A laugh.

That’s all it takes sometimes—a word, a moment—and the corner of your mouth slides upward in your favorite sly smile. You revel in that unexpected burst of joy. It lights you up and you hold it close, an ember that warms your heart. And you feel,

Awake. Alive. Grateful.

You gaze up openly and are met by a secret shared, but communicated with eyes only.

A brush of the knee in public. A soft touch of the hand. A sensed safety in nearness, and a feeling of being encircled by electricity.

A question, asked earnestly again and again.

In silence.

Because the words don’t come. They are there—there, just there – – –

—ready to fly free from lips unchained.

But trapped behind a transparent wall.

And even though you can almost feel the other’s fingertips, raised just beyond the glass in a mirror-action of your own—you are held separate by a sea of unknowing. A silvery web of what ifs, and old fears, and bad timing, and dreams yet dreamed, and goals yet unmet.

And it feels as if you might never break free…

So you dance around one another in a circle—an orbit—a leaving and coming. Ending before beginning and beginning again without ever actually starting. And good god you feel it, the rightness, all around you.

And yet,

you fear.

And that fear binds your tongue tighter than a thousand chains. Because how do you knowingly set free a heart that feels too much? How do you step fully into that light, when you know the darkness gets so dark? How do you trust you won’t be broken? You can’t. You won’t. You don’t. And so you breathe a rattled breath and take a step back, retreating to the safety of uncaring.

But then that laugh. That sly smile. A brush of the knee. A soft touch of the hand.

And you circle back again, a tentative duet, with joyful eyes and words a wish on your lips.

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