It’s raining. Hard. This proves to be an all around fail, as I’m wearing a wife beater and flip flops. I pace impatiently at the entrance, trying to look out but not wanting to get wet. I take out my little pink phone, press and hold ‘2’ and connect with my best friend. She tells me about our friend who’s going through a breakup right now and I swear I’m listening. Then the car pulls up and the inside of my mouth turns to cotton. My heart starts beating faster and I feel the heat of a flush creeping up the back of my neck and around to my face.
Butterflies. That’s what I feel. After all this time, still butterflies.
I run for the door and jump in. T.I. is blaring loudly from the speakers, the song about keeping in touch with a girl you once loved after she’s gone. It seems almost absurdly appropriate. I struggle to continue my phone conversation but I’m acutely aware of him, as I always am in his presence. I smell his cologne; Burberry. It hangs heavy in the air and I try not to admit to myself that I’ve grown so accustomed to the smell that I can identify it in a crowded room. At the next light he turns my head towards him.
“Hey mami,” he says and he kisses me. He tastes like the mint mouthwash that is sitting on the back of the toilet at his place and the cherry chapstick he wears. He’s familiar. After he pulls away when the light changes, I lick my lips and try to commit the taste to memory. I know that I should.
We get to his place and he takes my things from me, places them on the floor by the bed. He takes the sides of my face in my hands and looks and me a long time before he kisses me. His lips taste of mint and sincerity.
“I missed you.”
I smile, hoping that if I stay mute I will leave behind no words in this room that I will wish I’d taken with me later. I tell him that I want to shower because I’ve been climbing ladders and hanging lights all day. I’m dusty and sweaty and now wet and clammy from the rain. I don’t tell him that a shower is my excuse to get away from him before my heart spills out of my mouth and onto the floor.
As I take off my clothes, he goes to run my water for me, as he always does, and I smile at the vague familiarity of an almost routine. It’s almost like… well, almost. He comes back in and throws me a towel after discreetly checking to see if its clean.
“Cute,” I say, “you’re such a bachelor. Nothing gets past me you know.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of.”
I ignore the implications hiding just below the surface of his remark and go climb in the shower. It’s hot, not too hot, just hot enough to turn my skin red. Just like I like it. I smile again. Maybe I’ve taken a few showers over here.
After a minute the door opens and he steps in, just like I knew he would. I watch him through the sheer curtain. I will myself not to react outwardly. Maybe I don’t, but on the inside I’m a mess. I watch his movements, steady, slow, the deliberate movements of a very confident and disciplined man. I’m in awe of him, physically, yes, but also because of who I know what lies beneath the skin. I watch him and try to steal it all to the file folders of my mind, his light eyes and easy smile, the set of his jaw, the width of his shoulders. Even as I close my eyes and wet my hair underneath the shower head I can see him still in my head, his well defined arms, the dips and curves of the muscles in his stomach accented by the mole just below his chest, a little to the side, the broad spread of the muscles in his thighs. I know him. Everything about him and yet still not enough. He turns and leaves the bathroom and it is not until that very moment that I realize I’ve been holding my breath.
When I’m done and slide back the curtain, he is standing there watching me as he’s done countless times before. He’s slipped into my space so silently, so effortlessly, I didn’t even realize he was there.
“I figured I’d better shower too. Can’t have you all Dove fresh and I’m not.” I don’t know if it was a lucky guess or if he really knows I use Dove soap and wanted to let me know he studies me as I do him. He does little things like this that I pretend not to notice on occasion. Internally I beg myself to not overthink, for once.
“You should have gotten in with me.”
“I was going to but you know how showers are with us,” and I do. For a moment I’m back to the last time we were in this bathroom, in this shower, dripping wet, his hands all over me, my face pressed against the shower wall. Instead I focus on the cadence in his voice. I try to mentally record it so I can take that with me, too.
As he steps in, I leave the bathroom and go to dry off. Before I know what I’m doing, impulsively I walk back towards the bathroom, drop my towel at the door and get in the shower with him.
“Two showers never hurt anyone,” and we laugh because this conversation has been had before, more than once.
I wash his back, studying the details of sinew and skin and while I am lost in the rivets of water raining down his skin, I chastise myself for not leaving. Tonight, last month, months ago. But I never do. We talk while I wash him, he asks me about my day and we laugh as I tell him stories about the crazy people I’ve dealt with all day and he tells me about a white boy beating his ass on the basketball court. At some point under the stream of water he kisses me, slippery hands on the small of my back, pressing me into his chest. I hope I’m resisting but somehow I know I’m not.
We go in the bedroom and dress, easy jokes tossed back and forth across the distance between us. We crawl into bed after he turns on a movie, and I stay far away from him, not so much to give him pause but just enough so that I don’t have to touch him. I’m afraid of what might happen if I do.
“Come here,” he commands me in an almost whisper and uses his big arm to scoop me up under him. I shiver somewhere from inside. He runs his hands up and down the length of my side, stopping to play in my hair.
“I like the new hair by the way.”
We don’t watch much of the movie because we talk too much. Easy flowing conversation, words languidly shaping a comfort zone I know we have and hate to admit to. Somewhere in the darkness, his lips find mine. He kisses me to the rhythm of the rain hitting his window.
Lyrical; his kisses are like music.
I close my eyes and let him kiss me, return his kiss and hope he hears what I’m trying to say. He pulls back for a moment, the sides of my face once again home in his hands, and he looks me dead in the eyes. Not blinking, barely breathing, absolutely quiet. He looks at me as though he’s trying to say something.
I hear him.
He pushes my hair out of my eyes and kisses my forehead. Strokes my cheek with his thumb and keeps looking at me. Into me. Through me. I’m so invisible, so transparent. I feel it. Finally, he kisses me again, this time not playfully, dead serious, a timid, slow kiss that is so unlike this deliberate, decisive man I’ve come to know. This kiss is different. Feels different, tastes different, moves different. Something inside me shifts. I exhale and give in to the feeling. I lose myself in his touch.
Hours later I’m naked and on my stomach, sweat pooling in the slope of my spine. He is on his back, head turned towards me. He’s looking at me as I study him and I think it might be the first time we’ve truly let ourselves been seen. In that moment, I know. The butterflies feel more like boulders now.
“Baby,” he murmurs to me, “you gotta move to your side of the bed.” I smile in the darkness. I have a side of the bed.
He sets the alarm for me because I have to go to work in the morning. I try once again to lay away from him, back to him, feigning distance and indifference. He finds me in the darkness, pulling me to him, and I’m so aware of the feel of his skin against mine that I think my skin might burn where he’s touched me. Somehow we find ourselves entangled, legs and arms intertwined in the way we’ve grown accustomed to when we sleep. I close my eyes and my other senses heighten. I feel his breath on my neck, smell his scent in my skin. Our breathing falls in line and I try to remember it all, cement it all to memory because I know a day will come soon when that is all I’ll have of him. As the last snatches of consciousness give way to sleep, I think to myself that if there’s any mercy in the world, by the time sunlight comes I will have forgotten all of this, all of him and I will go back to how it was before the look in his eyes told me everything I needed to know. I heard him loud and clear. And now I wish my heart were deaf.