Ed hated the quiet. Ever since Rome, silence had begun to feel like a chain, reminding him of how deeply alone he was. During the day his life was filled with noise. Ishak and Ishmail sure kept him busy, having him act as both an entertainer and a referee when jokes turned to squabbles. He didn’t mind it, if anything it was a welcome distraction, seeing the boys laugh and smile because of him felt worth it. Besides, children didn’t ever judge him, not in the way that hurt anyways.
In the evenings, after the kids had run off, he would talk to Emeka and Vesseek. Although he valued their conversations for their own worth, they weren’t nearly as comforting as he wished they were. No one ever knew what to say. Whenever Vesseek spoke, they always seemed so far away. Emeka too was distracted, but with a restless sort of impatience that chopped all his sentences short. Ed didn’t feel like asking why, and so their conversations remained short and superficial. By the time everyone packed up for the night, Ed was completely alone.
Sometimes, as he paced the room, he would hear Einstein returning from a night mission.
He would look out from the dusty window and see him walking in towards the house. If it wasn’t for how tired he always looked, Ed might’ve gone to talk to him. Einstein looked so resigned, so hunched. Weeks went by and Ed longed to go out and talk to him, to fill the silence, but he never mustered up the courage. Until one night he finally did.
Ed sat at the window watching Einstein trudge up the path towards the front door, only he didn’t make it all the way. He turned and with a heavy sigh sat on a dust covered boulder with his head in his hands. Ed furrowed his brow, Einstein always seemed tired when he came back, but this, this was new. He didn’t know what came over him, what possessed him to climb over a sleeping Vesseek and head through the door into the sleeping house, and then out into the cool midnight air. He didn’t know why he was suddenly standing in front of Einstein’s hunched form, but he understood that it was the
right thing to do.
“Einstein?” he tentatively asked.
Einstein lifted his head and raised an eyebrow, “Ed? What are you doing out here?”
“Dunno, I saw you out here, wondered the same thing,”
Einstein rubbed his temples, “I suppose I’m having a crisis”.
“Why?” Ed heard himself saying. He immediately cursed himself for being so forward. Every blunt patronizing word uttered to him passed through his head. He expected Einstein’s voice to join them. Instead, Einstein just shrugged.
“Why? Why… that’s a very good question” he muttered, “Do you want to sit? Uh, there’s another rock there, or you could sit on the ground I guess if you wanted, or-”
“Uh, yeah,” Ed hoped the surprise didn’t show across his face. The rock he picked was much too small to sit on comfortably, but he didn’t want to be alone.
Einstein sighed, “I don’t know why I’m doing all this.”
“Any of it! The missions, the preparing, the training, I don’t know why I do it. I used to go out to Rome every week, waiting for you all to come back. And then you did, and now they’re gone and I’m not supposed to talk to you, and I don’t know what to do.” Einstein’s voice had raised an octave, “Curie doesn’t talk to me unless she has to, Wilde told me to stop calling and-”
“Oh right, Wilde, yes, I forgot you don’t know him. He used to be with the Meritocrats but he left. He doing something in Japan-”
“I don’t know! He won’t let me call him!” Einstein’s face grew redder with every exasperated word.
“Sorry,” Ed mumbled.
“Huh? What are you sorry for? Did you do something?” Einstein raised an eyebrow.
“No, it’s just I keep asking questions, it’s annoying,”
“It is? I’m not annoyed.” Einstein shrugged, “Anyways, I guess I’m just lonely.”
The words hung in the air for a moment as the two sat in silence. Ed wanted to say something, to agree, to relate, but he couldn’t seem to find the words.
“Well, I suppose not too lonely,” Einstein laughed, “You’re here.”
Ed looked down. “Back in Rome, you said you missed me? Why?”
Einstein looked puzzled. “Because I did.”
“Nobody ever says that to me.”
“What? Really? No one?” Einstein's eyes widened, “Surely your family missed you at some point.”
“Don’t think they liked me very much. Said I ‘wasn’t right’. I’m glad I left, Apollo’s lot was much nicer. ‘Cept for Friedrich, don’t think he liked me much either.”
Einstein looked down, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you,” Einstein paused, “You know, for a while I thought there was something wrong with me.”
“Because I talked a lot, and I was always thinking of five things at once but none of them were helpful, people never took me seriously. It was so frustrating! I had to learn to take things at my own pace. Actually, the glowy pink lady helped me a lot.”
Ed thought to himself for a moment. “I guess I thought I was the only one.”
Einstein shook his head and smiled.“I’m glad you came out here Ed,”
Ed smiled back, “Me too.”
And they sat for a moment more in understanding silence, and for once, Ed didn’t mind.