My Those Quiet Eyes Become You
“It’s like the smell of burned toast. You made the toast. You looked forward to it. You even enjoyed making it, but it burned. What were you doing? Was it your fault? It doesn’t matter anymore. You open the window, but only the very top layer of the smell goes away. The rest remains around you. It’s the walls. You leave the room, but it’s on your clothes. You change your clothes, but it’s in your hair. It’s on the thin skin on the tops of your hand. And in the morning, it’s still there.” -Seven Types of Ambiguity
I pull up in front of his house and put my car in park, then turn off the engine. I sit frozen for a moment and then open my mouth: “You don’t have to do this. You can just leave, go home. He doesn’t have to know you were ever here. Just drive away and pretend…” But that’s what I’ve been doing, isn’t it?
I’m ready to get out of the car, but I find myself clenching the wheel like it’s the only thing preventing me from falling off of a cliff. My sight isn’t blurry, it’s like it’s nonexistent. My eyes well up with tears, but I keep them at bay and clench my jaw. Shaking, my hand pulls the keys from the ignition. I open the car door and take a step out. Walking is challenging. It’s like there’s a force pushing against me, a gravity pressing in the direction opposite the house. My body is fighting me. Then I see his car, and I find my calm.
61. He always drives when we’re together.
62. I’m his front seat friend.
63. He puts his hand on my thigh when he’s driving and hasn’t seen me in a few days.
64. His car is the only thing not cluttered in his life.
65. Except that his trunk is overflowing with junk.
Climbing up the steps to his front door, I feel like my shoes are made of lead. When I finally make it to the stoop, I clam up in front of the door. I feel dizzy just looking at it. It’s hard to breathe. I can feel the heat in my face. It must be red. I shut my eyes. Take a deep sigh and summon the strength to pull my hand into a fist. As I raise it up to knock, it freezes inches from the door.
66. He has an adderall prescription despite having graduated college nearly a decade ago.
67. It changes the smell of his sweat.
68. His natural scent.
69. How it makes me lose my mind.
70. And then nauseates me.
My right arm is paralyzed. Even if I could get my fist to knock on the door, I wouldn’t be able to hit it hard enough for The Writer to hear from inside. I grab my right wrist with my left hand and pull it close to my chest. A dog barks. Its owners, a couple with graying hair walk past gabbing about their new car. I turn around, holding myself, eyes glossed. They don’t notice.
71. His tumor, which I named Fred. (He doesn’t really have a tumor.)
72. But he thinks he does.
73. How he absolutely cannot dance.
74. The way the length of his hair goes from perfect to ridiculous in just a day.
I turn around and stand closer to the door. There’s no air inside me. I’m a balloon, ready to float away. I wait for a gust of wind to take me into the sky like the nannies in Mary Poppins. But southern California isn’t stormy London, and this certainly isn’t a Disney movie. The best I can do is lean up against the door. It’s so comforting having something else hold me up that I can hardly fathom the thought of having to support my own weight again. I truly wonder if I’ll ever have the strength to even ring the stupid doorbell, so I shut my eyes and try to pass the moment.
75. How he’s surprised every time I remember something special about us.
76. How sparse his facial hair is.
77. How his memory is about as short as his emotional capacity.
78. His innocent, quiet eyes.
I open my eyes. I pick my forehead up off The Writer’s front door and stand up straight. “What the fuck are you doing?” I ask myself. “Seriously, what is your fucking problem? Are you stupid?” I smack myself across the face as hard as I can, which honestly isn’t that hard. I sit down on the top step and bury my face in my arms. “You’re fucking pathetic!” I scream into my arm, trying to muffle the noise.
79. How much I can tell about him based on the state of his hair.
80. I know every piece of clothing in his wardrobe.
81. How he uses axe body spray because he thinks it makes him seem younger.
82. I definitively know more about one thing, and he respects me for it.
I hop up and manically jump up on the stoop. “Do it. Just do it. Do it. You can do it.” I stick my hand out flat, ready to hit the doorbell. But it’s like my arm is petrified. “No. No, no, no.” I turn and sit again. When I pick my head up, a woman in her 50s, wearing a bright pink shirt and white pants has stopped to look at me. When she notices I’ve spotted her, she turns and scurries away. If it weren’t so psychotic, it would be hysterical. Or at least endearing.
83. I have a toothbrush at his house.
84. He has one at mine even though he almost never sleeps there.
85. He hates conflict.
86. How terrified I’ve become at the thought of losing him.
Stepping up for another round with the doorbell, I use my left hand to support my right hand as I try to smash it into the little button. But I really just can’t. “I can’t. You can’t. Don’t ruin this. Please, don’t do this. Please.” I get my hands far enough that they’re touching the bell, but not pressing it. I feel like I’m going to die. But you see, I’m a clever kid, so I use my right foot to kick in my left leg and fall over, my weight pressing into my arm and by extension, my hand mashes into the doorbell. I hear it buzz as I collapse against the wall. (I did just trip myself.) I scramble to collect myself, not wanting him to see me crumpled up on the ground. But even as I stand up and hear him shuffling out of his bed and toward me, it feels like an eternity. And I panic. Then am overwhelmed by nausea. Please don’t throw up. I gulp and know I won’t. I have no idea what I’m going to say. Well, what’s important? Why are you here? I ask myself. I recite about three sentences before my thoughts clam up. And then it happens. The door opens.