The truth is whenever you look at me it feels like you don’t really see me, you only see through me. A small beam of light from the lamps above our table meets your face. Your pupils dilate for a moment and then go back to their normal size. Yet your pupils never dilate when you look at me, not even a little bit. But when the waitress comes to our table you flash her your cheeky smile and I can see your eyes are tracing her silhouette. You watch her, you see her. Fortunately, my ego’s proud enough not to get offended by your pupils’ determined ignorance towards me.
We sit at the end of the long table, facing each other, next to the friends we both share. They always push us to sit close together, so that we can talk, because we’ve got so much in common. And they are right. There’s a lot of common ground between us – we like the same books, the same music, the same films, the same countries, we both naively dream about changing the world. We can talk for hours and it never gets tedious and the moments of silence between us are solely intermissions before we change the topic and talk for what feels like an eternity about the uncertainty of the future.
And it would probably work out between us. We could be happy. We could be ‘the one’ for each other. I love the look on your face when you talk about the latest book you’ve read in one night because you couldn’t go to sleep before you knew if the protagonist makes it or not. And I love the fact you tell me you cried while watching ‘The Notebook’ even if it is in theory too embarrassing to tell anyone. But you tell me because you know you can trust me and I won’t tell anyone else. And I trust you. So I tell you about the first time I listened to that one song and I had to cry because it reminded me of that one Summer night five years ago when I kissed Olaf in Stockholm and his mouth tasted like strawberries and innocence but the next day I had to leave him because I had to go back home. And I felt terrible for a week. But you shake your head and say I should simply skip the song the next time. And then you give me this shy smile of yours that you only show when you don’t really know what to say and do.
But when you look me in the eyes all that seems so perfect between us is gone. Your eyes meet mine but there’s no hint of curiosity what’s on my mind, what I feel right now, what I feel for you. They are just two green eyes staring at me, waiting for something better to catch your sight.
And yet I can’t seem to find something else to marvel at. At night I dream about the shape of your lips and how they trace down my neck, I dream about feeling the weight and the sweet warmth of your hands on my thighs wandering up to my waist holding me tight, about you nuzzling your face in my back, savouring my smell.
And whereas it seems so easy for other female friends of you, of us, to get your attention, I feel invisible. You hear me, you answer me, but you don’t see me. I could vanish and you probably wouldn’t even notice. Because whereas you’re the only one I share my secrets with, I’m probably only one of many for you.
Your eyes light up. The waitress comes to serve us our food. She smiles at you and you wink at her. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, trying to suppress my sudden urge to throw up. I turn right to talk to Maddie for a few moments before her plate arrives as well. She notices something is wrong.
‘Gemma, are you alright? You look super pale.’
‘I’m fine. I’m just not really hungry.’
‘Then why did you order a lasagna?’
‘Because I was hungry at first but then I lost my appetite.’
Henry looks up. He looks at me. For a change.
‘Why does this sound like it has a double meaning?’
I am startled.
‘What do you mean?’
‘It sounded like you wanted to say something else.’
‘Oh really?’ I can’t hide my nervousness.
He looks taken aback.
‘I mean…I’m not sure but it sounded like…never mind.’
‘Yeah, never mind.’
We look at each other. This is probably the first time we really take each other in.
I look down to my plate, debating whether I should have at least one bite. It would be a shame to send the food back untouched.
Touch. That’s the one thing that’s always been missing between us. I dream about your touch at night but in daylight when we stand next to each other or face to face, when you’re only half an arm length away from me and I want to hold your hand, I freeze and don’t know how to close the distance between us two.
But when you touch me – on purpose or accidentally – my inside starts burning and I can only hope it is only the inside and not my cheeks as well. And it feels like your touch leaves open wounds where you touched my skin, wounds that can only be healed by another touch of yours. But instead of healing my skin you only leave scars on my soul.
I’ve been fighting the pain of being with you but never feeling like you’re really with me. I look up from my lasagna only to meet your eyes.
‘G, are you sure you’re ok?’
I gaze at you and realize –
‘I don’t know.’
‘You want to talk about it?’
Talk. All we ever do is talk. Maybe we’ve talked enough.
‘No. Thanks, though.’
‘Did I do something?’
I nervously look around the place, in a silly attempt not to meet your eyes.
‘G, what’s wrong?’
I look at you.
You look at me.
Another thin beam of light is illuminating your face and I see your pupils are dilated.
‘What do you see?’, I ask you.
‘What do you mean?’, you ask me, confused.
‘What do you see when you look at me?’
‘I see you. When I look at you, I see you, of course.’
You squint your eyes, still unsure what I want from you. I keep my eyes on you until you look to the side. Hanna puts her hand around your shoulder, you turn to her and she whispers something in your ear. You flash a cheeky grin. My sorrow’s forgotten. I’m invisible again.
I turn to Maddie and announce my departure. She’s surprised since I haven’t eaten anything after all. I tell her I’ll be fine, I’m just not feeling like being in a big crowd. I hug her and wave at the others.
I don’t look at you. From now on you’re invisible to me.
It’s late. The city is illuminated by the lanterns on the streets and the lamps in the windows. Like a perfume Spring left its odeur on the leaves of trees and flower bushes.
I’m getting embraced by the darkness and the sweet smell of tranquility of the city by night. Walking home I breathe in this air of obliviousness in the hope it’ll take over my mind. That tomorrow I’ll wake up without you on my mind.
Maria was listening to ‘The Words You Say’ by Harrison Storm while writing this short story.