Asked.

I didn’t understand what was happening. Reality escapes, slips away, so easily.

I realized I was hungry. I looked around the kitchen. There was only Mel. Standing there. “I’m hungry.”

“Oh, alright. Let me fix you something. Sandwich?” She stood. “You don’t really have a choice.”

I didn’t know what to make of the ease with which she was speaking to me. It boggled my mind more than a little that she was so warm, so friendly.

She was becoming something to me. A friend? Yes, a friend. She was becoming a person to talk to, share with, learn with, grow with. These are the things that people are supposed to be to each other. Had it always been like this? Had there always been this casual relationship? Had I been blind to it?

There are moments when we realize for the first time how close we are to people. When, for the first time, we recognize the intimacy that forms between people without our trying or awareness. And how sometimes, that it is the closest kind of intimacy of all. The kind that just happens, spontaneously. Two people coming together, coalescing as naturally as it is for waves to come together, for two streams to meet as they journey down the side of a mountain.

Surprised at the wonder. That’s how I felt. And suddenly afraid. Afraid that I had no right to this feeling. That I had no right to be here, chasing another fantasy.

Mel set the sandwich down in front of me. She did not ask any more questions.

I ate the sandwich quickly. I realized I was not as hungry as I thought I was. I was not hungry for the sandwich at all. I felt full. I felt unsatisfied.

I felt like I was waiting for something. Mel watched me. Her inquisitive eyes. Green. Or were they gray? Somewhere in between. Unusual.

I missed Eve’s brown eyes. How liquid they seemed. How warm. They made me think of dark chocolate and tall trees.

Mel’s not-brown eyes asked me where my mind was. “What are you thinking, Lara?”

“Just tired, I guess. I’m tired a lot these days.” But wasn’t I always tired? Didn’t Eve have to drag me around? Why did she like that? Why did she put up with me? What was it that I brought into her world that she thought worth taking everywhere?

The questions of self-worth. Ah, they arrive, they creep, they tear at our skins and challenge us to look further, to seek more.

“I just don’t know what I’m doing, Mel. I’ll be honest. I– I came back here because I thought I was ready to come back here. I thought that this was where I needed to be. That I could be here without Eve and that something would be the same even though everything is different.” More than I had ever said to Mel before. More than I had ever revealed. More than I felt was safe. But there it was. Out there. Unleashed.

“I have cliches to offer. ‘You’ll find your way.’ ‘You’ll figure it out.’ ‘You’ll be alright.’ Do you think you believe any of them?” There was a twinkle in her eye. The one I recognized from Eve’s. The one I had watched flicker with Eve’s the first time they spoke to each other.

“Well, I guess I do. I mean, I’m supposed to, right? I’m young. I have my whole life ahead of me. There’s no reason why I won’t stop feel this way eventually. That’s what happens, right? We stop feeling the way we feel and something else happens. Something else comes to take the place of whatever way we felt before. That’s the natural course. That’s the way things go. That’s the way things happen. That’s the way they’re supposed to be.” I couldn’t stop myself from babbling. Words kept falling out of my mouth. Sentences kept bubbling up out of my throat unbidden. As though I was afraid of the silence. As though I had more inside me that needed to get out than I had ever realized. Where had all of that been? And why was it coming out at this moment?

“Screw all that, Lara. You’re not with Eve any more. You don’t have her around to lead to adventure. You don’t have her around to get you to try new things. To do outrageous things. You don’t have to keep up with her any more. You can just do what you want. And that’s alright. And she would want you to.”

“I wasn’t just following her around. You make it sound like I was just following her around. Like I didn’t have a mind of my own. Like I didn’t really want to come here. Like I didn’t really want to be here.”

“I’m not saying that. I’m saying that you wanted to come, to be here, because of Eve. And now,” she sighed. “Now, I’m glad you’re back, and I’m glad to see you, and I’m happy that you’re here, but I still don’t know if you really want to be here. If you really care to be here right now. It doesn’t feel like it.”

“I’m just tired. I’m still–it really hasn’t been so long, Mel. Since everything. Since we first came. Since we met. Since she left. Since I left. Since I came back. Everything is still so fresh. I want to wait. I want to let this all settle in first. I want to–”

“‘Settle in?’ And then? What do you want to do after you get used to all of this? What do you want to do once you’ve got your routines down and once you know this city like the back of your hand and you’re used to the idea of being here without Eve? What then? What are you waiting for? What are you waiting to be ready for?”

No one had asked me that before. Not even Eve. Eve asked me to come with her. She didn’t ask me where I wanted to go. She didn’t ask me what I dreamt of doing. She had her dreams, and I was in them, and so we followed the. And now here I was, with the question of what dreams I had for myself, what dreams I wanted to pursue. Uneasy questions.

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