Our conversations always start the same way:
“Are you happy?”
Your lips peel back and reveal a smile, a smile so big it could be filling a void. And it is.
There is such a stir in my stomach when we speak. Casual conversation plants a patch of dandelions in my stomach, and although nerves settle in like bumble bees, I smirk at the fact it’s a garden. On good days, roses squeeze in between the dandelions, but I can never stomach thorns for too long.
We have this constant misunderstanding over happiness.
YOU are happy with me making YOU happy.
But what does that make me?
I am the referee to a game that is lacking players. YOU stand in the middle of the field and pass me the ball. I tease you, kicking the ball to you and then rolling it back across my sole. But YOU don’t play along. Your goal is open. There are no distinct teams. There are no set rules. I score, but it’s not fair. YOU cheer and we collapse into a hug. I am a winner in your eyes.
The roses peep through my stomach’s base and braid with the dandelion stems. The thorns poke and prod. The bumblebees burrow into the red petals; seeds parachute across and fall down, rattle like hail.
I don’t want to play anymore.
“You make me so happy.”
The garden shrivels down as a chill rushes through me.
A gust of wind tousles my hair. We are standing on the field again.
“You are the best.”
YOU release the hug and run down to the opposite goal. I want to blow my whistle but is YOU being on my side a violation?
“You can trust me.”
I zigzag down the field towards YOU. YOU stand in the center of the goal, mid-squat, clapping. With knees still bent, YOU shuffle from side to side, as I stop and prepare my shot. I kick the ball, it soars towards YOU, inches from your shoulder and YOU duck down. I score again. YOU run towards me and collapse into a familiar embrace. I fear playing the goalie, so I let you run down to the opposite side. I imagine myself blocking all of your shots and hear you screaming, “It’s unfair! It’s so unfair!”
I smile at you.
YOU smile back.
The chill subsides and flowers bloom: no bees, no thorns.
YOU step away from the goal and tell me to give it my all. A gust of wind passes through, this time in my gut and the seeds detach, twist up like a tornado.
“Are you sure you are happy?”