I can’t even explain the way we are wrapped around each other. We are arms and legs impossibly tangled and even I, prone to claustrophobia when cuddling, think that if he were an inch closer, I wouldn’t mind that at all.
He’s talking above my head, the entire length of my body too short to match his own, and I am listening. Mostly. There is a part of me hanging back, becoming acquainted with the exact note on the scale where his voice registers, tracing absentminded circles across the skin of his bare back, dizzy and intoxicated from the mingling of his cologne and his skin and my perfume and the rain.
I should be listening. He’s answering a question I’ve been sitting on for weeks, and I finally asked because I wanted, was ready, to know. Because I need to know everything. And because I already knew the answer but needed to hear it from him.
“So, you think it could be serious?” I ask him, succeeding in keeping my voice passive, even as I feel like a fraud.
“It could be. She’s dope. You’d like her.”
I make a sound, half giggle, half grunt and I sign my name on his back with the pad of my fingertip the way he has a habit of doing across on my thighs.
“Does she know where you are?”
“Yeah. We had the “if we decide to be exclusive how many people would you need to tell?” convo. She knows.”
“How many people do you have to tell?” I say with a laugh, knowing that with his good looks and limitless charm the list could be endless.
“There’s just you.”
I believe that, but I don’t want to.
“Truth is told I think she’s a little… intimidated.”
This of course makes me smile, as I am too often ruled by the boundless limits of my ego. If I know him like I believe I do, this is exactly the intended effect he meant this comment to have on me.
“I think I would be too, if the roles were reversed.”
We lay in silence for a moment, both of us retreating to wherever it is we go when we are both thinking something neither of us is ready to give life to, but never physically withdrawing from each other.
“I’d cut her loose if you asked me to.”
And I know this too. Knew this months ago when it was the girl from the concert and then when it was the girl at the grocery store. I know it now that it’s the girl from the birthday party I was supposed to attend and pulled out of at the last minute. My pride is in my ear telling me I brought this on myself because I didn’t show. Because I won’t commit. Because he is the latest in a long line of a repeating pattern that I can’t seem to shake despite being well aware of it.
Because I am scared.
“Are you happy? And try not to be too enthusiastic about it.” He chuckles, low and easy, the sound reverberating through his chest where I’ve laid my head. He pulls me that inch closer and I find I was right; I don’t mind it at all.
We lapse into silence again, letting the music coming from the iPod dock beside the bed fill the quiet. Before long, a song I fell in love with and shared with him early one morning as the sun climbed up the horizon shuffles on. He moves to disentangle himself from me and I immediately feel his absence. He comes around to my side of the bed with his hand extended towards me.
“Dance with me.”
I wrap one of my arms lazily around his neck, the other pressed against his chest, and lay my head there as we sway in time to the song.
If I were a shadow
And you were a street
And cobblestone midnight
Is where we first meet
Til the lights flickered out
We’d dance with the moon
And then I’d just fade into you
I give all my attention to the shadows we cast on the wall and try to ignore the words he’s saying in my ear.
Hours later, he’s sleeping soundly, having fallen asleep on my bare thighs. I disentangle myself as best I can without waking him and fold myself into the large chair at the foot of the bed to watch him sleep. I am filled with an odd mix of proud satisfaction at the way we have managed this untenable situation, and sadness at my own inability to stop doing this stupid thing I can see that I do like it is a tangible thing standing two feet in front of me on a clear day at high noon. I know there will come a time, in a few weeks, maybe a month or two, when he will reach for me or I will reach for him and we will be fine, resuming the rhythm of the friendship we used to move in unison to. We will catch up and we will talk about work and we will talk about dating and I won’t be consumed by the white hot jealousy I am so seldom prone to, and I will barely notice the catch in his voice when he asks me how whoever is in my life at the time is treating “his favorite girl.”
That time will soon come.
But this time, I do what we agreed I would do before he kissed me and rendered time and better judgment inconsequential. Tonight. Months ago.
I leave his shirt that I’d pulled on to run and grab ice on the chair. I leave his keys on the desk. I leave a message scrawled in red lipstick on the bathroom mirror, the origins of which are a long held inside joke. I leave a kiss on his exposed collar bone.