A/N: I'm not sure what this is, but this is all there is of it. I wish I were writing funny stuff, but I don't seem to have it in me lately.
I couldn't get this situation out of my head – the idea that, in reality, many people don't make 'that move' or take a risk - and that is often what makes the difference between romance and tragedy.
Tongue clicks and thumbs drum against the steering wheel in uneven percussion. Her heartbeat is more erratic yet. She's never been more thankful for her ribcage and how it holds this and other secrets of her heart.
"How lon-" he begins. Clears his throat and looks out at nothing in particular over the dashboard horizon. Drizzle splats against the windshield. "How long have we known each other?"
On the surface, it's not a difficult question. Anyone listening in – if anyone else was in the car besides the pair - would think nothing of it.
Just two people. A guy and a girl. Always an easy camaraderie. Nothing more.
That's what she tells herself at night: Nothing more.
What she's been telling herself for eleven months. Eleven months and three days.
They will never be anything more than friends. Friendly.
So, every single night, she pulls the covers up to her chin and tucks her feelings away.
And every single day, she throws back the covers and braces for another day filled with thoughts of him. Him…and nothing more.
Despite all those imagined conversations…situations…positions…she's not prepared for this. This tone. This inquiry. This sudden flicker that dares to present itself in the visage of hope.
"About a year," she says and forces a shrug to appear more casual than she feels.
It's not surprising to her that he doesn't know with any precision how long ago they met. He focuses on the moment. Beyond that, to her, he appears a bit scattered. Needs reminding. Tending.
But, in that moment he is around, in those moments, he is there. Present. Personality as big as an airplane hangar. Smile bright as noonday sun. Laugh that pulls you in and holds you and warms you to your toes.
It is always days between contact then a stream of texts until all hours. Or long phone calls that she savors like hot cocoa and then keeps her awake like diner coffee. Usually about a movie or a job interview or a tale of her latest failed date contrasted with his triumphant one. He shares these details of women with her for reasons she can't understand even after hours dedicated to that singular purpose. The only answer she determines to all questions: Friends.
She can't figure out how something attracts his attention. She can't figure out how someone would either.
Drizzle goes down to drops. Beats against the glass.
"Really?" He studies the water collecting before him. Hums. "It feels longer." Cough. Softer. "Or not that long."
She's not wearing a jacket and pushes her hands between her thighs and the leather seat. She's at a loss for words. As if the very function of language short circuits within her brain.
There should be some great line to convey how much she wants to mean to him and how much he already and always means to her and how all this whatever this is could more and could be forever and that line's had eleven months and three days to form out of the jumble of words in her head but it hasn't and it doesn't.
And it won't.
Her breath is regret fogging windows.
They've been parked here for quite some time. She's along for a late night run to buy something-or-other because it doesn't really matter because she'd ride along for burgers or dry cleaners or routine lockjaw inoculations. In front of them, a discount store lot teems with people gathering up all they think they need. A small huff escapes her when the thought blurs through her brain that all she needs is already beside her in the car.
"What?" he asks, a bit too eagerly.
"Nothing," she whispers to her lap.
"Nothing," he repeats. Rings the life out of the wheel.
Nothing scares her. This idea of being even less.
Of being nothing at all to him. The possibility of nothingness terrifies her. To move from potential – however remote or imagined – to definitive, black rejection. To risk being his safe haven confidant for becoming someone he avoids because she said too much.
Anything at all, in moments like this, sits squarely under the heading "Too Much." An errant word or telling look could easily erode the whatever-it-is-or-isn't between them and she'd become that someone he nods toward from across the room while explaining to others that she's such a sweet girl and he's not sure how they lost touch and "it's complicated."
Unresolved and unrequited, she hedges. Chooses safe, tepid friendship. To be a part of his life.
Any part. To not be an amputation.
To know she will be his friend and take his calls and hear his voice again and again when he meets someone, then someone else, then the one.
This is where she will leave it.
She won't ask if he and she could be they.
Could ever be more.
Ever be his.
Unasked symphonies swirl in her head. Where do I begin? Where do I end?
Am I a part of you like you are me? Is there an us that goes on for you when we're apart?
From around the lump in her throat, she forces out: "I need to run inside. Need coffee." She opens the door. Steps out to play her part in the rain.