The I in We

The I in We

Love —or the thought of it— never crossed his mind, not once, but as he sits across from her now, he’s overcome with a feeling he cannot name, and quite honestly, he doesn’t need or even want to. “Armin,” the soft voice of the woman who sits across from him speaks aloud. “Cy,” he responds in acknowledgement. He clears his throat. Seated cross-legged at the floor table in their favorite Korean restaurant, he can do nothing but stare. “You’re staring at me again.” Blinking, he looks down at the hot pot in front of him and pushes the food around with the long-handled, stainless steel soup spoon, “Yes, right. I am.” His eyes return to her face, “Isn’t the issue more about why you feel uncomfortable when I look at you.” She laughs the faintest laugh and then burps. Embarrassed, she laughs loud and hard. He looks at her with a curious expression. “Stop it,” she demands between gasps. “I will not. Why should I?” “Because I’m asking.” Forcing his eyes off her face, with all his might (neck craned) he stretches his face upward, “There is that better?” “Yes, thank you,” she sniffles while dabbing the tears from her eyes and blowing the snot out of her nose.

His gaze returns to her face. Serious, he reiterates, “Again, I would like to state that I believe that your discomfort really is your issue.” Pushing her hot pot across the table, she sets her crossed forearms atop the table and leans forward, “Maybe the issue is not that I’m uncomfortable. Maybe it’s that I know and understand how stubborn you are, and you not staring at me is less about me feigning discomfort and more about you simply doing one small thing that you would rather not do out of sheer respect for another person, that person being me.” Eyes fixed upon her, he squints, “My staring doesn’t make you uncomfortable?” “No, not at all. Why would it?” “Then why say it or demand that I cease?” “Sometimes you just need to do what someone else requests out of respect for the request.” “Well, request something else then that truly bothers you. I can’t respect a request if the request is just some lie to test me.” She sits upright, lifting her arms off the table, crossing them across her chest, “It’s not a test.” “So you do feel uncomfortable.” “No.” “Then what’s the point of all this?” “Ugh,” she huffs with attitude; “You just stare at me a lot.” “Yes. I like to look at you,” he unwittingly admits. “Why?” “I feel like you could disappear at any moment.” “That’s not how it works. Plus, I wouldn’t just disappear on you.” At these words his entire face and body relaxes.

“What did you say?” he asks, slightly stunned. “What?” “You wouldn’t disappear on me?” “No, of course not.” “What do you mean by that? You can just disappear, and you have before, but you won’t on me?” “I don’t disappear, you know this already.” “It’s relative. Think about it from my end.” She sighs, “Okay, yes, sure. I get how you would feel.” “Yes, okay then, what do you mean?” Taking a shallow breath to allow some time to pass within which she may decide whether or not she ought to admit such a thing at this point, she calmly whispers, “I mean, I don’t want to, as you say, disappear from you.”