Written by Atticus Payne
In the days where the sun spread across the garden like melted butter on toasted bread, I babbled. I giggled, and smiled, and looked up at your face, blinded to me by the sun around it, knowing full well that you could tell: I was babbling for you.
There was never a need to cry, never the urge to scream in fear or want. You were right there, with your bouncy black curls and knee-length shorts rolled up just enough to crawl around with me. I knew you understood me, giggles or smiles or anything else. Simple questions would spill from your lips, and you’d wait in earnest as long as it took for me to stumble through my reply. Your head would nod, the brown corners of your eyes crinkling with the rest of your face. Smiles didn’t come to you on command—few pictures had your lips upturned in them. When you did smile, it was raw and true. It meant you knew what I knew. And what I didn’t know, you’d tell me, and we’d pretend we’d come up with it together.
Because didn’t we just? I’d mumble in agreement, you’d hum your favourite tune—a hymn I’d learn the words to much later, and our little conversation would bumble along, only now we both weren’t using words. I love you, I love you too.
In a different scene, with my hair grown longer and jumpsuits turned to bowed frocks tied at my waist’s back, we sat in the kitchen after my day at school; a Friday afternoon. This meant baking and grocery shopping and play all day long. Hiding behind the couches, or running through the halls; this meant reading a book you’d got me, this meant dinner at six-thirty. I’d rattle off my day, the lessons and scrapes, the lines my friends would say. My favourite things, my hated things, everything you’d remember.
I love you, I love you. If I could send you all the love I felt for you, your heart would burst trying to carry it all; you’d need two.
Fridays were for talking and playing with you. I could speak properly by then, do more than hum that tune.
I knew what to do in my time with you.
The next day, I’d leave for another week, kissing my goodbye and promising to be good. One last hug and that was all the words we needed before I went another week without you.
But it wasn’t just a week. Not after a while. First, it was two weeks, then more like a month, three months, before we’d truly meet again. Glances and the short hello! didn’t count. They weren’t talking. They said nothing of the way I felt with you, about you, or the things I cared for.
They were more than babbles and rattles, but they weren’t quite enough, either. I couldn’t place it, for the months I was away.
And then the months turned into whole stretches of the years, because suddenly when I wasn’t away, I still didn’t know. I couldn’t place what to do with you, how to form my words. When to smile, and when to say what I was meant to say. I’d never known there were things I was meant to say.
I didn’t know, and now, you didn’t either. We couldn’t figure it out together. You didn’t have an answer.
It was a scene of dinner tables and attempted coffee-chats, of painfully silent car drives home. It was you, at the steering wheel, and I, staring down at my lap, confused, somehow wishing I was days away yet still sitting right next to you. Because how could I say what had happened over the week, the month, the year? The week was more than books and play and what others would say. My work was more than tables or pages in schoolbooks, my eyes more on my own pencil strokes than someone’s red pen ticks. How could I speak of that?
I’d tried, but you said no. This was something I knew, but you didn’t, that I never knew how to say to you. Not in a babble, not in a giggle. There was no way to explain away what made me feel. It wasn’t you, and it wasn’t something you knew. I have more words, now; less giggles. Still, I can’t figure out how I tell you that I love you. I still do, and just as much as before. And you won’t be here forever, so I should probably figure it out soon.