I walk into my room and the first thing I notice is smoke.
Our bed is perfectly made but she’s lying on the carpet, staring at the ceiling, lazily sucking on one of those showy pink cigarettes.
“Thought you quit?” I ask, placing my bag down in the corner of the room.
“Just started again,” she mumbles. After a few moments of watching her, she turns to look at me as if suddenly realising that I’m standing right there. “Good day?”
“Yeah, not too bad,” I say. Then hesitantly ask, “You?”
She makes an incoherent sound that I take for an “Okay, not too bad either”.
I sit down at the corner of the bed and watch her and the smoke drift aimlessly. But mostly I watch her. She’s wearing my favourite shirt. She never wears my shirts.
She sees that I’ve noticed this and smiles.
“Missed your smell,” she says.
I raise an eyebrow, though I’m not sure if it’s because I’m confused or because I’m not sure how to respond to that unexpectedly affectionate admission.
She tosses the cigarette out of the window after taking one final puff and sits beside me.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
She shrugs. “Nothing, just miss you.”
There’s a dull ache building up inside my chest for some reason. I try to distract myself by waving away the smoke between us.
Suddenly she’s pulling me towards her, her hands gripping my shirt. She’s kissing me fast, far too fast. There’s a hunger in her eyes I cannot fathom. She weaves her fingers through my hair, pulling me closer and closer and I fall against her as she falls back into the soft cotton beneath us. I kiss her back, I always do. I don’t want to now, but I can’t say no. I never can when it comes to her.
“Are you cold?” I ask. “Let’s get under the sheets.”
“I’m fine,” she mumbles. “I want to see you.”
“Oh,” I say, and she pushes herself against me.
We tumble clumsily, our feet tangled up above sheets. And then she’s on top of me, resting on her elbows, the ends of her hair just touching my cheeks. There’s an expression on her face I’ve not seen before. She’s smiling but something isn’t right.
“Tell me what you want,” she says, watching me intently. “Anything.”
I mean to say, “I want to talk” or “I want you to tell me what’s wrong”, but the only word echoing in my head is you.
So I say it.
It doesn’t have the effect I hoped it would. In fact it doesn’t seem to have any effect at all. She leans forward and kisses my forehead. As she does, her neck brushes against my face and I instantly tense up.
She smells different. And the dull ache in my chest starts to really hurt.
She’s biting her lower lip as she undoes the first button of my shirt. Her hands are trembling and I don’t know why. I tell myself I’m just imagining it. She moves on to the second button and then the third, and her fingers brush against my chest and she freezes momentarily but continues.
The pain in my chest is excruciating now, and my head is spinning for a million different reasons. I try to stop myself, but I can’t.
I brush it away quickly but she’s seen it. She doesn’t look confused. In fact, it’s as if she’s been expecting it. She’s still biting her lower lip, and it’s starting to turn a sickening red. She pulls away from me, sits upright, hugging her knees.
“I’m… sorry,” she says, refusing to look at me.
I close my eyes because it feels like the room has started spinning around me. And I’m trapped in it, stuck on my own bed, with my shirt half-off and she’s ruined everything.
She’s crying now, sobbing into her knees. I resist the urge to hug her. Because if I do, I know it’ll make everything okay. But it’s not okay. It’ll never be okay again.
I feel as if I’ve forgotten how to breathe. And I have so many questions but so much anger that all I can muster is –
Her eyes are red as she looks at me. “Yesterday… at the party… I had a rough day, and you weren’t there and he…” she pauses. “He was.”
“Stop,” I say. “Just…”
“Don’t make me leave. It was a mistake… I didn’t mean for it to happen… it just did, and it meant nothing… Please just…” she says, her eyes pleading more than her words.
“Please go, just go.” I say and instantly regret it. The cold air brushes against my chest and I start to button up my shirt, refusing to look at her. Refusing to think about anything. She climbs off the bed and walks into the bathroom.
I’m not sure how to feel. I knew it was coming. I just did. And now, it’s as if my whole body has been set on fire, repeatedly. And I should have died, but I’m still alive so I’m aware of everything, and it burns. It really does.
After several minutes, she emerges from the bathroom in her own clothes. She places my shirt on the desk next to me.
“You’re everything to me,” she says, brushing away the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Apparently everything wasn’t enough,” I say, turning away from her.
“I’m sorry,” she says again. Then I hear her walk out of the apartment, closing the door behind her. Leaving me and taking every part of me with her.
The room has that musky post-smoke smell I hate. So I grab my shirt from the desk and keep it close to me, allowing it to cover my face, hoping to draw comfort from the fact that minutes ago she was right here. Right next to me, wearing my shirt and wanting me as much as I’ve always wanted her. Perhaps I should have just told her that I spend every minute wanting to simply drown myself in her. But she should have known that.
But the cheap fabric brings me no comfort, no solace. And all I’m left with is a scent I do not recognise, a smile I no longer understand, and words which make absolutely no sense. And an unbearable silence which consumes me whole.
I chuck the shirt onto the floor and get under the covers of my bed. Wanting to stay here forever, buried in cotton, clinging to stray thoughts whispered in the dark, love uttered through touch, and her.