It starts in the middle of my chest and rises. It’s funny that way. Maybe I first felt it before my mind understood that heaviness sinks. I prepare my face into the constrained vacancy I have carefully cultivated. Unseeing, but for the garish whiteness of your perfectly tied tennis shoes, my mind empties of your words. I fleetingly ponder how they might look in scarlet.
The anticipated shift in timbre. It is almost my turn and I must respond correctly. Preempting the call for eye contact, I begin to slowly lift them. Before passing even the sweeping hem of faded denim, I realize where the rising weight has flooded. Not quick enough to stop myself, I blink.
Your eyes pierce mine at the precise moment the salty wetness teases the corner of my mouth. I deepen my expression. My rebellion lies in my refusal to let you see me wipe dry my face. Or to watch your cheek twitch, almost imperceptibly, while I do.
Inequitably armed for the encounter, I falter. My words stammering out without the confidence I will later try to remember projecting. I will myself through it. Temporarily satiated, you allow my escape. Skipping the groaning spot where the step is weakened out of instinct. Through the string of doors my knees bend in synchrony with the slope of the roof. Until I am crawling. In the deepest closet of the attic.
It takes effort to get here, where the body must move in positions it’s unaccustomed. The light is weak and the shadows, deep. Deep enough to squeeze beyond an outstretched arm. It’s where I go to delay the inevitable. Where I can tell the walls my secrets, and tell myself lies.