Regardless of whether or not he’s aware of it, I know already that the photojournalist and I are involved in a dynamic that is larger than either of us, the purpose of which I have yet to fully comprehend.
Outwardly, we seem caught in a competition to see which of us can be more.
The context of the more is practically irrelevant, simply a matter of steadfastness.
Which of us can show up the most, with the least response to the other.
He’s chosen revealing everything about his shocking life as his weapon.
I, nameless silence.
Personally I feel this gives me an unfair advantage. But it’s really not my fault that he didn’t think of it first.
Meanwhile, I think it might be the most fascinating game I’ve ever played.
He the most worthy opponent I could hope to encounter.
“Tell me you love me,” he whispers, which would be presumptuous were it not already true.
“Tell me you love me,” he says again, my wrists held in a one-hand grip, shoulders pinned to his double-wide couch.
The location of our first encounter.
I stare up at him. Mostly at his mouth, at which it’s easy to stare.
The point of departure for all the thousands of words he relates to me.
Of his travels. His travails.
“Say it!” he says, shaking me slightly.
I give myself time to consider his request. Imagine the words coming out, and by that alone experience the gritty susceptibility roiling in my thoracic cavity.
It’s not too much, but it’s enough. It’s as far as I want to go. Tonight.
“Mon provacateur,” I think, and stare silently at the invisible breath passing between us.
“Look at me,” he demands, and I feel my eyes being willed shut.
“Just because you close your eyes doesn’t mean I can’t see you.”
I smile. No, it doesn’t mean that.
Nor does it mean I can’t see him.
I wouldn’t necessarily recognize the upper half of his face; I’ve looked at it so seldom.
But I know all about that sunken line in his skin, drawing down from the corner of his left eye. Sense the years that formed it.
Isn’t it funny? We’re so together in our opposition that when I’m in his presence, I don’t recognize a world outside of it.
All I recognize is a place where both of us ended up like this.