I waited. I checked for you at the window, though I tried not to think of it as that. Instead, I told myself that I choose to raise a solitary blind and let a sliver of the night escape into my room. It was the right thing to do, I thought, because how lonely the dark must get: forced every day to slowly push away the sun and then just hang there, draped over cold trees and tacked up by little pinpricks of bright that, if we were to reach for them, would have been gone yesterday.
I checked again at the window, but you were not there, so I decided to consider it going on about my business of rescuing the dark. I hoped not to make a habit of this; I thought it had become dimmer in my room already.
You were out there walking around in the world and I worried about you, about who would give you more heavy things to carry, about the fact that you’d bear them out of obligation, without thinking of yourself. You deserved the lightest of burdens; even a single feather would have weighed too heavily on your shoulders. You were walking around in the world, out in the dark that each day smothers the light, and all I could do is sit in this room and take a piece of it away at a time, through a crack in the blinds.
And suddenly, you were there. The dark had disappeared, like it never was. Like I was never waiting. That is always how it was with you—when I had you, it was like no time had passed, like no nights were spent sleepless, reading and re-reading the book you’d left like it held a new religion.
You were standing in my living room, pushing away the shadows, saying something egotistical—I rolled my eyes and made some sudden retort, which I can’t remember now. You thought it was funny. You laughed. I will not say it sounded musical, like the tinkling of bells or the quick few strums on a guitar or any of that other pretentious nonsense. It was unexpected and almost harsh, abrasive, over nearly as soon as it began. I stood staring at you, stunned, like I’d heard thunder, or a crash from another room. I had seen you smile, had heard you scoff, but I had never seen you throw your head back and really laugh, from within, from the bottoms of your feet. Your eyes were so bright they burned. And then it was over, and then you were walking out the door, and then I followed you. I kissed you hard on the mouth, because my insides were smoldering, and you were cool.
I think laughter leaves us most vulnerable, more so than anger, tears, nakedness. More than light, more than dark. In the moment I saw you and heard you and felt you laugh, I could have done anything to you. I could have hurt you, wounded you, left you thinking of laughter in the same way you’d think of not wearing a seatbelt—you could hit 80, 90, 100 miles per hour and be fine, or you could hit a tree, and watch the metal melt in the flames. I did not hurt you because, I think, I do not want to. Or, I do not want to on purpose. I will hurt you, one day, on the day you ask me for too much, on the day you tell me you love me, in so many words. On that day, you will be at your second-most vulnerable, and I will wound you then, by telling you I cannot, I will not, I do not. Then, I will leave you thinking of honesty in the same way you’d think of taking your eyes off the road—you could drive mostly straight and swerve just a little, or you could drive off a bridge, and watch the glass crack from the weight of the water.
But, for now, I will wait until you laugh again. I don’t mean giggle, or chuckle, or snigger, or any of the other stupid-sounding words that don’t quite add up to what it is you do. I will wait until you really laugh, from your soul, from your shoelaces, and when you do, I will choose to kiss you, because one day you will be watching metal burn, watching glass crack, but right then, you will be laughing.
And then you were gone. I stood at the window, watching your headlights disappear as quickly as they’d come. Light flooded my room, sliced by the blinds into neat lines that danced on the walls as they faded. We had pushed against the night and it was pushing back, and you had disappeared, like you never were.