It was times like this very moment that reminded him why he usually kept certain things to himself. That nausea had nothing to do with the junk-food he had consumed as dinner that night. No, those pizza-pretzel Combos and the Dr Pepper he chased them with were not the source of the uneasiness in his stomach; it was what he had said that was eating at his insides… or perhaps what he had not said at all. He never knew.
He would ask himself if he had said too much too soon, and almost at the same time he would wonder if he should have said all this and more long ago. “Nothing before its time,” she had said on several occasions. So why did he feel his timing was all wrong? It had always seemed to him that there was a certain line, a threshold, that was crossed whenever he would open up to someone. That line was different depending on who was listening, and trying to discern where it lay with any particular audience was an exercise in futility, at least it seemed so to him. Regardless of the person he chose to open up to, there would inevitably come a point where he crossed that barrier into territory that he now felt should exist only inside him, a place where his greatest fears and biggest vulnerabilities could live and fester or falter and die without anyone ever setting eyes on them.
Sometimes they simply knew not what to say. He understood this loss for words and would never hold it against them. After all, how does one respond to something they have never heard before, revelations of a life they never knew existed? He never expected a response, because even he had trouble finding words to express what gnawed at his ribs from inside, clawing and struggle to escape. What was anyone to say when he dropped the walls to expose the demons he battled inside himself, the monsters that lie hidden just beneath his skin but could rip his flesh to shreds at any moment? Blaming anyone for running at the sight of those creatures would be hypocritical because he knew that if they didn’t inhabit his own flesh, he would likely run from them himself. So he was grateful for those precious few souls who would stand fast, afraid and confused maybe, but never running. Still, he kept hoping someone would say something, anything that might tell him he was not wrong to open up so much.
This time was especially hard for him. He believed she was not going anywhere. He believed she was sincere when she told him he could come to her with anything. So, why did it feel like he had shown her more than he should have? The queasiness in his gut now felt more like a dagger being twisted, stealing his breath. He stood up to try and breath, but he only hurt more. He opened the back door and breathed in the humid Spring air, his eyes closed tight as his head fell back, then forward as he exhaled. He noticed his hand was clenched around the doorknob and his weight was supported by leaning on that arm. He looked at his closed fist and couldn’t open it. It was a metaphor, he thought, for opening up and bearing his soul. Letting go and risking the loss of control was something he was never very good at, and that’s what he was doing each time he let someone in. Exposing his belly to an enemy seemed less dangerous than revealing his fears to someone close to him.
There was nothing he could do now, and he knew that. He closed the door slowly and, after a few seconds, relaxed his fist, letting go. He shook out the stiffness in his hand as he walked to the kitchen, picking up the empty Combos bag and empty Dr Pepper bottle off the coffee table with his other hand. Maybe I’ve said too much, he thought, placing the dinner containers on the counter, maybe I should have said more long ago. Too early or too late, too much or not enough, he never knew.
Eventually, she would find the words to respond, even if it was simply, “I don’t know what to say.” Even that familiar disheartening statement would give him a little solace tonight. But he was accustomed to living without solace, so he let his exhaustion take his mind off his worries; he turned off all the lights and walked to the end of his bed. He felt his way to crawl onto the mattress in the pitch black, fell prone with his head turned toward the clock, arms clutching the pillow. “Too soon,” he whispered looking at the time. His body ignored his logic and pulled him into slumber, but not before he told himself, “I’ll feel better tomorrow.”
Copyright © 2004, Rus Wooton
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