The Good Thing

By This Time Tomorrow

She found that tears were dropping onto her wrists. She could hear Lai breathing beneath the sound of air moving through her own lips, which she tried to press together to keep her crying inside. The light from the monitor at the corner of her vision expanded as everything blurred. Every few moments she tried holding her breath, but after just a few seconds she felt that her chest would burst, and so she’d inhale and so another few tears would drip down her face.

The good thing about Lai was that he let her cry. She’d been afraid that he would try to touch her, hug her, say something to the effect of telling her she shouldn’t cry. She wished the glow from the computer were a solid thing—she could hold onto it while she shook. Lately her dreams had been populated by different iterations of Lai, walking toward her, walking away from her, always a haze surrounding him so she couldn’t clearly see his face but knew, even without seeing, that it was him. Most often, they stood a few yards apart, and although the haze obscured his mouth, she knew he was speaking to her. She couldn’t hear him. The dream went on for hours. She could never wake herself.

He let her cry. This was a favor. The tears slowed. He was still swiveled towards her.

“Should I leave?” she said.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you want me to?”

“I don’t know,” he said. She felt her throat begin to contract again, and her face grew hot. “I don’t think so.”

The space between them felt too small all of a sudden. Earlier her body had itched to be closer, to merge herself with him, to pretend that she didn’t know and that everything was the same as before he’d told her. Now she wanted to be away. Even the other side of the house felt too close. “I can leave,” she said. She stood up and teetered forward, her hand brushing his shoulder as she tried to balance herself.

Lai started to move to catch her. “No, Maria.”

“It’s fine.” She began to cry again. “I’m sorry.” She kept saying it in her head. She couldn’t tell when she had said it aloud and when she hadn’t. “I’ll just go,” she said.

“Stop, Maria.” He steered her back into the chair. “Don’t do this. Just sit down.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know.” He sighed. He pushed his own chair a few paces backwards. “Why do you always have to do this?”

Maria sniffled. Her eyelashes had clumped together, so she blinked at him. “What?”

“You know what I’m talking about.”

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