Your arms are a roadmap to your anxiety.
Small pink scabs mark your biceps like landmarks.
YOU scratch between the points and deposit a strand of hair behind your ear. Another strand slips out. YOU pinch and twist the hair around your finger, staring down – eyebrows furrowed – at your split ends that break like a forked road, because you’re too scared to look at me.
Your fingers move across the map like a geometry compass: picking, prodding, tracing. Your nails dig for treasure between the landmarks, leaving thick marks white as chalk.
YOU look up at me. Your pupils are black marbles submerged in water. The tears fall and I grab your hand. Your nails meet my skin – sink in like fangs. I wonder if YOU are turning my hand into a compass.
At that moment, I wish we were on the phone instead.
I hear your lungs rev up the mower. Mascara crumbs accompany your tears; hitch a ride down to the base of your chin or your lip’s top ledge. YOU inhale through your nose. The mower is now in your sinuses. The mascara streaks your cheeks – leaves marks like a black crayon. Your face is a canvas left out in the rain. My hands, wet with tears, are the sidewalks beneath.
I want to tell you I love you and everything will be okay.
But it’s so easy to say you love something that’s small and breaking apart in your hands. Your nails dig deep once more. I wonder if your tears will congregate in the cuts like a moat.
My phone lights up. It’s him. He is soon going to sail off for the night and we are busy rocking back and forth like buoys.
I am no longer on my own island. YOU have sunk down, dove into my embrace, and snug your head against my chest. I am the rock YOU call home. We dock in silence.
My phone lights up once more.
What do I tell him?
“Sorry, my hands are busy holding someone else.”
“She’s not more important than you, but I missed your call anyway.”
A text message from him pops up on my screen: “I hope you’re having a good night, baby. I’m going to bed early. I love you.”
YOU stop pinching my hands and sit up. We aren’t sailing away, but simply floating in the same current.
YOU look down at my shirt that’s blotched with tears and Crayola makeup. “I’m sorry.” YOU try to let out a giggle, but inhale through your nose. The mower is still idling in your sinuses. “Sorry.”
There YOU go, apologizing again.
I always wanted a friend who is overly considerate, grateful and apologetic. I never thought I could get sick of apologies.
I touch your arm. YOU flinch.
“Why do you do that?”
YOU go to rub your arm; I fear YOU landscaping a new layout and grab your hand.
“It’s a distraction from what’s really going on.”
“What’s really going on?”
Your eyes fill like water glasses again. “Everything. Stuff at home. Stuff here. Stupid shit I say.”
I picture YOU picking at your skin; puncturing your skin with your nails that dig and twist like screwdrivers. Soon bits of skin, bloody and scabbed, will fall to the ground. YOU are a beautiful picture, ripping yourself a new collection of puzzle pieces that lack perfect fits.
“It doesn’t matter that we are alone.”
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t keep hurting yourself in fear that something else is going to get you.”
YOU dive back into my embrace. This time your arms are around me.
“I’m not alone anymore.”
YOU inhale. The mower is back in the shed. YOU sit back. The water glasses are clear. Although it is nighttime, I discover a new day in your eyes.
“I love you.”
My island is now our island.
“I love you too.”
I’m wondering when he’ll come by again.