Last night I drove by your house accidentally. I wasn’t paying attention, fiddling with the radio while talking to a friend.
An accident waiting to happen. And it did.
I realized this as I looked over and saw you on your porch, wearing a t-shirt I have always despised. I gunned the engine and raced by. I hoped that the darkness and your likely drunkenness would obscure my identity.
Your friend was with you. I have always suspected she dislikes me. I hoped that she did not see me, either. It would give her one more item for her imaginary list of my offenses. “And then she had the nerve to drive by his house!” Some of these misdeeds she accepts as the barest truth, as she has heard them from you. She believes that her hatred of me is a testament of her love for you.
I imagined stopping to tell you, “Oh, sorry…this was an accident. I thought I was on a different street.” But the idea of this, the mere hint of shame that I would feel when your eyes met mine…this was enough to turn my face to fire and my foot to lead. I drove with the fiercest velocity, finally slamming on the brakes and running into my house to hide my head under a pillow.
But that was yesterday. Today was a different time, filled with busy work and casual chatter. Hours spent pretending to accomplish tasks and enjoy gossip. You were constantly standing on the perimeter of my thoughts, a shadowy figure I pretended I did not see.
After lunch I found a picture of you in the back of my desk drawer, while rummaging for a paper clip. You were smiling in the sun on a vacation we had once taken. You were wearing that t-shirt I despise. I walked into the office kitchen and threw the photo into the sink. I poured a pot of burnt coffee over your happy face. I stuffed you down the drain. I felt a twinge of victory when I unleashed the power of the garbage disposal. I imagined you were ground into dust, no longer in this world. A ghost, a crab nebula…something I might never see.
I spent an hour in the bathtub that night, reading a book of astrology. The planets had decided that our relationship was doomed, merely because you were born at the end of winter. The book told me that we could be happy, as long as you passed all of my tests. Apparently I was testing you with my every action and declaration. Perhaps you knew this and your failure was intentional. You saw freedom at the long list of wrong answers. Or maybe the examination really was that difficult. A few fail, most barely pass, and one or two get a perfect score.
I crawled into bed surprisingly early. I place a lot of trust in over-the-counter sleep remedies. I am always thankful to live in an era wherein sleeplessness is cured as easily as a headache. I found myself thinking of my job as I drifted out to sea: a minor task to remember for the next morning.
I sat in a park in a city far from here, telling my best friend a story about my brother. We were eating cherries from an enormous bowl. I told myself, “Just one more. These will give me a stomachache.” I laid back on the grass, staring at the sky. It was bluer than it could ever be here. I realized that I could look at the sun without hurting my eyes. Warmth spread across my cheeks to my ears.
Just then, a hand appeared out of nowhere and jammed cherries and stems into my mouth. I was choking as rivulets of sticky juice ran into my eyes. I sat up with alarm, pushing the hand away. My mouth tasted sour.
I was greeted by an impish smile. It was you! And you were wearing that fucking orange t-shirt. I smacked you in the face. I scrambled to my feet and ran as fast as I could. Out of the park, down the street, across a large parking lot, until I came to the ocean. “Fuck, I’ll never be able to swim in that water, ” I thought.
I sat up in bed. There was only way to handle this.
I slipped into some shoes and tossed a sweater over my nightgown. I dragged my bike down the front stairs. The street was empty, but not as dark as I would have imagined. I had no idea of the time, but I had a feeling dawn was coming soon.
You live far away. Maybe less than five miles. Maybe more than ten. I could drive to your house in 15 minutes. I know this, because I was there once months ago in the middle of the night. On that particular instance I hurried to get there, even while ignoring a growing sense of dread hovering at the back of my head. Red lights were run. Stop signs were negligible. When I arrived, I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. My necklace broke and I was embarrassed.
You were at my house once. No, twice. Yes, you have been to my house on two occasions. The first time I toyed with the idea of seducing you. But when I greeted you, I was already disappointed. You were not the person I remembered. The second visit was different. You spent the night and no sleep was gleaned by either of us. I avoided my friends’ eye contact for the next week.
But now, this night, clad in my nightgown, I was on a mission. I knew I should have driven my car.
The bicycle ride was endless. The route was unmemorable. I sailed through intersections. I descended into the tunnel reserved for cars. I crossed trolley tracks and I dodged cats.
I secretly hoped I would tire out and return to my house. I could imagine my sense of relief in the morning and it was delicious.
But no. I am stubborn and so, I pressed on.
Eventually I arrived at your porch. I locked my bike to the railing. All of the windows were dark. All sensible individuals were asleep.
There was only one way into your second floor bedroom: I would have to climb in your window. This involved scaling the tree and then crawling across the roof. I was assuming that your ancient windows would never lock.
Before I knew you, I climbed roofs and trees on a regular basis. It only seemed natural after a few drinks. I felt like a conqueror! One day, fear stopped me. No, it wasn’t the concern of possible injury or death. This seemed negligible. No, I was more concerned about people talking about the cause of my mishap. “Oh, she was drunk and decided to hang out on the roof. What an idiot!” The fear of becoming a cautionary tale kept me on the ground.
But tonight, this risk became a necessity.
Despite scuffing my thighs on bark, climbing the tree was easy. I saw on the roof for a few minutes, plotting my next move. I took deep breaths, urging my heart to slow its beat. I worried that the pounding would wake you.
The window was open. The bed was just below the sill. You were asleep on your stomach, your hands and arms pinned under your body.
Climbing through the window meant lying on the bed. I left my shoes on the roof. Working with every muscle against gravity, I slid into your bed like a ghost. You did not notice my presence.
Your hair smelled as I remembered.
I barely breathed.
I could see the faintest bit of the sun just below the horizon. Morning was almost here.
I turned toward you and rested my chin on your shoulder. I pulled the blanket over our heads; our night could last a few more hours.