The story behind lobsters
is that they weren’t thought of as cuisine
until the 19th century. Before that
they were considered peasant food,
and most often served in prisons.
The story behind diamonds
is that they were just rocks until 1938
when there was a marketing campaign
that forever linked them with love.
The story about you is that you thought
I was so much more than I was.
The story behind art
is that it’s never a masterpiece
until it’s already been sold.
Once it already belongs to someone else.
The story behind us
is that once you finally had me, you had
no idea what I was worth.
I found an old notebook behind a box on the top shelf of the closet. Who knows when it fell back there or how long it had been there.
Flipping through it, I found pages we had covered with battling blue and black ink, doodles of stars and hearts and swirls.
I remember that afternoon. We sat next to each other in a booth at a coffee shop, in between classes our second year of college. I got my notebook out to write down an idea I had for a short story—back when I still had confidence in my ideas. Frustrated at a dead end, you said, “just move the pen. It will come.” I suppose it did.
The faces you’d sketched and the words I’d written and bolded on the spine of the page. Page after page after page, destroyed with lazily held pens. Tiny, in a right corner, “I love you!!!” was written in your delicate script. An arrow I had drawn to the bottom of the same page lead to, “I love you more!!!” On the back, you had scribbled urgently, “you couldn’t possibly.”
We’d had too many cups of coffee and were bored and didn’t want to go to class. We stayed and giggled over those pages. We talked about music as we doodled. Talked about traveling. Talked about what we’d name our kids if we had any one day. When we got bored of that too, we walked back to campus and got in our cars to go home.
I don’t think I ever looked at those pages again. When I used the notebook again, I quickly flipped passed the filled spaces dismissing them. But last night, I ran my fingers over the ridges and dents left from pens being pressed too hard and let them run deep into my heart, causing an ache.
You peer over your book, the one you’ve been trying to finish, as I flop around in bed trying to get comfortable. It’s really late and I can’t sleep. I finally end up on my back and let out a long, exasperated sigh. Eyebrows raised, you simply ask, “are you finished?” I close my eyes and fold my hands on top of my stomach. One last deep breath in, I look up at you and I answer breathy, “yes. I think so.”
After a quick smile, you move back to your book. I fight the urge to fidget, still somehow uncomfortable, and peer up at you pretending to be invested in the printed words in front of you. I know you’re not because it has been a full minute and your eyes haven’t moved; you haven’t turned a page. You concentrate, trying not to be distracted by me watching you, trying to distract myself from how restless I feel. You move your index finger to the top of the page and begin running it below the words that make up the sentences on the page, maybe believing that this is how you will focus on the story. But your focus is gone.
Half way down the page, you chuckle to yourself before you glance at me. “Okay,” you start, moving your finger once again to the top of the page. You reread the same sentences, this time out loud, at me. I turn on my side toward you and lay my head on my arm to watch you. You read quietly with a gentle cadence. You’re in the middle of a book I’ve never read and don’t care to, but you read on out loud, taking a perfectly timed pause at the end of each sentence. The rhythm of your voice slows my breathing and refocuses your attention on the story.
You scoop me to your side with your arm as you read, bringing me close. I lay my head on your shoulder as you grab my hand, kissing my relaxed fist between words. Something actiony is happening, a climax in the plot, and you start to read faster. It sounds exciting, but my eyes are heavy and I close them. You’re unaware of my drifting, or maybe you are, but you keep reading.
I slowly make my way down the hallway. I can always smell the mid morning, so crisp and full, no matter what time of year. I set my feet down, toes first, holding my breath, hoping you don’t hear my weight creaking on the floor. I hold the door jamb, gently peering around it, and watch you read the newspaper at the table.
As you read, your eyebrows come together right above your nose. I always notice, even with your glasses on. Not a furrow; just a pucker. Hardly concentration; only your interest held by the headlines. You always shift in your chair when you hold the paper out in front of you and turn the page. I wonder to myself if you watched your father do that, when you were a child, at the table while you ate breakfast. Are your movements intrinsic? At the end of the article you’ve been reading, you softly clear your throat in thought.
When you catch me in your peripheral, your mouth curls up slightly into a grin. You try so hard to make your grin as gentle as I wanted my peering to be, to not give yourself away either, but you try too hard and your mouth turns up into a full smile. Not turning away from the paper, your teeth flash at the black and grey page in front of you and you say to me, “good morning.”