Matthew Onate, Staff Writer

            Up the street there’s a girl. She’s over sometimes. She’s got these really beautiful eyes, short, straight brown hair, and a gorgeous smirk. Her name is Olivia. I want to tell her I love her—that I wish we were more, that she’s all I think about, etc., etc.—but whenever I get close, my arms and legs stop working. Eventually I end up in bed with a cup of raw ginger beneath my nose. Dad, standing over the mattress with a cigarette butt between his lips, tells me that’s love, son.

            He’s downstairs now, with Mom. She’s like him, he’s like her. But they wouldn’t admit it. They both have so many feelings about so many things but don’t know how to say it, so it all boils over and dissipates. I see Mom in her office sometimes, though, writing poems on the back of unsent envelopes. I read one once. She wrote about blossoming spring and the uncertainty of marriage. It wasn’t very well written but that’s fine. It’s good to know she still thinks sometimes.

            Dad’s different. He doesn’t have poems, but he has his hands and fingers. He taps. He taps when things are stressful, or when he’s bored. Tap, tap, tap. He taps songs I can’t recognize and other times he just taps. Like a number station, stuck on a loop. I don’t think it’s conscious. It’s like breathing and blinking. Mom gets annoyed sometimes but it’s better than smoking.

            He calls out to her about the mortgage, or something else I’m not sure I fully understand yet. She just tells him breakfast is ready. Eggs and bacon. Dad doesn’t bring it up again, and I see him taking his plate upstairs to eat in the guest bedroom. He sleeps there most nights. He sits back down when he sees me. Mom joins us.

            Dad says nothing. He’s tapping away. It’s subtle. It’s easy to see he’s somewhere else entirely. I’m somewhere else too. I’m thinking I want to tell Olivia how I feel. I’m thinking I’ll go to her house, the green one on the corner, and confess. I can see her.

            She’s wearing a green skirt. It matches the house. It’s midnight, and all the lights are off except hers. It’s because she’s been up late thinking about me, about us, about everything we are and everything we aren’t. She’s been like this since the day she met me and it’s never gone away. In fact, it’s only gotten stronger since I started driving. She wants me to take her places, take her away from here. She’s always saying stuff like that. And now she’s outside on the porch in the pale lamplight with her bags packed.

            She tells me she’s been waiting for years. I tell her I’ve been waiting longer. She tells me that’s not true because she’s pictured this moment since she was only five years old, though maybe not with me in particular. It doesn’t matter because it’s me she ended up with. I tell her there’s something I have to say before we leave. It’s something I’ve been wanting to say for a long time, Olivia. Our faces are so close now and yet I’m calm as I’ve ever been. Everything works fine. I can breathe. She looks up, but I get lost in her freckles. There’s so many of them. They’re like constellations. Should I tell her that? No, that’s too much, I don’t want to push her away. I tell her anyways. She kisses me, and then we stop, and then I kiss her again. I realize there’s no point in telling her I love her because she already knows, and we drive away into the moonlight.

– – –

              I’m outside her house. It’s midnight, and the only light on is hers. I like to think she’s upstairs writing love letters. She’s writing love letters and they’re all for me. She’s been writing them for years. “Take me away take me away take me away,” she writes. “Take me away, lover.” She knows what she wants. She’s so honest. She sees me outside and walks downstairs, opens the door. “The rose bushes are watching,” she says. “Take me away, lover. Take me to Virginia or California or somewhere with a view.” I look to the side and see the rose bushes are blowing in the wind. The buds are like eyelids. “Take me away from here, lover. Anywhere but here.”

            I would. I would, Olivia, but I can’t feel my arms or legs.

            The eyelids look on. The eyelids look on and they’re so beautiful could cry for days.