"It's not that I don't love you, really, it's that you seem completely incapable of having a serious conversation."
"Hmm?" I said, sleepily. The marigold was tickling my nose in a peculiar way - I didn't want to sneeze so much as yawn. This had the added advantage of letting me keep my eyes squeezed shut - her back was to the sun and I, looking up from where I was, head perched in her lap, couldn't quite focus on her without being blinded by an effervescent halo. Her blond hair popped and fizzed in the late afternoon light and I suddenly wanted a rootbeer float. "What's that?"
She sighed, quickly; exasperated, but dreamily so. "You don't listen. All you do is react to the individual words I say, not their meaning, and twist them around to being about something that's happened to you. You bounce around like one of those little rubber balls that drive cats crazy until they get lost behind the sofa. You're a dust bunny, is what you are."
The image of a Tasmanian devil mated with a rabbit, ears whipping around its head, flashed briefly through my head. He looked
playful, but deadly. In retrospect, kinda like this conversation I didn't know I was having. I scratched the back of my hand on the grass; be too cold for this kind of afternoon before long. Not quite yet, though.
"I listen, I really do." I tried to sound convincing. I mean, it's not like I could really argue - she had caught me way too many times to fall for the flagrant denial relationship strategy, the one where you refuse to admit that anything's wrong at all, that you're extremely happy and that she's wonderful for putting up with you. Well, she was wonderful for putting up with me; hell, I can't do it. "I listen, I just...kinda forget. But that doesn't mean I don't care in the moment."
She scratched her shoulder and tried not to unsettle my head. "Do you understand that girls, well, this girl anyway, lives one long, complicated story, that those bits and pieces you never seem to remember mean more than that moment's interest? It's a narrative, and you need to have all the bits before any of it makes sense."
I didn't understand, to be honest. "What's the point," I said, turning carefully so I could look at her without blinding myself in the process, "of a story like that, a story that doesn't have an ending? You can't concisely tell it to anyone, there's no emotional backlash at the end, it just sort of...fizzles out. Life, I mean. It fades. Stories don't fade, they hit. They hit extremely hard for a collection of words...and then it's over. Pop the tape, time for a new story. I want arc and depth and a point. I want a reason to listen."
She didn't say anything, just leaned a bit more, rested her back on the sun and her ankles in the earth. It was only when she leaned forward again, her wet cheek resting gently against my forehead that I realized I had said something incredibly stupid.
For Templeton, in a way.