On his dark sofa, fabric worn, legless and set flat on the rug covered concrete floor, you turn towards me, one leg up on the cushion pressing, lean in and speak. Too much noise from too many gatherers standing in front of us for you to whisper or talk in normal tones, you shout above the revelry and music, Jazz (something by Herbie Hancock), a subtle half grin on your lips. You were unfashionably late to pick me up, but forgiven before my feet touched the floor-mats of your extra large SUV; black like your tight enough shirt, your underdone eyeliner, your library bag, your devious eyes. An insincere apology, something about losing keys or an unexpected phone call, which are just words, but words are honey and we feast on sticky sweet jars of them.
Someone neither of us knows interrupts, asks how we are. In unison “fine” and returning to your story about going back home and everyone expecting you to be someone different; clicking of tongue and teeth, followed by the first light in your eye when you mention cigarettes you forgot were in your pocket. You start to stand and then eyes wide, “Did you hear that?” I didn’t. “My pants, they ripped” while you turn, slowly, revealing the straight line, five inches across, below the right pocket, a hint of flesh. You laugh, “I knew they were old, but…”
He comes up and takes your hand, “Welcome” and “Thanks for coming”, a nod to me “good to see you.” Together we three follow a few others outside; smoking and laughing and pretension and pretext; everyone knowing something everyone else should know. We grin, nod, smoke, smile. You press my hand and we step away, back inside. I want to think of the rip in your jeans widening, but your story about husbands and strange kisses prevents it.
You are always leftover promises. Even when your mouth opened on mine, it felt secondary, but not less poignant. You tasted of American Spirits and cheap beer, teased that I tasted like chocolate, but that was only residue of something slipping, a faint coloring of the walls around, turning gray with remembering.
Everyone is attached to something.
With the key sliding against tumblers, a hand slips back to your pocket. Nothing but darkness and an empty apartment await us. She’s gone and we know it. The room where her things lived must be empty now and we stand at the doorway on the landing, wondering if this baleful feeling is justified. You breathe, take one step back, “I cannot do this”, but I know better.
I have been with you when we walked over this same frame, undressed, lay on the bed, the sound of our hearts so loud, so present. Our shadow secret, my hands on your shoulders, your head tossed back preventing my lips from reaching your neck. “She will be home soon,” my fingers on your breasts, the glow of the television and you touch my face.
The darkness a fog, tendering out of the doorway, making the porch light mute. The shrouded room speaks, holds all our memories close. What are we without the conflict? You fear nothing but collapsing barriers. Nothing left to keep or hold us apart and this is paralyzing, unimaginable. You despair over nothing but possibility. It is just an empty room, only empty space.
Just inside open French doors, curtains leaning in from an evening breeze, you are down on the carpet, legs against your chest, arms around your knees. On the bed, resting on the pillow, right hand up and under my neck, I feel the sweetness of the coming night and look at you. Our third country and room in three weeks; each bed the same as the last, each space the same light yellow. Sounds from below: cars, wet pavement, slow drippings from the balcony, street vendors and white collar workers off to their families or friends. Some go home to stare at walls, contemplate their separate, collective, aloneness.
You never mention the previous day. Your promise to me-only today, only now…and every tomorrow blends into this mantra.
I remember each kiss. The first being unexpected and quick. The second, more lingering, intoxicating, controlled. The third, rushed and sloppy with
teeth-knocking uncertainty. The fourth, deeper inside of you and inside of me. The fourth the connecting, binding moment where I knew. I asked over and over if you were sure. The fourth, the one I clench close until my palms are bleeding.
We have traveled together to where our ancestors called home (cold, damp places, ever and ever green), seeing nothing of them but the inside of hedonistic hotel rooms, day after day together with everything between us. All our love and all our lives spilling out, never tiring of the sound of our voices, or watching the other coming out of the shower, wandering the room with water dropping onto the carpet, the sheets, into open mouths, leading to the smell of sweat and the salty taste of skin after sex, over and over.
You sit and the wind chills over you, eyes closed, chin up. I follow the curve of your naked back (your strong shoulders, powerful arms). I am kissing you again for the fourth time.