Sunday, July 05, 2009

love on july the fourth: through a slit in the drywall

we will wake in poor man's luxury, a soft wind blowing through my subterranean window. on these summer days, i can peer out from underneath it to see the sun, hot and yellow, gleaming off the emerald leaves of the trees. the window's position does not permit those rays to warm me, instead letting in a smooth chill that hovers cozily above my eiderdown quilt. it will do.

he turns heavily, and in his sleep, his lips search for me, to kiss the first stretch of brown they find: a shoulder or its blade, the apple of my cheek. in these moments, i quietly enjoy being the center of his world. were he awake, i would swat him away and roll my eyes. but here, when i know i'm too far away, i nudge myself closer, hoping he will throw an arm around me or encircle me with his legs.

when i am sated, i will free myself from the custard-and-ivory tangle of sheets to lounge on the sofa and do a few crosswords, my newest obsession. or i will make myself a bowl of bran cereal with sliced bananas and only the smallest sprinkle of pure cane sugar, and read soyinka, levy, saro-wiwa or lahiri. i will not be wholly in the moment. i will be waiting for him to wake up.

if i am impatient, i will wash my bowl noisily, as the kitchenette sits but three feet away from my bed. he knows what i'm doing and i catch him smiling, eyes still shut. even in sleep, his eyes are beautiful. i am envious of his eyelashes, which are thick and dark and rest too close to his cheekbones when he blinks, but i'm grateful that i can look into them every day, where they frame a profound love for all that i am.

we play "whose breath smells more like manure?" for the umpteenth time, and though he always wins, he also leaves the bed with welts and scratches on his body, proof of my indignation at being pinned down while he tortures me, seemingly without end.

now we shower, now we change. the temptation to just sit and watch television in our underwear is strong, but we resist: it's the fourth of july and all sorts of american traditions await. he wants wings and beer; i want a burger and mojitos. we fight over lunch about how much of elvis's act was 'borrowed' from african american culture and, in anger, i stalk off and abandon him at the table. by the time i get to the door, i instantly regret my action, but i'm part leo and have committed to the drama. thankfully, he calls and tells me to stop walking - he's coming to get me so we can continue to enjoy our day as planned.

as the car pulls up, i fight the grin threatening to rend my face apart. i'm trying so hard not to meet his eyes, which i know will be laughing at me, forcing me to laugh back. in the end, i have no choice: he pokes me in the neck, and i have to turn to retaliate. inevitably, i break into a fit of laughter and lose my third fight that day.

much of the day is lost as we drive from one spot to another, in search of anything interesting but atypical to participate in, finding nothing. not that it matters: we have each other.

in the end, we find MF and his beautiful KR on a dark rooftop with belgian beer and an assortment of cheeses, encircled by the exuberance of a capital city celebrating 233 years of national independence, if not freedom. 360 degrees of explosive lights and sulfur: the national monument stood as always in phallic erection, its own fireworks more splendid and enormous than the rest of the city's combined. the climax was impressive. partly in jest and for my american comrades, i belted out a pitchy rendition of the star spangled banner. MF and KR, unable to withstand the poetry, kissed repeatedly. i avoided CB's amorous looks, but let him hold me from behind. pda embarasses me.

the night was full of ladders. we climbed one to get atop MF's roof. then we took a taxi a few blocks to scale another. it was splendid. fifty, sixty people spread into the night, tamping the tar roof sheets of their neighbors unknown, drinking (yet more) oaky wines and vinegar-and-malt beers. exotic elixir of the night. we could barely see each others' faces; the sky lit up only briefly and sporadically, as more roman candles exploded above us, showering us with fiery bullets and ashy debris. i knew but two guests, but felt peaceful, at home. their stories kept me amused for hours.

it was over for us too soon. we left at midnight, as the call of duty grew louder and we could no longer ignore the imperativeness of a good night's sleep, lest the next day be spent between my cotton sheets at someone else's expense. CB could barely find the energy to undress before he collapsed on the mattress, falling asleep almost instantly. as i always do, i turned off the light and slid in beside him, traced the waves in his soft, soft hair with my right index finger. my eyes were heavy, but before i succumbed to sleep, i succumbed to my obsessesion: the NYT crossword, a classic from january 16, 1998. early sunday morning, i fell asleep on the uncompleted friday grid, after his arm found its way to me and began to stroke the skin above my navel.