You miss him.
Yours was a relationship born of desperation, burning with a passion driven by the knowledge that what you had wouldn't last, couldn't last, and so you covered his body with your own, tasted every inch and said every word you could think say to him, eager for him to know you, and he spread beneath you, arched to the feel of your tongue, listened to the sound of your voice with rapt attention, and never hesitated to return the favor. With a sly curve to his lips, he would bury his face in your neck, murmuring into your skin, his breath hot and voice low, molding himself to your body, pressing against your back while his hands wandered, finding their way beyond the hems of your clothing.
When you looked into each other's eyes it waited, hiding in the black of your pupils and twined with your fear, and while you conversed for hours there remained the mutual refusal to acknowledge the inevitable, the foregone conclusion to the story that, as each short day passed, you wished could go on forever.
He began slipping out of your grasp as you knew he would, as you both knew, and while you still came together each night, brick by brick a wall built up behind his irises with each successive memory and dream, and you wanted to tear it down or join him behind the fortifications he unwillingly constructed as more and more he became something wholly strange, wholly new, and wholly unlike himself.
When he looks at you now with vacant eyes that seem to fall on you incidentally as they scan the room mechanically, you find yourself searching for a glimmer of recognition. They hold none of the tenderness he once, briefly, tried to conceal, and you wish he had merely mastered some art of deception rather than forgotten the feeling altogether. He lies next to you in the bed you share, the two twins pushed together, but the crack between them divides you—an impassable chasm in the place of what once had been only the barest of seams but even that is terribly symbolic now.
Sleep refuses you, and so you find yourself watching his eyes dance behind their lids, his brow furrow and his mouth twitch as he relives a new moment in someone else's life. Though you know you should separate the beds, sequester them into the far corners of the room and draw a line down the centre to mark separate territories, you cannot give this up. Not yet.
The nightstand holds your book of poetry, the cover curling with wear at the edges, and while he snores lightly beside you, you open to the dog-eared page – a souvenir of when he wasted no time upon arrival at the safehouse, invading your privacy and rummaging through your belongings. He had startled you and the others when he appeared in the doorway holding the book open in front of him and began reading aloud, the words flowing with surprising sensuality from his tongue—it is not an erotic poem but formed from those lips, that voice, it took on a life of its own; you had stared at him and, when he finished reading and pulled part of his bottom lip into his mouth, worrying it with his teeth, abruptly decided mixed signals be damned. You found yourself rising from your seat and roughly ushering him back into your room, not knowing yourself what you intended until the door shut.
Our lips grazing, a drift of desires gathering like fog over warm water, thickening to rain was what he read, and there had been just a moment of silence before something unspoken passed between you; he folded the page down before negligently tossing the volume onto your bed and you came together and proceeded to put the words to performance.
The room is dark and you cannot read the words on the pages, but you do not need to; you stare at the lines blurred into solidity by dark and your stubborn refusal to wear glasses while reading and recall the way he had looked up at you ever so briefly as he said, Sometimes your hands drift on me, milkweed's
airy silk, wingtip's feathery caresses, some faint color in his cheeks after his eyes locked back onto the page.
A sort of masochistic nostalgia has you tracing the faded ink with your finger, the dry paper nothing at all like his skin but you pretend for the barest of moments anyway. When last you attempted such a gesture while he slept, you found yourself pinned back into your bed, his hand at your throat and him above you with a cold, empty look in his eyes that only diminished partially when he recognized you as an ally. Now, you feel the paper and remember his dismissive apology with regret.
It was a slow decline, almost unnoticeable at the outset, but gradually it became clear that he was losing parts of himself and you knew then that it was the beginning of the end. Intimacy lost its frequency but increased in urgency as you desperately attempted to insinuate yourself into some part of him that would remember, the part that knew the essential things in life like walking and eating and breathing; you wanted to be as necessary as the air he took into his lungs.
Now, you lie wordlessly side by side in the dark, habit bringing you together in place of what once was mutual desire, and you know that soon even that habit will lose its hold until he will question it, and it will cease. Anxiety for that day has you separating the beds while one of the others has him occupied; it is taxing work for your body grown tired from long hours and sleepless nights, but the look he will wear on his face when he realizes he needlessly shares a bed with a stranger overrides your exhaustion. You cannot look at him when he comes back sooner than you expect, sweaty and exhausted and by the tone of his voice, perplexed by the mess you have made of the room in your attempt to extricate yours from his. With your back to him, you cannot see the look of loss on his face as you curtly explain to his sheets that you are hardly his lover, condescension heavy in your throat to mask your own defeat. It is both heartbreaking and relieving when he walks away, his footsteps like a death-knoll, signaling the end.
If before you thought he was growing distant from you, now you are worlds apart; where he used to observe you with the same impassivity he afforded everything else, now his eyes carve out a space around you, and he seems repelled by your presence as though you and he are magnets with opposing polarities. It occurs to you to wonder if you have made a mistake in ending what was already finished. There is a void now where he once was, a silence you hadn't realized he filled.
Dry pages rustle under your fingertips as you turn them, and though you cannot hear the soft sounds of his snoring you assume he is asleep. Light from your phone barely illuminates the lines you attempt to read, casting a faint blue hue over the paper. He speaks just when you get to that poem, that poem that began it all; it seems so perfectly timed, and you tut in irritation but cannot help but comply. That he spoke at all is enough to persuade you, but the silence when you finish is discouraging, so you shut your phone and snap out a terse good night, willing sleep to come upon you before he tries to talk to you again.
Wakefulness comes sooner than it should, and before you open your eyes, still drifting along half-asleep, it is almost as though he has invaded your bed infiltrated the fortress of blankets and pillows, and you burrow under the covers into the embrace you can almost feel tighten around you and it doesn't occur to you to question the feeling until you wake up, alone, a couple of hours later. For a mad moment, you wonder whether his condition is contagious, or whether the hopelessness of your predicament is finally wearing you down.
You're hesitantly testing the temperature of your tea while leaning against the counter when he says it, standing with feigned nonchalance in the doorway, and the only reason you're sure he said what he did is the scalding liquid soaking into the front of your shirt in response to his musing admission. Your eyes don't meet his when you push past him, focused instead on something intangible in the distance.
Dogging your steps, he follows you back to your room where you grab another shirt—not especially fresh, since you haven't had the time for things like laundry, but clean enough. There's an ache in your chest when he says it again with a hint of uncertainty in his voice, and you pretend it's from the reddened patch of flesh where the tea made contact, and you snap at him as you turn your back; though privacy had never been an issue before, you suddenly feel naked and self-conscious with words like love hanging in the air. Your hands busy themselves with the buttons of your shirt while you speak to the wall, refusing to face him as you admit to not knowing if it's true, because he never told you before.
His feet scuff against the floor as he shuffles up behind you, and the noise is deliberate, you know from experience. The pressure his hands place on your shoulders urges you to turn around and face him, and you pretend it is some will other than your own that turns you on the spot, still fumbling with buttons. He catches your wrists and shakes his head, looking imploringly into your eyes. When he speaks, it is starts slow and builds momentum as he forces you to understand.
"You don't get it. I don't—I . . . I know it, and I don't know fucking anything anymore. I have all these fucking memories that aren't mine, all these fucking people and places and names and events and I keep thinking maybe something will be mine, but it's like I'm stuck in a fucking funhouse, a fucking mirror-maze, and none of the reflections are me. All these fucking faces that look like me but aren't me and I know they aren't me, and I'm fucking stuck. Except—"
He stops and releases your wrists, backing away and closing his eyes and you let your hands fall to your sides, just watching him as he tries to gather some semblance of stability.
"Except, there's you, and I don't know what we had, but it must have been important because it's like, I don't know, you can't . . . you can't lead me out of the maze," and he sounds reluctant now, trying to carry on with the metaphor, "but at least if you're there, I'm not alone. And maybe, maybe if we're together, I can get out. Eventually." A half-laugh escapes him as he tilts his head back to look at the ceiling, and he rubs his face with his hands, struggling with the absurdity of his analogy and his situation. "Maybe we could get to the part with the funny mirrors and finally it'd be me. Fucked up and wrong, but me."
It is as though a dam has been opened, torn asunder by the lives that pour through him, water through a river and you can submerge yourself in it, let it tug and pull you along again and again but eventually you must realize that in time it is no longer the same river, that the torrents of water have worn the bed and transformed it but you find you love it no less for the change.
The burden of being his light in the dark never settles around you. No weight on your shoulders, no reluctance as you approach him. Part of you misses him again, again, and again already, dreading the time when he may well once again forget what you had, but when he looks at you now, dropping his eyes from the ceiling to your face, you can see the walls behind them as solid as ever, but a door has opened, and as you take his hands in your own and press your lips to his, you imagine closing it behind you.
A/N: The poem referenced is "Implications of One Plus One" by Marge Piercy. It is a beautiful poem, and I recommend looking it up.