Before you left for work this morning, you knelt down at my side of the bed and turned my face toward you with a gentle pull of your fingers. I’d listened to you in the semi-darkness of early dawn as you pulled your jeans on and hummed to yourself some old, country song without realizing I was awake. You murmured to the dog to lie back down, scratching the spot he loves behind his left ear, and made a mad dash to silence the alarm on your phone. Listening to you dress put me at ease; half asleep with you standing there, even as you tripped over my discarded pile of sweaters and skirts.
When you crouched beside me, I leaned into your hand as it drew a soft line across my jaw and down into the base of my neck. The blankets lay atop me, ruffling slightly like tail feathers against my naked chest, with the dance of the fan. When my eyes finally worked open and met yours, they were already smiling.
“You’re the most beautiful drooler I’ve ever seen,” you teased, the edges of your eyes crinkling with humor. Eyelashes for days were dusty in the morning light seeping through the window with a voice gritty from sleep, an octave deeper than it would be fully awake. I snorted a laugh, stretching my arms out above my head to smack your shoulder playfully.
The blanket fell to my waist with the movement and your eyes flickered for only a moment before falling to study the pale skin along my collar bone then down, down. Your hand lay against my neck, completely still in the silence but I felt the pulse of electricity awakening in the square foot of space between us. When you met my eyes once again, they’d glazed over with something I could only compare with grief.
“God, I have to go to work,” you nudged, your nose bumping mine and your thumb tracing a circle across the column of my neck. I never have understood how a man with such rough hands could trace a rhythm so tender, igniting my pulse points like a trail of wildfire. Your thumb gained force and moved back toward my jaw to trace the edge of my bottom lip. Reaching out with my teeth, I nipped softly and shook my head.
“This whole being an adult thing really bites,” I smiled. I shook the blanket free from my legs and pivoted to sit at the edge of the bed. You remained level with my knees, hands finding my thighs before I could stand. Goosebumps frosted my legs when your fingers pressed down into my skin and I saw resolve settle between your eyebrows like the smoothing of rocky waves.
“No, don’t get up, baby. I can give you ten minutes. Let me.”
Biting back the grin begging to stretch my cheekbones, I did my best to look up at you innocently when you rose to your full height in front of me. I pulled you closer, my hands on your hips and flushed at the groan that rattled out of your chest.
“If we have ten minutes, I’d much rather give them to you,” I whispered, my lips grazing the bare skin above your jeans.
I sit now at the kitchen table, an hour before I need to start getting ready for work, with a pen, notebook page, and the echo of your goodbye-kiss still on my mouth. I stole your favorite hoodie from where you’d tossed it onto the back of the couch, the smell of your laundry detergent as fresh and comforting as the morning sunlight on my hands. The radio is playing on top of the refrigerator, its soft lull hushing along with the coffee brewing on the counter in a tap-tap, grind-beep, cadence. I couldn’t seem to close my eyes after you left and I felt the iron, chainlike tug of words pull me from bed. “Write it, write it, write it” they clanked. “Tell him, tell him, tell him” they rasped.
It all started at supper a few nights back when the discussion of millennial live-in relationships was breached. I watched your cheeks bloom red when my grandparents joked about how often you seemed to stay over, the drink in your hand almost spewing out of your nose. I fought a laugh but knew it effected you intensely. I’ve been with you long enough to assess this reaction wasn’t out of embarrassment so much as it was the fact you felt disrespectful to their generation and their moral code. You were born forty. You were also born with the biggest heart. In a sense, I see it, you know? I see their view as Christians and, while I know full well they aren’t judging you and I, they are, in a way, “disappointed.” We didn’t wait for marriage. We aren’t engaged, looking forward into the future. We’re just us. A set of mismatched salt-and-pepper shakers with opposite personalities, slowly moving into the future and taking it one day at a time.
On the drive back to town, I reached for your hand and studied the callouses lining your palm. I wanted to say the words out loud: “I’m fine with how we are.” But it didn’t feel right, not in that moment. It seemed to downplay/discolor everything I feel about you when all I wanted was to communicate –> I’m fine with the way we love each other. We live in a world where “living together” has been desensitized; I watch couples with/without children, engaged/common law, just in the stages of puppy love/been together for fifteen years living together and I feel not a single bit of condemnation for any. It is not my place to decide what’s right for them as a couple nor is it something I really care about all that much – why get involved when it doesn’t directly effect me? You know what I DO feel – happiness for them if they are happy. Hell yeah.
We do not live together and I don’t see us doing so in the near future. There is gray area, however. Toothbrushes, extra house keys, specific parking spots, fluffy pillows next to flat ones, different cereals, and the late night question of: “Is it okay with you if I just stay here?”
The answer is always yes.
I take for granted my ease and appreciation with our “situation” but after supper the other night, I felt the obsessive urge to communicate how I feel as a woman in her mid-twenties (openly independent and wholly set-in-her-ways) trying to love a man pushing thirty (equally stubborn yet patient as the day is long).
We were both alone for awhile before we met each other. We both trotted down different paths when it came to our belief system. If tomorrow you wake up and your heart screams itself ragged: “This isn’t the path I choose for myself as a Christian man.” – I will not only respect this decision but will do everything in my power to rise to the occasion. Will it be difficult? Of course. Will it be worth it? Definitely.
I chose you. No matter what anyone in this small town throws in our faces, we both made a conscious decision to be together. You are not a fling. You are not a phase. You are not a “suitable fit.” And you are a not a Plan B. You are the choice I made when I looked into the eyes of an equal and impressive human and felt the shake of change. I am not using you – physically, emotionally, or financially. You are the person I wake up and choose. Everyday. And will continue to do so.
This is me trusting you. You’re not a late-night-hit-it-and-quit-it, dude. Maybe for some people, sex is just…sex. Not here; not in my heart. What this is built on: I trust you with my home, my body, my possessions, my family, my dog, and my life. I trust you in my bed and out of it. I hope and ask for the same.
Valuing you is my favorite part of loving you. Yes, you’re a phenomenal kisser and you can turn just about any girl’s head when you walk through the door. But you know what gets me? Your sense of humor. Your quirks. Your opinion. Your safety. The way your laugh makes me laugh. The chills I get when I meet your eyes across a room. How hard you work. I value you continuously and am grateful God gifted me such a well-rounded person to do life with.
I need you. Not to fix the leaky sink (that would be nice), not to help me with the bills, not to listen to me gripe about work – but I need the chemistry that’s present when you’re next to me. The grounding. I am always in the clouds, nose in a book, painting, living in an alternate reality. You, you are my rock. Needing you isn’t me being clingy – it’s me saying: “You’re the best part of my day. What would I do without you?”
It’s hard – living in a town of fifteen-hundred people and knowing certain ones are thinking: “That’s completely inappropriate.” when they see your vehicle outside my house. When everyone knows, well, everything about everybody. It’s hard being young (because we’re definitely still young) and not knowing how to let go of a tiny piece of yourself screaming: WHAT IF THIS DOESN’T WORK? We were solo creatures for a majority of our lives up until this point and we exist in a culture that flashes “players” and “hookups” as glorified freedoms. Hell, I think in a way they are. But that’s not what we’ve got going here.
Before I close this notebook and go put my makeup on, I’ll leave you with this…
Yes, we’re “sleeping together” but my heart has never felt more cherished or grown more in love than when I “sleep with you.” Labels do not make the relationship. We do. I wouldn’t trade waking up to you humming Merle Haggard for any “appropriateness” in the world.
I love you.
© Pearl Bayou 2016