It breaks you before you can see it.
I don’t remember who brought it up. It’s possible we both did, maybe at separate times over the years as a joke. Those days when what you’re saying is more about what’s not being said; you know, in that clumsy sort of way. Real obvious, smack in the middle of the carpet, too scared to pick it up or throw it away. You just…leave it. And you both see it. And you say nothing about it. Until you do.
Or maybe it was a random conversation we heard, from a stranger we’ll never see again whose words stuck for some reason, nudged their way into our ears, collected those stray memories we had hoped were hidden away, to make a nest of our thoughts. Safe enough to lay little eggs. Nothing to stop them from hatching. And then they hatch. And here we are.
“Stupid eggs.” I smile at the couple across from Jessica and me. They look so small in their seats, eyes darting around the windowless office trying to avoid The Door, where people entered one way and left changed for better or worse. The florescent lights have that clinical shine, precise in function, determined to keep everything…naked. They’re worried. They look like they don’t want to be here but the moment they see me their faces change, and one smile greets another and nothing is spoken but everything is understood between us. Right smack in the middle of the carpet.
“We don’t have to,” Jessica says in a stage whisper. She’s always bad at that, as if the volume of a whisper had nothing to do with the secrecy of it; the effect was all that mattered. She can be very dramatic that way, like a talking mime.
“Technically, we don’t have to do anything.” I actually whisper this.
“Then what are we doing?”
Waiting in a room. Sitting on chairs waiting in a room. Breathing while sitting on chairs waiting in a room. Dreadfully waiting to catch up to a future where we’re not just breathing, sitting on chairs in a room.
“Nothing. We’re just taking a look.”
“Didn’t we say ten years?”
The couple ahead of us is staring at The Door now. They cringe at the sound of the handle turning before it even moves. They see it open like the gaping mouth of a witch. They’re already standing, holding on to each other in a brave show of faith. They’re inside by the time I blink and the other couple that had exited disappears into the coffin of the elevator.
“Did you see?” I ask.
“Yes,” she says.
Of course, I can hear it in her voice. Maybe they were happy? People can look upset when they’re happy, like an aggressive kind of joy, close to manic. Every couple who exited The Door came out looking some shade of sad, but it was hard trying to analyze each one, to peel the layers of colors and not get lost in the rainbow.
Jessica turns to me. “We can leave.”
“Sure, we can do that. That’s definitely something can do.”
But we don’t. And I can’t tell if it’s because I’m not moving or because she isn’t. Or neither. Maybe both. It doesn’t matter. Whatever we do, we’ll do it. Whatever happens has happened. It’s all behind The Door. All of it, stuffed to the brim, taking up every inch of space, pushing against the walls until they crack. So much you can’t breathe: the weight of it, as dense as a black hole; the opposite of starving; infinity on loop — impossible to comprehend. Literally. Impossible. So impossible it exists. That’s how much it exceeds. It breaks you before you can see it. And as long as you keep The Door closed it will always be there, but The Door…The Door can open, and once it opens there isn’t a flood or some great explosion. Just relief. The kind you get after a hard workout, when you’re whole body is sore because you pushed yourself too hard, and then you keep rubbing your limbs to feel it, that deep ache of pleasure and pain. And hours later, maybe years later, you are still trying to figure out if you like it more than it hurts, or if it hurts more than it pleases.
“I love you.” Jessica takes my hand.
“This is the bravest, stupidest thing we’ve ever done, isn’t it?” She stares at what should be a window, but instead is a painting of a clear, blue sky.
“We haven’t done it yet.”
She squeezes my hand in place of a reply —
And then the door knob turns.