It is the strangest thing, being with another after being with you for so long. Does it feel bad or wrong? No. Just different. (I do not seem to have a functioning conscience). His lips are firmer, with a metal ring to run your tongue along. The way he looks at me is different – he doesn’t love me, not like how I love you (how can I say this?) and how you love me (how can you do this anymore?) He may love me in an instant of pleasure, of gratification. Perhaps he may love things about me. He said I was slimmer than anyone he’d been with before. He tells me I’m cute, that I look good. You tell me I’m beautiful and I see it in the way your plain brown eyes come alive.
Now he is asleep and it is the afternoon, and I am uncomfortably writing in this dark, warm room that smells of light sweat and stale smoke. But I cannot hold this pen and I am tired, always tired, but that bed is not meant for two. I barely slept last night – even after the kisses had finished (though they began again in the morning; just as passionate as before, despite the bitterness of our tongues and the sobering pastel rays creeping across the sky). I fell asleep again and he watched videos on the internet and now I wonder if he instead watched me – did he glance over the way I just did to see him (one hand to his brow, the other folded across his chest, barely rising with his shallow breaths). You would have watched me sleep – and when, by chance, you sleep before I do, I marvel at the peacefulness in your closed eyelids, the softness of your veins and tendons, pushing against your skin. You are an angel. But I am sitting here, gold sun streaming through the gap in the curtain, and you are far away. A train ride through green hills and kangaroos and pretty lanes, thick with dust. Now you are in school, or perhaps it’s your lunchtime and you’re choosing not to eat because you hate spending money on food so you’re sitting alone on your phone in the park out the back – but now I’m not thinking of you. The black haired boy in my bed just rolled over, and breathed deeply. His hands are now behind his head, surrendered. And I am confused.
Fascinated by him, and with the inability to say no, I know it will happen again. I am self-indulgent and useless. You are alone, and he is different. He has cold metal over his body and in his warm mouth, and with pretty drawings over his skin in black ink. He is part South American and wears the clothes I see on obscure blogs, he can speak Spanish and that makes his eyes amazing. He flips burgers and draws, and buys ink – one day he’ll make my skin pretty, too. He talks in his sleep; he laughed earlier with a straight face and eyes sealed shut, and that made me smile. You don’t make me smile anymore, not very often. You make me sad, and I make you sad. Two sad people, but with you still following me, reaching for my hand, as I try to breathe. You are in school with big dreams that I fear I planted into your head. You, with red hair and chest bones and harsh music.
“You laughed in your sleep. You said you’d talk, but you didn’t. You laughed.” He’s rolled over now at the sound of my voice, and is looking at me. An embarrassed frown with a defensive but friendly “shut up”. He asks me what time it is. It’s past 1.
“Don’t you have classes?”
“Why aren’t you there?”
“It’s a lecture. Pride and Prejudice is a stupid book.”
It’s not. It’s beautiful; the story’s beautiful, but it’s too hard for me – to put the effort in, at least. This course frustrates me. Too broad, too general. Wrapped up in the context; historical, social, political. I don’t care about that. I care about the fluidity of language and the syllables and why they chose a comma or defied the rules of grammar. I’m not enjoying this, and that makes it hard to leave my bed in the mornings.
I ask him if he wants to keep sleeping or get something to eat, he asks me if I’m hungry. I am very hungry, but I don’t tell him that.
“If I eat something, I think I’d be sick.” Permanently at risk of throwing up, hung-over or not. I can use the word ‘sick’ in that sentence because he’s tired and isn’t going to pick up on it, chide me off, ask me what kind of sick. He knows about me, and I know about him. The abuse; army veteran brother with all the medals and the straight-A sister; the loneliness and failed suicide; living on the street after being kicked out for dropping out of school. I know the facts, the words, the backstory; I could list them out on a piece of paper, easy as pie. That doesn’t mean I understand him, but I feel that inch closer. I haven’t met his parents but I’ve seen his house. It’s an average house in a neighborhood of polished glass and mowed lawns and two story brick with a balcony and no pets. They have two dogs.
“I’m boiling.” He pulls his jumper off as I murmur an agreement. He rolls over again. The blanket’s half off and I can see his back. If that was you, I’d crawl in beside you, tuck myself up against you – (you, you, you) – and even in your sleepy stupor you’d take my hand and hold it against your warm chest. And I would nestle in between your shoulder blades, proud to be so close to you, proud to be the one keeping you safe and whole. The way you save me over and over by stroking my skin. I cannot crawl up against this boy because he is not mine to take care of. He is foreign, and an unknown quantity. Last night is lingering, but when he pulled me onto him early this morning, I was worried.
The sunlight is on me and I feel strange. My hair, folded over my left shoulder, is glowing. The sound of a vacuum is distant, and a is man laughing outside. I can see the dust glinting in the yellow streams, spiraling upwards, defying gravity. Now I have shifted and am stuck in the half light, ringlets casting long shadows on my legs and on my paper. The mirrors of my dream catcher dance gently, and flecks of white light chase across my shelves, along the spines of the books that I have yet to read. There is this long pause, that moment when your eyes open wide and take it all in – and then he shifts in my bed, and I stare at my crumpled jacket on the desk chair in front of me, instead of glancing at the dark hair on his legs or the smooth curve of the backs of his ankles.