He couldn't stand it when she read. Some baseless cry of protest erupted in his mind each time he saw her like that, sitting in that position—changing, constantly changing, moving her legs this way and that until each state had exhausted its limit—on his bed with an open book. The purity of his bed, with its white sheets and fluffed pillows and absolute perfection, seemed tarnished by the fact that she did not even bother to hide her desire for something other than the reality in which he so passionately basked. So he stood at the door, leaned against the frame and tilted his head, and watched her with incredulity as she turned one page. Licked her lips, untied her hair, crossed her legs, turned another page, uncrossed her legs, tied her hair up again. It seemed so easy for her. Pick up another world, have conversations with people who do not exist, fall in love with them, thirstily reach for ideas that could never transcend into reality. And for some reason, a reason he couldn't quite pinpoint, he hated her for thinking that the imaginary world in her palms was so much simpler than the world around her, the tangible ideas, the real people. He hated her for it.
When she was lying down, or spreading her legs out in front of her, she didn't look like anything to him. She blended into the bed itself. He wondered about it for a moment while he stood there, silently watching her with his critical thoughts, and then he realized it was because she was wearing white. White panties and a white tank top and white socks. Simplicity, so simple that for a few moments here and there, when he blinked and his mind wandered, he forgot that she was there committing that odious act on his bed because she had disappeared into his bed.
White is the color of simplicity, he thought. The irony made him smile; she was wearing white and sitting on a white bed, yet she represented so clearly a human inability to accept the simplicity of life. He watched her, content with his stance in the doorframe, and saw the essence of ungratefulness and delusion in her. He felt the contrast between them hanging in the air, as he smiled at the clean and true air while her face was buried in a book and her mind was refusing to accept that which cannot be denied: that she lives in a reality.
He called her name so that he could see her face. It took her a few moments—as if his voice had to overcome barrier after barrier in her mind—to tear her eyes from the page and look up at him. Strands of hair fell to create a frame around her absentminded expression; it appeared as if he had quite literally broken through her shield, grabbed her by the arm, and mercilessly pulled her out, and she was still lost and unaware of her surroundings. Leaning forward, he tried to make out the emotions in her eyes, but was forced to come to terms with the fact that she had left her emotions in the book.
Without another moment's hesitation, she changed her position and went back to her book, and he went back to temporarily hating her while she simultaneously soiled the whiteness of his bed.
"Do you have any plans?"
"Nothing at all? You're just going to sit here?"
He looked up at her with those eyes, so colorful, so vibrant, so happy and willing and imaginative, and for a moment she let herself believe that they truly were the mirrors into his soul. But when he shrugged his shoulders and rolled over in bed, giving his back to her, she remembered how deceitful his eyes were. The only deceitful part about him. She pursed her lips at looked aimlessly at his back. Her mind began carving patterns into the smooth skin, scratching, itching for some kind of reaction. Wanting him to say, How beautiful. Or perhaps even to say, How could you do this to me. Something to betray the iciness of his comportment and the indifference in his taut voice.
He wasn't asleep—she could tell by the way he was breathing. They were short, quick, unsteady breaths, the kind that one breathes when his mind is working. If he were asleep, his breathing would be long and drawn out. Each inhalation and each exhalation would be an eternity as she listened, and his body would rise and fall more heavily. No, he was not asleep, only acting as if he were asleep. She sat up in her bed and watched him for a few seconds more. She wondered how her bed had suddenly been transformed from a haven of refreshment where one could rest and be propelled back into creativity, into a haven of blind contentment. Blind satisfaction, unhappy satisfaction. For as she sat watching him breathe—and as her mind intermittently blinked back to the book on the nightstand—she was convinced of his unhappiness.
She threw the covers over the side of the bed as hard as she could and watched a shiver overcome his body.
"Can I read to you?"
"You know I don't like to read."
"You don't have to, I'll read for you."
She couldn't stand it when he slept in. He rolled around in her bed and thought to himself, This is perfect, this is all I need. And at the very same moment she stood up and ran about the room with giddiness and ecstasy in her limbs, impatience, and she thought to herself, So many amazing things to experience, such a simple idea to enjoy life. She wondered and wondered and wondered, every day and every night and every morning that he slept in, how he could lay there and say that it was happiness.
"I'm going to read to you."
Reality for her was the root of all unhappiness. Yet there was a way for her to escape it, a way for her to immerse herself in a simpler world, where she could enjoy life for what was truly worth enjoying: adventure, romance, the horrors and the traumas and the ecstasies of life. And so she dove headfirst into her books without looking back. And he dove headfirst, indiscriminately, into the perfect little things of life that she couldn't seem to understand—sleeping in, watching the light as it penetrated the room, making her bed.
He asked her what she was going to read. She ignored him and opened her mouth and began to read, and prayed that his imagination would come to life, for imagination was the only way to experience life, even in its simplest form. Imagination was everything, and by some odd stroke of luck, he lacked it. She prayed that he would awaken and look at her and say, with a voice newly exuberant and eyes shimmering with enlightenment, I am going on an adventure. But he didn't. As she read, and as she herself became lost in the words rolling off her eager lips, his breathing pattern changed.
While her grip on the pages tightened almost protectively, he went back to sleeping in and worshipping what he believed was simplicity, and she went back to hating him for changing the meaning of her bed and the meaning of the word simple.
She breathed the words I love you before falling asleep. He blew them back to her closed eyelids and watched them flutter. He looked, desperately cutting through the dark, at her lips and etched the shape of them into his head, never to be forgotten. He wanted her to open her eyes so that he could inch closer and touch her hair and let her feel him touch her hair. He closed his own eyes, smiled back at her face in the darkness of his eyelids, and breathed the words I love you. She blew them back to him with a gust of wind unmatched. He forgot about how she had read on his bed. He forgot about how she had momentarily tarnished it, left it soaking in the dirt of her lack of understanding—her inability to accept reality as sufficient. At that second, laying in the overwhelming and ominous darkness, there was beauty. Really the only thing he needed. Beauty that he found himself ashamed of forgetting, even for a little while, as he admired it. He leaned forward and placed his lips on her smooth, slumbering forehead.
Simplicity, beauty, perfection.
Her haven of creativity welcomed him, wrapped its warm arms around him and gave him dreams. She watched in amazement and wonder and elation while he smiled in his sleep and smiled at her. Beneath the covers, her hand reached for his, because she wanted to experience happiness with him. She wanted to be connected strongly enough to transcend reality together, to feel the rushes of human emotion. When she found his fingers, she squeezed. He shifted, smiled more widely, let her affection seep into his skin. She whispered the words I love you in the hopes that he might respond. Might whisper, with undeniable emotion dripping like a waterfall off of his tongue, the words I love you. And then with the grins of children playing on their lips, they would delve further, adventure more deeply, and be a part of the wonders that life could offer them. But, watching him sleep, she forgot about how he had slept late in her bed. She forgot how he had attempted to change the entire meaning of her haven. In the lovely and intimate darkness, there was beauty. He was beautiful. She lifted his smooth, slumbering fingers to her lips.
Simplicity, beauty, perfection.
He loved it when she smoked. Though it was one of those habits, horrid and unhealthy and indisputably smelly, the sight of her on his bed bringing the cigarette to and from her pursed lips excited him. Gave him an overwhelming sensation of exuberant contentment. She always opened the window when she smoked, but he still loved drowning in the aroma left on the sheets where she sat and puffed smoke from her mouth. He couldn't answer her when she asked how he could possibly accept this disgusting habit of hers when she herself wished so desperately for its eradication. There, sitting on his bed smoking a cigarette—nothing else, nothing at all—she was right in the middle of a reality.
The movement itself was like a dramatic, theatrical masterpiece, the kind from which he could not tear his eyes. It was a movie that would win award after glimmering gold award. That movement had all of the cinematic elements that a brilliant director would need for a brilliant film. It would begin with that box on the nightstand, labeled with a word that he could not pronounce. Then her hands, finally free of that monstrous book, would, with extreme purpose, open the box and pull out the little white cigarette. And she had a pink lighter that he liked to light candles with, and it would also have to be shown in clarity on the screen. Then that movement.
The climax would be there, when she brought the cigarette to her lips and then sucked in and then pulled it away with that porcelain arm. Then the air would turn gray. The movement would happen again and again and we would watch each one with growing interest. Through the magnificent fog.
He leaned against the doorframe, just as he did when he watched her read with his expression of disdain, but watched now with a look of affection. Of adoration and amazement. She changed her position by uncrossing her legs and spreading herself out on the bed, clad in her angelic white. But she had taken her socks off. She sighed, heavily enough to make him sigh despondently along with her, and stared up at the ceiling. Another innocent puff of that sweet smoke surrounded her expressionless face. When it disappeared, her eyes were closed and her hand dangled over the edge of his bed.
When everything felt this simple, the stars of his mind were aligned just perfectly, just enough to make his heart flutter and his smile temporarily permanent. The smoke gave his bed its splendor back, and as he smiled and crossed his arms, he prayed to himself—to a god that maybe did and maybe didn't exist—that she would continue to cleanse it with those sacrificial exhalations.
He called her name so that she would look at him and perhaps see the gratitude in his eyes. In a daze, she sat up and made that holy movement once more.
"Are you happy?"
With a smile that became a beacon, a light that guided his mind to hers, she shrugged and said, Of course I am.
He turned and walked away, amazed with the image of his bed in his mind. Happiness, satisfaction. That was his bed, and now hers.
"Do you want to go out for dinner?"
"I want to watch a movie by myself tonight. You can go out if you want."
He looked up at her with those eyes, so colorful, so vibrant, so happy and willing and imaginative, and the smile she gave him was pouring sincerity. She nodded excitedly, pictured him sprawled out on the couch with a bowl of buttery popcorn slowly emptying, and considered asking him what movie he was going to watch. But as she stood with her mouth open, the question ready and jittery on her tongue, a voice in her head screamed No! Not his movie. So she refrained, and with renewed arousal and awareness of his eyes on her, she crawled back into her bed. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him shiver slightly as she pulled the covers higher over her body.
She no longer felt the desire to do something to him, something so completely unexpected, for the sole purpose of dragging any genuine emotion from him in a raw and indisputable form. There, in the way he stood at the shelf and contemplated which movie to watch, she saw enough emotion to fuel her own exhaustion and her own satisfaction. The muscles in his back moved in a rhythmic manner as he brought his hand to his chin, rubbed the stubble that had taken refuge there, and let his hand fall back against his side. With each step the muscles rustled, and she tried to pinpoint their pattern as she watched. His movements, what he said, that glimmer in his eyes, all of it had finally reached the point of truth. They represented him perfectly in his search for an escape to a simpler reality, one that played itself out on a screen into which he would dive for two, three hours.
She loved picturing him saying to himself, I love this movie, it's one of the best. Or maybe even, This is a horrible movie, I can't believe I let myself watch this. Either way, there would be emotion in his voice, a tremor manifesting his heart while his words floated through the room. And at the same time, she would be curled up in her bed, dreaming or breathing or merely being. Or she would read, let herself experience the same phenomena that he was, but in a different form. A form that was just as effective, but different.
He sat on her bed with a handful of movies and spread them out on the snowy white covers. His forehead wrinkled as he thought and as she watched him think. In that wonderful way that he always did when he was trying to make a decision, he bit his lower lip and let his eyes scan over the titles. She read the upside down words and considered giving him her opinion, but she thought that it would be a more pure process if he did it himself. It would be more of him, purifying the air with his strong grip on passion. The meaning of her bed, the one that he had so horribly twisted into fitting the mold of dullness, was reverting back to what it was: a haven, a place for creativity. Reading creativity, watching creativity, being creativity—it made no difference. Simply creativity. That was her bed, and now his.