Constant, Steady Strokes

Then comes the part when I say, "Boy, you have to lie." She's brimming over with terrible, horrible realizations about her shortcomings, her wants, her wasted life, her mental aptitude, and you're not allowed to laugh, you have to coax her back from the fears with constant, steady strokes. She's never looked worse. She's never scared you more. And now you know for sure that this is not the girl with whom you are going to spend the rest of your life. Her body is convulsing, slick with tears. You've been surrounded by a barful of people all night, but there are just two human beings in the room, in the world, right now—and to her there's only one because she can't see past the dark clouds in her eyes—and it's on, and you're with it. You make assurances that you have no way to back up. You speak of hope and possibility and beauty and lovely things that you could never deliver. It is the calming sound of your voice that she needs to hear, I tell you. Then comes the part when you realize what this trip's all about. You see the level of disconnect, the cool irony, that she happened to knock through first. Her raw self, a little bird breaking through the shell, her first scream, and me, this part of you telling you to stay, not to put in the distance this time, and just being there means you've been tricked. That the lies are not lies. That this here is the real shit. That hope is as real as despair. That possibility is more real than doubt. You don't get to choose, either, because there is no choice. That nothing is pure anymore. There's as much ugliness in beauty as there is beauty in ugliness tonight. She never worries about saying what you want to hear. She just speaks her mind. It doesn't occur to her. You almost don't occur to her. And why should you? You may rather she liked you for other reasons, other than because you are funny and you drink a lot. Anyone could be funny and drink a lot, but you hold my tongue because it is with you that she lays naked. And so this nut became director of your stream as I watched, with interest.

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