**This is not a true story, but it is based on emotions that I have been feeling**
I rarely have moments of complete calm – the type of calm that you feel in those precious moments between sleep and awake, right before your consciousness kicks into gear. These moments are what I look forward to in times of chaos, when I feel like I’m spiraling into the stars. And so when I find myself in a rare moment of calm, I do what any normal young adult female would do. I try to hold onto it for as long as possible.
One particular moment of calm came to me while with David. We found ourselves on a bench in the park after a late dinner. He was sitting properly and upright with his arms stretched out on the backboard of the metal bench and his legs slightly splayed. My head made a nest on his left thigh, and the rest of my body lazily flattened itself against the seat. David’s head partially blocked out the the lamp light that towered above us. Upside down, I could see the outline of his dark grey beanie and the tufts of dirty blonde hair that peaked out from the front. My eyes followed the lines of his face, tracing over the bumps of his nose and lips. I had kissed those lips so many times, yet they were always new and exciting to me.
David’s eyes flickered over to me, catching my gaze. His lips poetically moved into a half-smile before breaking apart to reveal his teeth. “What?” he asked playfully. This was a game we had played many times before. He knew exactly why I was looking at him, but he wanted to hear me say it.
“You,” I breathed out, breaking eye contact to look at the pond that was just a few feet away. It was the same response I had always given because that was the most apt description I could come up with. Whether David knew it or not, that one word encompassed everything I had ever thought of or felt for him. I never explained that to him, but I didn’t think I would need to. Sometimes thoughts and feelings can’t be translated into words, and that’s okay.
David, however, pressed on like every other time we played this game. “What about me?” he responded, his voice deep and raspy, like a dark chocolate. I still wasn’t looking at him, but I knew his blue eye were twinkling – I could hear it. I giggled and turned over onto my side, my head still happily resting on his thigh. I breathed in deeply, filling my lungs with the sickly sweet smell of pond water and earth. A stillness crept over me like a thousand butterflies kissing my skin, and I welcomed it. This was my moment of calm, and I was going to keep it for as long as possible.
We sat there for what felt like an eternity in as much silence as the night would allow. Occasionally a small wave in the pond would lap itself onto the low rising bank and then settle back into its home until something else disturbed its slumber. I closed my eyes and let myself sink into my surroundings. The crickets and cicadas were harmonizing together; their song pushing into my ears and creating a blanket of summer sounds. The time seemed to endlessly drag on, and this was one of the rare instances I was thankful for its elasticity. There were so many moments in the past that seemed to slip through my fingers. When David and I first met we would be in his room at one in the morning, entangled in each other like branches and whisper musings about life. Somehow we would blink and much to our surprise it would be four in the morning. It was moments like that which made me curse the concept of time. But tonight time was working in my favor.
David shifted his leg, causing my head to move with it. “Hey!” I said, my eyes flying open and twisting to catch a glimpse of him. A faded smile decorated face as he responded.
“You haven’t told me what it is about me that makes you stare the way you do.” He craned his neck slightly, putting his face further into my view. The lamp light spilled over his head and shoulders and right into my eyes, causing me to squint for a moment before turning away. I felt the corners of my mouth turn up despite my best attempts to keep them down. Without a sound, David’s fingers found my hair and began combing themselves through it. I threw one arm over my eyes and sighed.
“I’m just… happy,” I whispered. It was the same response I had given every other time, but the feeling that rises in me when I say those three words was still there. I always imagined that feeling would be likened to a soda bottle being opened just after being shaken. A warmness bubbled up inside that made me shiver. David quietly giggled at my physical reaction.
He nodded his head, murmuring in agreement. “Tonight is calm,” he said, not letting the silence settle back in the air. “It’s nice.” I could hear his deep, even breathing despite the sounds of nature all around us. One breath faltered, and I could feel the hesitation. I tilted my head toward him, waiting for whatever words he wanted to say. It was a long moment before he voiced his thought, making me regret how thankful I was for the slow time. “It’s a nice break from the crazy.”
The bubbles that were flowing through me suddenly turned sharp and icy. The music of the night bugs, which was once pleasantly hanging in the background, became suffocating. I was aware of every sound and movement around me, and the only thing that wasn’t moving was David. He was stoic and still, uncomfortably so. His legs were tense against my head, and I imagined the rest of him was as well. I was at a loss — I was trying to grasp for words but my mind was empty and full at the same time. There was a tornado whirling through me, a hurricane ripping through my lungs. I wanted to run, but I was stuck.
I had a reputation for being slightly emotionally unstable, and I knew that. It was the reason my relationship before David ended, and the reason I had been single for two years after that. My depression became crippling, my anxiety hindered any chance of clear thinking. And even though I had gotten better, the image of this girl who let her emotions control her was burned into my memory. When I looked in the mirror, instead of seeing who I had become, I saw the girl swallowed by darkness. I told myself I was undateable, that no guy would ever be able to handle me. And then David came along. I tried my best to keep my emotions under check around him, which usually resulted in nights by myself, letting the remnants of darkness trickle back in. But at least he was shielded from what I called “the crazy”.
A few days before, I had woken up to the strangest feeling. Everything around me was off, as if someone had moved all of the furniture in my room just a few centimeters to the left. My blood was felt like it was circulating wrong, and everything I touched seemed electrifying and dead at the same time. I was both angry and sad, restless and tired. Everything David said to me had a different tone than usual, and it made me all the more anxious. I had been hit with a bout of depression, and despite my best efforts I couldn’t keep “the crazy” from David. He knew something was wrong, but he didn’t know what to do or how to help. And how could he know when I didn’t even know myself? He distanced himself from me, unsure of how to handle things and wanting to give me my space. I was spiraling, wanting him to be near me for comfort but wanting him away so he wouldn’t suffer at my hand. Tonight was the first night I felt together enough to leave the house.
My thoughts were interrupted by David’s hand leaving my hair and gliding along the curves of my body to find my hand. His fingers gently interlocked with mine and began tracing my fingertips, and I immediately became aware that the fingernails I had painstakingly grown out were gone from anxiously biting them. I drew in a sharp breath before retracting my fingers from his, digging my finger nubs into my palms. David accepted this, but wrapped his hand around my fist and stroked it with his thumb. He let out a deep sigh.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I didn’t mean anything by that. I was just saying…”
“It’s fine,” I cut in, afraid of what he was going to say. My moment was long gone and I could feel myself shrinking back into my skin, trying to get smaller and smaller. I lied, it wasn’t fine and I wasn’t fine. The air was becoming hot and pressing down on me. I could feel the metal bench pinch into my skin and I realized how terribly uncomfortable I was. “I want to go home.”
David scoffed. “We were having a good time,” he said. I could hear a tinge of annoyance in his voice, and it made me feel terrible. I wanted to tell him I was sorry for ruining the night, but my mouth wouldn’t move. We sat in silence for a moment until David shifted his entire body away from me, causing my head to thump onto the metal bench. He removed his hand from mine and drew his body into himself as I sat up, looking at him in bewilderment. “I can’t handle your mood swings all the time. But I can’t imagine not being with you, either.” He paused, drawing in a breath. “I love you, but sometimes you break my heart because I don’t know what to do.”
His eyes moved in every direction except towards me. I wanted him to look at me, to look into my eyes, and see the pain that statement caused me. I wanted him to see how much it hurt me to know that I was hurting him. I wanted him to look into my eyes and find the unspoken words that would make everything okay. But there were no such words. I sat there, frozen and on fire. My throat burned to say something, but nothing came out.
Finally David looked at me, and I could see the despair he was feeling matched mine. His eyebrows were twitching in thought, and I so desperately wanted to crawl inside his head and read the words passing through. Before any more time could pass, David stood, clearing his throat and breaking eye contact. “Well,” he said, sounding almost out of breath. “I’m going home. You coming?” I looked up at his towering body covering the lamp light. I nodded slowly, even though he was looking out over the pond, and stood up. The minute I moved, he turned and walked back in the direction of home, leaving behind the pond and night songs, and me, to follow in his sadness.