, grasping trash and treasures alike. I offer the lot of my thoughts with outstretched arms.
He murmurs and shifts under the covers, unable to stay awake.
By the time I got home from the theater on Friday I was positively humming. As a self-identifying introvert I find that social encounters take more out of me than they put back in, but that night left me full to the brim. I had put on my shoes and put on my coat and pulled back my hair to make it look presentable, and I’d walked out of the house feeling empty and resigned to obligation. But what I found out there in the world was enough to light my chest up, like the diaphanous glow you get when you press a flashlight over your skin.
What I found was the sheer delight of human companionship. Sometimes all it takes is someone you know very well to remind you that you don’t; that the world doesn’t end at the edges of your awareness. Sometimes a tiny turn on a street you’ve walked a thousand times will take you to a place you’ve never seen. And suddenly anything is possible — those people kissing under the bridge could be you, they are you, you are them. You are watching yourself sipping coffee behind a plate glass window, you’re darting down an alleyway, you’re leaping off a rock and hanging for a fraction of a second in the air, and you’re the reflection in the water below.
When I walked in the door I wanted to tell the beau all about this, I wanted to share it with him. But it was already getting late.
In his chair the book was slipping from his hands, his head nodding.
I sighed and went to wash my face.
Should I be worried? I’m not.
Relationships cycle. Sometimes they are down, sometimes they are up. Sometimes you get what you need here, and next you get it there. Sometimes people drop back into your life after absences because they need you again, or you need them. We are charged ions zooming around, attracting and repelling other ions.
I never needed him to be my everything, but I do kind of miss him being something.
It’s the challenge of being something, I think, that’s the hardest to keep up long-term.
And the hardest to do with sincerity.