“I’m not fucking around here,” he says to me.
“This is real. We are real.”
We dance to “I’m a believer” by The Monkees, put on the Jukebox by the bar proprietor, not without symbolism. We danced in the meat aisle at the supermarket earlier that day, and we will dance to Nat King Cole later that evening just before we go to bed, twirling cheek to cheek underneath the ceiling fan in the center of the house.
Friends take pictures of us. He flips them off with a huge grin on his face. The unassuming local joint hosts some handpicked kind souls as regulars, and somehow our little dance becomes the focal point of energy that night. The place feeds off of his happiness so palpably it makes my heart leap. He is loved and admired and desired by many, although seldom seen for who he is – both by choice and by necessity. I am playfully, quietly proud and not a little flattered that my jagged little persona seems to fit in his world so well. I observe, and participate. Participate, and observe.
He leans into me as he waits his turn at the pool table. His backside nestles in between my knees as I sit on the bar stool. I wrap my arms around his waist and breathe him in, burying my nose between his shoulder blades. I have yet to discover a position, embrace, or angle in which our bodies respond to each other in any other way but effortlessly.
Another dollar at the Jukebox, and people are surprised to see me intimately familiar with “Long Black Veil.” I am a reluctant performer, tiptoeing between shyness and exhibitionism. My voice doesn’t carry because it’s been ten years since my last singing lesson, but I don’t miss a note. The foreigner steals a little speck of the spotlight and earns herself an applause; this is no night to be shy, for we are among friends.
As he goes out for a smoke, those same friends will take turns expressing their love and support to both of us individually. They haven’t seen him smile this much in a long time. We seem to be made for each other. He needs, and deserves, someone like me. When am I leaving, and do I really have to go? Let’s win the lottery and keep you here. Or we can just hide you in the spare room. He is loved and admired and desired by many, and without prying, they are glad that someone seems to have finally cracked his code. Privately, he and I know that neither of us would be here if we were not worthy of cracking each other’s codes.
He takes us home, the truck resounding with our tipsy chuckles. The horizon of the evening slowly narrows to a single spotlight presiding over the pair of lovers in the corner of the stage, dancing to Nat King Cole underneath the twirling ceiling fan in the center of the house. My face burrows into the scent of his carpentry, somewhere between his neck and shoulders, and he holds me like a long-lost treasure, delicately but firmly, gently but determined not to ever let me slip through his fingers.
The last thing I will hear before falling asleep, spoken softly as he aligns his broken and beaten bones underneath the covers, his naked body radiating heat towards mine, will be
“Can I love you forever?”