I have never liked the beach. And yet, here I stand, my bare feet buried under the rough, tan sand, the sun obscured by the gray clouds floating lazily overhead. Holes in these clouds show the baby blue blanket we call the sky. I am so close to the water that it laps at my ankles, calm and soothing, pushing me backwards, towards the city, and pulling me forwards, to discover the mysteries that lie within the ocean.
The water never does take me. It makes me happy and sad that I must stay here, walking the blurred line of the world I know and the mystery of deep blue sea before me.
Anne is next to me, her long, brown hair whipping back in the wind. She is laughing loudly and grinning and holding my hand. Her touch makes me warm, as a contrast to the coolness of my skin. Her green eyes are bright and shimmering, even on this overcast day. I manage to give her a small smile. Her laughter bubbles up and out past her lips again. Softly--my voice has always been so very soft --I ask her, “What’s so funny?” She looks down at her feet, wiggling her toes beneath the sand and bringing them to the surface, giggling like a little girl. “You, Jacob. You never smile around anyone but me. And even then, it’s only sometimes. I like your smile, though. It’s nice.” I feel my cheeks heat up.
Currently, I am wearing a sweater. For bottoms, I am wearing a pair of shorts. My sandals are carelessly thrown a few feet behind me. Anne is wearing a tank top and high-waisted shorts that go down to about her mid-thigh. We turn towards each other, and suddenly, I am wrapping my arms around her waist. She is wrapping her arms around my neck. We are amazingly close, our bodies melting together. I feel warmer than I have ever felt. Her lips touch mine, press against mine.
My heart is racing, trying to fly out of my chest. If this is love, this is wonderful, beautiful, terrible, incredible, and horrible. I never want to feel it again, yet I want it to spread through me for eternity. My hand finds the small of her back, and I pull her closer to me. Our lips crash, separate, meld together, crash. We are like the waves at our feet, rushing toward us and retreating away from us. As soon as the kiss has begun, however, it is over, both of us blushing and pulling away.
We are silent in these moments. I have loved her for so long and I never really realized it until now. I want to say the words, those three little words that mean so much, but they are stuck in the back of my throat. I try to think of something else, to keep myself from being swallowed by the sadness of not being able to express what I feel.
My sweater is too big for me, I think to myself. When I bought it, I knew that, but I loved it anyway. It’s a dark scarlet color, warm no matter the temperature, and it has a hood. The sleeves I'd carefully folded up to my forearms earlier in the day have slid down, and now, my hands are covered by the sleeves.
I guess I should mention I’m a good portion taller than her. She has to push herself upwards and I have to lean down so that our lips can meet in that Spectacularly Wonderful Terrible Kiss. That curved, crazy little smile of hers is flashed at me as she intertwines her fingers with mine, stands on her tip toes, and kisses the base of my neck. I felt a buzz sweep through my body, a fantastic tingling sensation. I cup her face in my hands, lean forward, kiss her again.
The entire time, my throat yearns for the three words to be ejected, to keep me from choking on these feelings. I couldn’t tell her then, on the Last Great Day, and still, I can’t tell her now. I am so afraid that she does not love me. So I stay silent, holed up in my Too Big Sweater.
Anne and I live together. We've lived together for a year now, ever since we graduated high school and moved to the west coast in pursuit of a new life together. I am very quiet. Throughout my entire life, I have been made fun of for never speaking.
It isn't that I never speak, although my previous schoolmate would argue against that; I just never have anything of worth to say. And even if I do, I have always pushed my emotions down; have always kept them in a bottle, capped, so that I might never have to say a word about them.
So I am quiet. I speak with Anne sometimes, but most times, we communicate through touch. I love touch. It is our thousands of nerves reacting at once to each other, saying whatever it is we need to. I can relate far more through touch than through words. I write sometimes, when I really want to tell Anne something, but I can't figure out how to say it or how to express it through touch.
Now, what I really want to express is something I can't possibly express through written word, or really even touch. She doesn't have that same acuteness for messages sent through touch. She thinks I am cold, unfeeling, just because I don't speak. Oh, but if only she knew that those three words circle my brain at all hours.
That fateful day, it is Sunday and I am lying on the couch, flipping through channels, trying to find something interesting to watch. Suddenly, Anne stands in front of the TV. I try to stretch out, so I can see around her, but she moves to block my view every time.
"Jacob," she says seriously. "We need to talk." I gulp because suddenly, my heart is in my throat. I nod and turn off the TV. I sit up on the couch and she sits beside me. I try to take her hand, but she swats me away. I can see the tears glimmering in her eyes. "Why don't you speak?" I shrug. "Jacob, I know you have a voice. I've heard it. It's a wonderful voice. Why don't you use it?" I shrug again. I think about telling her how nothing I say has any value, but I know that will upset her more.
"I don't...I don't know if we should even be together anymore, Jacob. You hardly ever talk to me. You've been withdrawing from me." I stare at her in disbelief and terror. In that moment, I can see it all. All those moments I should have spoken, should have affirmed or negated something. All those moments I'll never be able to correct. I strain my voice, trying to open my mouth and tell her that I'm sorry, that I love her.
She can't see how hard I'm trying. "Do you even care about me?" The tears are streaming down her cheeks, suddenly, as if she’s lost all control. "Have you just been with me out of pity, all this time?" I shake my head violently. She gets angry, suddenly, and she jumps up. She yells, "Then tell me, Jacob! Tell me how you feel! How am I supposed to know a thing if you don't speak?!"
I feel so incredibly pissed off suddenly, and I, too, am jumping up. I scream, louder than I ever have, "I love you so much! You don't even see it, do you? I try to show you, but you don't see it! I love you, Anne!" The fuel of my fire is fading quickly. Those words have exhausted me. I am falling to my knees, and for some reason, I am crying. "I love you, Anne," I keep repeating. It's like those four words are all I have to cling to.
Anne is frozen, staring at me, her eyes wide. She rushes towards me and wraps her arms around me, comforting me. "I'm sorry," She murmurs, over and over, her own words to cling to. “I didn’t know. I love you, too, Jacob. I’m sorry.”
We stay like that, holding each other, curled together on the floor of the living room, for a long time. When it is over, when the storm inside of me has passed, we talk. We talk for hours, and for once, I feel like I have something to say. I feel like I know what to say, for once.
From that day on, I’ve learned to have my voice heard. I talk more often than not, now. In fact, sometimes, jokingly, Anne complains about how I never shut up. I always smile at her. It was so cold before I spoke constantly, but now, it feels as if my red sweater has taken up residence inside me, always keeping me warm.
I understand, now, what it is to love her and say it.
One love, two mouths; one love, one house.