In Fact

In fact, perhaps, it was nothing. Or something—after all, the eye roll was there—but not a meaningful something. He had loved those cropped views in the beginning, just an eye and one nostril, just the curve of an upper lip. It was the type of thing that could not quite be captured in a photo. The face was too distorted close up, perspective impossibly obscured by the night’s blue light. To him it had been a shallow breath, subtle and clean.

But recently it had all seemed wrong. Everything was jagged and sharp. Everything gasped. The room even seemed desperate for air.

He had heard somewhere that the drowning body doesn’t look the way it does in the movies or TV. It had said that the drowning body is a conservative machine. There are no flailing arms and cries for help. There is no oxygen for that type of desperation. Instead a sort of quiet resolve sets in, as if determined to sink, to master natural buoyancy. Drowning doesn’t look like drowning, he concluded feeling oddly proud of his reasoning abilities. He imagined, briefly, that whatever was happening to him didn’t look that loud either.

“What are you thinking about?” He had loved the silence, didn’t want to talk about anything—and certainly not anything he was thinking.

“Nothing,” he replied, wondering again if he sounded as anxious as he was.

“Nothing,” she sighed. “It’s always ‘yes’, or ‘no’ or ‘nothing’. Those are my least favorite answers."

“I’m thinking about this,” he lied. “About lying here. I’m content.” Silence settled back into a more comfy nook resting her head on his chest. He wondered if he hadn’t lied. He felt content, truly—if only for a second.

“Well I like that” she grinned. And that made him feel bad. Like it was a lie again. “I’m just happy things are finally getting back to normal.”

****

One time, upon getting out of the shower before she got home, he stared down to his dangling genitals and became fascinated with the long and complex relationship he had had with his penis. Did everyone feel this intimate with their sexual apparatuses? When she arrived home, he hugged her so that he could still look into the mirror. He found it so odd and wonderful how everything fit together. He pulled off her shirt and they made love.

****

She used to wish that she could see everyone she had ever known in at least one sexual encounter. This was not borne out of some erotic desire. She didn’t even think it was a particularly voyeuristic fantasy either. She thought that you learned a lot about a person through seeing them have sex. You saw how they handled their own body, how they handled another’s. What made them feel awkward. How their whispers smelled.

She had once said something about this to him as they were lying in their bed, dozing off into sleep. But somehow he couldn’t or wouldn’t hear her. He became jealous, thinking that somehow what he was doing wasn’t enough for her. Or that she wanted someone else. He grunted a guttural laugh that seemed to say that the conversation was over.

****

In college he had had a fling here and there. He enjoyed the odd intimacy of a hookup, but—and he took some sort of pride in this—not in the ordinary way. It wasn’t that the sex was some sort of ephemeral, animal lust, but quite the opposite. He loved the vignettes he took away from these nights, which seemed to last. He loved to see how comfortable two people could be when alone and in the dark; and though it made him sad that that ease and comfort often didn’t find its way into those long hours from 9AM to 5PM, he figured that that was all the more reason to seek out those nightly intimacies.

****

In the beginning she had fallen fast. It wasn’t that anything he had done was particularly impressive. There was no long courting period, or flowers delivered to her office cubicle. He was, in her mind, above average in most ways and that presented itself as comforting and genuine to a girl who often felt false. She used to read David Foster Wallace’s speech at times when the  unbearable weight of phoniness crawled up her insides, intensely nodding along as she tried to internalize the words. “Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.” It seemed to her that he didn’t worship anything. There was no default setting he retreated into. Instead, he gave off a mothy attraction to what might be. Everything was light and sweet.

****

In the dark corner of the room, when the blinds were still up, she said to him, “I don’t know how to console her anymore. It’s been two years since it happened and while my life has been racing by, hers has stood still.”

“At a point there is only so much you can possibly do” he said turning onto his back. He felt that they had had this conversation before, but wasn’t sure when. He knew it was in the dark. Outside the window he imagined people starting there day. Burly Spanish men yelling about today’s catch in the seafood shop next door. He thought about his own first step into the world that wasn’t this dark room—the punch of seafood and brine that would be his true wakeup from his final snooze. He thought maybe today he would strike up a conversation about soccer with the Spanish men outside.

“I know you’re right, but I see her struggling every day. She’s drowning in work. She’s afraid to leave the house, sitting in the dark all day. It seems excruciating.” She was frozen with empathy. Always trying to fix. Then not sure if that ruined her idea of herself as a modern Woman. As a feminist. As whatever she wanted to be that day.

“Are we so different? Is anyone so different? We just play it off better don’t we?” Not that he was even sad, or frozen—he didn’t think.

“Don’t be so pessimistic,” she whined.

Sometimes he felt like he was the only one around her not allowed to be sad. Her Archimedean point, on which she might turn the whole world.