Somewhere I can't definitely place, you woke up early this morning because you always do and caffeinated yourself until you were jittering.
You can't sleep in no matter how late you stayed up. It used to drive me nuts, you know. I would be lying in bed, listening to you rattling around the room, trying hard to be in a hush but you're just too clumsy to be quiet, especially after that fifth cup of coffee. I'd rumble something irate, and you'd laugh, standing in slots of sunlight cast through my plastic blinds, ignorant of the motes the ceiling fan blew around you like an aureate glow. You have such a nice laugh, and I'd like to hear it again.
It's been six months. It's the longest we've gone without seeing each other but not our longest break. Usually, you still come to my door, frustrated from work and wanting relief. You have this way of raking your blunt nails down my chest, gripping with just your fingertips that makes it hard to say no. You're not beautiful. I used to think you were, but you told me so many times you aren't that I stopped calling you beautiful, started to believe your voice without a thought to my eyes and their honesty.
Maybe you're just sexy. I know you're coy, even a cocktease. You know how to tease mine, with those plump lips and soft black eyes and raspy moans and hair that feels like your Korean's mother's. You didn't have to tell me you're half-white—you're thick like your dad and have his jaw, his chin, the set of his nose—but I thought you were Guatemalan with cheeks like yours, high and too proud for their own good.
"Jamal." You said my name wrong. You said everything wrong. You spoke like your education, and I was enamored by the way you seemed to know at least a little bit about everything. We'd sit on my worn leather couch, watching movies, watching documentaries, and you always had something to say. I guess that could get annoying if it were anyone else, but it was you, and you would have something interesting to add. A historical anecdote, a scientific tidbit, a mathematical impossibility, a strange law, a personal story told through your sardonic lens...
Once, you told me you weren't intelligent so much as a cabinet crammed with useless information. It was why you were so good at law, because law was the memorization of useless information. You said you didn't think it was fair you were paid as much as you are, that you got a lucky break because your dad was a lawyer before you and well-respected at his firm. You said you wouldn't have gone to college if you weren't rich, and you said a lot of things after we had sex, when we'd been lying in bed together. After you came, when our breaths were hardly still, when our heartbeats were still audibly thudding in our respective heads, I became your confessional.
"I love you." I was the first one to say it. Throughout my life, I have been the first one to say those three words. I guess I'm just too emotional or passionate. You told me I was lividly—blindly—stupidly passionate, and I can't disagree with you, but I can say you liked it. The first time we went to bed, you said you spent all day pretending to be a big man, and you'd like to feel small, for once. You'd like to feel like one of many, the next disposable thing I fucked and was planning to toss back into the pond with no care for your skin or hands or mind or eyelashes.
I obeyed but fell in love because afterward, you wanted to smoke a menthol cigarette and kiss my neck, telling me about how thick my cock was and tomorrow you had to get up early for a midterm and god I had a nice chest and my arms were like iron and it was so much the wrong night to get carried away and you were trying to quite smoking and did I have any Niquil? You slept in my bed, on my shoulder, and that was six years ago.
I want to remind you, I've been putting up with this bipolar shit for six years. You were twenty when we met, and now you're twenty-six. I'm thirty-eight. Your birthday is in December, which means you were already ignoring my calls. I stopped calling in February, and now it's a cold April. It's the kind of April that makes it hard to get out of bed, to go listen to adolescents spit about their mostly trivial issues. You know I love my job. I think you're the only person who knows how much I love my job, but you told me once, "You'd be the worst Atlas. You care too much and don't give a shit about yourself. Your back would break and everything would fall down."
You were being sarcastic. We laughed. But I kept that with me. I keep that with me when I get up in the morning, and I think that maybe I went into the wrong line of work. You told me before I should just write or something, maybe try to publish and live on your dime. I had never written until I met you, and I thought it seemed strange to just sit down and start writing at thirty-two, but it's kept me from finding you these past six months. I know if I got to you, I'd just prolong this ache.
Sitting here, I think you'll come back to me. You always do. I have opened the door or you've climbed out the window so many times, only to find yourself on my doorstep for one reason or another. I've changed my entire life to be with you. I stopped drinking to be with you, but it's harder not to drink when you're not here. That's not healthy; you should heal for yourself, but we both know I healed for you, and I am just waiting for you to accept my apologies. That I really didn't mean to hurt you, that I wasn't thinking, that you try so damn hard to infuriate me.
Today, I might call you. I am getting to that point. I wonder if you're with someone else, smiling with none of your teeth because you think they're crooked. Looking down so your eyelashes cast spiderleg shadows across your face. Sitting in another man's dusty room, thinking about your family's money and how you've always chased men that would piss off your dad. When he met me, he wasn't happy and yelled at you in the kitchen like you were a child. He said a lot of racist and classist bullshit that would have pissed me off if I hadn't heard your grandfather's voice in his and so many men before that.
That's why I can't stay mad at you, wavering like you are. You're a trophy wife's son who went to private school and always wanted to have blue eyes. You're a proud man that wants to be made to grovel sometimes and forgets that when you blur the lines of right and wrong, they get blurred outside of the bedroom. You're intelligent and sexy and coy and Noel, you're beautiful, all right? I know you don't like to hear that, but maybe if I write it, you won't be so angry. Maybe you'll never read this. Maybe I'll mail it to you instead of leaving another voicemail. Maybe I'll go to your apartment and see you because I will never forget that when you left this last time, you told me, "We're like oil and water, but I always end up beneath you, don't I?"