In the morning–afternoon, actually–I asked him, while we were still lying in bed, “What did you call me last night?”
“Mphhh?” Ziggy said from where his face was buried in my hair, of which there was a lot in those days, even stick-straight as it was. He propped himself up slightly, just enough to get clear, and then flopped back on his pillow, his arms over his head. “What?”
“You called me ‘Dear One,’ I think. Or maybe I was too drunk to understand my own name.”
“I did call you Dear One,” he said, waking up a bit more. “And it was because it sounds like your name.”
“Ah.” I rolled onto my side to look at him but drowsiness was making my eyes close.
“Good idea,” he said, and snuggled close to me. His skin smelled like clove cigarettes and sex, which is about the best incense scent I could imagine. We dozed off.
When I opened my eyes again, the sunlight had moved around to slant in the nearest window, and I realized I was lying there on my back, just a corner of the sheet over one leg, and Ziggy’s arm across me. He was face down in the pillow and his hand had come to rest right on my heart.
You know what happened last night, right? That’s what I was thinking to myself. I didn’t mean the blow job contest. I meant what happened in that span of time, four or five minutes maybe, when he was pouring his heart out into a song.
You know it. You do. I do. I did.
I fell in love with him all over again. Not that I ever fell out of love with him in the first place. No. But it just goes to show you can trip and fall farther and farther down the rabbit hole, I guess. And instead of that idea being terrifying, it was exhilirating. My heart started to beat harder, there under his palm, and I tried to will it not to, because it might wake him, and I wanted to just linger in that moment as long as possible, as if that moment were a golden threshold of joy. On the other side it might all go wrong again, but right then it was like being at the peak of a mountain that had been worth the climb.
Right. I remembered that top-of-the-mountaun feeling. Australia. The last night of 1989. Like everything was possible if I could just remember that everything was possible, once the acid wore off.
Remember this, I told myself, and then dozed off again.
The sun had mostly faded by the next time I woke. A shiver of panic brushed across my skin as I sat up realizing he wasn’t in bed beside me. But there was a light coming through the open door to the bathroom. I slipped out of bed and there he was, sitting in the bathtub, carefully holding a book and his head above a thick layer of bubbles like a godling rising above the clouds.
I answered the call of nature and washed my face and didn’t feel the slightest bit self-conscious about either one. I got my toothbrush out of my bag and brushed my teeth. Then I sat down on the edge of the tub and he smiled at me and I smiled back.
I’m sure it will surprise no one that we ended up back in bed, and we slept again afterward. And the next time I woke I was curled around him with my nose in his neck, meaning when I pulled back to stretch a little what I was looking at was the tattoo, the musical “d” that stood for my name, inked permanently into his skin. I reached up with my left thumb, the one finger that was neither callused nor long-nailed, and brushed the marking lightly. It had healed well but still had the intense color that tattoos only have when they’re new. I brushed it again and goose bumps rose up so I kissed an apology against his skin.
If you understand all these things, then you understand why the next time I woke–this time to the sound of a soft rapping sound at the door–when I opened it to find not Ziggy returned from the market without his keys or some neighbor needing to borrow a cup of sugar but a very casually dressed Barrett Thomas, Barrett looking slightly sheepish or at least cautious but then happy to see me (or at least looking relieved that I’d snagged the stray towel from the end of the bed and wrapped it around myself)–the first words out of my mouth were these:
“I’m taking the gig.”
“Yes!” Barrett punched the air.
“On one condition.”
“Don’t tell Ziggy that I am. I’ll tell him myself. But I need a…a week,” I blurted out what seemed like a reasonable amount of time to stall. “To just…figure some stuff out. All right?”
“All right.” He didn’t demand any details or explanation, merely gave me a little salute and turned on his heel and left. Huh. Maybe Barrett understood what I needed better than I did.
(P.S. Bart won the poll. -ctan)