We make French toast in the morning. The cinnamon and nutmeg filling the house with a comforting warmth. His arms find my waist and my lips search out his while the pan sizzles. I turn on the radio and put the kettle on for his tea, pour myself a cup of coffee, and lean back against the counter. He crouches on the ground doling out affection to my two Australian Shepherds. His hands in their fur he glances up at me, eyes laughing, revealing the little boy still alive inside the man. I want to rub my hands through his hair and let his eyes close, the way I have grown accustomed to. I want to feed him our concoction, sucking syrup from his bottom lip. I want to push him backwards to the floor, straddling him. The morning sun in our eyes until the bread burns, forgotten.
Instead, I collect condiments and set the table. I find him a book of New York Times crossword puzzles and read The Nation editorials while he interrupts me occasionally to verify an answer. I’m not much help but I rejoice when an answer I offer fits. I lay my legs over his lap under the table, settled, content. I go to check my messages on my cellphone and it freezes. So, I upset myself and jog upstairs to get my old standby. I switch out the sim cards as I head back downstairs and am turning my old phone back on as I settle into my chair when the first message in the inbox punches the wind out of me.
I can’t wait for cuddles and Chinese food with my baby.
Message after message, all dated the year before, all from L. My eyes glued to the screen and my thumbs scrolling viciously through each one. The books I was recommending he bring into his English class. The plans we had for the night. All the I Love Yous and endearments burning my eyes like chlorine underwater. I read them all, lost in nostalgia and the dull ache of scar tissue from a wound that never healed quite right.
“Denouement. That means ‘the end’ right?”
His voice startles my fingers from the keys and my mind back to the present.
“Denouement. C’mon, English grad.”
“Oh. Right. Yeah. I thought you were saying something else.”
I turn back to my phone, heart palpitating unevenly, pulled back from the edge. All the texts filling my memory with wasted space. The silly things we leave behind, unknowingly. I select ‘delete all’ and slide my phone away from me on the table. Take a bite of my breakfast, the syrup bittersweet on my tongue. The last word on the last page of a book you loved but needed so badly to finish.
I spend the night with my best friend, filling our cups with vodka, then tequila, then rum, and dancing wildly to electro at a club. We walk arm in arm through the streets and find ourselves at a friend’s house. Joints and cigarettes between our fingers. I blow supers into her mouth, lip to lip, and laugh loudly. I find a fedora and tip it low over an eye. Everything is loud and I trap a barking dog in a room, cautioning it like my demons. I call him to come find me and he does.
I get turned around on my own familiar streets and he rights me. I get hungry and he makes me grilled cheese from homemade bread. I eat it propped up in my bed watching Office Space, giggling. I get tired and he curls me into his wing. I don’t remember falling asleep, I only remember waking up with his bicep as my pillow and his body curved around mine. I only remember needing him to fill every pore of me, every cold space and every forgotten room. I wake him with my hips, slowly grinding into his. Rolling myself back and forth against him until he can no longer feign sleep. Until his hands pull the clothes off me and we devour each other in yesterday’s crumbs, smacking our lips and sighing.
Paolo Nutini – No Other Way (Live)