“Leave me alone,” you said, as you wiped tears from your face, done with emotions, done with crying, done with being weak.
He did, even though he examined you for a long time, a deep understanding in his eyes you wanted to deny was there, because you didn’t need comfort; the need for it was past. You’d cried it all out.
He did as you asked and when he left, the lie to yourself sat heavy in your stomach. You’d wanted it. Someone to sit beside you. Someone who understood you didn’t need comfort. Someone who understood that the value of a solid presence in the aftermath of grief was incalculable. That. That was what you’d wanted. That care.
You were still learning the difference. You forgave yourself for ignoring that need was different from want, but that sometimes they coincided. You promised yourself that was the last time you’d make that mistake.
Stay, he said. This time you listened, although he didn’t say it aloud. The word was in his pleading face; in his eyes, wet. He let your fingers twine into his, but only for a moment, before he separated from you, before he gathered his mess up inside.
He was good at that; maybe better than you. This was how you understood the words coming out of his mouth were lies.
He wanted you to stay, despite denial. He needed you, in the midst of his smokescreen. You’d trained to see the truth in the midst of obfuscation. You could see the difference, glaring neon in the fog.
So you stayed.