Life is grayscale. And in the fluid continuum that is our existence love and lust lay on the same spectrum. As a writer, I am interested in this alchemical relationship. This is an excerpt from my forthcoming novel, “A Biography of Fear”.
And if eroticism is that anticipation which comes before an encounter; if eroticism is about the ascent upward into our sexuality – then this piece embodies that notion.
I don’t sleep. I don’t have dreams. I have conversations. The same ones. Over and over. Like I am rolling around in a sound Laundromat.
And so I lay in wait. Under my sheets. Hoping for a cliff. A wall. A stop sign. An end.
Then, slowly, the light outside turns from street-night-light black to gray, then to a washed-out amalgam of pink and blue: the early mourning hue. From up here, on the second floor of this safe mansion, the city churns-on below us. In just a few short minutes the day will open and the bustling and the congestion and the ambition will surround us. Stand on our chest and suffocate us.
I can already feel the lead in my belly balloon into a sailor’s knot in my throat.
And all I can do is stare at the ceiling in my frozen pose, to watch the light morph and flicker.
This is today. Yesterday. The next day. Every day.
This is the sound of my heart breaking in the morning.
Ever since Valentine’s Day I have been sleeping on Emily’s couch.
Three weeks down the road and I am beginning to find comfort in the itchy, ratty fabric that is stretched over it. Emily apologizes. Says she would never have picked this ugly couch. It was already in the room, when she moved in. She drapes a comforter over it. She says that it pulls-out, into a full bed. I say, yes, maybe tomorrow.
For the previous week, Emily and I have been drinking. And while, even just two months ago, I didn’t enjoy the alcohol buzz, I am now beginning to gain a taste for the acidic burn down my throat. And, I don’t mind the sensation of when it all comes back up again.
In this space where the polarities are finding common ground, I figure:
Vomiting isn’t so bad. It’s almost like crying: When I feel it coming, I go find anything that looks like a toilet, or a place to hide.
Separate or together, they both feel the same; they come from the same place – that place where the fearful, heavy, falling heat lives, behind my sternum. They both launch up and out my face. Out my lips, my nose, my eyes. Watery and with mucus. And when I’m done, typically – I feel better.
After a night of this: Acquiring a taste, vomiting and drinking, and sobbing and sniffling – I slip into a tired pose on Emily’s couch. I lean into the pillow that she fluffed for me that morning. I open the sheets that she so carefully tucked-in at some point in the day when I was working…
Leaning back into it all and I watch Emily move around the room in graceful sweeps. She hums songs and looks over to me every now and then. I look away. I try to give her privacy when I sense it is needed. She slips into the bathroom, to change.
I close my eyes and open my ears.
I hear water running. A toilet flushing.
I don’t know what I am supposed to feel. Warmth. Love. A friend. Fortune. Loss. Sadness. Her. SHE: The girl I lost. I don’t know. I don’t know. I can barely feel anything. As though my fingerprints were cut off at the tip and now I no longer have a signature to seal a kiss on the envelopes of my emotion.
Emily paws by me and turns down the lights.
“Tired?” She sighs in my direction.
My heavy head falls forward and my eyes begin to leak. Tiny molecules of salt sadness trickle down my face.
I feel Emily’s finger sweep against my cheeks – to gather a couple of the raindrops, up and away.
She turns out the last of the lights, walks across the big room and I hear her crawl in-between her crisp white sheets, way over there. It sounds like she is walking through a forest of newly fallen snow. Rhythmically.
The room is silent, except when Emily rolls over. It sounds like she is swiping her arms outward; and making snow angels. She says my name.
I am entranced by the sounds of this winterscape. I have yet to lay completely down, as if a pillow or blanket or anything will taint the swollen sound of Emily in her bed. I want to hear it all. Warm and cold and inside and outside – I am everything, all at once.
“You know…” I can hear her voice tremor. Trill.
My silence stands for, yes. With a question mark.
“You can have whatever you want… Here…”
From across this big room, I can feel her words in the darkness. They are pointed. Right. At me.
I let some undirected words whistle over my tongue. But they were unformulated melodies, and luckily – inaudible.
“You don’t have to sleep all the way over there…” Emily coos again.
She wants me to kiss her.
I can feel it.
But I cannot say this much.
I do, however, purse my frown into a round welcome for Emily’s red desire. With this look on my face – and from afar, it looks as though I am ready for this, kiss. This even though I am unable to open my mouth and speak the words very clearly: Thank you. But I cannot kiss you. I miss HER lips. The girl that is gone – I miss HER lips.
The girl that I lost. The girl I can never have back. I miss HER lips.
If you want me, I am forever on loan. Know this, I want to say. If there ever was an element of possession in love – I am still HERS. If there ever was an element of possession in love – I am not HERS. And SHE is not mine.
Anything less than HER lips are unacceptable. Unforgivable.
This is why, I tell Emily – on those nights, when your hands are saying more than I will hold you and protect you in your walk up the streets of sadness – this is why I say to you, in earnest and in pain, that the blood does not – will not – coarse down to my midsection. No, I say, I cannot – will not – kiss you.
“But, you don’t have to stay all the way over there…” Emily urges me on from across the slick, darkened room. “You can have whatever you want…”
A couple heavy breaths into my deliberation and I pick myself up, heavy and slow as though I am carrying the entire couch with me. I step towards Emily and her white snow of sheets.
The sound of my steps are usurped only by the sound of her crunching in her winter bed. I can hear her sliding over, oversized snowshoes and all.
She is making space for me.
My chest is shivering when I sit on the edge of Emily’s bed. As though I am sitting at the edge of the forest. Looking in. Through the dense maze of trees where I cannot see the other side. I am nervous and am weakly unsure whether or not I have enough to heat to walk through. But,
I do. Want to lose myself. In Emily’s white forest.
I know that this is where I am supposed to be confident, calm and crawl into her warm body. This is where I am supposed to further my tale as a man who loves women. But I am distracted.
I am me.
I am not.
I am there.
I am not there.
I am lying.
I am around the corner.
I am not.
I am me. In the forest. In the forest.
I inch further onto the bed. Closer to Emily. I hear the snow crunch and she slides centimeters closer to me. It feels like days are passing over the tops of the trees in our forest. And my deliberation goes on forever: sun up and sun down.
Should I kiss her, or not?
And then, for the first time, I lean in…
In the morning, I wake to the sound of birds outside the windows. The sun. Emily warm, on my hip.
Spring is on its way.