Kansas + Jasper

“Kansas? You awake?”

Sliding the blanket down away from my chin, I eyed Jasper across the room before pulling myself up into a sitting position on the couch. All the lights had been turned out, except for the dim laundry room lamp casting a faint glow in the living room. The darkness of the room made his skin look tan and the carpet muffled the sound of his footsteps.

I watched him cross the space hesitantly, the band of his sweatpants riding low across his hips and his feet bare. A cut off t-shirt bearing the logo of our hometown football team faded grey across his chest.

“You don’t need to sleep on the couch,” he whispered. “I’ll stay out here. Go crawl in bed.”

“Where did this blanket come from? Jas, I’m sorry I fell asleep,” I mumbled, still half-asleep. “I must’ve been more tired than I thought.”

“Don’t be sorry. You’re exhausted. I put the blanket around you and let you sleep while I worked on some laundry,” he stated, coming to a halt a few feet in front of me. The dark circles under his eyes were fading, a healthy complexion replacing the gaunt look he’d had a few days prior. His hands were tucked deep into his pockets and he kept shifting his weight back and forth, nervousness radiating off him in waves.

“Take it, really. I can sleep here. You deserve to have a bed all to yourself,” I smiled, hoping he’d take the invitation so I wouldn’t feel guilty. A part of me wanted him to have a full nights rest so maybe he wouldn’t be so on edge in the morning. I knew another trip to the hospital with him ticking like a bomb would be harder to face. “This is your home, Jasper.”

He wavered, leaning against the wall and chewing on his lips the way he only did when he was nervous to say something.

“Tell me, Jas,” I laughed. “Whatever you need. I’ll do it.”

“Yeah. Look, I was just gonna let you stay there because you were sleeping so well but I can’t sleep in the bedroom. In that bed.”

Pain stung the back of my throat, suddenly jolting me awake at the jab. I stood, feeling the dizzy rush of blood from my head too fast and stumbled. Reaching out to touch me, Jasper’s eyes grew soft, full of what I could only assume was pity. I leaned away from his hand, closing my eyes.

“That bed,” I murmured, wrapping the blanket around my shoulders. Tears stabbed pin pricks of heat in the back of my eyes and my throat roared for air. “I see. You know, the first time we ever slept together was in that bed. I brought you soup when you were sick in that bed. You proposed to me in that bed. God knows, sorry it’s so damn uncomfortable.”

Retreating a few feet, toward the bedroom he raised his hands in surrender, the look flashing across his face full of confusion.

“Kansas, that’s not what I meant,” he forced. Pointing to the bedroom door, he paused. Anger simmered beneath the surface of my skin as I waited for him to explain. “It’s just hard. It smells like you. And I don’t know how to get comfortable. I’m trying.”

“Sure,” I whispered back. Cloaking myself in defense, I slipped past him into the door of the bedroom and hurled the only knife I had left. “I’ll go sleep in there alone like I have for the past six months.”

Grabbing my wrist gently, Jasper tugged me back in his direction. His breath was warm against my cheek, close enough I could follow the outline of the sickle shaped scar beneath his bottom lip.

“Take that shit back, right now,” he forced, voice falling into a rougher pitch. “You think I am enjoying this? Not knowing you? Not being able to remember your favorite color or how you like your coffee or if I even loved you?”

His grip was firm but not painful, the tug of it reminding me how he used to grab me and kiss me roughly before I’d leave for work. The memory knocked the breath out of me, all fight leaving my body.

“Green. Lots of sugar. And yes,” I said quietly, not pulling away from his hand. “You loved me so much that I thought you were crazy sometimes.”

Looking up into his eyes, I removed my wrist slowly from his grip and the warmth of his fingers.

“I may be pissed at God and the government and the world right now,” I continued, slowly. “I may be sharp and brutal but, contrary to popular thought, you loved me for everything totally opposite. You always loved how gentle I was, how tender I could be. You’d watch me paint and I’d catch you smiling. You’d lean into me in the middle of the night and kiss my ears. God. You rescued me from so much self-hate and the belief that love didn’t exist. You protected me from my past and you were always there. Always. When work sucked or money was tight or that time I backed your pickup into the light pole. You were my best friend. I’m trying to understand how hard it must be for you to not remember. Trust me though, it’s just as hard for me to remember ever single moment.”

 

© 2016 Pearl Bayou – All Rights Reserved.

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