More Than A Penny
You always ask, “What’s on your mind?”
And I always reply, “Nothing.”
We both know that’s a lie. Like you said, there’s never “nothing”. Haven’t you been guilty of such a lie? I can see your worries in your frown, your pain in your eyes, your self-doubt in your fidgeting fingers. But I’d usually leave you as you were, because I know. I know in that “nothing”, there lies myriad questions you are dying to ask but cannot. I know in the silence after that “nothing”, there lies the invisible biting of the lips. I know.
I pretended to be you today. I caught myself frowning, and because I was thinking of you, I imagined that I were you and you were asking me what I was thinking about. In my head, I thought for a while. I lingered on that word, that word that held a heavy burden even though its meaning defined emptiness. I thought of where I should start, because I wasn’t just thinking about one thing; for some strange reason, when I am plugged in to music, my mind becomes empty and I am able to let thoughts flow like slivers in my brain.
I worried if I remembered to lock the door when I left my flat. I thought of the times I’d stand at that very door, reluctant as I watch you put on your shoes to leave. I thought of you. My mind suddenly went to her. I wondered when she’d appear between us again. She haunts me like a ghost. I don’t want her around and God knows I’ve tried to exorcise her from my life. I contemplated killing her. Then I thought of your parents, which lead me to visualise our perfect, imaginary home. I missed you. I thought of the things you said recently, those that made my heart break. Then I remembered my grandma, lying weak in her bed with a mask perpetually over her face, leaving marks on that face I’d always look up upon whenever she carried me in her arms when I was a child. I wondered when she was going to die. I think my dad will be devastated. No, that I didn’t think. That I know. I thought of my parents’ greying hair. They’re old, and yet at my age, I can’t even support them. I worried about what will happen when they decide to retire. I realised that I am a failure. I pondered about death. I prayed that I could take my grandma’s place, for very, very selfish reasons.
That was what was in my head. Whenever you asked what was on my mind, did it ever occur to you that I was this fucked up? That I wasn’t simply thinking of one specific thing, that these thoughts swirled around in my head, dormant, waiting to explode? Whenever you asked me that question, were you prepared to actually listen if I had said what was on my mind? Would you tune off, or brush it off as silliness? Are my fears silly? Don’t you have fears?
Was I on your mind as well whenever you were clenching your teeth in thought as I walked next to you? Was that a fleeting moment of hatred I saw in your eyes? It usually disappears as quickly as it appears. You’d then turn to me and offer your hand for me to hold. But just as our palms are warming to each other, you’d let go. It’s as if you were seeking assurance from my hand. Contented, you let go. Reset.
I’d turn silent, contemplating my next move. I liked your hand in mine. I would worry about that little separation of our hands and what it meant at that moment. You’d then turn to me, forehead wrinkled, your hand reaching out for mine, and in a gentle, admonishing voice, ask, “What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing,” I’d reply.