All I Know

It’s the end of the night. All of our friends have retired to their tents or barn rooms. They’ve changed out of their Halloween costumes and stepped into pajamas. We have too. The night is October balmy. It might be November by now. Palm trees scratch against the screen, bending at the whim of the wind.

We’re two friends, a boy and a girl. We’ve decided to leave the long drive back to the city for the morning. There’s a couch on the screened-in porch and our friends have offered us blankets and sleeping bags to fend off the fall chill.

“How are we going to do this?” I ask. “It’s a very small couch.”

He looks around, assessing what other surfaces are sleepable. He pulls over a raggedy sofa chair and pushes it up against the couch, adding length to our makeshift bed.

“Yeah?” I ask, raising my eyebrows. He lays down, legs outstretched on the sofa chair.

“Yeah,” he says, reaching for the mountain of blankets.

“I don’t know about this,” I say, climbing onto the couch. I squirm from side to side, trying to find the right position to settle. His body stays silent. Finally, I stop, curled up like a seashell, my hands in a prayer beneath my cheek.

I face away from him and towards the dark farm beyond. The moon is a half-closed eye in the sky. My eyes are open wide, searching for anything in the darkness to distract me from this moment. I can hear him breathing beside me.

I wonder where his eyes are resting, where his hands are in relation to my body. I concentrate on staying very still, feigning calm; the tall palm continues to sway on the other side of the screen.

“You asleep?” he asks, his voice traveling through the cool darkness.

“Not really.”

“Do you want to cuddle?”

“Okay,” I say, my body remaining in its seed-like stance. The weight of the couch shifts beneath me as he moves on his side. Suddenly, I feel his arm come across my body, his legs fitting snugly behind mine. I can hear the beating of his heart against my back. We’ve never been this close before.

In this moment, I don’t know how his lips will feel on mine, or how my hand will feel in his. I don’t know how old he was when he lost his virginity or how many women he’s slept with.

In this moment, I don’t know how his teeth will feel on the milk skin of my thigh, or the way his hot breath in my ear will make me tremble.

I don’t know yet about the way his body twitches as it drifts towards sleep. I’ve never noticed the birthmark on his left ankle, the size of a quarter and the color of milk chocolate.

I don’t know about the early mornings we’ll share, in the hour before daybreak. He’s chopping fruit and blending cashews into milk while I make the bed. Outside his window and three stories below, the world will wake like a sleeping giant, yawning exhaust fumes and squeaky brakes. I don’t know about the lazy mornings, either, wrapped up in sunshine and sleep, the whisper of fingertips grazing skin.

I don’t know about the songs he’ll sing to me in his apartment, plucking guitar strings in the quiet dark before bed, or at the beach while we watch the sun dive into the sea, or over the phone when I’m in my bed and he’s in his 283 miles away and the only closeness we have is our voices. I don’t know then that those 283 will break us, holding hostage the simple friendship we once shared.

All I know is that the palm trees are dancing and the touch of his skin licks my body like a flame.