Desire Walks On
by Dale H. West

I am asleep in an unfamiliar bed, the window next to me open to the cool April air. I know it was the first day of spring, not because the calendar said so, but because the peepers started this evening. She heard them on our walk and I bathed in her joy at rediscovering them for the thirty-fifth time. Sugaring season has ended but spring brings so much more in sensual discovery than sweet sap stolen from trees.

Sleep has come over me and exhaustion brought it soundly. I am heavy in my place on the bed, my arms across my chest, so heavy I cannot move from this place. I am conscious of where I am and what is going on around me. My eyes are lost and my thinking has moved to acknowledging only my senses, releasing my mind from querying and solving. I can only recognize. I cannot think. I listen to the sounds of spring, so normal because they happen every year, yet so special for the same reason. Through spring we are reborn into the world, especially those of us who love to live and suffer through long, snowy winters.

My chest rises and falls in deep even breaths. The peepers chatter. The tree frogs harmonize. Mountain breezes moan across the fields and play tag with the curtains, pushing them over me. I pay only passing attention to their game. Next to me she is breathing then talking and pulling me back from sleep's grasp. I can feel myself being pulled down to sleep with an intense force. The desire to live in every waking moment of her company pulls harder and I respond.

She was afraid for me to be here next to her, yet she doesn't want me to be anywhere else. The questions come. Why this? Why not some other outcome, some other place some other time, some other person? Answer the same answers I have always given. I don't know. I didn't make things happen the way they did. I share her feelings. Sleep wants me. It wanted me hours ago. She wanted me years ago. I wanted her too. She walked away. The talking stops, my consciousness wanes.

It seems hours but it could only be minutes or dawn would be greeting us. Her voice calls to me again. Are you? No. I am not, but I have asked myself before and wasn't so sure. I mirror the question. She says she is not. She wonders. I want to sleep and am content she is next to me. I tell her so. I tell her I had to stop thinking about her because it hurt too much. She says she lost me. She didn't lose anything, but I tell her if she lost something it was because she let it go.

She is quiet. I had turned to talk to her for a while, to look deep into her eyes and hold her hand. I stopped myself from touching her hair and moving it from her face. It would have been so easy, so simple, so honest, but I have returned to my corpse position. I breathe the now cold, damp air deep into my lungs. It hurts, but I want to hurt. I want it to hurt enough to forget where I am but still be here. I know the hurt from the cold will end with daybreak. I want sleep so intensely there is only one thing now, which could keep me from it.

This time it is not her voice but her hand, her warm hand on my arm, which drags me from sleep. I don't move. She doesn't say anything, just runs her hand from my elbow to my wrist and back. Simple enough, but its meaning is not simple. I realize sleep will not have me.

Her kiss is hard and aggressive. Not my style. I don't like kissing, not like this. Something tells me this isn't about what I like. I kiss her back in spite of my lack of inspiration. There are other things I do like. Kissing is easy.

She is soft and my hands look at her curves in ways I have not seen a woman. She looks different through my hands. I want to see more. In time she reveals herself and I take in every bit she gives. I inhale her body and taste her skin gently. Experience. I want to experience this woman. Not have her, not take her, only to share her experience.

Her apologies make her seem more like a woman. I'm not ready. She is ready and says so but she has not given herself permission. I can hear it in the way she moves. I could oblige, but I wait. She pushes. She pulls. I hold back. Not to deny her. I want the journey. She wants the destination. I know the route to discovery and am nonplused. She notices things that escape my attention; legs intertwined and the difference of our bodies. My mind, conditioned for sleep, still reads only senses. No conscious, no regret. I stop to let my heart wrap itself within this feeling and hold her tight to my chest. It is a comforting blanket which I am tangled in, so tight there is no room left for doubt or insecurity. Any tighter it would cut off my life, the very blood coursing through my body.

"Delicious." She speaks the only word between us yet she does not taste me.

She worries she cheated on our partners. I didn't cheat anyone. I cannot cheat because what is in my conscious is always best. I have no room to believe otherwise. What she feels is up to her. She worries. I can't. I try to sleep holding her but she tells me it tempts her. I let her go. I only want to sleep anyway and become sleep's prisoner.

I awake with the sun streaming through the open window, poking at my eyes. The wind has settled itself for a new day. Clouds filter the hue of the sun and cast shadows on the fields, their morning dew evidence of the evening's heavy, wet chill. I turn my head. I am alone in this new bed. An alarm sounds on the other side of the wall. Going to sleep was half the want. Waking without her leaves my quest unrealized. Without an intense need for sleep the questions creep-in. Why? Did I go too far? Did I hurt? Did I misunderstand? Exhaustion takes me back to sleep's solitary cell but the alarm wakes me to a new round of questions. Six times I return to sleep, half in dream, half in reality. Six times the alarm wakes me but it is eventually silenced; presumably ceased by her hand, in another room.

I hear her go to the bathroom and latch the door with intended quietness. Clothes are found and I dress. The clock does the math: time for her to decide who will take her back to her car. Less than two hours of sleep. A longer night of sleep prohibited by a lifetime of unanswered questions followed by two lives exploring individual passions. Neither reached the depths of desire or doubt. Sitting on the edge of the bed, now dressed, I fall to my back as she leaves the bath room. Her laugh at my collapse is unburdened. She returns to the next room and out of my sight.

I take my turn in the bathroom. Confident I may now borrow its temporary privacy, I try to organize my questions from the morning's staccato sleep. Am I responsible and why? I know I must face whatever happened so I can go home. Open the door slowly. Envision another day of driving and being angry with myself.

She is in the kitchen making coffee and I walk up behind her but stay two steps away. I want to hold her but doubt holds me back. She turns and smiles. She walks toward me and wraps her arms largely around me. "That was great. You snore too loud."

Relief washes over me like the sound of a flock's wings swooping overhead and nearly as silent. How the orchestra of fifty wings seems quieter and calmer than silence herself. Then I think about my fault. Not something I would normally do, but the window, the cold air, it hurt so cleanly. It stole my dream. I don't snore in my own bed. I make a mental note to insure the windows are closed the next time opportunity arises. I wouldn't have been next to the window, but she said it made her feel trapped.

She seems genuinely happy. I don't remember ever seeing this part of her before. Somehow I want to take responsibility for this uncommon air. I know I cannot own it. She has finally let herself be happy; I was only there to share in it.

I pour her coffee and take her back to her car. We part with a simple kiss and goodbyes. A lifetime of unspoken words has passed. The relief is palpable. I don't recall the dialog. It seems it was never said, only passed through touch and smell, taste and the sounds of bodies. I drive home trying to remember the script. Somewhere the wind heard it and condensed it in the morning dew. It took our pain and turned it into life. Desire walks on, picks up the dew with her feet and returns it to tears.

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