The obnoxious hum of the air conditioner first alerted me to the presence of morning. With the comforter wedged up around my face and neck, my legs were naked in the breeze and freezing. Next to me, I thought I felt his body stir as he fought his way back from the land of dreams and I quickly closed my eyes.
Sometimes when he woke up he’d turn to me and nibble on my earlobe. He’d run his callused hands up and down and everywhere I liked and we’d welcome the morning with our bodies. More often than not he’d get out of bed to avoid touching me and commence his smoker’s morning cough routine in the bathroom while I decided whether or not to put my clothes back on before he returned.
More often than not, I did.
I would stand there, fully-dressed and anxious in the bedroom until I heard his footsteps fade into the kitchen. For a moment after he bypassed the door, I would wrestle with the decision to follow him or remain frozen until he fetched me. Eventually, before my inner voices could finish battling it out, he would come to the door and rasp, “There’s coffee if you’d like some.”
As the sun bled into the sky over the horizon, we would stand in the cool breeze and drink our coffee on the balcony. My heart would bleed while I watched him bring his lips gingerly to the cup, gently blow on the steaming liquid, and sip. In those moments I wished he would be behind me, hands on my stomach and lips in my hair, and whisper that he loved me; that he would someday love me.
More often than not, he didn’t. He would talk about his other girls with such affection and adoration. His favorite was a drug dealer who loved whiskey as much as he did. She smoked cigarettes and wasn’t afraid to role play with him. I was shy and rigid, a flower decades away from blooming, and in my past experiences role play led to rape. I thought he would understand, and protect me, keep me safe and help me heal. More often than not, I saved myself and he remained passive and distant.
When he had finished extinguishing his cigarettes, he would take my empty coffee cup to the kitchen and rinse it. We would leave together and take the bus to the subway station. As we mounted the stairs, side by side and wrapped in silence, we would sometimes hug before parting in opposite directions. More often than not, we would part without speaking.
One morning was different. Instead of performing his coughing ritual, he sat upright and addressed me.
“We need to talk.”
A thousand thoughts raced through my mind, all toward the same destination. My heart grew tight and restricted in my chest and I forced my breath not to expel. Those four hateful words have never resulted in happy tears and joyful sex. I knew what would be said before he gave voice to the words.
He told me very gently he was in love with one of his other girls. He wanted to remain friends but would no longer share his body with me. He felt, for the first time in his life, as if he was in love. I sat very still with a face of stone as he quietly broke pieces off my heart and destroyed them. I wanted to be happy for him and willed myself to appear sincere as I congratulated him on the thawing of his heart. I smiled understandingly when he told me she would be moving in so I wouldn’t be welcome anymore. I gathered what was left of me and departed without weeping.
When my frantic knocking brought him to the door last night, I shouldn’t have been so wounded by his surprised expression. I had known I wouldn’t be invited inside the apartment, so when he opened his mouth to tell me to leave, I hit him across the face with a tire iron. I felt a wonderful sort of emptiness as I watched his face crumple on impact and his body hit the door frame and fall to the floor, leaving a trail of blood in its wake. Each subsequent iron kiss brought forth a sanguinary eruption from his beautiful face.
Fully awake and aware of the cold tingling in my legs, I rolled over and shut off the air conditioner. I welcomed the morning by myself with his rigid, frosty body laying next to me.