“That doesn’t work. It’s something…I don’t know, there’s just something about it that doesn’t work.”
He paces around the room, running his hands through his hair to smooth it back, then dragging them forward to mess it up again. His eyes are wide and glued to the floor as if he’s trying to see something beneath the surface. I bite down on my bottom lip and wiggle my toes inside my shoes. I’m just as anxious to get it right, but there’s not as much pressure on me to do so.
“I have to get this right,” he says, “they need it by tomorrow.”
“We’ll get it,” I reply softly, and the skin on his face softens.
“Let’s start again.”
He picks up his guitar as he sits back down and rests the body on his thigh. With a deep breath, he starts playing. The sound is soft, warm, with each strum I feel as if the room is beginning to glow. He looks at me and I smile.
“Will we ever, get past never,” he sings slow and sad.
“Will we ever, flee this weather.
Will they ever find the proof?
Will we ever tell the truth?
Will we ever.
Will we ever.”
He stops playing and rubs his nose. It takes him a few seconds to look up at me.
“It sounds good,” I say. “Better each time.”
He doesn’t answer. His eyes again find the floor.
The room becomes quiet and so do we. I close my eyes and rest my head against the wall. This room is the safest place we have, and yet even these walls have started to betray us. I touch my index finger and thumb to the ring on my left hand and turn it around and around. For a brief second, I try to pull it off, but my hands are swollen from the heat, so it remains unmoved at the base of my finger.
There had been no choice that brought us here. And there was no shame hidden in the corners of the room. We’d come here a thousand times before with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts. Stories had been told, secrets had been shared. I’d showed him my ring before anyone else and he’d hugged me as I jumped up and down.
He’d slept here on long nights and I’d found him in the morning, smiling and eating a store-bought breakfast. We’d all eaten dinner here. All four of us. And we’d laughed and drank and thanked God for the life we all shared. But then the clouds came. Seemingly overnight. They threatened rain and then followed through and we couldn’t decipher how it felt when it hit our skin. We just stood in the middle of the storm and looked at each other, quiet.
He puts his guitar down and puts his face in his hands. It was 1 a.m. now and we’d both been here for over 6 hours. I try to find something, anything to say, but nothing comes.
He taps his foot. First slow, then quicker, and quicker, until suddenly he stomps his foot loud against the carpet floor. I expect his voice to be loud, angry, but when looks up at me and starts to speak, it’s barely more than a whisper.
“What am I supposed to do?” he asks calmly. “What am I supposed to do if I’m in love with you?”
I let the words hit me. They sink into my skin and fatigue my muscles and sicken my stomach. We’d never spoken of it. We’d always left it buried along with that gray sky look we shared that night almost a year ago. I can still picture his face, and often do in the moments just before I fall asleep, but I’ve never said a word and neither has he, until now.
I shake my head with guilt, then speak from the heart, for they are the two truest creatures I own.
“I think we’ve both been in that boat for quite a while now,” I say quietly.
“So, what do we do about it?”
I shake my head again and then shrug my shoulders. “Keep rowing?”
He laughs at this and I laugh at him. My heart swells and the room glows again. The sun begins to rise and goosebumps run down my skin from its warmth. How could I leave here? How could I go back now? But then I feel the weight of the ring on my finger and I’m met with the truth again. How could I stay here? How could we ever?
I shake my head again, this time with my eyes closed. When I open them he’s looking at me with those sad eyes. The ones that ask and understand at the same time. The clouds roll back in and I shiver. Suddenly there’s a knock at the door and I can hear their voices outside. Hers that is his, and his that is mine. Soon it would be the four of us again and this room would no longer be safe.
He looks at me and the rain begins to flood the room. I want to cry; to let the rain mix with my tears and wash it all away, but I know I can’t. He stands up and walks towards me and I let him take me in his arms.
“We’ll keep rowing,” he says, “even when the night changes.”
I nod into his arms, holding back the tears, and take a deep breath. He lets me go and walks to the door. When he opens it, the truth escapes into the night and I’m left standing in the middle of the rain, waiting.
Listen the song here.