Kodi and Max had been dating for, what most people would consider, a long time. The two, however, still felt like strangers. Kodi would most likely say that this feeling is due to something intangible, perhaps even unknowable. Max, however, knows exactly, quite specifically, what causes the feeling between them. Of course, the two never speak of the issue, nor do they speak to it, but they both feel it, somewhere deep down at the core of their feelings for each other, and yet the feeling also sits right there, just below the surface of every conversation, every interaction, every fleeting glance, every orgasmic pulse.
Kodi would say that the awkwardness of their relationship began at some point about a year ago. That is about as specific as she can get. Max, on the other hand, knows that the awkwardness began on that fated day in November when he was first invited to store a few personal items at Kodi’s house. It was a cold, weekend afternoon when, after a few late-night discussions throughout the week before, Max had arrived at Kodi’s house with one small duffel bag of clothes and toiletries. Kodi had carved out a small space within her closet for him and had even cleared out a drawer for him in the bathroom. The move-in was far from official, but since he spent so many nights there anyway, they agreed that he should and thus, could have a few items at her place on a more permanent level.
At first glance, when out in public, any onlookers would probably assume that Kodi was the love-struck of the two, with Max’s general aloofness being perceived as inattention and perhaps boredom. For the middle-aged couple, however, Kodi was emotionally distant and somewhat tired of the prospect of sharing life with someone, while Max was all too thrilled to have that proverbial witness to his life. Neither, however, were over eager or even truly optimistic about the relationship, if they had to be quite honest.
And so, as Max carefully, albeit curiously, entered Kodi’s closet to put away the handful of clothing items he brought to store, a box fell from the top of a pile of stacked sweaters that were folded neatly on the shelf that lined the walls above the hanging racks. At first shocked, since he had not touched or moved anything to create a shift that could cause something to fall, Max was immediately overcome with curiosity once he caught a good glimpse of the thing. Bending down to grab the box off the floor, he felt the weight of it in his hand. What the thing was made of, he could not say, but it was a perfectly cube-shaped box that fit comfortably within the loose grip of his hand. Black, the box had no labels and no obvious entry point. Turning the thing around in his hands, he finally noticed the small sliver that outlined one of the sides. The box seemed to be made up of two halves with one fitting snugly within the other. Just as he discovered how to open it, Kodi appeared behind him and asked him what he was doing.
Max turned to face Kodi directly and held out his hand, presenting the box to her. She slowly took the box from Max and asked him if he had opened it. She was not angry. Max admitted that he was about to open the box when she came in and he stopped. She nodded and looked as if she believed him. They stood silent for a moment, both staring at the box in Kodi’s hand. Eventually, Max spoke up and asked Kodi what was inside it. He commented that the thing resembled a ring box an awful lot. At this, Kodi looked at Max and told him that it was nothing, that it was just an empty box. Max did not believe her, but he too was not angry. A void, nevertheless, had implanted itself within both of them.
For days the two got along just fine, the relationship still feeling fresh and fun, but as the weeks went on, the fire, neglected, died down. Without tenderness and caring, the flame left no glowing embers with which to warm and kindle a slow, low, deep burn. A year later, the two felt like distant strangers. Max thought about that small black box every day. Kodi hid the box away in an attempt to forget. The void grew wide. Ask Max, and he’ll say that he can’t trust Kodi because she won’t tell him anything. Ask Kodi, and she’ll say she can’t trust Max because he tells her everything.
A cold and brutal stalemate of the will creates a game between them revolving around who can hold out the longest, who can hide themselves the most, who can prove that the other is wrong. Until finally, one night, Max broke and just blurted out that he wanted to know what was in that goddamn box. Genuinely shocked, Kodi asked Max what the hell he was talking about, at which point Max laid it all out for her. Mouth agape, she couldn’t believe what Max was asking. He insisted that she was keeping it a secret for some reason. She insisted that he was obsessed over nothing. So then why doesn’t she just show him?, Max yelled. Why does he give a fuck?, Kodi screamed. Inevitably, Kodi stormed into her bedroom, rifled through her dresser and retrieved the box. She held it out to Max and told him to open it. Looking for the knowing sliver, he turned the box and grabbed onto the determined top half. With a gentle thrust of his hand, the bottom half slowly began to slide free from the top. When enough of the bottom half revealed itself, Max gently pulled the two halves apart. Holding one half in each hand, Max peered into the bottom portion to see that the box was empty. Satisfied, Kodi gloated that she was right and that he was crazy. Dissatisfied, Max accused Kodi of removing whatever was in the box after he stumbled upon it last year. Angry now, Kodi accused Max of looking in the box and lying about it. Angry now, Max questioned Kodi’s line of logic because he wouldn’t still need to see inside the box a year later if he had looked. Bruised, Kodi reasoned that Max would want her to think that he hadn’t lied and that’s why he brought the box up again to begin with. At this point Max threw the final blow by stating that there must have been something in the box if Kodi is still so upset that he had potentially lied about opening it. They both fell silent.
Max calmed down first and admitted that Kodi only needed to tell him what was in the box and all would be forgiven. Kodi contemplated his offer far into the deepest hours of night only to decide that this night would haunt their relationship forever. Neither would truly forget or believe no matter if Kodi told Max the truth or not. They looked longingly at each other from a far away distance and agreed.