‘I know it all,’ she whispered, swallowing what could have been a tear. Or was it a yawn? She looked like she hadn’t slept for days. Blue-grey veins peeked from where the concealer had shifted under persistent digging of fingernails. ‘But you see, logic isn’t the language of the heart.’ Her voice was almost inaudible as her blank gaze swam through her distant past. Or was it the future? Her gaze lingered dead centre on me but I could have been a mere wall. I shifted from my left foot to right.
‘You think I am crazy, don’t you?’ she half-smiled, coming back to real time. I stopped shuffling and stood quite still. Her lipstick had been crimson in the morning. ‘You are so silent.’
‘Do you want me to say something?’ I tried to sound unemotional, like a good listener would.
‘I am not sure.’ Her lipstick had been crimson in the morning, dulled now to a motley brown. She always had too much coffee.
‘You need to sleep at night.’ Her lips looked like the dead, at odds with her alive eyes.
She frowned. ‘I try. But then I wake up too many times and….’ She fished out a little compact mirror from the folds of her big blue sweater, the one she always appeared in during my wistful daydreams. It was her favourite thing about winter. She stared at her reflection and half-smiled again, almost a grimace of disapproval. ‘I have been looking so shit lately.’ she twisted her dead brown lips. I had never wanted to kiss something so morbid so much.
She snapped the mirror shut, slicing through the unsaid words hanging between the two of us. Then for a very long time she stood silently staring at something behind my shoulders with unusually bright eyes. If I didn’t known better, I would think she was about to cry. Or maybe I didn’t know her at all and she was teetering on the edge of an avalanche. I did not even care how far along the edge she stood because I was grateful for this awkward opportunity to stare without restraint. She had so much life in her, so much of it, that she could wear her darkest moments like a glowing halo around her radiant face.
A growing avalanche teetering somewhere along the edge. That sad thought became my undoing.
‘You are always beautiful,’ I blurted, my cracked voice giving me away. Crap. So much for being the unemotional listener. I could feel the hot flush growing like a pallor of shame up my grey-green stubble. Double crap.
She quietly watched me as I shifted again from my left foot to right. Then from my right foot to left. With every foot shift the air seemed to get more and more charged. I could taste my own longing in my breath. Surely she was aware of it too?
I finally left my shuffling feet alone to look at her. And realized with an almost painful jolt that she had walked right up to me. Too damn close. I could hear her breath, almost smell my longing in them. The dead lips looked like fall clinging on against winter, yearning to last till spring arrived.
She had inched her face imperceptibly closer. I dry swallowed, hitting something hard lodged in my throat. I clamped my lips shut involuntarily, just as she arched her jawline. Her curls bounced on winter flushed cheeks as she hesitated and for a second I nearly drowned in those confused eyes, so bright, so alive, how could they even be real?
Her lips had been crimson in the morning. I was going to paint them back.