Have you ever just been walking down the street and seen someone, a stranger maybe, and just imagined a life with them? This series is about that idea, a collection of random sightings and the stories that follow.
The luggage in your hand is nearly the same size as you. It has the wheels that turn are advertised as turning hundred and eighty degrees, but yours are perpetually sticking to the airport floor. I guess it’s not really so surprising—those suitcases are packed so tightly you probably had to jump on them for a good hour just to force any movement out of the zipper. But you’re dragging them stubbornly behind you, regardless of physics, and somehow your momentum’s enough to keep you lurching on ahead, one rough stumble backwards for every few feet of headway you manage.
I don’t know what it is that makes you look up sharply, then, but you do, and it’s accidentally in my direction.
For a split second, I wish you were coming with me instead.
I’m flying out to New York to visit my family. It’s all the wrong kinds of cliché—the religious family with all the Italian charm inescapably entwined with all the prejudice of the genuine old stock. They’ve insisted on carrying down family traditions via good breeding, and I’m next in line for the proverbial throne. My older brother and sister have both been married off—my brother to a woman directly from Italy, with a cardinal for a father, and my sister (somewhat disappointingly) to a man of an appropriate bloodline but whose knack for the language is decidedly lacking.
These marriages have been, at worst, tolerable.
You would be intolerable.
Your smile is open, easy, and a little bit crooked, and your hair is the shade of dark brown my family adores most, with just enough curl to count.
And they would hate you, and they would hate me.
You’d hold my hand the whole way, and I’d be squeezing so hard I’d almost be afraid of crushing it, except that you’d be clinging back, and pressing quiet kisses into my hair every so often, just to remind me that at least when the impending apocalypse comes along and swallows me whole, I’ll have had this, first.
I would second guess myself a thousand times; this would never unsettle you. You would know it would be the first time I’d ever tasted the delightfully sharp tang of something a little close to courage. (It wouldn’t really be courage, of course—I’d have just stolen your own unshakeable confidence and pretended, for a while, that it could be mine too. The cowardly despair in the pit of my stomach would be the only thing so irrefutably my own. But sometimes, when you would absent-mindedly tap out a beat against the inside of my knee, probably to a song you’d been practicing on the drums, it would feel like enough. It would feel like the best kind of too much.)
I would tell them. I would tell them in a single shaky breath, before all the confidence I’d pretended to have could shatter at my feet and leave me stuttering along to the beat of an unsteady heart.
I would be honest, and we would both be intolerable.
I would cry, and bemoan, and regret, and you would hold me and never tell me it was okay. It wouldn’t be.
After that, it would hurt. It would hurt and maybe I wouldn’t regret so much anymore.
But I can’t steal your pretend bravery, because now you’re looking away and directing that wonderfully imperfect smile at someone else, and all I know how to do is play pretend.
“No boyfriend,” I’ll say. And then, “Yet.”
Everyone will take a breath.
I will be dishonest, and I will be intolerable.