When The Evening Shadows And The Stars Appear, And There Is No One There To Dry Your Tears, I Could Hold You For A Million Years
in two weeks it'll be almost thirteen years ago almost to the day...
The first time I saw you crying I didn’t know what the reason was. There you were, wrapped in your holiday sweater, resting on your side, your hand delicately wiping away the tears that had already slipped down to your cheeks. I was standing in the doorway, unsure what to do. I didn’t know if I knew you long enough to be of help. I didn’t know if I knew you well enough for you to accept it. I didn’t know if you saw me standing there, but I certainly saw you. I saw you turn away from me, your petite ponytail sweeping out from beneath your head and almost touching the back of your sweater. I stood there for awhile, waiting for you to ask me to leave or to tell me you wanted to be alone. I was waiting for permission to not get involved. Eventually, I was just waiting to hear the soft sounds of you crying in earnest. That never came either.
Finally, I had a decision to make. To leave you alone, sad and distraught, or to make a move to comfort you in some small way. It had been far too long by that point to pretend that I wasn’t standing there.
When I saw your hands rise up again and move to the side of your face it was like my decision was made for me. I slowly walked over to your bed, barely registering this was the first time I had set foot inside your room without your parents in the house, and sat down. I placed my hand on your shoulder. You never flinched. Instead, you went about your business of displaying whatever melancholy or misery that had befallen you. If you wanted me there, you never told me. For the first few moments that’s all I could do, keep my almost shaking arm on your shoulder. I wanted to will you well without having to say a word. I wanted you better without making the effort to make you better. I was scared that I wouldn’t know what to do or what to say to you to accomplish this. I looked around your room, at the orange walls, at the stuffed koala collection; I looked at anything but you. For the first time I was stoic with you.
When that didn’t work, I moved my hand down your arm as a gesture of comfort. At any minute I expected you to turn around and tell me what was wrong. I’m better at helping once I know what the problem is. But you wouldn’t turn around. You kept on weeping to yourself, unashamed to show your vulnerability.
I was at a loss.
I had barely stood up to leave when I thought I heard you asking me to stay. It could have been my imagination, though. At any rate, I did the only thing I could think of. I laid down on the bed beside, ruffling my shirt and my slacks, making a mess of the clothes I had specifically picked out to meet your parents at the restaurant with. I would’ve said we should’ve been going by that point, but there was no way you were in any condition to leave the house.
I laid behind you, carefully spooning you, and placed my arm around you until my hand met yours. Then I just grasped it with the certainty that that’s where it belonged. I didn’t say anything. I just held you like that, feeling your chestnut brown hair in my face, hearing my breath resonate off the back of your neck, wishing you could understand how much I didn’t want to see you hurting like that. For awhile, I thought you were uncomfortable, that you would get up at any second to scold me or possibly pretend that everything was fine. I even felt you squirm in those first few minutes. But eventually I heard the sound of your breathing grow more regular even as the sound of your sobbing grew ever louder. Your voice never reached a timbre to be heard outside your room, but I heard it. I heard every agonizing peal of it. I pulled you in tighter and you didn’t fight it. I felt the slackness in your body match to the position I had taken until I had you completely cocooned inside of me.
I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, but I was impossibly content at the moment. It was a moment of trust that existed between us that would be impossible to replicate. Before that evening, before that moment, I had doubts that the closeness we shared was as real as I thought it to be. Up until I felt you, I never felt what us would feel like. But that moment the us that I thought could be became became the us that is.
Your fingers, your hand, your tightening grip on own pliant hand, that’s what I was concentrating on. That’s where I felt most intensely your pain. Even more than the sound of your crying, even more than the sight of your tears pooling atop your pillow, I felt the full weight of how devastated you really were in your grasp of my grip. Every time I felt your hand tense, I tried to match it. Every time you grew softer, so did I. I wanted you to know how close I was and how willing I was to provide whatever comfort you needed.
Even when the warmth of your sweater began to make the skin beneath my shirt uncomfortable, even when I started to notice the last of the light leaving your windowsill, I laid with you. Even when my eyes fell weary and my breathing slowed as I grew more and more comfortable with the feeling of your body next to mine, I continued to concentrate on your delicate hand. It was my barometer. It was my guide. It was my window into your discomfort.
I always knew you were beautiful. I always knew you were smart. I always knew you were funny, charming, graceful, well-mannered, impulsive, impish, and, yes, sometimes wicked. But up until that moment I never knew you felt sadness like I’d felt sadness. I always considered you stronger than me, incapable of showing frailty in the eyes of another. You were always so ruthless in your personality. You took everything by storm. Yours was the way of conquering and not meditation. That moment my perception changed in a small, but significant way. You were strong—of that there could be no doubt—but yet you were not a pillar of indifference and casual apathy when it came to your emotions. You had depths that you had managed to keep from me for a very long time or, at the very least, managed to sublimate with reservoirs of self-deprecating humor. I thought of the two of us you’d be the one being the pillar of strength for me when I got down on myself. It was only that moment that I realized instead of me leaning against you, we’d be leaning against one another, which was an arrangement I was more than willing to enter into.
to make you feel my love
I don’t know how long we laid like that—maybe an hour, maybe ninety minutes—but it was long enough to have your parents call the house to ask where we were. Still, noticing you weren’t getting up, I didn’t get up either. We both heard the plaintative sounds of your mother asking where we were on the answering machine. We both heard her concern for us even as she said good-bye and to call her back soon at the restaurant. We both knew we would have to go or else tell her something was wrong with you. We both were in that exact moment.
Yet there wasn’t one thought to getting up.
There wasn’t one thought to stirring.
There were only your tears.
Our hands holding onto each other.
And my concern for you.