"what are you holding on to?"
the question wasn't rhetorical but the earth stood still. the clocks stopped ticking and the distant hum of car engines was silenced. even the street lights with their comforting buzz, stopped abruptly to take a pause. the stars nearly fell out of the sky, and nothing twinkled and danced in your dilated pupils. the air was dead and the strands of hair the wind had taken hostage were offered respite as they fell like pins down my back. the world faded - not into black - into nothing, into complete and absolute emptiness. your cigarette smoke hung in the air and the filter never came nearer and nearer. my heart, by some miraculous count, stopped racing long enough to reduce the sound in my ears to complete and utter silence.
i tried to answer, but all that came out was "I think we should paint the apartment soon."
you stared, "we should paint the apartment?"
"yes, I think so, it's so awfully bland. it makes me feel cold."
"why does it make you feel cold?"
"because of the absence of colour."
"what do you make of the absence of warmth?" your eyes were saying less than your mouth, and my words kept getting stuck in my throat.
"I think it's somewhere, maybe beneath the floorboards. we should change the floor, put in carpet. carpet is comforting."
"is that what you think? we can repaint and re-floor and we will be warm."
"I should think so. maybe a new bedspread, what do you think? we could go shopping maybe. tomorrow? or the day after?" my voice trailed off when your gaze shifted from my face to the ground.
"you're not holding on to renovation prospects and you're not answering my question."
in this state of universal paralysis, i became the focal point of the entire universe, to everything but you. i took a breath, and held it in, i thought and thought and though carbon copied hallmark responses danced around my brain, i had no words. i had only this moment, of complete and utter stasis, of company among solitude, of enlightenment as my senses betrayed me and my emotions were given room to embrace this artificial reality.
"the colour of light"
i know this surprised you, and i know you don't know why, even to this day. so i continued.
"i'm holding on to the sound of silence, and the taste of reassurance despite. the cathartic feeling of abandoning the conscious mind and licking mercury from your eyelids. the putrefaction of tactile and the vicious assimilation of awareness. the relentless burning of the merriem-webster definition of what it means to feel, to be. i'm holding on to everything you've cultivated within my mind, every stream of consciousness you diverted and corrupted, every single thought you've planted and watered and allowed to spiral out of control. i'm holding on to the challenge. i'm holding on to knowing - and what i know, is nothing."
you blinked, one hundred and twenty three times exactly - before you spoke, "you're holding on to what you know."
it was less of a question than a statement but I answered nonetheless, my voice was meek, "yes"
"well then," you flicked your cigarette and exhaled a breath, "we should pick out paint colours tomorrow. what were you thinking? red?"
"red is alive."
"grey it is then."
"but grey is oh so dull," I said, devoid of emotion.
you looked up for the first time in a while, "yes, I know, i'm holding on to what I know."
i heard a car horn or two. the colours returned and the sky had in fact remained full of stardust. we walked, quite a distance, until our senses once again became the paragon of normalcy. we both knew the ambiguity of my answer, we both knew that it ran deeper than we wanted to face, and we both knew that despite the inundation of motion in the perceivable world, the earth had not yet, begun to spin again.