But none of this happened of course. I left that morning like I had before with my eyes clogged with shame and my clothes drenched in his sweat. He told me I would wake up different but in the morning when his silent prays for me to leave became too much for my conscience I felt very much the same. The same as before and the same as every other girl. So I stuttered across the roads and through unwelcoming doors to my own home in my own skin and sweat. And he forgot about me in my first breath outside his room. And I tried my best to forget him in the four weeks we were apart. Different, but very much the same.
A long pause and I end the call. I divert my gaze, my thoughts. The leaves are tapping at my window again. The wind pushes them back and forth in a flowing tide. I watch, looking up to the sky light, the crisp edges stroking the glass. I want to zoom in and capture the moment the orange scrapes the window and I want to listen to the sound it makes because I don’t know what that sounds like and that’s odd because I’ve seen it so many times. That is odd isn’t it? I’ve seen it so many times yet I don’t know what it sounds like. As I stare upwards, I lay in the cocoon I created in my hours of slumber. My hand a pillow, my stomach the mattress and my arms a blanket.
And he didn’t need to text to say he was coming.
And he didn’t need to knock.
And he didn’t even need to say anything.
Instead, he lay down beside me and took my blanket and wrapped his whole body in it and he took the pillow and he placed it next to his own. And upon the mattress he rested his head and we lay there till the curtains filled with light and the storm subsided. Our bodies meshed together in fickle embrace. If an artist were to look down at us from this skylight, he wouldn’t know how to paint us. The lines of our bodies are blurred and frayed. As if dropped, our skin merges and shallows into the carpet. Our eyes closing, bodies breathing, minds at ease with the promise of another day paced to each other’s heartbeat.
And after 10 minutes (which turned out to be 2 hours) my phone tumbles in my pocket and the vibrations cascade down my leg. I answer.
Me: You don’t sound the same
Him: Please listen to me. I can’t tell you what I want to because if I did I would be naked and I would be everything and you would see every stain and every bruise and every scar. I can’t tell you what you want to hear because it’s those words that haunt me. And I can’t tell you how much you need me because it’s wrong when I know I need you more.
Me: Why do you sound so different?
Him: And I can’t tell you to forgive me because I haven’t forgiven myself
Me: Your voice…
Him: I know. I don’t sound the same because I don’t feel the same. It’s because I left your hands lonely as you lay suffocated on the floor. It’s because I was a coward and I wanted it to be perfect and it wasn’t because I am too tall to lie next to you and my neck hurt from looking down and my arms ached under your back. And I didn’t realise that it didn’t have to be perfect. It’s because in that moment you were everything and I was just a boy.
When he came over that time just to see me and not the others, who I think were at the cinema, I thought I had succeeded. So as my head began to fill as it always does when I see him, he told me he wasn’t sure how to feel. And when my head was 1/6 full I told him I wasn’t the best person to ask because I was lost and I wasn’t going to find myself here. And at 1/5 he told me that that didn’t matter and he wanted me to choose. Selfish. A quarter up I said I was elsewhere and to come back another time. 1/3 and he touched my hand to remind me that I was lying. Half way full I said I needed to lie down and so he lifted my eyes with his and he held my lungs in each hand as we walked to the floor together. And when my head was close to full he said I was everything he had never wanted. That’s why it hurt so much when he left, because my head was so full so I couldn’t tell him he was nothing I had ever needed and that’s why we were meant to be lying on that floor together. Because we made sense of each other’s confusion.
The next time I saw him I ran away. I went to the library or I went to the gym. I can’t remember and it wasn’t important. I was trying to be coy. Bashful. Irresistible. But I’d done it wrong because I’d never done it before. And my friends asked me why I left and why it took me two days to come back. And in all honesty I don’t remember what I said, because I didn’t realise it had been two days. So when I saw him again, the next week, I sat quietly in the corner and tried my best to focus all attention on everything but his presence. Which is hard to do when you’re thinking about nothing but him. So my body shivered under the weight of my torture and I think I pulled it off quite well because he left the room and went to the kitchen or the toilet or home. It doesn’t matter. It cleared my head and everything was zero again.
It took a few days before he let me speak to him again. I’d make a crude joke and he’d laugh, nervously. It’s not because I thought I was funny or to fill the silence but because he made it impossible for me to be myself. So I told ugly jokes and I didn’t make him laugh. When really I wanted to ask him was what he thinks about when he wakes up, because I always forget to check. And I wanted to ask what his parents call him, because that’s something people never talk about. And I wanted to ask him if he believed in me, because I was losing hope.
‘My tutor told me that we should write poetry drunk. And I’m really behind on work. So I guess I’ll have to drink tonight.’ It was funny and everyone laughed because, although I was using it as an excuse, it was true. So we drank gritty vodka and we went to the dark ends of town and I ended up in his bed again. And then in the dim, flavourless morning when the sun hadn’t even woken he asked whether I regretted going home with him and not writing poetry. And I told him: ‘but we did, didn’t we?’.