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Her hand was getting sweaty, and she was still talking. She had been for the last block or so. Of course Hank had stopped listening when they passed the park. He didn’t feel guilty about it; there had been kids screeching distractingly and hanging off of playground equipment. One had been screaming particularly loudly, “Expelliarmus!” At the brief retracing of the recent past, Hank shook his head slightly, as if to clear it of something unpleasant.
He felt no need to return his mind to the conversation. She was just gabbing about how excited she was with… something. It didn’t matter to him what it was. Her tone alone deterred him. She sounded like those kids on the jungle-gym, babbling about something impossible in a high-pitched voice.
His mind drifted around his surroundings, noting things out of boredom. As they had walked, dusk had descended, however the humidity and heat of the day lingered. The air was thick so that the darkness was a smothering blanket. It matched the feel of her hand around his. The street was relatively busy for this time of night. Obnoxious couples, laughing and leaning against one another, skittered around them. Hank was not normally perceived as menacing in appearance, but the glint in his muddy-green eyes and his vague smile allowed them relatively comfortable passage through the crowd.
Hank’s eyes and attention flicked back to the fingers that gripped his. God, her hand was sweaty. He dwelled on this, grumbling in his head, before abruptly becoming aware of two things: 1) she was silent and 2) she was watching him expectantly.
Before he could recover himself, she spoke, “You weren’t listening.”
It was a statement that wanted to be contradicted.
With such practiced deliberateness that it appeared natural, Hank smiled sheepishly and said, “I’m sorry; my mind drifted.”
His feigned shame placated her and she relaxed, smiling once more, “It’s alright. I did go on for a while.”
Hank’s expression warmed, as if her forgiveness meant the world to him. He played the role of puppy well.
“Since I’ve been talking for, like, ever, why don’t you tell me what you think about it? Politics, I mean,” She giggled, swinging their clasped hands between them.
Childish, Hank thought.
Somewhere within his whirring brain Hank recognized he was about to say something that was not going to endear him to her. This minute section of his psyche hastily yanked his features in to position to compensate: somber, pleasant, and contemplative. The majority of him forged on, completely unconcerned.
“It doesn’t really matter does it? I’m just one person. No one’s going to change anything. Not that change would matter. We’re all just contraptions of bones and sinews, driven by hormones and impulses that will eventually decay,” he laughed and it was a pure expression of mirth, perhaps the most honest sound he’d emitted all evening, “It’s quite silly really, to care about such things. We’re not children.”
Hank looked at her, and his grin was more of him baring his teeth. He blinked in surprise. She was dazzled by his intellect. Her face was slack, her pretty pink mouth hung partially open, and her bright blue eyes were wide with horror.
“What the f*** was that?” she asked.
“Uh…” his mouth was at a loss as his mind tripped over itself in a desperate effort to say something clever.
“The world isn’t like that! I mean, it’s, um… it’s…” she struggled with what she wanted to say, pulling her hand from his to run it through her hair, “Look. The world, or I mean reality, is infinite or at least close to. So even if every human got together and did something, they would not be able to affect something so- s*** what’s the word? Ginormous.”
Hank couldn’t help but snicker, “’Ginormous?’ What are you eleven?”
In any decent cartoon, her glare would have sent Hank to his grave.
“No. I’m not. What I’m saying is that, considering this, every action I or you take matters because the converse is true. The smallest thing I could do won’t change a sun galaxies away, but the largest thing wouldn’t have had any less or more of an effect on it. So the smallest things matter, ultimately just as much as the big things. So everything matters!”
He scoffed, “That’s ridiculous!”
It seemed to him that she drew up into herself. Her shoulders hunched slightly and she pursed her lips as she crossed her arms over her ribcage. She held herself completely still. A sudden wind gathered her hair and tossed it out to her right, the only break in her motionlessness. Suddenly she straightened her arms and looked at the sidewalk, bouncing her weight ever so slightly from foot to foot. She cleared her throat loudly and met his gaze. Her expression was ferocious; Hank took a slight visceral step back.
“Maybe I am ridiculous, but it’s better than whatever you are,” she didn’t spit the words, but rather spoke them with unflappable confidence. With the same assurance she turned and strode away.
Hank shuffled his feet, furrowing his brow. He stood still for a moment, mind reeling.
Finally, he said, to know one in particular, “I didn’t say she was ridiculous.”