The enveloping ambient light of night and winter gathered around us. She turns towards me in her sleep. Her lips utter a small moan as if protesting in the feeblest of ways but she is sleeping, and she is not, as I had thought protesting to me, rather some imagined phantasm of her head.
"I just wanted to know, do you mind if I use one of the Tazo Chai teabags?"
The display on my phone says outside call. Outsider call. An erroneous description at this stage, nobody could be more Inside.
"Of course."I say. The whirling, flying mess of work halts, suspended in an electronic haze about my head. Everything stops for her.
"I brought them home for you." (I'm smiling at this stage.)
I can feel her smile down the phone lines and through the electronic ether. For all it's indifference, the medium can still, for certain people, convey a multitude of purest thought. Unspoken thought. Thought without thought.
"That's okay then. Are you sure you don't mind?"
"Certainly" The mad business frenzy starts to rotate again, speeding up by fractions. My oasis is slipping away.
"Okay, I'll see you when you get home.".
The green light on my phone has winked out, and the tornado spins around my head once more.
My hand came up and adjusted the duvet, so that she wasn't quite so exposed to the November chill in our draughty room. She took the top, as if I had handed it to her, and shrugged herself into the folds of the covers.Still facing me. Facing me, facing her. I saw the smallest hint of a smile, a smile of cat-content.
"Well I don't know! How could I?"
I had wanted to know if she thought the hotel manager would still be awake. The Metropolitano has deposited us far from our hotel and it's a long treck back. It's not necessary for him to be there, but it would make things easier for checking out the next day.
Her mouth is set, sternly as we walk in that jerking way that tired people do. My limp is slowing her up. It always has, since the car crash.
"Look," I said, "a tabacchie."
"But we'll be late!"She responds, exhasperated.
We are maybe ten minutes from our beds, but I know she needed sugar. I insisted.
Her eyes close and her shoulders slump minutely, while she drinks the iced tea. That smile. Again. It's going to be okay.
It almost seemed impossible that fragile eyelids could mask such fire. Eyes of fire. Blue fire. They flickered behind her lids, following some dreamed tableau. Her dark hair clouded behind her like a spreading coke-stain on a pale blue carpet, across the pale blue room. She was like liquid in liquid. Natural.
Hand on my cheek.
Hand on my neck.
"I'm sorry." she says again.
"Don't be." I can never stay annoyed. It's always gone faster than the instant it takes her to realise.
Hand on my chest.
Hand inside my shirt.
"Can't help it." She shrugs.
Hand below my ear.
Somewhere below her long legs readjusted. Her head bowed, closer to me. No future. No past. Just her. Smiling. Comfortable.
"You'll be okay......it will get better. You know that. Don't worry about it. We'll be okay."
Where her blouse meets my cheek is wet.
"We'll be okay."
Something about her warmth gathered inside my head and made me think of dark blue velvet. I was running my hand across the fabric of my mind. The fabric was wrapped around her. I smiled too, then, as if in response to her. A 2 am antiphon.
And then sleep.
Sleep well Lindsay.