“You and I, we can’t do anything by half-measure,” He said, “We’re ‘all the way’ kind of people. Real ‘all or nothing’ types.” She didn’t need to see his face to know what was coming; the pattern was ingrained, burned in the brain in ways that were inescapable, “So then, nothing,” She said quietly, “Is that it?”
He looked at her, astounded, “NO! Of course not! Are you kidding me?” He paced small circles in the little foyer, brushing his hands over close-shaved hair as if running it through his fingers. He was always rubbing his head; the sides, the forehead, the top. She wondered if he knew he did this, or whether or not he realized that she knew what it was, what it meant. She waited; there was still more to hear.
“I am so glad to know you. I need to know you,” He spoke quietly and with sincerity, “For the first time in my life, the feeling of loneliness is gone. I need that. I just can’t give more; I don’t want more right now. I am afraid to engage with you fully. I can’t afford to allow change.”
She stood very, very still as The Narrator carefully recorded the words. Why, she wondered, were they always the same words? Why did the same words, right down to the inflection, ordering, and timbre come out of so many different mouths?
The reason was not hidden, of course, merely hurtful. The shape of the thing is the thing in itself. The pattern, unbroken, always runs to the same ends. She knew this in a way that was impossible to say or convey. She knew he wouldn’t understand because he simply could not afford to do so. If he did, if he could, he would have caught the contradiction long before it made its way out of his mouth.
She sighed, suddenly empty and serene; no anger, no frustration, no resentment. How do you do feel any of these when they change nothing?
“You can’t stop change,” She said softly, “None of us can. You can’t ensure stasis; not for you, not for her, not for anyone. It’s just not how life works.” She looked at him, briefly, etching the planes and lines onto the mental page before again looking away, “You can’t tell me that you know I’m ‘all the way’ and then think you can tell me you want less than that and expect me not to recognize the travesty inherent to the request.”
She grinned crookedly, “Well, no, I suppose you can tell me that and you can ask me that, and maybe you can even manage to avoid what it means, but you’re too smart to do it for long, and frankly,” She grimaced, “I’m too honest to join you in the pretense.”
The silence extended until it lay looped and curled on the ground between them. She pondered the reality of the choice and all the things it pointed to; preferences and fears admitted, denials and patterns external to this one that crossed without touching and sent waves of passage that could be felt.
There were more words, of course. All the fluttering, relentless pressure of might-have-beens, built up behind her eyes, surging and clawing at one another to be the first out the door. She pushed them back and away like dead leaves; not bothering to look, knowing they flowed away into corners and crannies like the irrelevant things they were consigned to being.
She carefully, gently pulled at the silken cord around her wrist, feeling the silent weight of it slip and shift free. She mindfully bent to place it upon the heap of coils between them.
She stood and gave him a smile that was genuine and sorrowful all at once, “I did not ask you to forsake a thing, nor to change a thing. I would not; it is not my way. All I asked was to be no more or less accepted in actions than your words set forth that I was in your mind.” As she spoke, she could feel the shift; the phasing of untold realities changing, forming new and different paths, “The world that was is dying, the world that is continues in its place. Time will tell which things remain and which do not.”
She blinked and when she opened her eyes, she was home; sitting before the page, hands upon the keyboard, and letters upon the screen. Calmly, she placed the entry and saved it and only briefly did she wonder what might happen next. It was a fleeting thought; stories like this can never be predicted and only rarely are they fully told.
Turning to other things, the thought of unburdened friendship rose for consideration. The mental image was that of a grubby-faced girl handing her a dandelion; all happily ignorant and glowing for the thought of how it might make her smile. Without knowing how she knew, she recognized her; Anima of a kindred spirit whose shape and shadow flickered over all things.
But smile she did. She took it gently and leaned down to kiss the sanguine, chubby cheek, “It’s beautiful,” She whispered into the girl’s hair, “I’ll tend it best as I can.”