'why would you do that?' she asked.
'its beautiful. it's a picture, can't you see it? the lights perfect, with the salt and the napkin, the lines between the shaker and the tablecloth,' he said.
'no, but you can't just knock things over because you think it looks better,' she said, pushing her plate to the side and wiping an errant crumb from her dark, creased lips, the simple silver ring she always wore glistening for only a second as it caught the lamplight, like fire and the night.
'why not? simple, little things. a salt shaker overturned, a step missed, a note skipped, a t left uncrossed,' he said. 'would you take even that?' he added, bitterly.
'so what if it's beautiful? you don't understand - beauty won't make your bed, pay the phone bill. and beauty certainly won't take care of you, a. you're so spoilt - you don't even realize how bad it is, how terrible it's been. all you care about is this beauty, a photograph, a paragraph. it's like you folded in on yourself, that day (so many years ago, now), and you've never seen another person again. they're all just actors, props, pieces, and you're always constructing something. but you don't see anymore.'
he was quiet, then. outside the window he saw a black bicycle being wheeled, it's tires flat and its rider staring at the ground. he followed the man's progress across the street, pausing every few seconds to look up and see where the cars were, but never changing his pace or his step. a held his breath until he had finally, magically, reached the other side.
'i think that underneath the surface of every action, every moment, there is something incredible. and i think that if we ever want to live our lives as anything approaching extraordinary, we have to..have to look for that seam in reality, every moment, every day. and sometimes it's tiring and exhilirating all at the same time, and at others it is simply draining, to look for that colour.
'take that woman, there. you're right, am. i can't even see her. it's like she's blended into that ever so intricate woodwork behind her, and i'm trying so hard to see the colour in her eyes but i just can't. is it judgemental to look at someone and say that you think they're unhappy? because i think you're unhappy. incredibly, tragically unhappy on a level which twists your skin inside out, and won't let you escape. and i'm so sorry, i don't know what else i can do or say, because maybe i am selfish, but i will not twist and turn in on myself in order to get you to smile. because..and understand, it is not a smile i am after. not for myself, and not for you.
'i think that life is an incredibly complicated process that incredibly simple people excel at. i think that if people stopped for a moment and breathed, they wouldn't necessarily be happier, but they could sleep. and i think that we are all someone, and so often we forget that. you forgot it, am. i promise you, i remember you as being so colourful, so incredibly vibrant. but since then, it's like you forgot how to paint, the same way i forgot how to speak. and i'm sorry for that, i am. but not half as sorry as i am to see you, today, like this. the truth is, i will not make you happy, am. i'm sorry, i won't do it. and not because i can't, but because i refuse to paint on you, as if you're just raw, white pulp.
'you said that beauty won't take care of me, but i think you're wrong,' he said, as he held her hands, like a child's, within his own. 'i think you're beautiful. and i want you to believe that, because there is nothing i can do or say that will ever approach the beauty of people. it's not about a word, a phrase - it is not about what hands do or lips say, it is what people feel, inside them, underneath skin and flesh. and i feel like i've never spoken to your soul, but i'm doing it today. i'm sorry...maybe i'm not what you need me to be, but i will never let you be anything less than everything you are.'
she started to cry, but stopped herself, because it was if he was suddenly a stranger. someone who had come into her house dressed as someone familiar, who had broken all the chairs and glasses, the tables and doorways. and she didn't want him to see her cry, because she realized that she didn't want him. she wanted someone else, and the man in front of her would never be less than a stranger again, on some level, because he never spoke, before this day. he never even introduced himself.
she took her hands from his, and began to get up.