posting this, fiction written in the far Before, because I just need to step out of the After for a moment.
It was always the same. Driving this regular route, broad highways to brick lined streets, day in, day out, delivering: papers, notes, cards. The same boxes, same people, same rhythm, just me and the truck at the end of the day. Life in monotone. Then, in that straight white routine, a ray of sunshine, of brightness, blazed through. The first time was the best, the most amazing. It changed everything. There I was, unloading boxes in the regular way. I looked up because the light had moved, and there she was. Electric. Blue eyes – such blue eyes – and she smiled so brightly. I’ve never fumbled with boxes before. But that first time, all the towers of my world came crashing down, electrified by her. I thought I was sure and steady, but she has shown me that I am not, that I really never have been, it’s all been waiting for her. Waiting for the colors to change.
Later, that same first day, I watched her through the window as she sat in a cafe on my route, curled on the couch with her tea. Again, that same light smile, the same blue eyes, bursting through the contours of my life. Listen – I don’t even sound like me. She makes me think in poetry. I don’t even recognize my mind when I see her sitting there. She hasn’t seen me every time, but I’ve seen her. I’d like to say I don’t know how many times, but that’s a lie. It’s been thirty-seven days, before today. I’d even like to pretend I don’t dream of her and her electric blue, but the truth is, she wakes me up. Just last week, driving the velvet wet roads in the night, I heard her whisper, saw her face pull up behind my eyes. It was only then I realized I’d been drifting, letting the long lanes lull me into sleep. She saved me. Her vision kept me alive. Like she already loves me. Why else would she smile that way, show up in my dreams? She has to love me. It’s in her eyes. And she smiles, not like a stranger, but like a friend, a long lost part of me I hadn’t known I’d lost.
Every day, I walk past, glancing at her spot on the couch. Today it is empty. Steadying myself in her absence, something makes me look, makes me turn around. There. Sitting alone at a table, she looks up just as I look in. My face breaks into a huge-ass grin, the blue of her eyes fills the world. Before I can stop myself, I’m in, through the door, crashing past the glass that keeps her from me. I rush to her, arms extended, hand extended, reaching out. She clears her throat, looks up from her pot of tea. She reaches her hand out to mine and I stutter, stammer my way through hello.
“Intimate strangers,” I say when my tongue calms down to clear. “Sean,” I show her, pointing at the name patch on my jacket. Dork. Oh my god, I’m such a dork. Of course she can see my name. But there’s that smile again, the deep blue eyes alive, I’ve never seen such eyes. Like the sky at mid-day in Spring.
“It’s snowing down south. That’s where I’m from. I mean, everyday. I live in New Hampshire, but my truck is in Mass and it was covered in snow, so it’s coming.” Wow. Brilliant. Crap.
She smiles. Says she’s excited for snow.
“Well,” I hop from one foot to the next. “Uh, it might get slippery, so be careful walking, when you’re walking or wherever.”
How can I not laugh? How can I not lift her up and kiss her, hold her smiling face next to mine? Thank her for the many nights she, herself, has kept me alive, kept me company. Doesn’t she know? She must send herself to me. No one smiles like that except on purpose. She’s smiling at me now, waiting. I’ve been quiet, grinning, no idea how long. What should I say?
Someone has come in behind me, I can tell by the way she moves her head, how she shifts in her seat. She looks just past my ear and smiles again, that splitting searing blue. I flinch and look over my shoulder. Another man, small, non-descript, nothing special. Not like me. But he gets my smile. My twinkling blue. Without changing the look in her eyes, without shifting her smile, she looks back to me. I’ve lost her. How many weeks I have wanted her, longed for her, kept myself warm with her eyes, the secret smile only for me. I thought she knew me. It isn’t true. She isn’t mine. My blue life-line is a lie.
A slithering violence crashes in my chest. Politely I cough goodbye, and maybe even “see you around.” The world goes dark. I have to escape. The boxes. I’ll go back to the boxes. White, clean, square. Solid. Back to the towers I’ve built. It’s all okay it’s all okay it’s all okay. I will speak no more poetry. She beams that same shattering smile as I back out stuttering, pushing past the man who has stolen her, the man who receives her eyes. Outside, the snowstorm has begun. Cold pellets burn out the sun. Stumbling to the truck, I am blinded; there is only white, and there has never been blue.