Dead of night, and I climb through a cottony mass of half-formed thoughts and half-dissolved dreams into consciousness. Heat weighs heavily on me, and overhead the blades of the ceiling fan revolve sluggishly. I shift slightly, and turn my head; with a jolt, I realize that there is a stranger lying next to me.
I inch my way out of the tangled sheets and, setting my feet carefully on the cool floor, make my way over to the doorway. A floorboard squeaks and I quickly shift my weight and move closer to the wall. A sigh, and then his slow, even breathing resumes. I sigh as well, and tiptoe out of the room.
The caliginous bedroom gives way to a living room awash in moonlight. I draw the curtains and sink into the depths of an overstuffed chair. How did I come to be here, and what do I do now? The answers, it would seem, are all around me.
A trophy perdures on the bookcase, shrouded with dust; textbooks as well, unthumbed as the day they stood on the seller's shelf. A blue smock with a garish badge is tossed in a corner, along with a black pair of shoes whose scuffed toes have been covered by black magic marker. A man's jacket is thrown carelessly over the back of a beat up sofa, which crouches beneath the picture of a grinning young couple posed on a sugar white beach. All eerie in its vague familiarity.
I remember that I met him last night after work. That there were awkward pauses and silences, and that we spoke to each other oh so carefully. That we peeled away the layers, and that in exploring each other we explored ourselves as well. A dangerous thing, but necessary; unspoken becomes unnerving becomes undoing.
Dawn breaks, and I wearily make my way back. He is still sleeping, and I slide quietly into bed and lie there, studying him. The slope of his shoulders, the fine golden hairs on his arm, the nape of his neck, somehow delicate even on so large a man. Strange, and yet comfortingly recognizable. He stirs, stretches, and turns his head towards me; the morning light catches the autumn flecks of green and gold and brown in his eyes. He looks at me somberly for a moment.
“Happy Anniversary,” he says, and smiles.
In the full light of day, I smile as well.
“Happy Anniversary,” I reply.