She's out of intensive care now. Another seizure, another crisis. It's been this way for weeks. My sister. Bad car accident six months ago and the resultant shrapnel. This was my night to come and sit vigil. The three of us take turns: her husband, my brother and I.

I find a quiet corridor and start down the phone call list (pulled from my pocket, a crumbled up paper placemat from Denny's). First Frank, then Mike, then her best friends. At the end of the list is my apartment. No answer. Probably phone off the hook, its 3 a.m. She knows where I am.

Look up at the round white/black clock on the wall. It's so quiet in this hallway I can hear the whirl of the second hand and the click whenever another minute goes by.

click

Time to go find caffeine. I head downstairs for some machine gunk and there she is, wearing my green raincoat over her p.j.s. Holding two large styrofoams from the place across town. Real coffee. I give her my best weary smile and walk towards her. She leans against the wall and holds one arm across her face as she tries to hide a yawn. I take the coffee from her and lean sideways against the wall, closing my eyes...

thanks

She wraps her arms around me and puts her face against my back.

I couldn't sleep... she whispers.

She doesn't lie very well.

But she is so still. And I can hear her breathing-bringing life to this lifeless place. And I can't hear the clock anymore.

SHE does not know how much I need this.

But she should. She'd never understand. But she should.

She DOES not know how much I need this.

She's woken up next to me every morning for the last two years, wrapped in my arms. We never go to sleep like that, but somehow (I know how) we reach for each other in the night, and just ... position ourselves for maximum contact, maximum warmth, maximum presence. When she wakes, not fully conscious, she always says she feels safe. She always says she feels warm. She always smiles.

I long to tell her I know just how she feels.

She doesn't ever have to wake up alone again, because I always want to be with her. But I will never forget him, and waking up in his arms, feeling safe, warm. And I, too, smiled. Just like she does.

She does NOT know how much I need this.

How could I possibly tell her that all the kindnesses and consideration I pay her are part of the lesson I learned from him? How can I possibly tell her that part of the reason I love her so much, so very much, is because of him?

How beautiful, how perfect, how masculine, how infinite, how synergistic. I try to show her these things, but ... I always fail. I always fail because I simply cannot cross the chasm of incomprehensibility. Some things simply cannot be explained. They merely ARE, and are part of me. A part I don't think I could ever share with her and still have her love.

She does not KNOW how much I need this.

I am responsible to her, because he showed me that love requires responsibility, and obligation.

I do not hurt her because I have hurt him so much that I have made him cry.

I know how to hold her because he taught me how to be held.

She does not know HOW much I need this.

I don't know how it happened.

It just did. I saw him. I loved him. And that was that for many years. I didn't stop loving women. I didn't fall in love with any other men. Just him. I don't know why. I don't know how. That's just the way things are. Always will be.

And would I have it any other way? Not a chance.

She does not know how MUCH I need this.

I miss him.

I'll always look back at that short span of time that I knew him. I want those memories to be fond. However I'm afraid that there's going to be a lot of people in my life that will want me to look back at it, that time, at him, in shame.

They'll want me to do that so much that I'd eventually give in, and pretend to do it, to be ashamed. If I don't pretend for them, then I'd have to actually tell them about him, and tell them he loved me more unconditionally than even my own parents. I can't do that. I can't do that. I can't do that.

I'll pretend he doesn't exist, and I'll pretend not to be ashamed of myself for doing it.

and I'll miss him

She does not know how much I need this.

She tried holding me last night, she wanted to, I don't know why. I hated it. I didn't sleep at all that night, last night. Her breasts didn't feel right jammed up between my shoulder blades. Her chin, free of any raspy stubble, didn't fit into the nape of my neck, it was too bony and it hurt. There was no heat from her groin, no pulse, no gentle but insistent pressure thrusting languidly beneath the small of my back. I miss his long legs, hers are so short, and she doesn't instinctually put one of hers between mine, I have to ask.

I'll never be held again.

She does not know how much I NEED this.

He may have taught me, but she embodies the application of that knowledge. I think, I honestly believe, that I'd always love her, no matter whether he was there behind me or not. But would I need her? Need to make her smile? Want to have her with me, as partner, as equal, as friend, if ... if not for him?

I need to believe that he was necessary, that there was no other way to appreciate her, to learn and to see that this is the way I have chosen to live my life. And, at the end of the day, it's not really that hard to believe, after all. Because it is a true thing. It is a real thing.

She does not know how much I need THIS.

She doesn't know how much I need her. She may, someday. I may tell her all of this one day, sharing one of our last sunsets together. We'll have grown old, grown comfortable together. And ... who knows? He's still relatively close behind. Sixty years from now, I will have probably forgotten more about her than I remember about him now. But for now, for right now, she does not know how much I need this. This time, this moment of reflection before I commit to her utterly.

Right before I say I do.

She does not know how much I need this.

But, somewhere, he does.

And someday, she will.

I've won.

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