by Anna Myers
He knows it’s coming.
Like clockwork, it comes just one hour after they’ve said their goodbyes: shaken hands, ’till tomorrow, good job today, sleep tight. They laugh with the rest of them and count the minutes to midnight.
He likes to think he’s got it down to a perfect routine by now. Second corridor to the left, neon lights in the elevator, purple carpet that smells like piss, keys, vase, windows, bed. Sometimes, if he thinks he has more time, he will spend some time under the scorching hot water – finding a beautiful sort of twisted comfort in washing the day’s exhaustion off with fresh red marks from the fuming spray and a soap that smells nothing like home.
Tonight’s not one of those nights. He’s got less time than usual, he knows that -and even if he did, he wouldn’t be able to stand on two feet a minute longer in the state he’s in. He’s pissed off, not suicidal.
He gets in bed in his sweaty, smelly clothes, not bothering to turn the light off before curling up in a ball under the white of the sheets and revelling in that hotel bed freshness that he’s only learned to appreciate in the past few months. He manages to strip off his t-shirt and throw it to the floor with a sigh, then brings the duvet up to his nose and closes his eyes.
Next, he waits.
“The gentle dip in the bed behind him. Hair tickling his temple, soft, breath caressing the side of his face.”
Some nights the waiting goes quickly, passes him by in a drowsy daze of alcohol, quiet thoughts, and a heavy body. Maybe a pill or two. Other nights, he’s restless. He’s tense, worked up, quick on his feet at the slightest noise. Ready to spiral.
Tonight is neither. He’s calm, but dejected. He hasn’t touched the pills in his nightstand, nor turned on the music like he sometimes likes to. The day has drained him, but his brain is wide awake and he knows he won’t be able to fall asleep until much later on. After.
He looks over to his right, at the red digits blinking back at him. 1.02 AM. He shuts the light off, and curls tighter on himself.
That’s when he hears it. The sound of the key turning, the door shutting quietly. Soft thumping of feet on carpet, creaking, approaching.
First comes the scent; apples, winter. Home.
Second, the gentle dip in the bed behind him. Hair tickling his temple, soft, breath caressing the side of his face. Warmth.
A velvety laugh rings bright in the dark of the hotel room, in the silence.
’You smell’, is what the man says.
‘Was tired’, he answers with a faint chuckle, and turns to face him.
He brings a hand to his cheek, the man’s skin burning the tips of his fingers.
The man turns his head to press a kiss to the palm of his hand. One, two, three kisses. He looks up. A glint in the moonlight faintly shining from the open window. A gust of air. A sigh, a shuffle, a groan.
Hands on neck, hips on hips, eyes to eyes. Magnified.
His nose tickles with salt and his traitorous eyes start to water. He holds it in, blinking furiously. This, this is why he can never stop. This is what he’s needed all day, what he’s been craving.
‘Hey’, he says as he pulls away to speak into the man’s mouth, ‘you were good today.’ A beat. They breathe in unison. Then, ‘I wanted to tell you, you should -you should know.’
A smile. White of teeth, red of lips, shining in the dim blue glow as they move.
‘Thanks for being there. For — everything’, the man says as he dips back in to kiss behind his ear.
‘I want to’, he says to the room, to the hair in his face, to the body he clutches on to like a lifeline, to the night, to the times he asks himself if he’s doing the right thing, or wonders if he’s going crazy. To the first time they saw each other and that time they took a boat out to sea, to the times they couldn’t speak and the ones they spent hoping for a better way. To the routine they’ve got now, the way they make it work. And it works. They’ve got each other, and it works.
‘I want to’, he repeats.
They don’t talk much after that.
He wakes to the sound of the hotel phone ringing, and picks up with a grunt and a hand going to his forehead.
‘Yes?’, he growls into the receiver.
‘This is your wake up call, Mr. V, 7.45 like you asked’, the voice on the other end says in a monotone.
‘Right. Thank you’, he puts the phone down with more force than necessary, and presses his hand down on his eyes. Hard.
He looks to his left. The bed is empty.
Anna Myers is an actress/writer/clumsy person navigating life in London. Her work has been published on Thought Catalog, Poets Unlimited, Soul Anatomy and She Did What She Wanted. She laughs really loudly and cries to a lot of John Mayer songs, but if that doesn’t scare you off, she’s always up for a chat on twitter and you can read more from her at www.annamyers.co.uk.