In the morning when he discovered I was wrapped around him on the floor, Ziggy made a happy noise.
“Why are you sleeping on the floor?” My voice was rough, like I’d been drinking heavily even though I hadn’t drunk anything at all.
He snuggled back against me. “Something made a noise and I was scared to sleep alone,” he said, but in that Ziggy way I had learned meant it wasn’t exactly true. It might have been true-enough or metaphorically true or emotionally true, even if it wasn’t literally true.
“That’s the Ziggy answer,” I said, pressing my forehead to his spine where the tattoo that represented my initial was. I felt almost lightheaded seeing it, remembering it, feeling the significance of it. “Can you give me a Daron-compatible answer?”
“It just felt wrong to be in there with you in here.” A nervous lilt came into his voice. “I…I figured if you were already asleep you wouldn’t mind?”
“I’m not…accusing you of encroaching on my space. I literally just want to understand you.”
He nodded. “It just felt wrong.”
I kissed him on the tattoo. “Okay.” It made sense enough.
I dragged myself into a sitting position. One shoulder was stiff, two of my fingers were tingly, and my neck hurt because I hadn’t brought a pillow with me when I’d joined him on the floor. It was like my body was reflecting how out of kilter my emotions were right then.
He didn’t seem as stiff as me as he sat up and yawned. Maybe Ziggy always looked more elegant and swan-like than me. “Pop Tart?”
My stomach rebelled against the idea of food in the morning but drinking coffee on an empty stomach was worse. And I was going to need some coffee to get my brain sharp enough to figure out what the fuck was going on. “Share one with me?”
“Okay.” He slipped away to the kitchen while I got slowly to my feet. I was still in yesterday’s clothes, that’s how out of it I had been. No wonder I was stiff. I don’t recommend jeans for sleeping in.
I dug clean clothes out of my bag but hadn’t put them on yet when he brought the Pop Tart–strawberry frosted–on a napkin. I’d heard the bell of the microwave go “ding” so I knew he’d nuked it enough to warm up the filling. He broke it in half and we sat side by side on the love seat eating it. I licked the crumbs off my fingers.
“Coffee?” he chirped.
“Ziggy,” I said, because now it was really starting to sound like one of those walking-on-eggshells situations and I just hate those. Hate. “Stop it.”
He let out a sigh. “Which thing am I supposed to stop?”
“Treating me like a weird houseguest who needs to be handled with kid gloves.” I turned my head to look at him. “Or is that the point? Reminding me I don’t live here?”
He blinked. “What? No!”
“Am I misremembering it? I think I told you when we first started rehearsals I didn’t want to take for granted that I could just move in with you for the duration.”
He thought for a moment, then nodded. “Yes, I remember. And I told you not to be ridiculous.”
“You told me you wanted me here.”
He winced. “And you weren’t being so ridiculous. You were actually being impressively forward-looking.”
The Pop Tart was not sitting well. I swallowed. “I think last night was probably exactly what I was trying to avoid without coming out and saying that was what I was trying to avoid.”
“Yeah. I…am having trouble wrapping my head around you being more on top of it than me.” Ziggy hunched a little. “I mean, I liked the feeling of you moving in. I wanted you to feel like you could come and go anytime.”
“And if I hadn’t showed up when you didn’t expect me…I’d still think that I could. But I know better now, I guess?” Right? Was that the lesson here?
“I really really thought when you said Monday, you meant Monday.” He pressed his fingers to his temples. “That seemed really clear and unambiguous.”
“And that’s my fault,” I said. “For not knowing what day it was or being more obvious that I actually meant arriving the night before.”
Ziggy cupped his chin. “You’re not good with days of the week, it’s true.”
“Can I make my own damn coffee even if I can’t come and go anytime?”
We decamped to the kitchen and I ended up making coffee the old-Daron way, i.e. with lots of milk and sugar. In fact I think I used whipping cream. Ziggy had some, too.
“Better?” he asked, when I had gotten most of the way through the extra-large mug.
“Yeah. I suppose I should’ve just waited until after having coffee to even start this conversation.” We sat in the windowsill like two windblown birds. “Anyway. The day of the week thing is my fuckup.”
“Me not accounting for your bad planning skills is my fuckup,” Ziggy said, saluting me with the mug. “I suppose it was bound to happen some time.”
I nodded. So we had apparently come to the mutual conclusion that I should not try to waltz into Ziggy’s space without making sure it was okay first…? Which was good? But had we sidestepped the actual issue at hand? I felt like “the issue” kept slipping away from me, like I couldn’t even get a handle on what it was.
Then he asked the same question he’d asked the night before. “Are you mad?” And this time instead of hearing fear in the question I heard a kind of yearning.
“Do you want me to be?’
“No! Don’t be ridiculous.”
The protest was hollow somehow, though. “I’m not mad about this particular chick, no. Honestly? I’m still angrier about Janessa than this.” I drained the rest of what was in my mug. “This just brings that up. All that old fear and crap. Tell me you’re not, like, starting an ongoing thing with this woman?”
“You’d really be okay with it if it was just a one-night stand?”
“Yes? I think? Although it would be ideal to have some warning so I don’t walk in on it, I guess? Okay, no, that’s not even the right way to think about it. You don’t have to ask my permission to, to… have sex. This isn’t about sex.”
“Are you sure?” He pressed.
“I’m sure. It’s about what sex means, maybe.” I took the almost-full coffee mug out of his hands, drank some, and handed it back. “Have all the meaningless sex you want, Ziggy. The sex is not the issue. Us miscommunicating is the issue.”
“Okay.” He fidgeted on the ledge, as if he couldn’t quite find a comfortable place to sit. “And?”
“And…that’s as far as I’ve processed. How about you?”
“Yes, you, Ziggy. I’m not the only one processing my damn feelings here, you know.”
“I’ll try not to do it again.”
I stood up. “Stop acting like I’m scolding you for doing something wrong. I’m not.” It was beginning to filter into my brain that he felt guilty anyway, though. “Unless there’s more you haven’t told me and you think you should?”
He crossed his legs and handed me the mug to finish. “I told you it was really hard being apart from you.”
“You did. Were you trying to ask some kind of tacit permission to do something about it when you said that?”
“No. No no no. I just wanted you to know.” He waved his hands like he was trying to get me to slow down. Me. As if I were skipping ahead. “Yes, I got lonely. That wasn’t supposed to be a guilt trip or anything. I just wanted you to know I missed you.”
“I missed you, too.” Although I don’t think I missed him the same way. We still hadn’t figured out exactly what this conversation was about or where the disconnect was. I could feel the gears slipping. “Are we okay?”
“I am okay. Are you okay?”
“I am a little confused and off my feed still, but I don’t feel like a total freak case and, well, bottom line my feelings for you haven’t changed.” I felt almost superstitious not using the word love there, but it was like I didn’t want to overuse it, like it might diminish the actual emotion if saying the word stopped being as special. “I think I’m okay. But me being okay and you being okay doesn’t always add up to ‘us’ being okay.”
“True.” He rubbed his eyes. “Why don’t we check in about ‘us’ later today.”
“I have a feeling we’ll be checking in about a lot of things.”
“If you have that feeling, it’s undoubtedly a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
I decided I better make a list. There were too many little things not adding up.
But it was time for us to go to work at the other thing we did together beside be together.