“So what exactly are you afraid of?” he asked, “Are you scared of being alone?”
He noticed an unmistakable twitch near her right eye as she managed a strained shake of the head.
“Being lonely maybe? There’s a difference.” She mumbled.
For a split second, he saw the brightness of her eyes leave, replaced by a dull vacancy.
“How so?” he asked.
“Being alone means waking up to nobody, being lonely means waking up to nothing.” She whispered.
He wasn’t sure what to say. In an effort to hide his tension, he shifted his weight restlessly on his chair. Echoing his movements, she sat down on the floor and pulled her knees into her chest and wrapped her long arms around her legs.
“No,” she stuttered, “Sorry, I was wrong. I don’t think I’m scared of loneliness. I’m terrified with that which comes before it. Is there a word for something so destructive?”
Her question hung in the air like a dense fog. Her fear was silent, yet visible, only by the hollowness of her eyes, of which he saw a landscape of never-ending catastrophes. For one brief moment he fell into it. He found himself in a place where tsunamis had ripped her hopes apart from their roots. Hurricanes had weathered her once concrete dreams into dust and shame. Regret spread like wildfire and burned his lungs with smoke and loathing. He was dizzy from the bitter ash that flooded his throat and deaf from the wind that shrieked tales of betrayal and lies.
Then almost as soon as he fell, he broke from his trance.
“Hey, are you okay?” she asked, “I lost you for a second there.”