“Be,” she says as he plays with her dark hair and watches her tug the glistening petals from a flower. He thinks she is silly. Being is a passive action, not one that can be commanded.
He kisses her lips and says, “Tell me more,” because he wants to understand what it means to date a poet, where even a two-letter word is loaded with meaning. The way her brow crinkles, he can tell that this word, this single command, carries great importance for her.
“Be, “ she repeats as she mulls over the ways she could expound. She watches the clouds blow across the sky. Her eyes darken the way they sometimes do when she stares into space in search of the perfect word for a poem, as if it will appear from the unfocused middle space of life. “I think people forget to breathe sometimes.”
He laughs. “That’s when we die, sweetie.”
She scuffs her tattered flip-flops on the cement under the park bench with her foot. She has sat on this bench many times with or without him. She has scuffed her shoes without walking anywhere, just by contemplating the meaning of things that he takes for granted.
“That’s not what I mean. Breathing as in living.”
“You can’t forget to live.”
“Living as in…” She frowns. Time passes. The sun begins to droop. “People don’t take enough time to watch the ducks swim. They work and play but don’t even revel in the miracle of existence.”
He smiles as if he understands her and kisses her cheek. “So tell me, Poet, how do we help these people revel?”
In the protracted silence that follows, he wonders if this is her manner of reveling, living, breathing, being. Contemplating the secrets of the universe and the miracle of existence. He thinks he should pay attention more often. If it’s a fundamental part of who she is; he should try to understand. But he doesn’t, and she never says it in words he can get because he’s just not as smart as her, or at least he thinks he’s not—what with only a high school degree and a loading job with Fed-Ex. She’s the one in graduate school to study words.
“We write poetry,” she answers.
“Most people don’t read poetry. How are you going to get them to do that?”
“We graffiti haikus on underpasses. We have to find ways to make people slow down. We show them that their heartbeat is beautiful and give them reasons to stand and just listen. We lead by example.”
“I’ll help with the graffiti.”
She kisses him again and turns to watch the sun sink over a pond of swimming ducks. He holds her hand, wishing that her thoughts would somehow be as accessible as the soft whorls on her fingertips.
Maybe this is her teaching him how to be. When he watches her watch the world with quiet, dark eyes, she is training him to be aware of her miraculous, mysterious mind and the way she finds him valuable even though he can’t appreciate her poems the way she’d like him to.
Her existence, dark hair and dark eyes and whorled prints, are a miracle beyond comprehension to him. And every word she speaks is so heartfelt that he is sure she is the miracle he is meant to revel in.
“Be,” he muses as the clouds begin to fade into pink tones.
She nuzzles into his neck, and he breathes her in.