“I just want to know you.”
The statement stuck with me like a sticky sap poured over every thought. I just want to know you, Kellan whispered in the shell of my ear just before I fell asleep curled up in his arms. It felt like an accusation. I had hidden from him. He didn’t know me.
The next morning, my drive home from his house felt like the roads had been stretched longer. The radio was barely a buzz in the background. Kellan’s words kept my rapt attention.
I just want to know you.
Those words lit memories to life. I thought of our elbows touching as we sat side by side on the city bus together. His winter coat puffed to brush against the bare skin of my arm. I thought of the afternoon when he’d sat on the floor of the kitchen with my head in his lap. The sun burned into my eyes and then I blinked spots. A laugh blurted out of me and I scrunched my eyes shut.
Before every date I’d set up shop in his bathroom, a thick strand of my chestnut hair wrapped tightly around a hot barrel iron. Kellan didn’t even bother to knock on the door as he passed by. It always took me at least an hour in the bathroom to get ready to go out and he realized there was no use in waiting.
Memories poured into my head. I thought of the list of films I’d texted him for “essential viewing” and the origami paper hats I’d shown him how to make out of gum wrappers. I thought of when I’d laughed at the jokes he knew only I found funny and when he asked me for a tissue in a crowded room because my allergies meant I kept them on hand.
Don’t you know me?
Our days had become saturated with each other. I knew the touch of his skin and the creak of the floorboards by his bedroom and the books he shelved next to the front door. Those things weren’t spoken, but they were known. I thought we didn’t need words to know each other. It was like we had our own secret universe together where we didn’t need words to understand each other. I could just look at him cooking in the kitchen or walking down the stairs and know exactly how he was feeling. But his confession had frayed the edges of those memories, distorted their meaning. Maybe winter coats and movie lists and tissues were not evidence of a secret world at all. Perhaps I had concocted their significance in my head.
The chime of my phone pulled me back to the present and the car. Somebody on the radio said it was going to rain later today. Good, I thought. I would not drive back to Kellan’s apartment in the rain.
The morning after his confession—this morning, before I’d driven away—Kellan had made me a cup of instant coffee. When I asked him about his sleepy confession, he had merely shrugged.
“You’re just so private.” Kellan passed me the sugar even though I never used it.
“But I’m not some sort of stranger—”
“I never said that. I mean… don’t you want me to know you, really know you? I want your secrets, the stuff you don’t give to other people.” He’d reached out to put his hands over mine, clasping the skin of my fingers between the table and his palms.
I looked up to his young face, and for the first time in my life, felt like I didn’t understand what I saw.
“I don’t know you,” he said. “But I want to. You can’t hide from me.”
No reply came. I sat there, breathing in the beer stench of his unwashed kitchen sink, and made no reply.
“Please,” he’d whispered.
And then I’d up and left, grabbing my bag and heading for the car. Maybe he’d called my name, but I wasn’t listening. If he thought he didn’t know me, then he never would.