Wondering, Fearing, Doubting, Dreaming

Slim Pail Girl

Our heads share one thick pillow, your body pressed close to mine – a thin line of person in the middle of a bed an ocean across, together by choice and not just by circumstance. You want to be here. I can feel it in the way your arm drapes over me, gently holding me close with an easy possessiveness.

I am, at long last, ready to let myself be possessed.

I resisted for a long time, fought the part of me that was used to telling me I was better off alone. I was used to the solitude, to the loneliness that I tried to convince myself was good for me. Concentrate on yourself. Concentrate on your work. You’ve got no time for anyone else.

And even if you did, they’d just leave.

It was easy to believe it, easy to let the helplessness creep in – easier still to let it set up camp and make itself at home. Hope was the thing with feathers, long since flown away. One year. Two. Five. Ten, and beyond…

I had never realised quite how lonely I was until you arrived, with that easy charm. The smile that seemed to promise so much. The soft, gracious tilt to your voice when you asked me my name, how I was doing, how I knew the other people at dinner.

And then that first long night, buoyed up by wine and good times. A night I didn’t think I’d ever experience again.

It wasn’t as different as I remembered, although you were new and unfamiliar in all the best ways. Touching you was like rereading a favourite book for the first time in years: a new copy of an old story, the pages crisp and pure but everything right where I remembered it. Every kiss was pinprick of light, building up one by one in the darkness to the image of a galaxy that I didn’t quite understand and wasn’t ready to question.

You shift behind me, just slightly; your breathing skips, and for a second I feel the tight clutch of panic in my chest: This is it. This is where you leave me. And yet you don’t. Of course you don’t, but old habits die hard. You didn’t leave that first night – and when you did, the morning after, you came back. Time and time again, you return to me, always happy and always eager to make me yours again. Always with that same electrifying touch, always surprising me even when I know I shouldn’t be surprised.

I am learning to view you as a rock, a constant. I am learning that it is safe to put down my foundations on you, in you. I am slow, but you are steadfast and patient; I think you might want it as much as I do.

And yet I can’t quite shake the feeling that it’s all too good to be true, the ever-present creeping terror that it’s all just one wrong move away from tumbling down. One day, I’ll say the wrong thing. One day, I’ll be a little too argumentative, a little too docile, a little too distracted, a little too old, and you’ll realise there’s a bright blue ocean out there to sail without this anchor weighed down around your neck. The thought kills me slowly, a papercut every day, bleeding me slowly dry with worry – and still, no matter what you tell me and no matter what you do to put me at ease, I don’t know how to make it stop.

‘Hey,’ you whisper drowsily, and then again: ‘Hey… you awake?’

One day, I’ll say the wrong thing, and you’ll leave for good – so for tonight, I say nothing.

I feel you plant a soft kiss on my shoulder, a kiss I’m not meant to feel except through the haze of my sleep – and for tonight, that’s enough.

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