To Ali, Ari, Becka, Caitlin, Dani, Elise, Elizabeth, Katie, Leigh, Lydia, Mai, Marissa, Meghan, Stephanie, and Tina. To all the girls at b-m-g; the ones I had the privilege of meeting, and the ones I didn't. To the way it used to be.
It is quite a life to wake up, each morning, with a weight, pulling and pulling, in the stomach.
Perhaps it's a weight of regret, for not withering away with lack of oxygen during birth, or one of dread of the day that has just begun.
This is how they both greet the new day, though, with a sickened feeling, and a groan.
She wakes first, the off-white sheets tangled around her, and automatically pushes them off of her and swings her feet to the ground. She doesn't bother to look to her side, and isn't careful of the mattress, as she pulls herself from it, like a hand from a left-on burner of a stove.
Minutes later, he peels his arm from his face, glances at the space where she's not, and slides out from the bed.
They are at the pulling the sheets, and tucking them in at the corners. They move around the bed, smoothing, talking, folding.
He is embarrassed of the quality of the mattress they have bought.
"Its perfect," she assures him.
He lies back on the bed, and then frowns up at her.
"I can feel the springs."
"It will be fine," she says, drawing out the last word. "It's a mattress. What's the worst that could happen?"
He tries to succumb to her reassurance; lets the embarrassment run from him, and jokes, instead.
"Sleep deprivation. Which could worsen our performances in school and/or work, causing you to remain uneducated, and without a job that only accepts people with degrees, and me to lose job, after job, after job. You'd wind up working as a waitress, and I'd be the guy sweeping the cigarettes from the sidewalk outside of a bar. We'd be dirt-poor and living in a bullet-proof box on a street corner somewhere."
"That doesn't sound too bad," she looks, amused, at him.
"Then Giuliani would be elected as mayor again, and us and our little bullet-proof box would be shipped off to wherever he put the rest of the homeless people."
She raises her eyebrows.
"And we'd have back problems."
Shaking her head, she sings, "I think you need sleep."
"Sleep deprivation," he reminds her.
"You're mentally predisposing yourself to this destruction-of-life-by-mattress. Let's at least try it out."
His eyes focus in on hers.
"Try it out?"
"Yeah." Her eyes flicker from his to her palms to his eyes again, and she offers him a girlish, but coy look. He takes her hands and pulls her to lie on top of him.
They make love, of course. But not like eighteen-year-olds, in delight of having an empty apartment to themselves. Not like adults, pleased with their own performances in the bedroom. Not like a newly married couple, enthralled by the idea of just being married.
They don't even make love like themselves.
Neither is sure of what they're doing, of who they are. But they are sure of each other.
She is confident in him, and he, in her. (The latter is quite literal.)
And they know that they want to call themselves a "we," so they cling to each other, as if making a point to the bare walls and un-finished floors that they are, in fact, a "we."
The bed makes a point of this to them.
They lie under the new sheets in the embrace of one another. Then, it hits them.
This is real. This is their bed. They are here, together, not a he or a she but a them.
As simple as it is, this is a tough realization for them to process.
They have made love in their bed.
They seem to think this at the same time; their eyes find each other, and not long after, their bodies do the same.
He showers (she showers before bed), and they dress in separate rooms. Neither eat breakfast; Rory drinks a glass of cold water, but, other than that, they do not eat. It hardly matters – they aren't hungry.
There's an awkward moment when they crowd at the same side of the kitchen to retrieve their keys from the dish on the counter.
If they leave at the same time, they walk down the same streets to the same train station. When they were young, it was sweet. They had their routine clichéd down into an art. They woke together, ate together, sometimes showered together; she told him to tuck in his shirttails, he commented, with a cocky smirk, on the way her skirt hung. They held hands, him, a perfect gentleman, on the side of the sidewalk closest to the street, and kissed goodbye on the platform when his train sped out from the dark, curved tunnel. (Her first class didn't begin until twenty five minutes after he needed to be at work.)
That was when everything was new to them. Like teens at a party, they were, trying to do everything and live every way they had read of, seen in movies, known of adults doing. They couldn't be blamed. They were excited, and in love; it just all wore out too quickly.
Quick-loving hearts, I thought, may quickly loathe.
It is too odd a concept for them to walk together now. It's quite a paradox, really, to walk together separately. They can sleep in the same bed alone, they can eat at the same table alone, they can fight separately together, they can cry for the same reasons alone, but for some reason, they have not figured out how to walk alone.
Sometimes he will walk quickly, and she will consciously slow, and he will be on the far right of her, between a curb and a person walking a dog. Or sometimes she'll stop into the corner store and pick up the New York Times and the Daily News (god forbid she even look at The Post), and the days when she doesn't stop in (she gets the papers from a vendor in the train station, then) he goes in to buy himself a coffee.
Yet, somehow, they always wind up getting stopped at the same light, or walking on the same side of the street, or behind the other as they clutter down the steps when they reach their destination.
Today is no exception, as they do leave at the same time. They avoid each other mostly, until she stops at the green-gated stairwell, and smells the aroma of his coffee behind him.
Coffee disgusts her now. Too many nostalgic thoughts are tied to it in the long-term memory part of her mind. Stops at Luke's, Lorelai...it's all too much for her to handle. She doesn't drink it anymore; she hasn't even opened the coffee maker Jess bought her with his first three paychecks. She hates the smell of coffee.
Even more, she hates the smell of the city.
The smell of spring in Central Park, the scent of burnt hot dogs and cold pretzels at each corner, the fumes of the buses, the musk of Chinatown, the colognes of the rich on Park Avenue, the cigarettes in the Village, the aroma of the Hispanic foods in upper Harlem.
She hates them all.
She decides, though, as her heels scratch at the concrete steps leading to the train station, that her least favorite smell of all is the odor of the musicians and the artists who sway on the platforms, eyes pleading for attention.
They stink as if they haven't seen soap in days.
This is not what bothers her.
When she passes them, she can smell the tears on their faces, the stale food in their sighs.
They reek of dead dreams.
She does not know that he can smell them, too. Unlike her, it is not them he despises.
He despises the people who, in a selfish desperation, murdered those dreams for them.
He despises them with every being of his soul, and he remembers this, each time he hears the violinists' weakened notes.
The quote "Quick-loving..." used in this chapter is from Elizabeth Barret Browning's Sonnet XXXII, published in Sonnets of the Portuguese.