I didn’t so much sleep last night as nap. Doze. That’s what I did. I had a 4 hour doze, the kind where you lay in a fog, not quite asleep, not asleep, but just barely awake enough to realize that you aren’t asleep. I had a hard time getting to sleep. So, around 12, I got up and started downloading music onto my iPod and reading a collection of stories by Alasdair Gray. I gave up on a night’s sleep somewhere close to 4 and fell into my bed. I knew sleep wasn’t in the cards, I’ve had nights like this before, many of them in fact, but I’ve been through enough of these to know if I can close my eyes and rest my body for a few hours, even if sleep does not eventually settle in, I will be able to function well the next day. There is no “next” though, because there is no jump, no leap, no arrival of morning with a sudden haranguing alarm clock. There is no next because it’s all just one flow, and you’re aware of it, and you’re aware, in your sort of semi-consciousness, that you are aware.
There was nobody else in my bed. I don’t know when I realized this, it being the most obvious of observations because I live alone, but suddenly there was nobody else in my bed but me. Awareness through absence, I guess. And I thought about what it was like, that presence, knowing that person is there. It usually announces itself in the most subtle, most insignificant, most singular manner. It’s not the toilet paper fight, the dishes or shoes or just the lack of alone time. Those are common problems, all found by the light of day. There when you wake up. There before you go to bed. Petty shit. I lived with someone for a bit a long time ago. I’ve dated 2 separate women for 5 years. I’ve had prolonged periods of my life with a butt edging across the bed, in search of a spoon. But the best are the nights that you forget.
No, you don’t forget, you doze in that half place between wake and sleep, only aware that you are aware when something stirs next to you. There’s a sudden, slow, soft inhalation of air. Perhaps a turn. Maybe cotton brushes up against your thigh as they shift their ass closer to you. It’s a sniff, it’s nothing big, it’s just a move from here to there and you become conscious of that warm body across the bed.
I’m prone to many things. As someone who has never been jealous in their life, I dated a woman who sent me into blinding rages of fear, anxiety, and anger. With her I was as (and it took me years to realize and admit this) unjustifiably jealous as I was anything else: happy, content, in love, hungry. Put the duration I felt any of those on one side of the scale, and I’m sure that jealousy would plop up onto the other side to balance things out. It was an amazing gift, in the end, to see myself at my smallest, weakest and worst. It’s also a shame, but that’s how relationships go sometimes.
I dated a woman for an extended period after things dissolved for me and the girl I was living with—not for a long time, mind you, but long enough to become close, long enough to do things together, long enough to commit time. You’d think that equation would add up to something. Concern or a level of thoughtful awareness, but I was just a selfish bastard. I could have cared less how my presence affected this person. I was hell bent on making things go my way, and they did, and when that fact finally caught up with her, when she finally realized that I the accumulation of acts from our time together didn’t amount to much for me, she crumbled for a bit. I tried to talk her out of what she accused me of, that I was, in essence, using her, but my heart wasn’t in it. She was right.
Most people, I think, can date just for the sake of dating. I can’t. It isn’t in me. That was the one and only time I dated someone because she was fun, because she was smart, because she was risky and adventurous and hot and willing. I know for some people this is enough to make a hair’s width of a commitment to. I know they do. I see them. I just can’t do it. Other than that one girl, that one shitty selfish time, I’ve only been with someone when I’ve been compelled to be with them. I think a lot of people condescend to think that someone would sit around waiting for lightening to strike, but in my experience I’ve found the lightening necessary. Falling in love is like believing in God. There’s nothing there to prove anything to you, it’s just there, it is, because you say so. If it’s not going to be that, I don’t see the point to casually dating.
I’ve allowed myself to be overwhelmed by women, I’ve surrendered myself entirely to a relationship, prone to let the wind blow as it will, I wasn’t going to fight it. Why fight something that feels this good, that offers this much. I was with someone who I felt so fiercely for that I had no control over how the feelings manifest themselves. I think she felt the same way, because one second we’d be laughing and fucking like the molecules of oxygen was going to be removed from the air in 10 minutes, better make the most of it. The next minute we’d be at each other like caged dogs. You’d think we’d slapped each other’s mothers for all our bluster.
I’ve cheated, and I’ve been cheated on, and I can tell you that nothing is worse than either of these. Fidelity is a choice, but infidelity is a fuck you as I spit in your face.
I’ve indulged in purely sexual relationships, I’ve experimented with things I was curious about, and I’ve spent weeks wanting nothing more than to feel that certain someone’s palm slide into mine, fitting like a glove, as we walk New York City streets.
My point is that I’ve been prone to many things, many experiences, many emotions. But one thing I’ve never been in my life is lonely. I’ve been alone, certainly, often by design and frequently by accident or blunder. But I can’t think of a single time that I’ve ever suffered loneliness. As I said, awareness through absence and I’m just not a lonely soul. I never have been. I tend to seek solitude, I like my time. I don’t jump from relationship to relationship. In fact, if I were inclined to find patterns in my past, I’d say that I’ve been in love 3 times. With long stretches between the 3, times where I was alone. Not celibate. But you can have sex and still feel alone. It’s damn easy, actually.
I wasn’t lonely last night, I just realized how long it’s been since someone shared my bed. Not for a night. Not taking up space, but nuzzling into a staked out ground, defended turf, their pillow, their side, ending up with a certain portion of the blankets each and every morning.
Sexual chemistry is a given. When you fall in love, it has as much to do with mentality and personality compatibility as it does with this unexplained desire to suddenly feel every inch of that other person’s skin, to find out, quick, how they tick. To learn every trick, to study and study and want nothing more than to get them off. They turn you on, and you don’t know why, but you don’t want to just jackknife power bomb the evening away, as you do most of the time. For some reason being in love is chemical, and it makes you want to take your time.
I know why I felt like a war casualty last night, feeling across the bed for some phantom limb that suddenly itched like crazy. I knew it when I started thinking about it.
It’s simple. To me, all the big things, all the dramatic moments and memorable events of being with someone else are something of a given. You’re in love, senses are heightening, stakes is raised, colors are sharp, and goddamn does she smell like something I’d like to wrap myself around, spend the day around. It’s not about the bedroom acrobatics, the fights and make ups, the milestones and obstacles passed. The loud times tend to call attention to themselves, your relationship will either head into them or it won’t last.
To me it’s the slower times. I’ve always felt that you live through the loud times, the rambunctious rattlings of two personalities coming together, the glorious ride that is this life. It’s loud and it’s fast, particularly when someone joins you and you join them. You live through the loud times.
You earn the silent ones. The ones that could only exist because you think of this person more than you think of yourself. The quiet, simple moments. Coffee on the table and an arm comes around you from behind and you wouldn’t rather be anywhere else on this earth. A piggy back ride just because. Asking them a question that you know the answer to because you love the sound of their voice. It’s these little things. It’s late at night. You’re almost asleep. Dozing, really. And then there it is. Just across the mattress. A shift of weight, a slight exhale. And, half voluntarily, half pulled like your limbs were on strings, you roll over. You move into their back, around their ass, shuffling one leg in between theirs. You wrap an arm around their waist, or over their shoulder. You brush past their breast, not sexually, there’s plenty of time for that later. You ease under their head, rest your hand against the gentle up and down of their belly. And that’s when it comes. They lift an arm over your head, turn slightly, kiss you on the cheek, roll their head back onto your arm and let out a tiny groan. That tiny groan.