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The Birthday Dance - Friday, Dec. 20, 2019
Sunday, Apr. 14, 2019 @ 9:50 pm
Open Your Eyes
“I’m leaving town tomorrow afternoon for a few days,” I say quietly, my head resting on his bare chest, his arm around my shoulder. Gulls cry out repeatedly. The sky and city are infinite shades of grey.
“OK,” he says, asking no questions.
I wonder what is going through his head. I’d forgotten about this part, the part where we hold our cards close to our chest. The part where our old wounds come up in new situations. Like how, when we were playing board games the night before, we each plotted our moves three steps ahead. Picking up the pawn and moving it one square over, watching one another sidelong for a telltale reaction.
The next day, I pack for my trip North, again on the move to a different bed. All day my phone is silent; he holds his pawn mid-air, and I move through varying phases of emotions. At times hating my naivety, at other times confident in my vulnerability, knowing my value, and hoping for the best. I expose my anxious attachment style, bring it into the light, to deflate its power. Your worth is tied up in whether or not he texts you.
I leave the house and head to the airport. I take in the sunshine, the blossoms, the cool mountain air. I ride the bus down across the harbour and everything is so goddamn beautiful that I remember that I am OK and don’t need reassurance from him. I am more than OK. Even if that’s the end of things with us, I am grateful. The magnolia petals, laughing at length about a shared joke, the look on his face when I slowly let down my hair.
And at that moment, when the bus shudders over a bump and the sun glances off the water and into my eyes, my phone startles me out of my reverie. I glance down.
“You’re headed off soon, right? When are you back?”
I hear nothing from him while I am up north. I take the space to breathe, to contemplate. I compose messages to him and then delete them. Don’t be needy, Shannon.
Four days later, I am back at work sitting a few blocks away from him in his condo. I am busy sorting out my work life when my phone buzzes on my desk. I flip it over.
“Hey, you’re back?”
My body jolts. My heart races. I am giddy and faint and in disbelief at how much I am reacting to his message. I want to bottle this up, this feeling. He wants to see me.
I leave my office at dusk. I see him standing across the street. I walk towards him, and he’s watching me, and I’m smiling but can’t bear to hold his gaze. Glancing down shyly. I come up in front of him, and I look up, and we kiss. My heart is pounding, and it’s an intense and long kiss, a movie kiss, right across from my office. People walk around us; the sidewalks are busy with Friday night. I hear glassware clinking from the nearby patio, women laughing, the bleating of a crossing signal. I tuck my nose under his chin, lean into his chest, breathe him in.
“What’s going on down there?” he asks.
“I’m just happy.”
We spend the night roaming the night scene, a fancy cocktail on the waterfront patio of a French restaurant, stuffing ourselves with tacos while sitting on stools in a drunken late-night Mexican bar, walking hand-in-hand along the seawall past sailboats with tinkling masts and low-slung yachts.
He says things that make me laugh. He’s nerdy and has a loud voice and is a messy eater. But it’s tacos, so messy is inherent. I am laughing and licking salsa from my fingers, and his leg is against mine beneath the table.
He listens and responds and apologizes. He holds my hand and steals unexpected kisses.
The night rolls over into day. I lay awake for a long time listening to him breathe. He has a series of dreams. He snores lightly. Morning light filters into the bedroom. I study his beard, his nose, his ears. He rolls over and tucks himself around me.
I place my hand on the soft skin of his arm. I look at my hand, my nails painted the same translucent pink of the cherry petals. In the dreamy morning light, my gaze unfocused, I see blossoms falling around us, across my hand. Five petals laying there, strewn across our warm pale skin.
When he wakes, I roll over. He reaches over and traces his fingers lightly across my left collar bone in the exact way that I wrote about on Valentine’s Day.
How does this exist, this moment of perfection? Is this all a dream from which I will awake, alone and hollow in that attic in the mountains? If I can conjure this, what else can I manifest in my life?
On the second morning, I shower, combing my hair out using his conditioner. I leave the bathroom door open so that I can see the view, the condo towers, the harbour, the freighters, the layers of stratus clouds. I sweep my hand across the glass shower door to maintain my view.
I leave a few hours later. It’s hard to leave. He’s kissing me as I’m pulling on my boots. I leave and am out the door, and he jumps out to grab me and kiss me once more, his hand on my lower back pulling me back towards him.
“See you soon,” he calls down the hallway after me.
I walk to the aquatic centre. In the changeroom, I have a serious conversation with a naked woman, her breasts round and full, her hair greying.
I pull myself back and forth across the Olympic-length pool. When I tire, I jump into the open pool area. I dive down and twist around under the water like a seal. I practice handstands. I float on my back and feel my body rise and fall with my breath. Diving down once more, then hauling myself up onto the deck, water sheeting from my body.
If I die tonight, if I die tomorrow, I will die happy. I am full. I am free. Life is a miracle. Looking into Peter’s brown eyes, biting his lip, and feeling my heart beat faster. The beauty of being underwater, weightless, and air streaming from my mouth and rising up above me. Magnolia petals, larger than my hand, bruised and beautiful on the ground all around me.
“Open your eyes,” he says quietly.
I open them and a universe of stars is unleashed from within me.