You feel his hand on your knee like a fallen leaf—light, sudden, and unremarkable. Two, three weeks ago, I would have blushed… maybe all of this is me being petty.
‘That’s rather lovely,’ he says, placing the dog-eared pages on the table.
‘It’s supposed to be sad.’
He is saying so much and nothing; you are saying nothing and everything and he does not hear it. You dropped everything to be here. You left a half-drunk cup of coffee on the window sill and forgot your gloves and now your fingers are cold and he’s touching your knee—and you’re not blushing about it.
He is exclaiming about a small tear in his sleeve.
‘It’s not noticeable,’ you
His hair is overly-gelled and you’ve had that discussion: where you mention you like it when he’s softer, but it’s not your call to make, so he styles it with each curl sharp enough to uncork a bottle of wine and you think of wax figures and how you didn’t wash your face. His scarf is crimson like the inside of his mouth and it is crooked where it knots at his throat. There is a tiny spot at the apex of his jaw he always misses when shaving and you love putting your finger on these chinks in his armour.
The two of you drink from the same paper cup of Earl Grey. This is ordinary now; it was cheeky and intimate last month—but that was before he’d been inside you and had his fingers around you and his lips on your neck planting pale purple carnations. Toothpaste and bergamot mix oddly on the tongue. You lick over your front teeth and find in your haste you missed one, your right incisor has been left grimy. Every time you place the cup down, the spout is pointing at him.
You look up because his fingers are delicately plucking lint from your shoulder, knuckles grazing your neck, his thumb drawing along your collarbone. His movements are slow, careful, almost fussy. That’s not ordinary yet— which has to be meaningful. He makes me feel safe. He makes you feel a lot of things.
You like him in this shirt. You like that he’s handsome when he’s not trying, or when he’s not aware of it—when he’s thinking. You don’t like the face he pulls for cameras. He’s talking about matching with other men on dating apps and you’re not jealous—that must be meaningful. So, you want his attention, but nothing serious—is that a question mark or full stop? It’s not that simple. He told you once that you make him clever, but he doesn’t need you for that, you just make him think. And now he’s making you think in ways you’re rather certain he hasn’t considered yet.
The two of you are good together in bed. That’s meaningful. Good is a mild way to put it— you are electric together. You get goosebumps whenever he’s near just from the static in the air. He touches you in every right place, his cock feels heavy in your hands, in your body, you feel powerful and helpless in his. You make him breathless and he makes you whimper. Good sex is about communication, after all, and he does love talking about it, candid and filthy, while you hang on every word like you’re hypnotised. And yet, here you are: he’s speaking to you, and you are not listening. He drums his fingers on the table and now you’re thinking about every inch they covered two days ago, and the press of him, and you feel where his fingerprints still burn between your legs and on your hips.
He sips his drink and you watch his throat shift. It is so still this morning that you hear your watch’s tiny heartbeat. You are tired.
The two of you are all angles today. Your hand covers the dip in your chin, your own stubble against your knuckles. One ankle is propped on the opposite knee with the toe of your shoe turned to him. He
‘You’re being all quiet,’ he gravitates forward slightly to say this, looking you full in the face.
You take another sip of his drink and his eyes follow your mouth as it touches the cup.
You don’t think he heard you, but like knowing that he isn’t listening because you’ve distracted him, because he’s thinking about where your mouth was two days ago. So, you do enjoy this singular attention of his. That’s not a crime. No, but it is… inadvisable.
You move on, he speaks about colleagues, about things left to do, pieces to rehearse.
‘The art gallery has an opening next week, an exhibition of some new Cindy Sherman pieces. Would you like to come with me?’ I interject.
It feels immediately too forward, but his face is unreadable, or maybe you’re just overly invested and thus can’t tell anymore. He asks you to send him the details, he’ll let you know. He is not going to let you know. He just needs time to check his schedule. You know he doesn’t like making plans too far in advance. It’s good to be patient. There is such a thing as too patient. He doesn’t even like art all that much. But you do.
His head tilts and he frowns. ‘Shall we—’
You shake your head. Whatever he was about to suggest, no.
‘Not yet.’ You say it evenly, then clear your throat. You want to stay here a little longer, with a heartbeat quiet on your wrist and his drink still half-finished between you. Just while the pastries are still warm.
Words by Ezra Théodore Tillett
Photography by Carl Swart
This piece was originally published in Edition 30.