I wake up and for a moment I am seized with panic. Today's the day. You've finally left me, haven't you? And then I realize your arms are still wrapped around my waist. A calm washes over me as I enjoy the weight of your arms through your thin New Order t-shirt that I love to wear to bed. I could be naked and still be warm in your arms.
It's hard to find warm places this time of year at the beach. Winters are always cold and wet. But I tend to like the poetic way the drops of rain splatter across the sand. It's part of the reason why I stay around here. It's not for the company. There are all of 30 people in this tiny 1/4 mile wide town on the Jersey coast during the off-season. But this place seems very romantic to me. And I love the pebbles. Pebbles are different at the beach.
I check the clock. 6:30 am. Perhaps I should sleep for a little longer, but I can't doze off again. My mind has been racing lately. It's been 2 months since you showed up at the coffee shop, and I'm beginning to wonder how long you'll be around. Not that I mind at all. I kind of enjoy coming home to you all bundled up in front of the fire reading Virgil. It's a change from coming home to emptiness.
It's odd though, how close we've become in these past months. Yet I know so little about you. Do you have a middle name, or a family? Is the dirt underneath your nails there permanently? Do you always scoop sand into your pockets and empty them onto the carpet when you get home?
The grey is getting lighter through the yellowing lace curtains on our window. I pull your arms around me tighter and turn to face you. The second-hand bed frame squeaks beneath my weight and I hope I don't wake you. You look so peaceful when you sleep.
I start to imagine that you're dreaming about the first day. That day you strolled into the coffee shop and my heart. I came from the kitchen to see you sitting in a booth near the back. Like you were waiting for me. You were a perfect stranger, and yet I felt like you'd been waiting for me in that patent-red booth forever.
I wiped my hands on my apron and walked over to you. I can't imagine how you knew to look up and watch me walk over. My steps were silent. The whole coffee shop was silent. It was a rainy day in November. Not many people enjoy beach days in late November.
My breathing stopped once I reached your table. You motioned for me to sit. You'd known too. I'd been sitting in that kitchen waiting for you forever. I wiped my hands on my apron again and placed them on the table. You laced your fingers in mine.
"So now what?"
I was speechless. You rubbed my palms with your callused thumbs. Why are your fingers so rough to the touch? And why can't I ever stop myself from grabbing them? My breathing resumed.
"Why the beach in November?"
"I'm an artist. But I recently sold my space in Santa Fe and decided to see the East Coast. I'm a Springsteen fan, so I figured I'd check out what he's always singing about in his songs."
"You're a little north of Atlantic City."
"I won $1,000 there last night. Felt like I should leave before my luck turned."
"You picked the off season. No one's ever around during the off season."
"It's more romantic during the winter."
I took you back to my little crooked house on the beach and made love to you. You told me your name was Oliver. I never officially invited you to stay, but the little belongings you had made their way into the bookshelves and corners of my house. The second time we made love, you painted me with a sheet tangled between my legs. We walk on the beach barefoot and rescue deserted pages of novels and beer bottle caps from the sand. Whenever we find a seagull feather, you take it home, wash it, and then weave it into my hair. We spend our days drifting through space and our nights making love. What is your last name?
And now I'm afraid that you're going to disappear. You're like those tiny fish that swim near the shore. I used to always try to catch them in little jars to take home. But every time I thought I had one, I'd come up with just a jar of salt water. I want to keep you on my mantle like the pieces of sea glass we find. But I'm afraid, my dear, that you might just be like one of those fickle little fish and swim away from me.
Your arms tighten around me, and I know your awake. I can't wait to begin another lazy day with you. But there's something I need to do first. I look you deep in the eyes. My Oliver is still groggy from sleep. You smile the laziest, yet most beautiful smile I've ever seen at me and I know. Just like I knew that first day.
But before I could pour my soul to you, to tell you how lonely I was before you came and how desperately I need you to never let me leave your arms, you speak.