You are asleep beside me. The electric glow of city lights shine in from my bedroom window, painting your outline in the softest shades of silver. I am trying to stay as still as possible by taking soft shallow breaths, the bare minimum needed to not suffocate. There is a fear building in my chest and lungs, threatening to crack my ribs, that once you wake you will realise your mistake and disappear like lightning.
My bed, which always seemed more than large enough when it only housed me, seems too small to fit your frame. We are tangled together, your legs bent and knees between mine so that your feet do not hang over the end. I am thankful for the deep chill of winter because I do not know how I would be able to stay entwined so closely with your heat if it were summer. It is the height of cliché, but I am thankful it is raining. The cool air, the way the rhythm of the rain against the roof quickens in gusts of wind, makes me feel insulated and like we are in our own bubble of reality. Please, bubble, do not pop.
Our friends, who were mostly your friends first, have always laughed at your obliviousness. Even you have made comments in the past about how you don’t notice your surroundings or struggle to read the undercurrent of social situations. It has been four years since I moved to this city and was adopted by our circle, at first because we worked together. Many things have changed in four years, there have been new careers and lovers – some long term and some not. There has been loss as well, lost parents, lost hearts. Two things have not changed, the strength of friendship in our group and my silent love for you.
I am still dumbfounded you have never realised how much I love you. When I would offer to drive you home after a night out, I was certain you must notice the trembling in my hands on the steering wheel. How when we would be talking about books we’re reading, or music we’re listening to, I would become almost frustrated in my glee when I realised it was yet another thing we both mutually enjoyed. To be honest, I became convinced it wasn’t because of your social blindness, but simply blindness towards me.
My skin still burns faintly from where you touched me hours ago. My hips, where you held me; my lips, where you kissed me; my thighs, where you claimed me. I can’t bear to think about it because then I will not be able to stay silent and still. I lock away those thoughts until morning, when you will be gone and I can cherish them.
This is the closest we have ever been, apart from the necessary hugs shared in greeting between two friends. It is too dark to memorise the planes of your body, but I can feel your breath against my forehead and that’s enough, really. My hand is splayed across your stomach and as soon as I let my mind acknowledge it, my fingers betray me and dance lightly through the trail of hair below your navel, the touch sending tingles through my arm. The sensation must tickle because you sigh softly and instantly my hand freezes, afraid for the worst, but you stay sleeping.
Once, when I was very drunk from too many wines, I confessed to Carrie how much I liked your clean linen scent. It had begun months before – we’d been out drinking in a group for hours and throughout the evening I kept noticing how good something, someone smelled. It wasn’t pungent like aftershave, but a subtle mix of clean skin and something that made me picture white t-shirts. As the night wore on and the crowd thinned, we were standing next to one another and I realised the smell was you. I had to force myself to not lean into you just so I could gulp it down. After that night, I kept noticing it whenever we were near each other. I laughed to Carrie after my confession, saying before you I always scoffed at those romance novels that spent pages detailing how the protagonists would become obsessed with their love interest’s smell. Carrie, mercifully also drunk, cocked her head and said, “Wow, you really love him, don’t you?”
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t pine for you or anything even remotely that melodramatic. It actually surprised me how passive my love could be. I’ve had youthful crushes, where the only person in my eyes was them, but this wasn’t the same. I didn’t spend my nights thinking of you (well, maybe sometimes), or let my desire for you prevent me from seeing others. But my love was always there, shining in my eyes, if only you knew to look.
It has been six months since you broke up with your girlfriend and began a heartbreak recovery plan of casual hook ups and one night stands. When you came home with me tonight I thought I was at peace with that. I hadn’t realised there were tears on my cheeks until you brushed them away with your thumb and asked why I was crying. Instead of replying I pulled your face to mine and kissed you, the feeling of your weight above me distracting me from the truth.
It should be getting lighter but the heaviness of the rain clouds is preventing the weak winter sun from dawning. You begin to stir and I hold my breath, shutting my eyes tight because I think it will be easier on you if I am asleep when you leave. I anticipate the sudden chill as your body moves away from mine, the gentle bounce as my mattress readjusts to the weight of only one person. Instead you pull me in closer, your knee sliding higher between my thighs. All pretence of sleep is forgotten, my eyes snap open in surprise as your mouth plants kisses on my collarbone. Our eyes meet and perhaps it is only hope but I think I see the light of my love reflected in yours.