He’d said something pithy to her. A remark passing by, the same as so many men before him. He’s said something derogatory, something he’d meant to hurt. Something he’d meant to use for leverage. She’d heard all those same things before, over again, the words always slipping through different lips. It’s always a bit the same when you hear it. You want to say something back. That’s it? That’s what you’re choosing? That’s what you’ve got? But he wanted something back. He wanted that part of her. He wanted the speed at which her resentment came to him. He wanted to hold onto it like a hug or a kiss. Her reactionary remarks acted like baby blankets, little things to soothe the hurt.
She smiled a deep smile, the corner of her mouth crinkling up into deep crevices of understanding. She smiled knowing all the things he’d never know and all the things she’d never tell him.
No, she couldn’t tell him that he was wrong for being the way that he was, because he wasn’t. One couldn’t be wrong for being. He was what he was and that was simply too bad for him. She couldn’t tell him that he was hurting her because he knew, and he wanted to. He’d tried so very hard. She couldn’t tell him anything that he already knew.
What she could do was show him himself. She could show him all the things he’d wrapped tight and tucked away on the top shelves of himself. She could show him the things that made him sad, the things that made him angry, she could show him all the pieces of himself that he didn’t know he’d lost.
So she smiled.
She looked at him with everything she knew. He saw in her what she saw in him, and looked back. He looked back dizzily with confusion because he couldn’t recognize what he didn’t remember. Happiness and love, friendship and comfort, warmth and stability. He took his first steps in her eyes and then she blinked.
When there was nothing left to burn but himself he turned away. Maybe he would go to drink. Maybe he would smoke. Maybe he would fall against the wall, slide down to the floor, maybe he would cry. It wasn’t hers to know and when he turned she crooked her head to the side.
She just looked at him and smiled with all the sadness she felt for him.