An arts magazine at the University of Pennsylvania
Art by Annabel Sumardi
Writing by Eva Ingber
The first time I sleep over I do not really sleep. There is a painful pressure in my bladder, and the organ feels like it might explode at any moment, leaving me and the sleeping man beside me bathed in a warm puddle of my urine. The bathroom is down the hallway, a dingy and closet-sized space shared by all the flatmates, but I don’t go. It isn’t the distance, or the rust-stained toilet and toothpaste-crusted sink, that deter me; it is imagining the tinkle of my piss echoing throughout the apartment. I am a human with bodily functions, but the man beside me can’t know this yet.
Let him think I naturally smell like springtime. That my body grows no hair except from my head, and that this hair is silky straight without chemical intervention. Let him think that I did not already know before our first date that he has three younger sisters, and an ex-girlfriend whose upper arms are as thin as my wrists. That when I say “yes” it is easy, and I mean it. That I am fun and carefree and effortless. Let him believe that these things are true, and let me believe them vicariously through him.
Let him also believe our sharing the same bed means as much to me as it does to him, which is to say not very much. To him, a bed is two lifelessly flat pillows sagging against the wall (no headboard), yellowing sheets, and a faded quilt, brought from an abandoned childhood bedroom. He is a deep sleeper, the kind whose jaw slackens and whose body involuntarily twitches. He definitely does not lay awake planning his wedding (a small affair for family and close friends in a dreamy, victorian-esque meadow) and naming his kids (Sebastian, for the eldest boy; Seth, for the second boy; Sophia, for the baby girl).
I watch him sleeping, his face so beautiful and soft in its blankness. I brush my fingers across his stubbled cheek, down to his strong chin. I picture what it might look like in twenty years, lines etched around his mouth and eyes, and I hate myself. I have known him for a month, and we are nothing. He doesn’t move.
I whisper his name over and over to myself so it loses its meaning. He is just a boy, I think. This is just a bed. I roll over, finally tired. It’s morning.
As I close my eyes, his arm lazily circles my waist, pulling me against him. He exhales into the crook of my neck, and the kiss of his even breath on my skin is more tender than any lips I’ve ever felt.
My eyes close in bliss. I still cannot sleep, but I dream again, flush with the euphoria of his touch. The pads of his fingers feel like possibility.
The air conditioning whirs. He rolls away from me once more. I remember I still need to pee, he is just a boy, and I am very tired.