Two Cups of Tea

His hands shake as he pours the boiling water into mugs, but he remains silent. Soon enough, I know, he will speak again. If there’s one thing for certain, humans are terrible at keeping strong emotions to themselves. 

He finishes making the tea, hands still trembling. He places the mugs between us, a wall. Like a barrier will somehow keep the blood on my hands from splashing his.

“What the fuck just happened?” he says. 

“We killed a man.” I say.

We sit in silence for a few more moments, and I pick up my tea. He’s too busy staring at the table to notice. Processing? Overprocessing? Analyzing? I’m not sure what the right word is for whatever he’s doing. 

“Fucking hell.” He sighs, rests his head in his hands, says, “I was really fucking hoping that it was all a bad dream.” I’m glad he can’t see me, the gleam in my eyes, the grin on my face. He’d think I was a psycho. That I enjoyed killing people. No matter it was the truth—he was too far away from me to understand.

“What’d you think?”

He sucks in a sharp breath. His jaw and forearms tense, his fingertips dig into his skull. “You are a fucking psychopath.”

“That’s right.” I say the words, study him for a response. He relaxes, but says nothing. He is not responding the way I thought he would. He is quiet and restrained. I expected screaming, throwing chairs, fingernails digging into flesh. It makes me uncomfortable. It feels like the calm before a storm, a storm much bigger than anybody ever saw coming.

“And that was what you do for fun.” He lifts his head, sits up straight. Looks me straight in the eyes. God, I can’t remember when the last time he did that was. He never looked anybody in the eyes. His stare is intense.

“Not for fun. For money.” I say, like there’s any distinction. He saw me, he followed me, he knows how my life is lived.

“But you have fun doing it.”

“Yes.”

“Are we going to get caught?” The stare has turned childlike. Is the Ferris wheel safe to ride? Will you scare away the monsters in my closet?

“No.” I smile. There’s nothing like the euphoria of defeating authority.

He grimaces. “Listen—” His voice breaks again, and now I can feel normalcy returning. He’s breaking down.

“Yes?”

“Fuck you. Fuck you.  Never speak to me again—”

“That’s not going to work very well.”

He’s lightning-quick, up and leaning over, grabbing me by the collar. I can feel my butt leave the chair. I don’t try to fight. There’s no reason for him to kill again, no way he ever would. 

I’m right, of course: as soon as he grabs me, he lets go. I drop back into my seat, and he stands on his side of the table, ready to take his seat again.

But he doesn’t.

He gets up and walks out the door.

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