One longer piece of fiction today. We hope that everyone has a good end of the year.
by Alden Coldwell
It’s bright. The light seeps through the faulty blinds and hits me straight in the eye. I burry my face in his chest and just breathe him in. I close my eyes and feel the perfect peeks and valleys of his knuckles, the smooth fingernails, the stiff tips resting lightly on his stomach, right where the trail of dark hair starts. I always linger on his fingernails. They are clean and unbroken and unfamiliar. I open my eyes and look at my own chipping and broken nails next to his. I try to keep them painted, so that he won’t see how sad they are, but the polish is already flaking off again.
He’s still drifting in and out of sleep, but as always I am awake. I lay there waiting. I know that if I can just lie there long enough he will pull himself out of sleep and he will say something. If I can resist pressing him, he will mutter whatever I want to hear.
“I like that you’re not full of bullshit.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re at a school with all girls. You know.”
I trace the outline of his muscles with my fingertips. There is a dense patch of hair right over his heart. He’ll be like my father; hairy like a bear. In a few years I’ll be able to run my fingers through it and fondly recall the smoothness that is dominant now. But that will have to wait.
My side still hurts from when he rolled on top of me last night. He says that he can’t sleep, the bed’s too small, but he will always close his eyes, rest his hand on my hip, the air will start to whistle evenly through his nose and then he will begin to snore. He tosses and turns the whole night and it’s me that doesn’t sleep. He doesn’t notice, though, and I won’t tell him. I can deal with being tired if I can spend those few, lazy moments lying beside him with the sun in my eyes. I can cope with the ache in my bones that will come later, after I’ve tried to move. For now I will just lie here, tracing the bones and the muscles, remembering moments that we will never share.
He pulls me close in a familiar, one-armed hug and the muscles flex and I hold onto his side, trying to distinguish the individual ribs like you can do with mine, but his are not so easily exposed. When I finally find one, I will trace it over and over, memorizing the way he is built. I am so used to my own body and watching it fall apart that I can’t comprehend his sturdiness.
When I finally get out of bed, my arms will still smell like him, I have been clinging so close. I will be able to feel him on me until I am back at home and in the shower and covering up his smell with tea tree oil and chamomile. I will wash him off of me, moving slowly through my day, and I will wish I was back in bed, tangled up in his solidness.
The silence is no longer comfortable; it is my turn to speak. I do not know normal things about him. I do not know if he is right-handed or left-handed. I do not know if he has any brothers or sisters. I know that he’s never been to New York, but he’s been to London twice. That he has a summer house in the Outer Banks and that it’s the only place he feels like home. We have skipped the preliminaries and moved straight to the little secrets it takes other couples so long to discuss.
“Do you have a middle name?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I was just wondering.”
“Yeah, I have one.”
I stroke his head, feeling the soft oiliness of his hair, and drag my fingertips down the side of his face, running them over his collarbone and kissing the side of his chest. He squeezes my side lightly and draws little circles in the small of my back. He is beginning to fall back to sleep. I will let him.
Tomorrow I will wake up without him and I will have to trace the circles myself. I always fall asleep clutching my pillow as if remembering hard enough will make him appear. He is never annoyed on our mornings, and I never press him. It is when we are apart, holding conversations where we can’t see each others’ faces that I will begin to pry and he will let his voice become uneven. He takes everything so seriously on the telephone, as if he thinks the whole world will overhear us. Never on our mornings.
I don’t want to move out of the covers. I get closer to him, trying to prepare myself for the harsh cold of the linoleum floor against my bare feet. My pants and my jacket are so far away, it’s not even worth it to try to move if I can run my fingers along his jawline and just lay there. But he has to take a shower, so he climbs out of our nest and brings me my clothes. He stays and he watches as I put them back on, and when I am finished, he takes me by the hand and helps me off the edge of the bed. I don’t fall into his arms this time, like I usually do. I stand on my own, and when it comes time to leave, I slip out of the door with a squeeze of his fingertips and a final glance somewhere to the left of his eye.
Alden Coldwell is a student and future teacher. She currently attends Simmons University. Her interests include intelligence and writing.