There it is, that inflection again. It’s imperceptible to the inexperienced ear. It would take years of training to detect the hidden strain. But you can’t fool me. I know it’s there. I reach out for it, but it’s like a wisp, intangible. It’s gone.
“You’re not worried about me, are you?” he says, peppy.
“Well” I say, and opt to come out with it. “Yes, I am, as a matter of fact. Are you OK?”
I know the answer already. I’ve heard it all my life.
Of course I’m OK.
I come from a family of booming communicators. We talk. We write. We debate. We protest. When we were young and still all lived at home, we used to get together every Sunday, sit around an enormous table, and argue over a four hour meal of green salad, carne asada and chocolate cake.
Each one of us keeps secrets, though. If something breaks –and things often break - the shards of glass are quickly, efficiently swept away, lest they hurt someone. They are everywhere, the hints, the bits, like a shattered windshield that leaves blue glass strewn all over the highway. They leave me wondering, guessing exactly what the extent of the damage was.
Is there some perverse reason we speak in half-truths? There is not. You see, we do it to protect one another. The unspoken commandment: thou shalt not concern a beloved family member. Shhh. The children will hear.
This is why I am always suspicious. When it gets the best of me, I launch an investigation that pries, that takes days, where pieces are pasted together to form a distorted picture. Distorted because the various sources of information are caught in this perpetual dance.
Just disturb me. I have strong shoulders. Your silence is worse than the things you leave me to imagine.
What about me, then? If something happened that I could shield you from, would I burden you with it?
What if you heard something in my voice?
Everything is OK. I would say, peppy. Jeez. You’re such a worrier.