She plays with her bangs. Not sure if she should swipe them to the left or to the right.
“I think it’s getting too long.” she says as she finally gives up and her bangs fall limply over her eyes. She lets out a light sigh and looks out the window.
The rain is letting up. Several sun beams pierce through the clouds.
“Have it trimmed then.” I said, as I began searching for a possible rainbow.
“Nah, it’ll cost the same. And I don’t want to go to some cheap salon. They rarely know the tricks.”
“Wait.” I say as I search through my sling bag pockets. “Found it!”
I open my fist in front of her. Grinning from ear to ear.
A plastic frog hair clip. My daughter’s.
“Gia’s?” she asked weakly. “No, thanks.”
With that, I initiated another half an hour of unbearable silence.
The bell dangling on the front door chimed everytime someone entered or left the cafe. Soft music playing in the background. Hushed conversations coming from every direction.
I understand completely how difficult it is to be with her in the open like this. How rare and how dangerous the opportunity is.
As if realizing that time is of essence for us, she opens her mouth for me again.
“Let’s play a game.” she said with a mischievous smile.
“Okay.” I close my sketchbook.
“I will ask you the 5w + 1h, but without any context or topic. You must answer each and every one of them, with what you think I want to know at the moment.”
She pauses. Looks into my eyes.
“Are you following?”
“I am, but a bit lost here. You mean you will ask me, for instance “Why?” and I can’t say, “Why what?”. Instead I have to just answer with what I think caused the ‘why’? Am I correct?”
“Almost. Let me give you an example of how it goes.”
“I ask you, ‘Why?’. And then you answer, ‘Because I need options in life. I need to feel that if plan A doesn’t turn out well then I have plan B, C and K.’ assuming I am asking you about your work ethics. Something like that.”
“But that’s not what you really want to know about right now, right?” I shoot her a wink.
“So shall we begin?”
“Wait.” I close my eyes and take several deep breaths.
She laughs quietly.
I think before I answer. Finding the right words to make her smile in no time.
Bingo! And with a bonus twinkle in her eyes.
“Next. When.” now she’s doing that thing I can’t handle; propping her chin on the bed of her palm and looking intensely into my see-globes.
I feel a ticklish twinge in my abdomen. I almost lose it. You know you’re fucked when just looking into someone’s eyes give you the naughty tingles.
“When? Hm. Let’s see.” I try hard to concentrate on my answer.
“When we were standing too close for comfort in that crowded elevator one morning? I could hear the drum beats and snares coming from your loud earphones. I could smell your perfume. Vanilla by The Body Shop, right? You smelled better than the bakery in the West lobby. All of a sudden I was hungry.”
She was beet red and struggling not to smile at my answer. Failing miserably.
“Easy. A secret place in my heart. Hopefully not even God can find.”
She bites the sadness from her lips to this.
I thought I heard her voice tremble a bit. Please don’t cry. It’s the last thing I can take right now. Please? I plead with my eyes.
“Because, just knowing you exist in this life makes me happy. Because, my sanity counts on it. Because, just knowing that you know I’m happy simply by knowing that you exist is all that matters to me. Because..” I dropped my words somewhere along my efforts trying to convince her with something I myself am not yet convinced enough to say. “..it’s. Just. Because. OK?” is all I can muster in the end.
“How?” she whispers her final question. By now, two clear rivers have formed on her cheeks.
I slide a napkin next to her hand. She takes it and wipes the rivers away.
“Breathing. Keeping our hearts beating. Living. Eating. Laughing. Loving and making sure nobody else gets hurt because of fate running late. Nobody except us.”
“Yeah.” she adds, “because clichés are for wimps.”
The rivers have disappeared.
Her cheesy adorable grins reappeared.