Image by woodleywonderworks via FlickrThis has happened before. Deja vu. I unknowingly provoked a harsh reaction... except, I wasn't probing, but somehow what I said, or what I did, touched a sensitive nerve. Suddenly, the world was crashing in around me, and I didn't have the available resources to both research the reason and react to the situation. My face told the truth: long-drawn, bloodshot, bagged, the gleam that's usually in my eyes closed for the evening according the sign on the window. She could see it. I know she could see it.
"Make me a promise," she said.
"Whatever you want," I replied.
Why is it all so familiar? A memory from another life? Something locked away in the attic of this life? Like a dog, if it's actually true that this is what they can do, I smelled fear--my own fear.
"Never leave me." The words escaped her lips, lead balloons that defied gravity and instantaneously stopped time altogether. Birds stopped their songs. The wind stuck to the trees. It was a suspended state that demanded an answer; an answer from me.
What do I say? The question repeated itself in my head. What do I say? My memories seemed to be the only things that were immune to time's freeze. Her and I, we'd escaped together from out of the chilly, dark depths of a place where you could feel someone tickling your toes. If only they could've reached you then, you wouldn't be here now. It was a place where we had to consider our last breaths, whether we'd want them to be chest-billowing or hyper-ventilating, where the only way to save ourselves--to get from there to here--was to discard our shoes, our clothes, our dreams... and I had to tap into a previously undiscovered reservoir of calm because she didn't have left in her the few seconds that I could muster for myself.
Maybe that escape should have given me an epiphany; when she emerged, she disappeared. And, when I extracted myself from the dark, there was a crowd of people all around me. I couldn't find her, had no idea where to look, and I was backed up against this edge between there and here. Yet, I had more inside of me. I dug deeper and found the energy to push through the indifference... maybe it was prompted by a fear to take what was up against my back, the dark, and put it behind me, so to speak... or maybe it was love.
Love. I love love, I reminded myself as I looked at her, once more back in this world where she was awaiting an answer. She was squirming, more from frustration than impatience.
I felt it coming from deep down in side of me; from a place that I didn't yet know well. It was a bubble that got caught in my rib cage, like a cramp, but worked itself up to my chest. I expected a belch--feared how she might actually react to it--but it was no belch. It was an answer.
"Okay." Okay. What? Laughing? I frowned, tilted my head, and pulled on my ear lobe as if water had become lodged in my ear canal. It was unmistakable, I did hear a laugh fade away as it returned to the depths that it had floated up from.
She bounced up from the couch with the energy of a high school cheerleader, oblivious, it seemed, to the reality of what had just happened, or maybe, she was simply ecstatic to have gotten her way.