"Owl, I never know what you're really thinking - you choose your words so carefully that don't feel like . . . I don't feel like I can trust what you say," Raven said.
I wasn't sure how to respond to that, which was just as well, since she continued.
"I love you, but it's like you never have an unguarded moment, like you've always got an editor running through the lines before you say anything. Maybe you're just telling me what you think I want to hear . . . "
We were driving somewhere in the city, in a late-night drizzle, the windshield wipers thumping intermittantly. Baby Giant was deeply dreaming Baby Giant things, softly sighing, strapped into his carseat behind us. And I was stymied.
So early in our relationship (only maybe a year-ish?), I knew a few things could so easily tip the balance.
I knew how vulnerable she was, as a single mother.
I knew she had just left an abusive relationship - in part because there was a ghost of a chance that she and I . . . even though there were no promises.
I knew she was scared that I would not be able to deal with my internal conflict between heaven and hell (aka straight or gay), and I wasn't "out" yet with my family.
I knew she wanted to be able to trust me, and that she needed to learn to trust, at all.
This last thing I knew because I needed to learn to trust, at all.
And I knew that if I said: "honey of course I'm afraid of hell and losing whatever has passed for sanity up until now and losing the people that raised me as they condemn me and I have no idea how to be in a relationship or be a parent or be myself inside my own motherfucking skin and I have no idea if I can do it or go the distance but goddamn it I'm banking my soul that I'll figure it out or die trying and hopefully not go to hell in the process and above all I will not let the fear of bullshit stop me from trying to learn and understand and be there for you because there's no way I want to lose you or the Giant because frankly it would break my heart in ways I never knew existed before you looked into me and loved me anyway in spite of the fear and I looked into you and loved you anyway in spite of the fear and perhaps you don't know how determined I am yet but by God I do and so help me I will give it my best regardless of anything anyone can throw at me and if it doesn't work I will rise from the ashes but give me a motherfucking chance and you will see it and I will see it too I hope I'm right about this I hope I'm right about this I hope I'm right about this"
I knew that if I said that, she would be more afraid. I knew that I would be more afraid hearing myself say it, because saying it out loud might make my own fears more real. So I didn't.
My hands gripped the wheel just a little tighter, and I looked straight ahead before speaking.
"I don't know what to say to that, except that I'm doing the best I can. If I could give you a map of the fucked up maze that is my mind, complete with keys to the locks of the rooms I haven't visited in years, and directions to all the jerry-rigged security systems, I would give you free reign there."
"Right, right - we've been over this, it's impossible."
I was waiting for the light to change so that I could make a left, the blinker doing the click clack click clack in counter rhythm to the wipers, the rain randomly spattering. No headlights behind me. I looked her in the eye.
"It's that I don't know how. But if I could, and you did, you'd know that I'm not lying. There's a lot of shit behind the walls, but I would never lie to you, not about something so serious."
I saw the green arrow in the periphery, let out the clutch, and rounded the corner.
Raven was staring out the window, thinking. I tried again.
"Honey, it helps when you ask me what you want to know, or tell me what you're seeing. Sometimes the question is the key. I don't even know where the keys are to a lot of things."
"Sure. I ask a question, you formulate an answer. Why can't you just be straight with me?"
"It didn't work for me in the first place," I replied, looking over my glasses to try and catch her eye.
She didn't move. Didn't crack a smile.
"Fine, why can't you just tell me things?"
"I wish I knew how. I'm trying to learn. What do you want to know?"
"Right - like I can trust that. You're too smooth, like it's happening to someone else - how do you live that way?"
And I knew that if I said: "hell if I know how does anyone live how do you live talking about how it felt how it still feels how it will feel how does that change any fucking reality of any of it at least i'm trying to keep it together at least i'm trying and I've always had a fucking editor every since I can remember there's been something someone some reason that I couldn't just burst out with it all as if there's a wall between different parts of my existence and it's taken me everything to get this far and why do you still question my love when I would do anything I could think of to ensure yours"
I knew that if I said that, I would sound more insane than I felt, and needier than anyone should be, and that would scare her, which would also scare me because I had to hear it in my voice, and that might make it true. So I didn't say it.
Instead, I kept driving, listening to the Baby Giant sigh at Baby Giant dreams, and the thump of the windshield wipers, and the spatter of the rain, and the never ending editor in my head.