Tom Waits is croaking torch songs and I'm still surprised that you had any of his stuff on your computer. You take a deep, prefacing breath before speaking.
"So what are we going to do?" you ask me.
I can still taste red wine inside my cheek and the sweat on my forehead has dried. Your room smells like salt and exhaustion and the breeze from the open winter window runs its fingers across my chest and leave goosebumps in their wake. It's only about 2 AM--pretty early for an insomniac like me--and I can hear your roommate through the walls, watching and intermittently chuckling at what sounds like Mitch Hedberg standup. I want to laugh along to the familiar material but I don't want you to think I'm laughing at you.
How did we get here, do you think? If you has asked me a week ago, I would never have been so presumptuous as to assume that these puzzle pieces would've fallen into place as gracefully as we have. It's been effortless. The whole thing's been a sailboat with a goddamn southbound wind pushing exactly where we were to go. We've coasted.
I take a deep breath of my own, the humid air coating my lungs like wet paint. "I don't know."
But I mumble. The cold has taken away my vocal prowess and replaced it with stuttering gasps for warmth that my throat finds split seconds too late. I mean for indecision to come out, to possibly articulate even a shard of the world being opened to me, to my cautious eyes and withheld fingers, but out comes nonsense syllables. I sound like I'm speaking Esperanto and your previously half-closed eyes shoot open like pulled blinds.
"What?" you ask. "What did you say?"
I look around your room and take it all in. There are pictures all over two of the room's walls: you with family and friends and holding infants and smiling at Disneyland and graduating high school and kissing old boyfriends (not old like age-wise but old like they're-not-the-one-whose-name-you-were-just-whispering) and giving a presentation and at a Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight screening and holding a tequila shot (and then another one holding an empty glass) and reading a book in the corner at about twelve years old.
I can't help but stare at this picture. Not in a Humbert Humbert kinda way, but in a I Wonder If Our Kids Would Look Like That kinda way. Your hair was longer then, dripping past your chin and hanging down just below your shoulderblades, and it's darker than Kafka. You're looking just to the side of the camera, like someone was making a face to get your attention, to call you away from whatever fictional waters you were navigating, whichever creations through which you were steering yourself. The picture is far enough away (and you were far away enough from the camera when it was taken) that I can't tell what the book is. It looks like something too advanced for a twelve-year old; it doesn't have a colorful picture on the cover and it looks at least 400 pages thick. Pretty ambitious little devil, weren't you?
I wonder whose eyes they'd have: my gray blue or your green-flecked brown. What's the dominant gene? Do you have any redhead in your ancestry? Nine months after conception, would we be greeted with the flaming orange of a ginger fireball? Someone told me that redheads are dying out. Maybe we'd be the ones to replace them.
"I said 'I don't know.'" I cough into my elbow and try to suss out your reaction. Your eyes close again and I can't decipher what's going on behind those lids. A burst of wind comes through the window screen and you shiver. You curl up into an even tighter ball and roll into my arm and under the blanket. Your fingers nestle themselves in my chest hair (yeah, it's hairy. deal with it.) and you sigh.
"I mean," I say, "I don't know, like I'm not sure, not that I don't have any ideas. Because you just sort of appeared, you know? And I know that everyone appears, and I'm sure I sound really dramatic, but I can't really dial that back, I don't think, and still be honest. Or at least forthcoming, which I hope you'd want me to be. But I just know that I've spent a week now, seeing your every day, even a few mornings, and that's something I want to keep happening. I don't know what the future holds, but I hope it holds us, you know? Maybe there is a future for us, and maybe there isn't, but there's only one way to really find out, I think, and I'm not suggesting anything intense--I don't think I'm really suggesting anything, actually--and I don't know much about much but I know that I'm glad to be here with you right now and to know what it feels like to wake up by your side."
Dramatic-but-honest speech about my own personal insecurities regarding the opening steps of a new relationship? Nailed it!
You're still silent. I don't blame you, either. After a discourse like that, I can't imagine you'd have much to say. Maybe you're terrified of our potential. We've been marinating in it for seven days now and every bite of food, every opened car door, every kiss on the forehead, every hand squeeze has been a red flag of This Is Important.
But maybe you're scared of something else. Maybe you're already so invested that you're afraid of losing this. We're at a precipice and it's hard to know whether or not to jump or climb back down when you get to the top of a cliff that overlooks the ocean.
Or maybe I've just caught you off-guard. Maybe my sweetness and boldness and the way I couldn't make eye contact with you for about ten minutes before that first time I kissed you or when you were shocked that I had actually read Ulysses and the way I can't seem to let go of your hand, regardless of convenience, has opened up something in you that you didn't know was there. Maybe I've managed to erase your entire scarred past in a week. And I don't know anything about that past, but throwaway comments of yours have made you sound bruised like an aging golden delicious and I'm gentle and maybe knowing that I actually care enough to be soft and tread lightly has been enough to make you consider that the world is different than all of these other people have tried to lead you to believe, like there's some underground world of emotional Morlocks that are just waiting for your visit and hoping that you'll come on do---
"Sorry, what?" You stir and open your eyes. "I fell asleep. What did you say?"
"Oh. Just that I don't know what to do now."
"Well," you say, "I think it's only fair to tell you."
I'm grateful to the dark: in it, you cannot see me wince.
"Tell me what?"
"I don't want anything serious with you," you say.
"I don't want anything serious with you," you say.
"Okay," I say, just quickly enough to sound like my ego hasn't been shattered like plate glass.
"But," you say, pressing your lips against my neck, ear, cheek, "I seriously can't stay away from you."
The breeze kicks back up and brushes you hair from your eyes. Your forehead's complexion is clear as a still lake and I can't think of where to kiss first.