Another piece of something larger.
Once while they lay intertwined in Conor’s bed, Ana began to cry. She felt it catch in her throat, and tensed her body against the urge. He had said something that reminded her of things others had said to her in intimate moments; sentences whose ominous meanings were not rendered until long after the fate they foreshadowed had been thrust upon her. As though he could hear the creaking of her doors shutting, he moved all at once and lay his whole body on top of hers. Naked, she chastised every part of her that shuddered under the pressure of her desire to weep. He reached his hand to her face, and beginning at the base of her nose he tip-toed his fingers to her eyes, feeling for moisture. She didn’t shake in sobs, but released the tears he was looking for.
“Don’t cry,” he said.
She could not take his advice and unhinged something in her throat. She hoped for some sort of osmosis to allow it all to seep into him so she would not have to explain.
When she finished he said, “You’re too pretty to cry.” She wanted to ask what the two had to do with one another. She noted that she didn’t ask. She noted that the osmosis had not occurred.
“My dad told me never to hold a cry in,” she said. Her n’s sounded like d’s as though all she had to overcome was a common cold. “He said that every time I swallowed a cry, bits of it would get caught in my throat like calcium or barnacles and someday it would get so crowded that I wouldn’t be able to cry anymore or eat solid foods.”
“Oh,” he said.
“Why does happiness make you so sad?” he said. They were drinking coffee on her porch that overlooked her neighbors’ piles of garbage. They were always throwing out electronics.
“What?” she said.
He looked at her, but didn’t repeat the question.
“I don’t know what you mean. Happiness makes me happy. When it goes away, I’m sad. Why does sadness make you so uncomfortable?”
She sipped her coffee and pretended to look up at the sky. Instead she tried to stare at the reflection in her sunglasses. She knew he would not answer her. She had answered him; it wasn’t fair.
“But it doesn’t just go away. That’s why we have memories and futures. Can’t you be happy knowing that you can experience it again? That you’ve been happy before and probably will be again?”
It wasn’t supposed to get this serious. Her brother had come to visit, and they had a wonderful time. In the evenings, after the meals and wine had sunk in, they sat in the living room in comfortable silence, the three of them in the lamplight. “This is it,” she’d thought more than once. But standing on the platform waiting for the train after she and Conor had dropped her brother off at the airport, she’d begun to cry. It didn’t feel like a whimper that would turn into a sob, so she simply pressed her face into Conor’s shoulder and waited for it to pass. He hadn’t said anything, barely lifted his hand to pat her back moving imperceptibly beneath her jacket. It wasn’t until they’d settled, and she’d calmed herself into a state of lethargy, exhausted by how much she loved her brother and enjoyed the weekend, that he’d attacked her display of sentiment.
“You once told me that family are strangers you get to observe up close,” she said. “I hate that about you.”