– Can I ask you something?
— No, of-course not.
– I just realised how stupid that sounds.
— No you knew already, you’re just more afraid of this question in particular than any other you might want to ask.
– How insightful. Do you know what the question is?
— Not at all, only that you would only ask whether to ask a question if it weren’t frightening or challenging in nature.
– Am I that easy to read?
— Do you remember when I asked you about your dad?
– Last year?
— Do you remember how I opened that?
– Hmmm. You’re right.
— It’s not just you, everyone does it, in some way.
– I like that.
– How you observe things like that.
— Perhaps I just mention them. With you I mean. I don’t mention them to most people.
– Is that some kind of trust?
— No it’s just trust. Or full trust rather; saying just trust makes it sound reductional.
— What do you want to ask me?
– When I ask you out, when I want to see you, you say yes. Every time.
— Not actually…
– No I’m not talking about when you’re busy. But just, hang-on, I was going to say, and you never ask me out.
— That’s true.
– Why is that?
A still and direct look
— I’m very careful in what I ask for. Whom I ask of things.
– It’s not a demand, it’s just a request for company.
— Yeah I know. I know that. Still. It’s different. For me.
– You’re afraid I’ll say no?
— It’s not that.
– I was thinking about it, I can tell you what I think, if you’ll let me.
– You’re very particular about what you ask, because you don’t want people to think they’re obligated to support you. Because of your illness.
— I don’t want you to feel obligated to support me.
– I can understand that.
— You can?
– Yes. It makes sense. It’s very considerate.
— It’s probably a bit more selfish than that, I’m sure you’re aware of that.
– True, but it still makes sense.
– But why don’t you let me make that decision?
Slow shaking of the head
— We’re not talking about the normal parameters of relationships here.
– No, we’re not.
– I’m perfectly aware of that. Nevertheless; why don’t you let me make that decision?
– I’m sorry, I don’t want to push you, I don’t want to hurt you…
— I’ve been waiting for you to ask me the real challenging questions for a while now. I’m glad you asked.
– Thank you. You’re being very honest. More honest than usual? But then I think, no not really.
– Do you not ask because you’re afraid I’ll say ‘no’?
The stillness again
— Not afraid you’ll say ‘no’, I don’t want you to say no.
— Just straight out, uncomplicated. I don’t want you to say no.
— I’m very afraid. I’d rather feel grateful. Grateful for every conversation we have. Every time you choose to spend time with me, and be happy with it.
– Can I ask you another question?
– Why have you not taken notice of my answer?
– I mean… I’m asking for all this time from you. We’ve been talking. About my father. About your illness – about our lives. This is generally what people do when they develop affections for each-other.
– See at first I doubted that you liked me, but then I noticed that you’ll do anything to spend time with me. Which was empowering I must say, but then I guess I have a natural tendency to subvert my self-confidence so I began to wonder why you wouldn’t ask me out.
Then a laugh
A smile in return
— I ah, I don’t know. I don’t know I guess I figured you’d catch on and, um,
– And what?
A returning smile
Shaking of the head
— I don’t know. I wanted you to do it. I wanted you to be less afraid than me.
— For all my clarity and confidence, I think you’re much more courageous than I am.
– Is that what I’m doing now? Am I doing it?
And the familiar, neutral face
– Are you afraid?
– I’m afraid.
— Of what?
– Of your honesty without hesitation.
— I can understand that.
Reaching of the hand
— You know you should be very careful. And think it through. It’s not going to be a normal relationship… what you may have come to expect.
– Stop trying to do my thinking for me.
– I have been thinking about it. What do you think I’ve been doing these last few months?
Then the moment of acceptance
The taking of the hand
– What are you thinking? Feeling right now?
— Something dangerously like hope.
– I’m glad.
– Can I ask you something?