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Mine For Tonight
Sleep abandoned me. My mind was still hazy with dreams and laced with traces of wishful thinking, but I knew fairly well what had happened. His heavy arm on top of me was a bittersweet reminder. I opened my eyes. I was curled on my side, facing the door, and my back was against him making contact with his bare chest. The chest I longed and yearned for, but that I knew would never be truly mine. None of the contents inside him belonged to me; they belonged to another.
We were cocooned under the sheets, an intimate position if there has ever been one. I concentrated on his deep and relaxed breathing, half-hoping he would sleep longer this morning. I reveled in the feel of the false intimacy he gave me, if only for mere minutes. To me those minutes were sweeter than the most decadent Swiss chocolate, and I—as innocently as ever—wished to stay this way forever. To him, well, he was unconscious most of the time, so he wouldn’t notice. And I made sure he never found out.
We lived under the same roof, slept in the same bed, ate at the same table. Yet, we were complete strangers. His conversations were always so formal and tact and distant, the topics he chose to talk about were uncompromising—the weather, sports, and the likes. Nothing too deep that might require him to actually feel and stir in him memories of ghosts that were long gone.
“Denise,” he mumbled. But I wasn’t Denise. My name is Jessica. Or Jess, as he seldom called me.
He spoke in his sleep every night and, unaware, spilled his sorrows, his joys, and his losses. They were much more informative than the few conversations they had held. He’d cried a time or two. Now that I look back, he hasn’t cried in his sleep in a while. Maybe he’s letting go… Don’t be stupid, I scolded myself. It’s been five years, what makes me think he’ll be letting go now? By my side?
I was sick; I knew it. My sickness had a name, a diagnosis, but no cure: I loved this man. I was happy to be side by side with the man I loved. He didn’t love me back, I knew. He wasn’t gentle and romantic with me. We’d never even gone on a date. And yet I devoted myself to this broken man, believing I could fix and heal him. During the process, I had forgotten about myself completely. I tossed my needs, my feelings, away for this man. I grew desperate to please him, make him realize what a wonderful women he had, all to no avail. And still, I kept trying.
He’d come home late last night, like he did every other night, drunk and shouting incoherencies. His beautiful green eyes were dazed by the booze. His curly brown hair a mess despite his effort this morning to calm his unruly hair. But I was used to this, I’d thought with dismay. I went over to help him to his room. He pushed me away absently. Or at least, I’d like to believe he did. He stumbled forward then steadied himself and restored his route to the bedroom. Our bedroom.
I walked behind him, steadying him when he lost his balance, an easy task given his state. We reached the bedroom—our bedroom—and he tumbled aimlessly on the bed. I kneeled beside the bed and began to take his shoes off when I heard him call my name. A needy wail tore from his lips. And I smiled. My dear beloved needed of me, not of Denise. Called me, not Denise.
Tell me, what life do I lead if a man who does not reciprocate my feelings makes me happy knowing that he needs me in his time of vulnerability? That he wouldn’t be where he was without me? I’ve asked myself this question countless times. I roll the question around in my head. I have yet to find an answer.
I crawled on the bed and held him in my arms. He tilted his head towards me and looked at me through glassy eyes. I removed a stray hair from his face and ran my hand down his delicate features. I did not care if this man loved me or not. Not tonight. Tonight he would love me whether he knew it or not, whether he wanted to or not.
I felt him starting to wake. I had enough time to slip out of his warm embrace before it rose in his conscience and he realized what he was doing. I showered, dressed, and headed to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. An hour later, he came into the kitchen and settled in his favorite seat. I poured him his coffee and served him his meal.
“It’s going to rain today,” he said with a disinterested voice.
“So they say,” I responded. That was his quota for the mornings and nothing else. That was a healthy conversation according to him. Two sentences or more would be considered a miracle.
The room fell silent. Only the clatter of metal against glass was heard as I washed the dishes. I heard him pull his chair back, stand up, gather his things, and leave. No goodbye. No “see you later, sweetheart”. Absolutely nothing.
What he did during the day I lacked knowledge of. Maybe he thought of me all day, or maybe he thought solely of Denise. Why this bothered me, I had no clue. Why a heavy weight settled on my chest, I didn’t know. This was the routine we’d fallen into. I was supposed to be used to this. But in truth, I never have—and never will. I heard the ignition of his car come to life, and as he drove away I allowed myself to speak, “I love you.”
A tear escaped from my eyes. I let it fall. Immediately, more followed suit. I found myself heading to our room and sitting on the edge of bed. I laid back then turned on my belly. I gathered the sheets beneath me, the sheets that had covered us both late in the night, and inhaled deeply, filling myself with his scent. With my scent. With our scent. And if in fact he thought of Denise all day, that didn’t matter to her. Because tonight and tomorrow’s night and the next, he will be lying next to me. Loving me. Not Denise. Me.