Posted in Short Stories

Smoke and Mirrors

I would rather people just be enigmas to me. Just ideas, just figments of what I can conjure up in my mind; they stay better that way. They respond how I need them to. Their past doesn’t get in the way. It’s just smoke and mirrors. I prefer people that way.

Real people hurt. They’re mean and ruthless and don’t understand me. I make up people so I don’t get hurt, but I end up getting hurt more by reality. I come down from my fever dreams and they’re just there, in all their banality, staring at me with concerned eyes.

Ah, wait, you actually are. Your dumb, beautiful green-gray eyes are crinkled in an expression of gentle unease. For a moment, I hate you. I hate that you’re in my bed, looking at me the way you’d look at a toddler toppling over. I hate that you care. I offer my hand in a pitiful attempt for connection, and you take it, but your expression remains the same.

“You have that look again, eh,” you say casually. I retract my hand from yours. I’m not in the mood much for vulnerability, and especially not before a morning coffee and cigarette.

“I’m going for a cig,” I say. I get out from under the covers of my bed and throw on the smoker’s jacket-an awfully tacky cardigan we both use to go outside and smoke with. I grab the pack off my nightstand and head towards the balcony, and you follow without saying anything.

I stand with my arm crossed under my left, the cigarette hanging from my free hand. The morning is dewy and damp. I can feel your eyes on me.

“You can’t run from openness forever, my love. You know I care. I know you think no one does, and that you’re in the world alone, but you never are. And you will never touch anyone’s soul if you keep filling up the moat of your heart with poison.” God, you are so tackily poetic when you’re trying to help me, I think. I don’t say anything. I take another sour drag of my cigarette.

I think about you. I think about how you’re the only person that has ever made me feel like I can take down some of my walls. Just some. I think about that time you held me after I watched The Truman Show for the first time, how paranoid I was for days, but how patient you were with me. I think about how kind you are, even when its inconvenient for you. I think about laying on your chest and hearing your heartbeat and being so overwhelmed with the fact that you are a real person. I think about the fact that you are a wonderful thing in my life and I am just standing here smoking a cigarette.

Maybe I don’t want you to be an enigma. Maybe I don’t want you to be a figment of my imagination. Maybe I do want you to respond in ways that frighten me. Maybe I do want to know your past, what makes you tick, what makes you put up with me. Maybe I want to walk out of the smoke and beyond the mirror and hold your hand and believe you will not hurt me. Maybe I would rather be hurt by reality than my figments.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m ready for you.

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