The playground is crowded. Surrounded by his friends, a little boy plays in the sandbox. Not too far away away, a girl stands alone watching the shrieking children awkwardly. The boy looks up at her curiously. Then dimples appear in his cheeks as he smiles at her.
The two teenagers sit underneath the strong branches of an elm tree. Her head in his lap, he stares into her eyes seriously. She laughs, and his whole face lights up; all graveness gone.
The moment passes from his mind, but she can not shake the image of his eyes piercing her. They come to her in dreams; their blue as infinite and cloudless as the sky the couple sit under.
The woman is glowing as her father walks her down the aisle. All she can see is the man waiting for her at the end, the dimples in his cheeks as ever present as they were when she first met him.
Their gazes meet, and the bride loses herself in the eyes which had haunted her teenage dreams. A single glistening tear escapes from them. The groom quickly wipes the rebel away, but he’s too late. She’s already seen it.
A girl opens her locker. Her eyes widen in shocked delight as she pulls out a red Valentine’s Day card.
From across the hall, hidden in a crowd of his friends, a boy watches; a secret smile playing at his lips.
The woman picks up the phone; still smiling at her husband’s latest antics. Her smile quickly fades though as she listens to the speaker on the other end. She can’t force her mouth to make a sound, so she just nods; pushing her lips together tightly and blinking rapidly.
Carefully she hangs up the phone. Her husband watches with concern as she slowly turns around to him; eyes brimming with tears. Then she sprints to her bedroom, and the door slams behind her.
He stares unseeing at the movie screen. Even though he can’t discern her features in the darkness of the theatre, he can feel her next to him. He flexes his sweaty palm, her smooth hand only a few centimeters away. He inches closer to it while thoughts fly through his head. What if she doesn’t like it? What if she does? What do I do after I am holding it? What if my hands are too sweaty? Is there protocol for this kind of thing?
His mouth is dry. He can sense the heat radiating off of her skin. His leg jiggles, a nervous habit of his. His heartbeat is booming in his ear. Was it always that loud? She’s so close… He scooches his hand closer. So close…
Without warning, as if it is the most natural thing in the world, she reaches over and grabs his hand without glancing away from the movie screen. The boy’s knee stills and he relaxes even while his loud heartbeat continues to drum vociferously in his ear. Steadily, it beats on.
Ba-bum. Ba-bum. Ba-bum.
She is locked in her room. Crying. The husband leans on the door separating them. Though he is a grown man, he feels once again like the little boy who watched his mother drown herself in alcohol; clueless as to stop a woman from crying.
Inside she waits for him to come in and hold her, comfort her, whisper in her ear that it is all going to be okay. As she listens to his footsteps fade away, she wills him to hear her silent plea for reassurance. He doesn’t.
She cries even harder.
The girl sits in the stands; one face among hundreds. Whenever he scores a point, she cheers with the rest of them; her beaming face painted with his jersey number.
Through the white bands of his sweaty helmet, he searches the crowd for her. His blue eyes find her and she cheers even louder.
Breakfast is not silent. It is filled to the brim with the constant clinking of silverware and gentle chewing.
The man has begun to measure things in noises. A slurp from across the table. A car purring outside. It allows for him to ignore his eyes which whisper to him how unnaturally straight his wife’s iron posture is, how she stares at him with her head tipped slightly down so if he happens to look up she could quickly glance back down. But most important of all, shoving his sight to the back of his mind meant that he could pretend not to see how his leg was jiggling.
The clank of a spoon dropped in a bowl. The scrape of a chair being pushed back. The rush of water pouring out of the facet. The gentle chewing still coming from his mouth. The soft thumps of footsteps fading into the hallway.
Then, if he really strains his ears, the husband can hear the almost unnoticeable thud of the front door closing. It strikes him that this could continue for a while- that he could let it. A week, a month, maybe a year. How long before breakfasts would just fade away? How long before the two of them would vanish into thin air- would a magician just pull up a red tarp and voila, they wouldn’t be there anymore?
It would be quiet, he thought, like an oiled door shutting. Even now, the heartbeat in his ears seemed to be fading. He had fed it laughing gas, and he knew it. Still, the not-silent breakfasts could last for a very long time; if he allowed them to, of course.
As he grabs his coat, the man reminds himself to get his eyes checked out.
The badly-decorated gym is basically empty. The sign proclaiming in big, glittering letters “PROM” is only being held up by one small piece of blue tape. Most people have left for the after parties, but she and he are still here. His hand on her waist, her arm on his shoulder, their intense gazes are unwavering.
The sign falls just as the sleepy DJ starts playing a new song, but still they dance.
The old woman sifts through the mail. Her children never write and it’s always just junky promotions, but still, the woman always checks; just to be safe.
The letter is nestled in the bundle of papers: right under an advertisement for a shoe sale. Her wrinkly fingers glide over the smooth calligraphy as her eyes absorb the writing. It’s an invitation to a funeral- no surprise there: at her age, everybody seems to be dropping off like flies- but it’s the invite to his funeral. His.
For a wild moment, the old woman considers attending. Playing the role of the ex-wife, watching her childhood sweetheart’s body being buried into its final resting place. She considers seeing his other family, his new family; which she can only assume he has. Maybe she could strike up a conversation with his children, recognize him in their dimples. Maybe she could play the role of the ex-wife, the kind of mom.
But then the woman folds the invite and tucks it away with the other mail heading into the recycling. It’s enough to just to know, she decides. It’s enough to just hope that some other woman had the chance to be lost in the very eyes she had been stuck in for a long time.
That night, the woman has a dream. The last but certainly not first of a man’s robin egg eyes. In it, she remembers the little boy who smiled at a girl on a playground, and the little girl who smiled back. When she wakes up though, she remembers her eighth grade human anatomy course and that those striking irises she had been haunted by were only muscles.
Glancing out her window, she notices that the infinitely blue sky is speckled with clouds.
The girl tears open the card. It says:
I like you,
and I never lie;
so will you be my Valentine?