"Am I immature?"
He eyed her carefully, trying to discern whether or not it was a trick question. Her eyes were imploring, searching his face as he thought. He considered her phrasing: am I versus do you think I am. It seemed it safe enough ground, at least for her mood this evening, so he ventured an answer.
"Probably, a little. But not for the reasons you think."
"Why do you think?"
"Well, why do you ask?"
"Because. I'm thirty-one, and I still can't cope with, like, everyday life things. Like getting my prescriptions. I make you do that. I just can't, a lot of the time."
"I don't know if that makes you immature - I mean, that's why you're in therapy I guess, but it's not what makes you immature."
"Marta says that whenever I feel like I want to say I can't do something, I should say that I won't do it instead, to see if that makes me feel like I have a choice... What do you think makes me immature then?"
It was without a doubt an accusation, spoken forcefully. But she was laughing a little. Still safe.
"How you pout about stuff and yell and have fits when you don't wanna do something."
"Well sure. Everybody does that - yourself included."
"So what are you talking about then? I think it's because I find life so hard to deal with, and our lives aren't even hard. I mean, we don't even have kids."
"Well, the general wisdom is that things like kids is what makes you grow up and act responsible. Like, until then, why would you? What's the point. It's no fun being an adult if it just means that you keep a clean house and get the bills paid on time and go to work and all that crap. It also means you can have ice cream for breakfast when you want to."
"Which you can't do anymore when you have the kids. Because then you're setting a bad example."
"Yeah, but you still want to, which is the bullshit part. That's when you start just acting like you think grownups are supposed to act or whatever. I mean, you know they're all faking it."
"Yeah, I know about the great adult sham. I remember figuring that out, and being really freaked out because, if everybody's just playing at being an adult, then nobody actually knows what the hell they're doing, and who the hell is running everything?"
"Yeah." Now he was laughing a little. He was sure they'd had this conversation before. But that was OK. Most of the big conversations got had over and over, probably, he thought.
"I mean, you don't think it because I get excited about stuff right? Like because I get happy about cookies and sparkly stuff? Because as far as I'm concerned that's just me holding on to my sense of childlike awe of the world."
"No baby, that's just annoying." He was comfortable now, being snide even. They'd hit their stride. He knew this conversation forward and back.
"I mean, I have to be excited by the small shiny things. There is so much sadness... without the small things I would be crushed beneath its weight..."
Tears rolling down her cheeks - blindsided. He barely had time to consider where it had turned, how it had got out from beneath him. Sudden auto-pilot, he flew across the room and sat himself on the couch beside her, placed his arm gingerly around her shoulders. He tried to pull her to him but she would not come. "Hey, baby, come on. I'm right here. It's not that bad. Come on." He tried to rock her, but she would not rock.
"You have no idea... the images in my head... thousands of them..." And still her tears were quiet, no sobbing to be had, like sometimes. Just a taste of the sadness that could no longer be contained.
It was over in a few moments, she recollected, he shaken. So he went out for a cigarette. She scoffed, as usual, but kissed him before he went.
Outside, in the darkness, August humidity was oppressive. His mind shunned any thoughts of what may be now happening in the apartment above. After the first smoke, staring at a purple-red smoked sky, he tried to remember what he had said to upset her - so that he would not do it again. Unable to pinpoint it, he pulled another Camel from the pack. Took a drag. Shuffled gravel beneath his feet.
He knew, of course, that she would be angry with him for staying out too long.