I can see the curve of her side rising and settling very gently. I think she’s asleep.
She might not be. One time, a month or two ago, she had fallen asleep against my shoulder while we watched Grey’s Anatomy, and I was watching her just like this for nearly an hour; and then she just smiled and opened her eyes, looked at me, and said “You’re watching me again.”
How did she know, I asked.
“You watch me all the time. Only when you think I don’t see.”
But it’s almost 4:00 now, so it seems safe. I woke up to take a leak, but there’s no way our bladder cycles are coordinated. That would be bizarre.
So I can just stare at her naked back in the dim light from the street, refracted through the rain-glazed bedroom windows. I won’t touch her; she needs her sleep. Her thesis defense is tomorrow and she’s worried enough already, though I can’t imagine that she won’t ace it; she’s only competent with the material, but razor-edge at thinking on her feet.
Laying my head against a pillow, another one under my armpit, I breathe in through my nose ever so slightly, inhaling the soft scent of skin and living and her. I am tired, too, exhausted, but I don’t need to be up tomorrow.
We had dinner at the nice-ish Italian place downtown, pasta and gelato, her stealing most of my garlic bread, then managed to miss our movie by walking to the wrong theater. So we got in her car, smoked a bowl, and drove around town, blasting the radio through her shitty speakers, bad Black Eyed Peas and a Sublime song we hadn’t heard in months or years. We almost ran over a tipsy Sam and Katya in the cross-walk near the drug store, then gave them a ride to their truck that lasted exactly through the last two verses of the song, which they helped us belt out the open windows—“Looovin’ is what I got.” We drove home, shared a bottle of red wine we weren’t sophisticated enough to criticize, watched an old Saved by the Bell episode on cable, and made love for an hour while we listened to a Beatles vinyl. A good night.
I wouldn’t have thought so six months ago—would have thought it was dull, or slow, a waste of time—but it was good. I was happy.
I really want to touch her neck, or her back, but I won’t. I carefully touch her hair a little instead, which is tangled and smells like sweat.
It seems impossible that I can be lying here like this, next to her, just listening to the rain and watching her breathe, not thinking about classes, or work, or my parents, or who keeps calling me from a 203 area code and hanging up. Or about Sarah. Or Val. Or Donny.
God, I want to touch her.
I remember a time when I was 13. My parent and I were staying at our cabin at the lake, and after failing to convince me to go on a hike with them, they took the little metal fishing boat and rowed out to the middle of the lake. I watched them with my binoculars from my window at the cabin. They didn’t fish. No hanky panky. Just sat there, side by side on the little bench, not moving and not saying that much. For hours. I couldn’t understand it.
A few years later, I understood, but was pretty sure I’d never find someone like that for me. For me? Someone on my wavelength? That frequency’s banned by the FCC, bro. There’s nobody else. Maybe they can understand you, you can live with them, but no one’s in the same place; it just can’t be.
I lean forward, wrap my arms around her, and close my eyes.