My words gush out like oil from a barrel- dark, toxic, bitter. They spill all over the couch and slosh onto the floor. I desperately want to make them stop, to scoop them all up and pour them back inside so I can hide them away in the space where all my other unwanted words go, but they keep on flowing, filling up the room, drowning me. I'm scared they'll drown John, too. I try to tell him that. Try to tell him to ignore what I'm saying, to leave me alone, to just leave, but he won't have any of that.
Because he's John- steady, dependable John- and without me telling him he seems to know exactly what I need. He pulls me into his arms as readily as he would a crying child, and in a lot of ways, that's just what I am. I lean into him, burying my face in his jumper so he won't see the sadness slipping between my eyelids and dripping down cheeks that shouldn't be half as rosy as they are. The knit smells of tea and calm. He is warm and solid and steady and safe.
Some days his voice is young and full of vigor, especially when he's angry or excited, but most of the time it's soft yet firm at once, older than the angry voice but much younger than his eyes, which feel far too old for so young (young?) a man.
Today his voice is soothing. It picks up the pieces of me that are scattered across the stained, worn carpet. It gently dusts each one off and sets it back into place. I doubt that even the most fragile of glass would receive such care.
I wonder what I've done to deserve such treatment from him. I'm no one- just a frightened little girl who's trying to find a place to hide because the world has proved once again that it's far too big for me to take on. Every time John and I run into each other, I'm more and more broken, and each time he unfailingly stitches me back together again. He is a doctor, after all, though his medicine is not a pill but instead tea and hugs and softly spoken words.
Despite all that he does to fix up other people, I can tell he's broken, too. Broken and lonely. It's getting better, though. I'm not sure how I know this, but I just do.
Maybe he needs me to help fix him.
I push away the notion, hoping it'll disappear among the words still oozing around us. It's preposterous. Who am I to fix anyone? Me, with my tangled hair and mascara-smudged face and crumbling spirit. Besides, who am I compared to the one who's left him behind?
But of course, the thought won't simply vanish or drown or even sit in time-out in the corner. I suppose it's been slowly slipping between weaker thoughts and further into my mind, lodging itself there, and by the time I noticed, it was too late. Wouldn't be the first time that's happened.
Unlike most times, I don't mind the idea. After all I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger. Fix people up. Make them feel better.
I imagine myself holding a long silver needle like my grandmother's and a spool of red thread- no, not red. I don't have the right to that. I briefly consider green- growth, new life- but ultimately decide on a quiet blue. The colour of water- calm, steady, life-sustaining. All in all, very John. But when I go to pick up the pieces, I suddenly become very unsure of which ones are his and which ones are mine and what to do with them once I separate them out. My confidence slips away, and I'm tempted to disappear among my catalogues of words and never come out again.
His voice- whose voice? Oh yes, John's- draws me back out into the world once more. I realize that I've run out of tears- actually, I'm surprised they lasted so long. I blink and look up at him. He wears comfort in his smile, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes. They're older than ever and filled with concern... for me. Guiltiness fills up all the empty space in my chest left by the words that have so recently vacated it. I decide that while I may not be ready to help fix John just yet, it doesn't mean I'll never be. Maybe he and I can fix each other. It's a nice thought, nicer than the one of me fixing him up by myself because no matter what I say, I don't like doing everything on my own. I may not be the one he lost, but I'm not "no one" either. Not to John. For whatever unfathomable reason, he's decided to care about me. Instead of pushing him away, maybe I need to let him fix me so I can find out just what it is that he needs.
I smile back up at him, clothing it in the same comfort he wears so naturally, though I already feel it slipping off the corners of my lips. But more than that, I try to tell him with my eyes- my young, nearsighted eyes- that we won't be broken forever. We are not automatons left out on the side of the road to rust and decay. We are flesh and blood and spirit and words, and while we cannot be fixed as easily as a clockwork human, we can be healed.
Slowly but surely.