"You can’t die. You promised."
She says this to me with a beatific look of surety. At this moment, no matter what reason tells me, I want to believe her.
We’ve been waiting here for half an hour, the minutes peeling away as we stall, avoiding the inevitable.
Our conversations always turn to this when we have nothing else to talk about. She and I are talkers, filling empty space with words when we can’t fill it with meaning. But it does happen, slipping into conversation with the unthinking inevitability of clockwork.
I look around for a distraction, find it, and gracelessly pull her into my lap, which she proceeds to tumble back out of, giggling. Surreptitiously checking my watch, I find that time has not had the good grace to stop for us. How much is left? I don’t bother trying to calculate it; mental math is for when I don’t have better things to be doing.
"Let me get your face," she says. She lunges at me gently, fingers pincering towards my nose. This is another behavior I don’t understand. "Let me get your face."
I tell her she can do it, half-stifled already by eager, clumsy fingers. Never mind that she is doing this in an airport: I got over that a long time ago. For a brief moment, I try to remember whether I have ever known anybody else who really wants my pores empty. How grotesque, I think, how obnoxiously repulsive to force other people into watching this small ritual. But I can’t stop her — too long ago, she realized that I don’t have the heart to stop her little ablutions.
And it’s over.
It’s been a good week. A gift, we keep telling ourselves. Nobody expected the visit; nobody stood in our way when we came up with it. But a good week is the hardest week — I’m two hours away from spending the rest of the evening cleaning the house, wiping away the traces of our good week.
She sits next to me, looks at me, and smiles through me.
I'm promised to her. We realized long ago that we would never find people better suited to us; it took another two years before we realized that we could be engaged. So we became engaged, switching the precious little ring I got her from a vending machine to the other hand, and we waited for people to notice.
She gets up to go, and I show her my watch. Another five minutes.
Another conversation, then, having exhausted the possibilities of my face. What will she do, I want to know, when she finds somebody better than I am. This is what we fear most, but don't fear at all. When you see each other only in visits, how can you not suspect every pretty face of trying to steal her from you?
She puts her face at the place where my neck and shoulder join, and inhales. A good answer.
And now it's time, and she has to go, and I make her promise that she will turn and look before leaving my sight this time, and I promise the same. She walks away, trundling her bags, both filled with quotidian nothings that would be keepsakes the moment anything happened. She takes off her shoes and belt, gives them to the unpassionate machine.
She turns and mouths something I can't understand, then disappears. This time I have the good sense to let turn around and see me again before I go.
Now all I have to do is keep my promises.