I am a relationship detective. Picture me in my good underwear and a deerslayer cap, brandishing a magnifying glass, looking for clues and writing them down. But that’s not the reason why I’m here. I came here because this is where the man I love lives and sleeps and works; Sketch’s apartment is a familiar enough beat that I can negotiate my way around it barefoot in the dark without stepping on any cats or introducing my shinbones to the corners of furniture.
Last night, getting ready to go to bed with him for the first time in four months, he pulls out a bag of personal items I thought I would never see again– toothbrush, contact lens solution, hair dryer, clean underwear neatly folded– hidden like evidence in his studio since we parted company last June. Some things are gone– conditioner, hairbrush– and I don’t ask what happened to them. We are in the delicious now, with the gerbera daisies he buys me in a Ball jar, with the orgasm that still reverberates through my body like a bell after the clapper has stopped swinging. We wake up at five in the morning, reach for each other again and after more sex of the kind that I need to live, lay in the dark talking about the news of the day until the light starts to filter through the blinds like smoke.
It can be a curiously empty feeling, finally getting what you want. Want is the thing that gives my life purpose and direction; I wake up and I look at him, and the want is satisfied, but I still don’t know what I feel. I question myself, held in custody under a blanket. Am I angry? If I were angry, my shoulders would be tighter, and I would not be pressing the keys so softly while I type in the dark. If I were angry, I would not have gotten down on my hands and knees to feel around for any glass shards I left behind when a tiny bottle of perfume fell out of my hands and smashed on the tiles of his bathroom this morning. If I were angry, I wouldn’t care who ended up with bloody feet.
Am I sad? I wonder: who brought over that weird turmeric tea in the Sketch’s teaspoon-sized kitchen? Whose Neti pot is that on top of the medicine cabinet? I draw conclusions about the girl who was sleeping here while I was away based on these personal effects. Someone who doesn’t eat wheat or sugar, who attends kripalu retreats and plays the gong. Someone who has hiked the Inca trail not once but twice. I wonder what happened to her. Is there a plastic bag filled with her items, twisted and sealed off with one of her own hair ties, secreted in the back of a closet? I don’t know, and I won’t go looking.
Maybe what I feel is afraid. It’s too much. I tumble into bed with Sketch with a click of recognition and rightness that feels like putting your own key in your own front door lock. I climax so hard I cover my face with my hands, trying not to scream, shaking all over. The man knows how to lay it down. If you have to ask why we keep getting back together, you’ve never had sex like this. Afterwards, he folds me into him, and he tells me he loves me. And it is terrifying, because why do I ever leave?
Maybe the turmeric tea and the Neti pot are Sketch’s. Things around here are changing, like his body, whittled down from vegetarianism and yoga. We claim a corner of a class at Yoga To the People, unfurling our mats side by side. The teacher is a gorgeous Italian I met at my studio in Astoria. The last time his voice lead me through the postures, I wouldn’t stop leering at him. Sketch later tells me that he has never had particularly successful communications with this man, whose English it seems is limited to describing the ways you might bend your body if you wanted to bring yourself a little closer to bliss. Now, during class, my eyes on Sketch and his anatomy as we turn in side-angle, the hot yoga teacher comes over to adjust us, his sexy fingers on our wrists. “I am glad you two know each other,” he says, right into his headset for everyone to hear.
I don’t know what is going to happen next. We just had that whole talk about an open relationship, so I guess that is on the table. Perhaps more strange objects will appear around his apartment, and around mine.
On Saturday, I had brunch with a beautiful writer girl and four hours vanished as deftly as if a pickpocket had come along and unburdened me of them. She is young and fascinating and I want to suck out all her stories like some sort of narrative-vampire. When she gets nervous, she taps her incisors with a finger, as if to check on the progress of a pair of fangs. I take hold of her hand, sweat rolling down my ribcage. I used to be so suave; I don’t know what happened. Now I sweat and I accidentally stab with fingernails. She is reading The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and she shares a passage with me about the laughter of angels and the laughter of devils, and how they laugh at different things, although the laughter sounds the same; I hold Milan Kundera personally responsible for at least two particularly irresponsible decisions I have made over the last twenty years. Biking home, I am nearly killed four separate times. I’m in such a daze I nearly pedal right under the wheels of a car.
Open relationship. I am still trying to piece together what this means. I want to sit Sketch down in some interrogation room, turn my chair around backwards so that the rungs are between us like bars, push a cup of coffee his way. Invite him to just tell me everything. You may as well, son. We already have everything we need. Snap my fingers and someone brings forth the Neti pot in a ziplock bag with the date written on it in sharpie. Flashbulbs. Tell me. Did you love her?
I love him. Are we open to loving other people? I know he is like me, falling in love the way that you fall through trapdoors, the way you lean against a bookcase only to find yourself facing a long set of stairs. Love is easy. It’s the consistency of effort that is hard. I love, and I run. I love, but I also love to chase your back while you beat feet like a suspect, scaling chain link fences and narrowly missing cars, putting distance between us while I yell at you, unable to keep from laughing as I call out to you to stop.