by Than Pence
Theresa's boyfriend almost demands eye contact, but she just can't do it.
|“So you have trouble making eye contact with people?”
Theresa contemplated the question, knowing that the answer was already hanging in the air between them. Her eyes brushed against Brock’s shoulder, his earlobe, even the three hairs that hung limply across his forehead.
Much to her chagrin she could not look him straight in the eye.
“Hey. I’m right here,” he said while pointing two fingers at his own eyes.
Theresa couldn’t explain it though. She’d never been able to look into other people’s eyes and feel comfortable. She often traced this feeling back to when her father would be driving down Main Street with little Theresa buckled into the passenger seat. The windows were down and she always remembered how his stubble looked darker in the cab of his truck, even with sunlight shining on it.
Her father would be driving and, for no reason, he’d shout “What’re you eyeballin’?” to someone who happened to be looking at his decrepit truck. After almost each question, he’d look at Theresa as if she, too, were conspiring to look at him and she’d have her own gaze directed outside while thinking to herself that anyone walking along the sidewalk next to Main Street was only wondering how such an old truck was still running.
Or how the people inside were so poor as to have to resort to such an aged means of transportation.
Theresa didn’t know if she was more embarrassed by the looks the derelict truck brought out or the yells from her father as he verbally confronted the lookers. She did know that she hated riding around with him.
But in the present, at twenty-eight-years old, she wasn’t impoverished. She was well taken care of. Years of watching her father struggle with finances after Theresa’s mother died had taught her how to be frugal. But she couldn’t rightly explain her inability to make eye contact with anyone.
Not even Brock, her boyfriend of four months.
He often pointed out this near-character flaw and stated many tirades on how the ability to make eye contact was linked to someone’s trustworthiness, their motivations, even how sound their mind might be. Theresa took it in stride and would find herself willfully meeting his gaze, but it only lasted a few moments. Her face would heat up and she’d feel her eyes start to water against her will.
In this moment, while he was pointing at his own eyes and nearly demanding hers be there as well, she felt fidgety. She had never expected the inability to make eye contact to be something that someone might demand. In this moment, she became very unsure of Brock and what he stood for: a possible future where she didn’t have to live frugally.
With a steady breath, she found his gaze and held it for several seconds with each passing like an eternity. Brock began to smile and she felt color rise into her cheeks while her palms began to sweat.
Theresa definitely didn’t like this feeling. She was brought to think about her father and she wondered how he was doing. He didn’t ever call or e-mail unless she did so first. She wondered how many more people on Main Street he had shouted his age-old inquiry at since she’d left for college.
Since she had graduated with honors.
Since his second wife died.
Theresa broke eye contact because she didn’t want to look at Brock anymore.
He said, “What’s wrong? What’re you doing?”
“I need to go. I need to call my dad. Or e-mail him. Or something. Anything.”
“Now? We’re about to go out. To Theo’s.”
She looked at his nose, his neck, his pretty, pouty lips.
“I’ll meet you there,” she cast out while blindly leafing through her purse for her car keys. She needed to get home and compose her thoughts and what she’d say or ask her father before she attempted any actual contact. She couldn’t do that here, at Brock’s.
Theresa looked at his ears, those three lazy hairs, and, finally, at his soft eyes. The ones that she’d only come to recently appreciate.
She felt a smile tug at the corners of her mouth. “Yeah, I promise,” and she left.
The drive was quick and, in the waning hours of day, she couldn’t help but wonder if the people on the sidewalks were looking at her car. When she’d spot someone doing just that, she repressed the urge to roll down her window and yell “What’re you eyeballin’?”
Word Count: 754