We’re in the water, you in your boxer shorts and me in my swimsuit. I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier than this. I want to tell you that I feel full to the gills with joy right now, like my fingertips are fizzing with it trying to burst out. I don’t say any of this, I just scream and kick at the water. The whimbrels fly off, making comical silhouettes against an orange and purple sky.
The first time you drove me anywhere, in your sister’s old Peugeot, I was telling you about how I felt like sometimes I couldn’t fit all of my feelings inside my skin, and you told me to scream. “It’s like a relief valve”. You wound the windows up and we both screamed at the top of our lungs. I knew I loved you then. There was a month between that first scream and me telling you I loved you. Saying it was another relief valve. I would have burst otherwise. I sometimes miss that month though, that time of feeling like I was holding a live animal in my mouth that was trying to escape. I miss the taste and shape of all of the unsaid I love you’s living just behind my lips. I felt like you must surely have seen it moving around inside me, my lips pursed together to lock it in. You must have known. I tell you I love you now, and you say it back, a hundred times a day but only occasionally with words. I love you is the secret language we speak, the one we’ll never speak with anyone else.
We’re listening to Desire in your parents bed, laying on our back with our fingers interlaced. We’re both too stoned, too tired from swimming, too perfectly comfortable to get up and switch the light off, so instead we watch two moths dancing around the bulb. “I’ll rub your feet for an hour tomorrow if you turn it off right now”. I tell you I’m living in the moment, I can’t dine out on tomorrow’s foot rub. It’s just that I think I don’t want the moths to go just yet, I like having a witness to our happiness. Someone or something should know how right we’ve got it. “The lights flickering anyway, it will go out on its own soon”. I shouldn’t have told you, I could have promised to do it with my mind and made you think I was magic. “I already think you’re magic”. I swear I hadn’t said that out loud.
My skin still smells of suntan lotion and saltwater, yours just smells like you. “I could live inside your armpit”. “It would tickle, but I’d let you”. I stick my nose in and do a dramatic inhale. “You’d fall out though, wouldn’t you”. I tell you I would live in your hair instead, like a lone louse, and when you went to sleep I would crawl inside your armpit and nestle up. I’m rambling about the smells of your body, this is another I love you, listing the stenches I enjoy. “No deodorant armpits, one week unwashed hair, sweaty balls, morning breath”. If you lived upside down I could make a moss nest in your armpit.
Oh, sister, am I not a brother to you
And one deserving of affection
And is our purpose not the same on this earth
To love and follow his direction
We’re on the A3, somewhere north of Petersfield. I fell asleep before time is an ocean but it ends at the shore. Our fingertips were still touching but I was on my belly by then. You woke me up on the wrong side of midday, a glass of water and a cup of instant coffee on the bedside table, anticipating that my mouth would feel like it was full of moths and cotton wool. I can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that I’ve left something important back at your parents house. Rifling through my bag I name the objects out loud; “wallet, pills, book, keys, phone.” That’s when you turn the radio on, the white noise between stations doesn’t drown out your sigh. Those moths have moved from my mouth, reanimated somewhere around my solar plexus.
I’m in Portugal, holding hands with a man I met last week. I’ll forget his name by autumn. I haven’t seen you in 16 years but the breeze has carried the smell of that day to me. Gorse and limonium, Hawaiian Tropic and saltwater, dirty hair and weed, and you. I slip my hand out of his, and remember when I loved someone so much I wanted to live in a nest in their armpit, when I shared a language only two people in the world could speak. I think back to your muffled sigh and my sternum moth dance. I think our bodies knew we were driving away from the best it would get.