We all have that moment. You are standing there, next to someone you care about and you need to tell them something. But it’s hard. Because you don’t know how to. But not even that. You have rehearsed it so many times – you have run the conversation through your head more often than you’ve heard someone laugh that day. Or maybe you just haven’t been listening. Because you’ve been distracted. So, it’s not that you don’t know how to say it. It’s that you don’t know how to start.
My life has been littered with conversations such as this one, and they have never turned out the way I expected them to. Because despite how hard I try, the other person just doesn’t know the lines of the play I have so precisely composed. Right down to the dramatic pauses.
This is a poem about that.
Breathe in. Ready. Waiting. Everything is so heightened. So clear.
There they are. Standing. So unprepared.
How are they to know what is coming?
The air is expectant. Or maybe that is just your heart.
Pregnant with fear.
You open your mouth and –
You are thinking, beneath the shower head
Droplets of water and soapiness drip down your body
The hot hot water burns
It focuses you.
You turn your head to God and feel a face full of poorly pressured watery steam
It will be right
You know how it will happen
You will be both standing there, chatting, careless
A laugh will escape them
And the words will float out of your mouth, smooth, soft, calm
A blanket of warmth will fill you
You will be free
‘I think I met someone.’
They will turn, surprise on their face
And then a slowly creeping smile with cross their face like daylight
‘There is this boy that I know’
‘They are nice and kind and sweet. And I just wanted to tell you. Because you mean so much to me’
You can see it in their face. A heart. Their heart. Ready. Open. Forgiving.
‘I’m so happy for you’
You were so high-strung, so ready for flashes of red and black and purple but now you feel so light
You open your mouth and –
Nothing escapes you.
They are laughing.
Your mouth slowly shuts, the lips pressing together in the agony of the inability to begin.
They look at you.
You smile back.
There is that light in their eyes.
It’s so bright.
It blinds you, so much that you can’t remember what you wanted to say.
That’s a lie.
You know exactly the lines that you desire to usher.
But they refuse to trot to the cadences of your voice.
Finally, it happens
This instant is as perfect as it is ever going to be
It must be now
Your body feels a sense of urgency that your words do not convey as they awkwardly and cautiously stumble from your lips
‘There is this boy’
Shock floods into their body
Reaching their open eyes and wider mouth, their whole being rises at the intake of breath
‘I think. I think I like him’
Tears fall down their cheeks
Loose raindrops on a porcelain face
Too soon. Too soon. Too soon.
Raindrops on the car window
But you aren’t safe and warm inside
And suddenly, everything is drowning in static and screaming and nothingness as your heart spirals
You open your eyes
Not like that.
It won’t happen like that.
You throw your sheet of scribbled on paper in the bin
It will be perfect.
The script must be perfect.
But it never is.