We’ve all been away a rather lot these days, so I thought I’d post something I jotted down before bed last night. I’d read the sentence, “Things changed,” as a chapter ending in a bit of nonfiction I was reading, and it struck me as this perfect turn. And, as we all know, stories only begin when things change….

________

Things changed.

For a second, at least, I think they did.

We were lying in the dark of my bedroom after the rest of the house had gone to sleep.

He whispered, “You know I’m terrified, right?”

I whispered back, “You don’t have to be.”

We both laid there, corpse-in-a-coffin-like, staring through the thick dark, talking at my popcorn ceiling. I guess I couldn’t know for sure that he was, but he was. He was laying there, hands clasped over his heart, face up, chin up, eyes trying to catch whatever light they could, but, really, it was the darkness he sought. His face could be whatever I wanted it to be; whatever he wanted it to be; whatever it wanted to be.

All at the same time and only in the dark.

It could be maskless under this new cover of darkness and it could let itself relax.

The longer we laid there, the more I felt the rest of him relax, sinking into the mattress as though it were finally a mattress. His breath dropped off into an even, sleeping breath, and I could hear the way it funneled through his nose to hit the back of his throat, how it parted his lips with a small wet sound. I could feel the tug of the comforter as his hips relaxed and his feet fell the way of gravity in a soft V. I could even smell the detergent his family used on his plaid button-up, which he’d left on with the rest of his clothes. Like sand and spring grass.

There in my bedroom, separated by clothes and air and dark, it was as naked as I would ever see him.

In the light of the next morning, he reassembled his fear and brought it away with him after a slow hug and soft kiss on the cheek.

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