“You know that’s not what I meant to–”

“But it’s how you really feel, right?”

I can feel my heart beating. Hard, slow, individualized pulsations. I used to think the ringing I’m hearing now was caused by surges in electric sockets nearby. Now, I know it has something to do with my blood pressure. I’m trying to breathe, but my throat feels like it’s collapsing. It’s my fault, so I’m not allowed to cry… but my eyes are welling and I can’t say what I mean to– what I need to.

“Wow,” she starts. This speech– about how I think I’m so good, how I don’t have room to talk, or to think poorly of her because of this one little thing– is a nuanced rendition one I’ve heard before. “This is why people don’t trust you,” she says. And she tells me what I deserve– which is not her or her time– and what that she’s only saying all of this so I won’t waste someone else’s time. She’s angry and there are tears in her eyes. I don’t know if she’s crying because she’s gotten herself so worked up telling me about myself or if it’s because I’ve disappointed her so.

Her breath comes through her mouth. It’s ragged and irregular. This table isn’t wide enough and I can both hear and feel it from here. She’s covering her eyes with her hands because I “don’t deserve” her tears.

“Haven’t you got anything to say?” She asks.

But my words don’t come out. Like speech function has stopped, but thinking is still on. I can’t say the word “stay” or the phrase “I love you.” It might sound like an excuse or like I’m just clinging without meaning it, but I want to say what I mean in the end. Even if no one believes me, I want to speak my heart.

Her head is on her arms now. Her words barely make it to me. “Really? There isn’t anything…?”

I can feel my teeth chattering slightly. It’s like my words got lost in the mail. Now thinking is slowing down and panic is taking over.

“Sorry.” It’s not her voice. Her body stills, my open jaw quivers a bit. The voice sounds more like mine. “Sorry,” it whispers again, and this time I feel my body try to take back the air after the word.

Using her forearms, she pushes her upper body away from the table. Mikaya nods without looking up. She sets her jaw while staring into her inner arm and turns her body away from the table so she can get all the way up without seeing my face.

But I see her face– the exhaustion around her eyes, the tightening and releasing in her forehead, flaring nostrils– and I see her back– rigid in the turn, and bending more with every long, quiet step toward the door– and I hate myself.

“No. Wait,” but the words are too soft and it’s much too late. The door has already swung closed behind her.


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