Happiness was an elusive pursuit in which he invested negligible energy. At certain milestones of age as a number and ageing as a process he was prone, as so many are, to take stock of his achievements or lack thereof. At any given time he usually found himself to be ahead of where he had been when last he conducted this inventory of actualisation but he denied himself the feeling of responsibility for his progress. Though it was always true that time had passed and work had been done it likewise always seemed that any forward progress was the doing of benevolent forces pulling strings behind the scenes to push the narrative – his own story – ever forward. Their motivations for doing this were dubious and self-serving but they did drive the plot, as it were. He was continuously afraid that he was doomed to be forever a spectator if he did not pick up the pen and author the next chapter himself.
Her eyes were raw and red as if she’d been crying for hours but there had been no tears even five minutes before.
“Just… give me a second.”
She gathered herself, mostly through blinking and staring at the floor again. When she started to speak again I realized she was still holding my hand.
“I’m filled with dread.”
“You don’t seem like yourself.”
I found this to be pretty rich considering she didn’t know me at all. Fortunately, I knew how to make it go away. I leaned in and kissed her gently on the forehead.
“You don’t have anything to worry about.”
As I lied to her, I momentarily saw myself as a villain in an over-written movie beloved by people who wear shirts with Che Guevara screenprinted across the front. I went to leave again but now her hand squeezed mine and pulled me toward her. She was crying again and now I didn’t know what to do. It occurred to me that I should say something but her lips were on mine before I could speak.
Her entire body was radiating heat and I could feel her trembling against me. I realized my hands were on her face when I felt a tear hit the edge of my thumb as it rolled down her cheek and slipped between our lips. It was a strange sensation that broke the spell of the moment.
Sometime in the last year he had discovered an obvious truth that had escaped him in his youth: adults are little more than children that have grown up and mostly learned how to cover up the insecurities that continued to plague them. Some use bourbon, some write journals or passive-aggressive Facebook comments; only a few overcome the insecurities outright. By now he was adept at reverse-engineering adults by unpacking their guarded and jaded personalities into a workable mockup of the child, adolescent and lost twenty-something that had preceded the supposedly mature man or woman interacting with him now. It was not empathy but it did help him fake it.
He arrived just a moment too late.