Thursday, May. 16, 2019 @ 10:05 pm
Russell hands me a knife, cutting board, and a bag of Brussels sprouts.
“Do you know what to do with these?”
“Yes. I once did this for an hour and a half at the soup kitchen.”
Together we prepare a meal in his small galley kitchen. I dry a plate with a tea towel while he puts a thermometer into a chicken that is roasting in the oven. I lay cutlery on the table while he stirs butter into the pasta. He opens the wine that I brought, a bottle that echos a conversation we had while hiking. He notices right away and laughs.
I sit down at the table and take in the view out the seventh-floor balcony door. Sailboats tacking back and forth offshore, freighters tethered to anchors beyond. The verdant canopy of large leafy trees in the foreground. How is it that I found two men with ocean-view apartments?
He places a plate of food in front of me. I feel my insides verge towards crying. I can’t remember the last time a man placed a hot meal of home-cooked food in front of me. I look up at him and am mute. I’m afraid to tell him how much this means to me. The depth of care that I feel at this moment. Thank you.
We eat slowly. I place my cutlery down between bites and sip wine; there is no rush.
After dinner, we sit together on the couch. We make out for a while, and his hands move softly across my skin. Crows cluck and caw in the tree outside.
He kisses my eyelids.
“Should we go to the bedroom?” he asks.
It takes me a long time to answer. Thoughts flood my mind. I am an adult. I am a sensual being. Why not? I am not afraid. Why deny myself this experience?
“I do want to feel your skin against mine. If we go, can you promise me that it won’t change things?”
“I promise. Will you promise me the same?”
I am curious about his response, but I now understand. I will never explain the reason here; this is not my vulnerability to share.
We stand beside the bed, and he runs his hands over my shoulders, and the straps of my sundress fall.
“I haven’t been in a real bed in ten days.”
“Is that why you said yes? To be in a real bed?”
“No. I’d have said yes to a roughly built wooden dock on a cold, green lake.”
He reaches over and lights a candle. My head is on his chest, and we talk quietly. I ask him about his relationship needs. I ask about his best friend growing up.
There is a moment of silence.
“You are beautiful,” he says. “I love how open you are.”
A gift. Expecting nothing in response. I manifested this but twelve hours ago. My body expands with fullness. I will never forget him saying his.
Eventually, he curves his body against mine and wraps his arm tightly around me. I luxuriate in his skin, in the soft mattress, the cool sheet skimming over my legs. He breathes deeply and steadily, like rollers coming in from the misty Pacific. I fall asleep too.
I have a dream that includes both him and Daniel. Daniel is yelling at me, trying to get something from me. Russell feels safe and protective, and he shelters me from the shrapnel. I wake and am still in Russell’s arms.
In the morning, I stand beside the bed and am about to slip my sundress over my head. He reaches to touch my back.
“Here, look at this,” he turns my back towards the mirrored closet doors and traces a finger around the arc of my shoulder blade.
“Your tan lines from the weekend are just like angel wings.”