Prompt: Write an entry inspired by what you can’t see.
The stretch of smiling was starting to make my cheeks ache, the pleasant strain of too much laughter. Mark rolls his eyes and sighs.
“Okay, it wasn’t that funny.”
I can’t manage a reply, silent giggles wracking my torso as tears leak from my eyes. When I finally catch my breath, I set him straight.
“It was the greatest, Mark. You butter watch out.”
I brandish the butter knife again, head once again bowing as my stomach cramps from laughter. He gives an exaggerated sigh and takes a long drink of beer, motioning Joe for another one. He comes over, bearing another pint o’ porter, smile on his face.
“Is he not laughing at your puns again?”
“He is not indeed,” I reply somberly. “All I did was tell him he butter watch out.”
I brandish the knife again, making Joe chuckle and shake his head.
“You two crack me up. Can I get you another, too?”
I nod, still giggling.
“Same thing, please.”
We pass the evening in comfort, the air around our table enveloped in joy. When we finally wave goodbye to Joe, I feel ten years younger, the stress of the week washed from me. It’s a heavy weight, the stress, one I only notice after nights like this. We walk arm in arm, letting the bustle of the night around us substitute for conversation. It’s a refreshing way to spend an evening, buffeted by jokes instead of ungraded labs.
Mark drives us back, leaving me to fiddle with the playlist and press my face against the window to stare up at the stars. The drive is short, his apartment not far. He gets us drinks as I collapse onto the couch. In the corner of the room, I see the bag of work I brought with me, a quiet reminder that my to-do list will never, ever be done. I push it from my mind best I can. There will be time for grading tomorrow; tonight is for fun.
I make it halfway through the movie he puts on before passing out. It’s a strange way to wake up, thinking the movie is still playing when that sound is actually birds greeting the dawn. Mark is still sleeping when I rouse, and I busy myself with preparing for the day. I shower quietly as I can before putting on breakfast, drinking coffee and grading a lab while the bacon sizzles.
Mark emerges just as I’m finishing the eggs, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“Good morning, sleepyhead. Sorry for passing out last night.”
He shoos my apology with his arm, pulling out a mug and pouring a steaming cup of coffee. I offer him the creamer and suppress a smile as he grumpily stirs it in. We’re not morning people.
“Lab?” he asks, nodding at the half-graded packet of paper.
I nod, miming a gunshot to the head, the morbidity of it encapsulating my feelings toward grading. Necessary, yes. Instructive, if done right. Mindnumbing, always.