You didn’t know what those moments meant to me, I know that now.
Each one, seared into my memory like a grill into flank steak—how many times I’ve replayed them, I’m afraid to even say. Those cold nights spent warm in your bed, our bodies curved together like pale, crescent moons as you traced patterns with your calloused hands over the satin of my back, whispering things you’d never say in the daylight.
I loved this side of you best.
I’d turn slowly and face those dark, knowing eyes, the sensual, secretive lips you seemed to wield against me like a weapon. Like a force, I’d fall deep into your breast, burying my face, my sorrows and my joys in that abundant place.
Twining limbs and consciousness, we could float in a strange, limitless place for hours and then: the sleep that takes only lovers, like one final reward for all that exertion.
Sometimes you’d cry out from a dream, and I knew you’d been more hurt than you let on. Sometimes you’d chatter about wanting a snack, or the rain in Spain as you slept—I’d press my lips between your shoulder blades and smile to myself, completely happy—at least for that moment.
I loved the way you used to make love to me in the morning.
You were gentle as the pale winter light slipping through the cracks in your blinds—watching, lips curled in satisfaction, as I came again and again and again, as though you’d invented sex yourself one sunny afternoon on a whim, just for the hell of it.
I loved waking up beside you and bursting into laughter, telling stories before work, making up fantasy worlds as only those who share a wavelength may do. I loved the way your hand would graze my lower back as I poured the coffee, extra strong, of course. I didn’t mind that you always fried the eggs, because you really were the better cook—though I’d never have admitted that.
Before I met you, I didn’t know it was possible to like the way a person eats a banana, that brushing one’s teeth could convey raw sex appeal, that I could see you move across a room and feel my panties soak all the way through. I didn’t know how significant chemistry could be, what a completely irreplaceable and intoxicating vortex it is, or how once you’ve had it, you won’t settle for anything less.
I remember when you told me about the married woman you’d loved so hard, so fast; how she drove you out of your mind and calloused your ability to care, yet you kissed me so softly, each long, brown finger cupping my face like you were cradling the world in your hands.
I remember when you said you would probably be that 45-year-old at the barbecue, single and alone, lurking in your stained wife-beater beside the beer cooler. Yet you told me things, so many beautiful, sad things—things from the depths of you you said no one else knew.
I remember when you said you couldn’t be with anyone, not now; you were poisonous, bad news, a wet blanket, too jaded to make anyone happy—but you said this as you pulled me to your chest and held me there, wove your hands roughly through my curls and cried bitterly for something or someone in your past.
I chose not to believe what you said, the myriad warnings you gave me amid all that tenderness.
I believed instead the steadiness of your touch, each and every embrace, the “I’m thinking of you” texts that warmed my days and felt like the dawning edge of something real. I was naive enough to think you’d try, that somehow I was different, that you felt perhaps a fraction of the way I did. I never dreamed it would be so easy for you to walk away and not look back.
Is there a special pocket someplace in the universe where all of the leftover potentials from the “almosts” and the “not quites” go to die, not too far from all the single socks my dryer mysteriously eats? Still, I wonder how much of you and me was a lie; my intuition had never failed before.
To this day, I’m left still holding all of the questions.
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Editor: Bronwyn Petry
Photo: Elephant Archives