Auben’s wedding shower ended at 2:45 PM with Auben, Mom and I lugging dozens of gifts out to the car. As we sat driving through the rain on North Avenue, I felt anxious and irritable. I managed to somehow not eat enough at the ritzy Range brunch, unable to down another bite of sickly sweet French toast and pancakes.
When we pulled into the driveway, I announced I was going to go on a walk. “Do you want company?” my mom asked. “I think I’m fine going by myself.” I pulled my dress over my head and pulled off my heels, threw on my cropped black sweater and black jeans.
After stopping at Trader Joes for radishes and bubbly water to soothe my stomach, I veered toward downtown Oak Park on some errands. Anything to walk off the sugar and clear my head.
I rang Alex when leaving Trader Joes, walking straight toward his teen-home-turned-apartment on Marion street. He texted me back later on to see what I was doing. As usual, not much back and forth needed to occur. I prefer going to his house over anywhere else anyhow.
I walked over and the door was open. Dropping my coat and kicking off my shoes, I ascended the stairs I’ve treaded for ten years now. I still get the same butterflies when I walk in that door that I did the first time. It seems impossible to me the comfort with which I can now take the steps up those stairs alone, knowing he’s waiting for me.
It’s strange. I know it is. That I go over there, that I climb the stairs, and enter his room where he waits for me. But I don’t care. It’s comforting. It’s easy. I enter that space that I know, with an intention that we both understand.
Simple? Probably not. But comfortable, familiar, sacred.
I open the door to his room this particular day and warm air exhales like it’s been held since last night. He’s sitting on the couch drinking a beer, watching a movie – Maze Runner. Notes that he read the book and thought he’d see the movie, that he’s gotten no studying done today, that I’ve walked in on his Lazy Sunday.
I toss my water bottle by the floor and lay across him, his knees tucked under my ribs. We could be seventeen.
I tell him about the wedding shower – about the sweets, the gifts, the “oohs” and “aahs.” That I’m exhausted. My wool sweater feels heavy and sticks to me in the hot room. I take it off, a torn lace bralette underneath. He puts his cold hand under my back as I flip over to rest my head on his lap, and I pull the other onto my belly. We talk about his MCAT – he may wait until June since his mom is coming in town in April. He asks how I’m doing, and I tell him about the two jobs, the possible third, the Cover Our Rust bridge, the music videos.
He’s been tracing his finger along the side of my face, straightening my hair between his fingers. I close my eyes and let him for awhile. I open my eyes and look at him. We can make eye contact now. I remember a time when we couldn’t.
The moment his fingertip touched my head, I think my heart broke and filled at the same time. The surprise of it, the sweetness of it, the fabric of time stretched behind us and ahead scrunching and snapping back. Or undulating like breath.
Oh, I’ve known I love him for ages. The way you love a bad TV show or a root beer float.
But what is he, his heart and feelings for me, and what is he in a partner?
I experience him only within the world confined by stale air and a four story apartment. Friends limited by who still drags him out of the house.
There are things I haven’t asked him for – dates with dates and times, commitments, to listen when it isn’t convenient or punctuated with sex. I don’t know any more if I fear his answer will be no, it’s more that I expect it will be, and don’t want to break an unbroken thing.
I hold his chin between my thumb and index finger and look upward into his eyes. I lift my head to kiss him and he says, “I wondered when you’d do that. You know it has to be you that does it.”
I know Alex, I know I do.