Before the road splits,
sending us down different paths
on our journeys home from work,
we meet in the parking lot of the McDonald's
that marks the end of the way we share.
Here, you have seen both straight through me
and right into my heart.
Here, you have seen the best and worst of me
come boldly to life.
You sit next to me in the idling car,
your fingers gripping the wheel
until they turn so many colors
they cease to resemble fingers.
You lean forward in the seat,
starring straight ahead,
then lean back, trying to find
a comfortable posture.
I watch your jaw clench,
that space in your cheek flinch,
and I wonder how badly
your words are going to hurt.
You open your mouth to speak,
but no sound emerges;
I can feel the shape of it
catching in your throat;
choking you with the pain
of already knowing you are wrong.
Finally, the words come out;
I draw them in like a bullet to my body.
You hang on harder to that life saving wheel,
waiting for my tears to come,
not knowing what you will do
when they arrive onto the scene.
You ask me to say something,
but I turn to the window,
as I always do, so you won't see me cry.
Again, you repeat your request,
you ask to hear my voice say it will all be okay.
But I open the door and step out;
there is not enough room in the car
for you and for me
and for the void your words have just carved.
I see you every day,
walking beside me at work,
down dusty trails along the river's edge;
we work in pasture and in the woods,
and I am like a stranger to you.
From time to time,
in the shade of an afternoon tree,
you forget yourself
and lay your hand on mine.
Or you say my name
a bit too much like honey,
dripping from your tongue,
and I have to run and hide.
I don't know how to breathe
in this vacuum of silence
you have created;
I see that you are unable
to live by your own imposed rules.
You are convicted to be lonely,
but you need no words to show me
you are no longer convinced of this desire.
We tear each other to pieces
with the wordless cries of our souls,
and the chains that have drawn us together
become almost visible
even as you struggle to set yourself free.
We did not choose this thing;
there are far greater powers at work.
The break in the road approaches
and my telephone rings,
your name appearing on the screen.
You ask if I'm all right.
I say no and ask you the same.
You say no and ask to see me
before we go our separate ways.
In the McDonald's parking lot,
I climb into the familiar safety
of your waiting car.
What are we, you ask;
why is this so hard?
I put my head on your shoulder
and let my silence tell you I still love you.
I make no mention of the tear
that rolls down your cheek
and soaks through my hair;
I only hold you tighter,
knowing I can never let you go.
The clouds are pink
in the light of early evening;
a technicolor sunset
muting the tones of your skin
where your hand rests upon mine.
I want nothing more than this,
than this moment,
when all I can hear
is the steady rise of your breath
and the distant sound
of the drive-thru voice-box
carried on a twilight breeze.