“What are you thinking about?”
It was a lie—a big, bald-faced lie. In truth, he was thinking thoughts so weighty they almost terrified him. How could he possibly put that burden on her? Not now—already there was too much fear, too much insecurity, too much uncertainty … too much of too little.
Besides, the thoughts weren’t even formed in his own mind; words to express them would certainly fail. The thoughts were mere wisps of cloud; speaking them would be a breeze distorting their already-shapeless being. In the very act of speaking, the thoughts would dissipate into nothingness.
(It’s funny how that works, isn’t it—how we think in words, but verbalizing our thoughts fundamentally alters them?)
“You look deep in thought.”
“Sort of,” he lied again.
“So what are you thinking about?,” she pressed.
(Does it always have to be about something? Can’t we just think? To think about reduces the transcendent firmament of thought to a single, inconsequential subject line.)
“I don’t know—random thoughts. Nothing in particular.” At last, truth. (“Clouds” wouldn’t have been incorrect.)
“Well, can’t you think out loud? I want to know what’s going on inside you.”
(Be careful what you ask for.)
So slowly, haltingly, the words blew out. Wisps of ideas scattered. Unformed thoughts took shape. Fears peeked out as if from behind night-darkened trees. The words were, as expected, insufficient, inexact, incorrect. They described ideas he hadn’t had, distorted images that had been crystal clear before being breathed out. He wanted to retreat again, into the quiet refuge of thought.
(How is it that words can so befuddle a wordsmith’s thoughts?)
And as the words spilled out haphazardly, confusing and distorting the very thoughts she’d asked to know, her own thoughts joined with his, creating new thoughts, new life … and, yes, new fears.
“What if …? What about …? Could we …? What do you think about …?”
In the precise imprecision of language, thoughts give way to ideas, possibilities, hopes, dreams.
“So what have you been thinking about?,” he asked.
It’s her turn now.