There is a small fire dancing in front of me, and she is sitting on the opposite side, but her features are difficult to see. I can see light gathering on her cheekbones and on her nose and forehead and glinting in her dark hair—but the rest is shadow, the same forbidding darkness heavy in the air around us.
“Oh,” she exhales. “You’re shivering.” She stands, leaving me to wonder why I hadn’t noticed that I was shivering and if her eyes actually were amber, or if it was a trick of the light.
Cool hands touch my neck, soft fingertips resting in the hollows of my collarbones. After a moment of hesitation, she sits behind me and her palms rest on my shoulder blades. In spite of her cool hands, her body is warm, and her presence fills me with an incredible thawing sensation that I had forgotten could be conjured.
Her arms snake around my neck and she relaxes, lays her cheek on the back of my neck, skin on skin. Shadows flicker on the wall like a test pattern and if I tilt my head just right, I can see a sprinkle of stars in a royal navy sky, spilled salt on a diner table.
“I’ve been thinking,” she starts.
“I should hope so.”
There is a sigh in the darkness and I can feel her exasperated breath on the underside of my jaw. “Yeah, I was thinking about just how much I love it when dogs lick my toes.”
“I’m sorry. Please share.”
“Okay, so life is kinda like stone.” One arm slides off of my neck and meanders its way down my back. “There are boulders and there is gravel. Boulders can be turned into gravel but gravel cannot be turned into boulders. If you look at trust like a big rock, if you screw up, it’s like you chipped the rock. The rock no longer has as much weight, but it’s still there. But if you were to bulldoze El Capitan, per se, you could not restore it to its former glory.”
“I think it’d be awful hard to demolish El Capitan with just a bulldozer.”
“I think it’d be awful hard for you to shut up.”
I bit my tongue until she started talking again.
“You can additionally look at your life like a rock. Every second another bit is chipped off, and the size gets smaller and smaller until your existence is smashed into oblivion and nothing regarding your existence is viable.”
I couldn’t stop myself. “Cheery.”
“Don’t make me smash your rock.”
I move my hand up to my neck to touch hers. “A rocky situation indeed.”
She buries her face in my neck. “Have I mentioned what an absolute pleasure it is to spend time with you?”
I squeeze her hand. “It’s completely normal to—“
“Shut up,” she murmurs, muffled. “You rock. Now, be quiet.”
I love her. I want to say it. But I have been silenced.