When The Fall Comes

She lies on the bed. Face inches from mine, bodies parallel, limbs intertwined. Beneath her eyes you can see faint lines, the lines which, in a decade or two, will wrinkle and droop and betray her youth. Lines nobody but me and her have seen. Her pores glisten in the overhead light. Tiny traces of makeup and sweat and soft microscopic hairs dot the contours of her cheeks and nose. Her eye makeup is meticulous. I wonder what she thought about as she put it on tonight. She is beautiful. For me.

Music from my laptop ambles on in the background, unnoticed and merciless, the only object anchoring us to time. Moments are hours and hours are moments. Smile meets smile. Eyes devour each other. For all I know, I had been lying with her my whole life.

“What are you thinking about?” she asks.

The age-old question. I tense up and create an awkward smile. Even after all these years, relinquishing my most intimate thoughts meets immediate resistance. But I force myself through.

“I’m thinking about how I would write this moment.”

Her eyes lighten. She smiles. She loves my writing. Even though it’s hard for her to read it.

“And how would you write this?”

Her accent stresses the vowels in unexpected ways. Even two months later her vowels are still unexpected and beautiful. I fidget for a moment. I’m shy and insecure about my writing.

“Tell me,” she says.

I take a deep breath and tell her. The lines beneath her eyes. The pores around her nose — “What are pores?” — I explain in words she understands what pores are — “Oh, OK.” — How I imagine she puts her eye make-up on. What she thinks about while she puts it on.

Before she can respond, I instinctively defend myself. “I know it may not sound romantic, but those are the things I think about in moments like this.” My insecurity.

“No,” she says. “I like it.” She beams. She really does. A smile and a kiss. “It’s very real,” she says.

A moment passes and she asks an unrelated question. This one is different. A simple answer. Her eyes begin to withdraw, suddenly skeptical. Suddenly we can both imagine an end to everything. It starts fuzzy but quickly becomes much clearer. This is it. The beginning of the end.

She pleads, “But why?” The eyes well up, full and glistening and vertical on the bed, the same bed where it all began.

I pause, looking for words to make this easier. “I don’t know,” I finally say.

The adoration in her eyes morphs into hurt and then into tears which spill and stain the bedsheets.

When a person falls, they never notice the cause until after it happens. The step that’s slightly higher, the chair leg sticking out too far, the patch of invisible ice. The crash. The pain. The hard smack of reality against your face. Then you look back and see the moment. The inflection point of horrible serendipity, unknown and unavoidable. It always seems so obvious in hindsight, but so murky and unclear the moment it happens.

She and I lay on the bed and talk. And words fail, as they often do, but this time they fail in two languages. Sometimes logical explanations just aren’t enough. The drop is sudden and the ground is hard. The music is merciless. And the words fail.

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