Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

“Don’t tell me you love me,” I hold her face in my hand as she speaks, her gaze locked with mine, “you’re only saying that because you need me, and you think that will make me stay.”

I don’t understand where she gets these ideas from. I’m quite certain I don’t need anyone. I’m practically perfect all on my own, but on the off chance I’m missing something obvious, I take stock.

I can feel every muscle in my body, flexing and un-flexing each from my toes to my face and down my arms to my finger tips, careful not to move too radically for fear of startling her or breaking her face. I can feel the weight of her in my hand; she’s pulling away from me emotionally, but there’s no doubt she’s moving into me physically, and that feels… wonderful.

“I never know what’s going on with you,” she’s speaking again, and while I continue to self evaluate I still process her every word, “when you’re not looking at me, it’s like you’re a million miles away, it’s like you’re fixated on everything but me, you study everything around you all the time, and you don’t ever talk.” I catch my eyes roaming about the room, and turn back to find her still staring intently at me. I focus on her eyes, there’s something about them, the deepness of the blue, the contrasting flecks of green and yellow scattered through the iris like stars in the night sky. There’s a softness there, a warmth, they could keep me –

“And then there you are, you look at me and it’s like you’re looking right into me, into my soul. I’ve never felt anything like that, and it’s that look, that depth of focus that makes me think maybe, just maybe you do love me after all.”

She sits and places her hand on mine, both of ours now cradling her face, but the moment is fleeting and she pulls back and guides my hand to the table.

“I can’t do this, I can’t be with someone that has so much else going on in their mind, it’s not fair.” She’s on her feet now, pacing around the kitchen. The coffee is still warm, the smell permeating the air around us, I catch myself calculating how long it will remain drinkable before requiring reheating. My mind wanders sometimes like that. The sunlight has just caught the chrome on the stovetop making it three twenty seven in the afternoon, given the date. She moves things on the counter absently. I’ll move them back later. I cleaned and tidied everything this morning while she was sleeping, washed and folded the laundry, prepared the ingredients for the dinner I would be making in ninety three – ninety two minutes. Assuming she doesn’t leave.

I stand, lifting the chair reflexively as I unload my weight from it, moving and setting it down without a sound just far enough behind me that I can step away from the table without touching either. Thoughtless precision, the reflex of silent motion.

When I place my hands on her shoulders she flinches. I must make a point of making noise when I approach her, for all her keenness of hearing, she startles surprisingly easily. She turns and leans back against the counter. I place my hands on her shoulders again, squeezing just enough to impart a sense of affection, but not so much as to shatter her scapula or clavicles. That tends to end relationships very quickly.

She looks at my face, raises her hands to my chest and I can feel her heart beating through her fingertips just slightly ahead of the sound of it in my ears. I measure the pressure, noting it for future reference as an appropriate response should this situation play out in reverse. I’m lost in her eyes again. I don’t fully understand this phenomenon, but it’s unlike anything I’ve felt with anyone or anything else.

For the first time today I speak.

“I don’t love you because I need you,” I pause for an appropriate number of seconds, she waits expectantly, “I need you because I love you.”

The words hold no logic for me, but they are a truth, and a truth that she seems to understand.

In eighty seven minutes, I’ll be starting dinner. Eighty six.

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