Below is an unabridged version of a short story I wrote that has recently been published by http://www.sophmoremag.com. Very interested in any thoughts or comparisons.
I get a lot of shit for still using a typewriter but it’s just something I rely on now. We all have our intricacies. That’s why they say you can’t always live with your friends, or not every friend you have is your travel friend. It’s simple compatibility. I’m an easygoing traveller, I can compromise on plans and food and all sorts of things. But when it comes to roommates I have to be pretty upfront about the typewriter thing, apparently. My mentality is, if it’s too loud for your new-fashioned ears, get some of those fancy noise-cancelling headphones. It’s just how I write.
Anyway, I feel the same way about sleeping in relationships. Real sleep, I mean, that deep REM-cycle kind. With sleep, if we don’t jive, we don’t jive. That’s just life. And if we can’t sleep together— something that takes up nearly half our lives— why fuck around with the rest of it?
So I invited this guy back to my place. We were sharing a cigarette outside Betty’s, our third of the evening, and I’d been swooning all night. I mean, we were jiving. He’s fantastic. I decide I’m bringing him home. He will undergo the sleep test and I will pray to god he doesn’t snore.
This is generally how I go about things. If we hit it off, I’m going to invite you home. Most men take this as an invitation for sex but I’m very unsexy about the whole thing so as to not really perpetuate that sort of anticipation. And then I just fall asleep when we get back to my place. It’s really that simple. I don’t sleep with anyone until I’ve actually managed to sleep through the night with them. Sometimes it’ll be just to see what happens. What if he stays? And so what if he goes? Maybe he’ll wrap himself around me. Usually, he’ll snore all night.
I can’t sleep a wink through snores, honestly, I can’t. I can spend hours trying to find a comfortable position but it won’t matter when I’m concentrating on the nearly rhythmic but never metronomic sound of someone more relaxed into sleep than me. I mean, fuck that. Fuck them! See, that’s where I always go. It’s not their fault, truly I know this. But it’s like, you are clearly sleeping more soundly than I, must you brag? Anyway, snoring has become the only true test of a man I’ve managed to implement across the spectrum of the species.
With Tre here, I think I can tell there won’t be snoring. Not that I have a sense for these kind of things but we’ve been talking for over two hours. I had my toes tucked under his bum a second ago. We’re past the attempts at sex. There were barely any attempts at sex. He’s so funny. We are speaking to each other’s souls. I don’t think he could be a snorer.
He’s in the bathroom now, I can hear the tap on. I’ve just slid very naturally down the wall into a half-leaning, half-slouching position, rolled away from the door. He’ll come in, “Oh, no. She’s asleep.” And I’ll pretend. Here he comes. The light dims outside my eyelids as he turns off the light in the hall. The lamp is still on and he walks in talking,”…my childhood babysitter always had that soap, the stuff you’ve got in the bathroom? Man, that smell I–” he’s noticed. I’m “asleep”. What’s it gunna be?
I lay still and try to focus on breathing very naturally without sounding like I’m trying to breathe very naturally. I’m good at this part.
He whispers my name. “Mischa.” It’s a good name for whispers.
And… he’s turned off the lamp.
So maybe my instincts were right about this one… though he wasn’t even that drunk. Sometimes I know that’s a motivator. Why leave a perfectly good half a bed? When one is drunk and the half a bed is right here? Plus, I provided an invintation after all. But Tre was not that drunk and he’s already standing, he could just put his shoes on and go but — no. He has turned off the light and is crawling into bed behind me. He whispers, “C’mere,” and pulls me out of my casual sleep-lean against the wall and into him, softly. I settle in. He doesn’t snore.
I’m trying to remember what we talked about. It’s been three days and Leslie’s over, demanding to know what happened when I very casually strolled off with this fellow the other night. I did, too, stroll casually. That’s usually how I do it. Just like, “Let’s go.” In a sing-song voice and a flip of the hair, light as a feather, no problem. I get it, why she doesn’t get it. It’s cause she doesn’t know I just sleep. We just sleep. “I slept with him,” it sounds very definitive. But the problem is that people ignore the original, more innocent meaning. I mean, of course they would, but this isn’t my problem. And if I don’t really sleep then I usually won’t say we slept together. So… okay, yeah I’m taking advantage of this double-meaning, I’m sorry.
Anyway, I can’t remember what Tre and I talked about. From two-thirty to I’d say at least four in the morning we talked, face to face, like human beings in swirl of real connection and I can’t really remember what we talked about. The whole conversation is impressed on me with such strong feelings, but no words that might express their origin. What did we talk about that made me like him so much? Leslie is mad I can’t explain my feelings, especially since that generally is one of my specialties. I tell her some of what I can remember, that he’s a painter or likes to paint. Not from the city but living here now. “We just talked about life.”
“What does that even mean?”
Here’s what I won’t tell Leslie: that was some of the best sleep of my life. This might get a laugh, but I’m telling you, some people were just meant to sleep together. Some people can just relax into each other so perfectly it’s like, “How did I even doze before you?” Really. I woke up the next morning kind of half on top and sort of wrapped around and all cozied up, not a kink in my neck, not a finger asleep. I checked for drool. We woke up at the same time, busting apart like two puzzle pieces.
“I passed out,” I whisper.
He just chuckles, nodding like, “Me too.”
Then we went for breakfast.
Leaving Leslie’s I’ve kind of got this guy on my mind and we haven’t talked since we parted ways after getting Continentals on Spadina. Leslie lives around the corner from Betty’s and it’s after four o’clock so I’m going for a drink, whatever. If he’s bartending, great. If not, I’ll drink a pint and leave. I consider his co-workers. I decide not to care what they think as I walk through the door, and yet it doesn’t matter. There he is, smiling a big surprised smile at me, bundled in the doorway and smiling back.
I bustle over to a bar stool and unbundle. I’m unwrapping my scarf when he appears beside me with two cigarettes perched between his fingers.
I re-bundle and we step back outside.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said, y’know, about practicing and playing or whatever.” I’m trying to remember, he’s looking at me and I’m hearing the “y’know” again so maybe I should just say “right” and hope for the best. But he jumps back in, because apparently he thinks my silence means I don’t believe him.
“Honestly, I have. I mean, that cycle, you explained it so well and it’s just been going around and around in my head, y’know? I can feel it, I can see myself in it. Really.”
Oh my god, I’m laughing. I’m going to have to tell him. He’s looking at me like, “What?” Kind of like my boss, a perpetually confused and well-meaning Italian who’s face often reads as, “C’mon, what? Why? Why you do this to me?”
I sigh with laughter to settle down so I can admit, “I don’t remember. I don’t.”
“I don’t really remember what we talked about.”
He takes this in. I can feel him take a step away from me, without physically moving.
“I mean, I do and I don’t. I can remember laughing, and being very on the same page. Multiple pages? We are definitely speaking the same language. It was the best.” He’s shaking his head, but also smiling just enough that I know I’m going to get away with it. I was more drunk, to be fair. And it was one of those conversations that can kind of get away from you literally, despite being able to hold on to it more metaphysically. I say this and he laughs, “Okay, Mischa.”
We are smiling and looking at each other. It is amazing how fun this is. With some people this simple gazing, it’s everything. Other people it’s like, “Okay, that’s what you look like, got it.”
“Anyway,” I say, breaking the gaze. Just for a second, then I’m back, it’s too fun, “Tell me about my brilliance?”
He laughs, one of those big short ones, “HA!” But then he’s into it, “Okay, so–”
“Do it justice,” I chide.
“– don’t. Okay, right, so I was sitting there saying that painting doesn’t make me a better ball player. Or the other way around… ball doesn’t make me better at painting, it’s just a hobby. Or… I don’t remember which way.”
I’m smirking but he just shakes his head and keeps going, “I was essentially arguing they don’t go… or coincide or whatever. And you— I can’t believe you don’t remember this, honestly. You pulled this out of your ass while drunk? I am amazed— you start arguing that they are, they are so related, they are the most related. And we do both things cyclically. Like with basketball… No, you used a golf swing. You think about doing it the right way. You see it done, right? You watch the pros. You practice and you think about it, think about it, think about it. But when you’re actually doing it, you try to just be. Just be what you were thinking about without thinking too much. Just be.
And when we’re creating we’re thinking about the world, the world is what we’re trying to replicate. Or at least an understanding of the way the world works, expressed through art.
So, think and think and think and then just be what it is you were thinking about.
And you were telling me about your parents, too, y’know, how they influenced you. Or opened you up to the world and showed you all the ways to empathize with the world. I had teachers like that, who saw some little skill in me and showed me all the ways to use that skill to be a part of the world I saw. And by be I mean create. Or recreate. Or replicate.
Anyway, once you’ve kind of practiced that skill enough you’re not just replicating you’re initiating.
So you get to be what you see, but make it more… you.”
He throws his cigarette down, watching it, then looks up at me. He did it justice.
“I didn’t pull that out of my ass. I’ve thought about it before.”
“Never said it out loud before.”
His smile cracks through again.
“When’s your shift over?”
“Wanna come back to mine after?”