nothing something

You were on pins and needles all day, waiting to hear from me—or so I assumed, because ten hours or more had passed since I said my last words, and when I finally said some more, late in the evening because I finally had to, you called within minutes and we spoke until straight lines turned to circles and my mind could no longer try to unravel what my heart had balled up and put away.

You called and we had the conversation I said this morning I wasn’t open to having, or the beginning of it at least, the one about the possibility of us being us again, us again but new, different, something more, other, or else, words with meaning but without definition and it touched that little piece of my heart that had always wanted to be your dictionary, to show you not just that these words mean but what.

You called and you apologized for everything for the first time, and calmly wouldn’t, couldn’t bring yourself to accept my no, sorry, no. No us again, not even just to see. We’d seen enough, and we’d seen that you were too late, that you weren’t going to change my mind. And you told me how last week you almost did what you didn’t even know I’d wanted you to do all along—show up unannounced and say I need it, I’ve had a long day and I just want you, that’s all, please, quietly please. Almost you did. Almost was as close as you ever came. Almost someone else. And again the universe spoke my words right back.

The night before—no, the night before the night before, you reached out for the first time in a month and said nothing, precisely nothing. Why not keep all that nothing to yourself, I wondered. But you were never good at that. You were always open with the nothing, wide open. It was the something that you kept to yourself, inside, hidden from you almost as much as from me and all the rest of the world, known and not.

You appeared the next day, yesterday, much to my surprise and vindication and I saw the something in your eyes when you talked, when you listened, brow furrowed, when you smiled a relieved smile, laughed a remembering laugh. A faintly desperate something I saw, in fact, measuredly hopeful, fundamentally fearful, pins and needles, needles and pins, deep down and underneath and behind, tears close, I knew, probably not long gone and surely soon to return once your eyes could hide again. It seemed like a break in a mild summer storm with gray-black on the horizon and steam rising from wet streets and sidewalks, the muted glisten and thick air of a world gone heavy and subdued.

This morning I told you what I saw, told you your eyes always show something, and you hated it. Not me, not what I said, but the fact that I could see, that you let it through. Our problem all along, this was, wasn’t it. A man offering sight to a woman with eyes wide shut.

Why do you think you love me if you love the nothing so much? I am the anti-nothing, the desperate-for-something; I run from the nothing, turn from it, the nothing I find and the nothing in myself, even the bits of the nothing I see in something, trying like crazy to fill it or just make sure it isn’t all there is. I even create something out of nothing. I’ll let that one sit. What do you think you miss about a something you never saw?

Today you laid it all on the line, though, this morning and again tonight, apologies and second guesses and regrets, your hurt, your guilt, your heart, on the line, more or less. I don’t mean to sound mean but probably less. I’ve sounded mean before but you deserved it because you took my something and made me feel like nothing when all your heart and fear and hope and hurt were walled off and your glass house shrouded so the little bird inside would sleep nice and quiet and you could pretend it wasn’t there in the first place. That bird did sing for me on occasion, before—no nightingale it was but it chirped and cooed and puffed up its feathers when I held out my hand. I light up fast, and I did to that singing, but you broke the spell of something with silences and hollows and distances and cover-ups and I went dark again, for good. 

Still you, even you, lover of the nothing, eventually came around, albeit a day—I mean month—late and a couple thousand dollars short. I don’t want anything back, though—what I gave, I gave. Time, money, energy, me. Parts of me, because the rest of me was always somewhere else. You wanted that, wanted parts, wanted something, you thought, you just didn’t know that sometimes parts are just parts and don’t add themselves up to a whole on their own, that you have to want to try to do the algebra and the geometry and calc and trig and chaos. 

And you still don’t know, so now you’ve got a little something more than nothing because you finally tried, but you don’t have me. What do I have? I felt something and now I don’t. I’m grateful for that, because even this is not nothing, grateful you gave me something at the end, more or less. That was us, always in parallel, faster, slower, completely different tracks, always more or less. I hope one day you learn how to do more more and less less, and that you find something, that you finally do the math. I hope I do too.

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