If I could fill a jar with what ifs. Round, smooth, multicolored marbles that I take out one after the other and roll between my palms. You would be the one on top, light blue with speckled yellows and oranges that catch the eye. I’d hold it up to the light, turn it this way and that, examining the tiny universe frozen within.
It’s one of a thousand possible mornings. The sun creeps up slowly as though to avoid startling the couple in bed, peeking through the curtains, caressing a smooth cheek and the hands tucked up under a chin. I love you like this, the sun whispers. You’re beautiful with your guard down.
A soft moan, barely a sigh, escapes pursed lips and the girl flips over, away from the light and into the curve of a waiting arm. He pulls her closer, still half-asleep, finds her forehead with his lips. It’s a habit now, a motion he performs so often that he does it in his sleep.
The sun crawls past the girl’s head and flicks his lashes until he pries one eye open. Squinting he reaches past her body to the curtains—almost—but no, not quite reaching. The girl snuggles closer to him, her nose crushed against his chest. He tries not to chuckle but each breath tickles his skin and soon he is shaking with suppressed laughter.
She whimpers, fighting a failing battle against waking.
His face softens at the look on her face, forehead scrunched, mouth frowning, eyes tightly, defiantly, closed.
“Baby…” he whispers.
Her breathing changes, consciousness pulled decidedly from dreaming.
He waits a heartbeat and whispers again, “baby…”
She ignores him.
“I know you’re awake.”
“We both know you don’t snore.”
She fake-snores louder, burrowing her head into his armpit.
“Ok, you’re right that was a test. You do snore. Louder than that guy on the plan to Mexico that one time. Remember him? The flight attendants had to make a mock-announcement to wake him up. The whole plane was complaining. Good thing you didn’t fall asleep on that plane, baby. We’d have been banned from Air Canada for life.”
A giggle escapes from underneath his shoulder.
“Plus,” he continues “what with all the farting you do in your sleep you probably would have poisoned all the passengers and we’d be dealing with a whole—OW!”
She props herself up on her elbows, glaring. “I don’t fart in my sleep!”
“Did you bite me?”
“Say I don’t fart.”
“That really hurt.”
“Say I don’t fart!”
“Are we talking in general or only in your sleep because I swear every time you make me order Thai—OW! Ok ok ok you don’t fart, ever.”
“That’s what I thought!” She grins triumphantly, her hair a mess of tangles, eyes alight.
He reaches out and twirls a strand around his finger. She cocks her head slightly to the side, then leans down and kisses the top of his hand.
“I love you like this.” He tells her quietly.
“I don’t know, like this. Right after you wake up. Open, like this. Before you have time to put your faces on. Before anyone else gets to see you. When you’re just mine. When you belong only to me… when we exist only to each other.”
A shadow passes over her eyes and she looks away.
“Hey.” He tangles his whole hand in the hair at the back of her head.
She looks up at him from beneath her dark lashes.
“All that… to say… I mean… only that I love you.”
The shadow passes like clouds from her eyes.
“You know what I love?”
“Is that your way of asking me to make you pancakes?”
“Hrrmph. What do you think this is? Top Chef?”
“It’s just that you make them the best. Cute little circles. Every time I try to add bananas the machine explodes and the batter burns.”
“That happened one time. One time!”
“Once was enough. I know when to throw in the towel.”
He removes his hand, crosses his arms over his naked chest.
She surveys him. “Ok. Ok, one back massage.”
He raises an eyebrow.
“A back massage AND a foot massage?”
He raises both eyebrows and snorts.
“Really? Really?! Ok, a back massage, a foot massage, and…”
Her lips find his.
She swings a leg over his hips, climbing on top of him.
Her hips rotating and grinding until a moan escapes him.
She pulls away.
“No one is ever going to love you more than I do.”
He reaches up, lightly traces the outline of her lips, the corner of her eye.
“Baby, come on.”
“I mean it.” A lip trembles, vulnerable.
“You had me at ‘cute little circles’.”
A slow smile.
The sun rises in the sky, leans against a cloud, runs a hand through his sun hair. Sometimes, every once in a while, he thinks, they don’t even need his help. Sometimes, they get it right all on their own.
If I could fill a jar with what ifs. With all the nagging fantasies. With all the mornings I never live, the things I never say, the people I never love… or leave. I’d fill it to the top. I’d screw the lid on tight. I’d push it to the edge of the table, take a deep breath, and with one more soft touch, let it fall.
Let it fall, smash, smash, smashing on the ground.
If I could.