'Daylight' by David Brookes


I stare at the ceiling and see nothing but darkness. The only light in the small room comes from above the window, a mere glow where the mismatching curtains fail to join.

I have to pretend to see your arm stretched over my chest. The smooth dip and rise of your waist and hip. I can feel your breath against me in the darkness, and the gentle weight of your knee resting between mine. Your hair is cotton on my shoulder.

It took a long time to figure it out – why we couldn’t be together. Hours of floating in the sea, staring at the sky or the white beach or the ocean’s horizon, but rarely at each other. Talking without thinking, which is something we never learned to do. And why we were never ourselves.

Those times that we drifted, lying in the translucent water with our toes poking up like islands, our voices were flat and clear, uncontaminated by selfishness or fear of reprisal. We let the tide take us where it wanted. These new truths of ours were deep and far-reaching.

It took days. I can see the Thai islands in my mind’s eye. Green jungle, white sand, crystal blue ocean. Green, white, blue. Like a flag of surrender, even after the flags of truce failed.

I will not fall asleep. You have been resting, finally, for hours. You put your soft cheek on my shoulders, ran your fingers through my chest hair. I felt your tears, then you were gone, like something dropped out of sight.

I’m just going to hold onto you. Have waking dreams where there are no problems, no differences, no screaming. No reasons to be apart. No defects of character we need time alone to fix. Just us, like this, lying together in the cool darkness.

The air conditioning blows cold air over my legs. Where our bodies touch, intense heat soaks into my skin. Is this your heat, or the heat that just exists between us, those leaping Van de Graff interactions? I was always the one to get warm first, you always the one to get cold.

I breathe slowly. I don’t want to disturb you. We talked and cried ourselves to exhaustion, mainly out of shock and disbelief. Making the decision was rational, mechanical. So grown up. And then the realisation sank in. Tomorrow we’re going to be apart, forever.

I can tell from the glow around the curtains that the sky is getting brighter. The stars above the island are burning out.

If I turn a little to the right, my tears roll away from you instead of towards you.

Starlight turns to sunlight. The room brightens to shades of deepest blue and grey. I see your outline: that arm, that waist, that hip. You sleep upon me and this is my last glance, soon to be memory.

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