It’s my heart beating a little too fast, threatening to spill out of my ribcage.
My feet moving but always in circles, thoughts spinning in a blur of tentative ‘why’s and ‘how’s and ‘what is this trying to teach me’s but never able to give any answers.
If pressed, I’d admit it’s the fear I get on a January night when the light hits just so, eyes damp and the smell of vanilla burning from the window sill. It’s the fear that follows every other night, when the notes aren’t flowing and something has been stuck in my throat long before my lips touched the second cream cheese bagel I ate in a frenzy after 2AM because I just, couldn’t think.
Lately it’s been a hand on my shoulder. Soothing the hurt, keeping me sane.
You trace your lips on my knuckles and trail your fingers down my back. I promise in turn, I’ll keep this feeling as safe as I can.
It’s a fragile feeling, you see. It puts one foot in front of the other, but never seems to put them down quite right. It’s an anxious feeling. Its breath catches from time to time and it can never find the right words. It spent months warily wishing for a sign, then wanting to be heard, or felt, or just acknowledged long enough to make a home in a hidden corner of my heart while I wasn’t looking.
I remember where I was when it finally did.
I’d promised I would cook so I spent forty minutes on the phone to my mother while she explained how to make a risotto for the hundredth time, then downed two shots of vodka while waiting for the doorbell to ring because my hands were shaking and I couldn’t stop pacing. The risotto was edible. The feeling was there. Hours later I sat on a white pillow with my head in your lap and my legs dangling off the couch, and as Streets of Philadelphia played through the speakers I felt my resolve crumble faster than you could say ‘this is where I ask you to stay’.
So fragile. But it was there, right then, in the corner of my heart it claimed as its own while I was too busy laughing like a kid and snorting into my glass, so happy it hurt.
It’s months later now and it’s up to me to keep it safe. To protect it when someone takes a swing, keep it warm when the nights get cold. Guide it back when it wants to run free, which is often. Guide it home when it wants to destroy everything that’s good, which is not as often as it used to be because, look at that, progress.
This much I can promise.
A shaky rib cage and a fearful heart, willing to put in the work they need to for this whole thing not to crumble. A snorting laugh and the certainty that given a drink and the opportunity, I will inevitably spill it on the nearest white shirt. More dog pictures than you will know what to do with. Burnt toast, but really good coffee. The fact that I’ll wait too long to introduce you to my friends, but when I do, they will all love you. The knowledge that this fragile feeling grows a little stronger every time you rest your head on my shoulder or your hand on the small of my back. That I breathe a little easier every time I go to check and find it right where I left it, where I can protect it, where I want it to be.
It might not be everything, but I think it might be enough.