We lie in bed quietly.
Not long ago we were making passionate love. A little later, we lay back, cracking languorous jokes that despite their entire lack of humour, left us weak with laughter. Passionate argument followed, matching wits, sharpening our verbal knives against each other’s.
And now we parry silence for silence. It is a gentle parrying, nonetheless. The silence is warm with acceptance. It is as if, at this very moment, we accept each other in full measure and wordlessly affirm our choice of the other’s company. It is comforting in a way that words will never be.
Unusually, he breaks the silence. Sing for me, he asks, eyes looking deep into mine. What? I ask, distractedly, studying the colour of his eyes, a rich coffee brown. Anything. Just sing for me. Not again, you know I cannot sing, I protest weakly.
In truth I love singing for him. To his ears alone, I seem to make perfect music. I can sing without fear of either the errant note – lying in wait to entrap me – or the rusty patch marring my voice; his ear recognizes neither flaw, it reaches past it all to the core of my song, the very core of my being.
And so I begin to sing, a song of love, longing and loss.
I am unsure at first, taking my time, choosing to cajole each note rather than conquer it, placating those elusive notes now with whispered dips and then with murmured rises. He savours it all, eyes closed, following my journey, his brow smooth, his manner unhurried. Emboldened, my voice rises. I begin to tentatively reach out for notes flying at higher planes.
The music, waiting patiently for me to discover it, smiles and gives of itself. What each proud note refuses, music as a collective gives freely, soothing my angst and feeding my confidence. I remember telling him this a day ago – or was it two days? – that music may be composed of notes, but it is not the same as merely a sum of perfectly placed, well-timed notes, sometimes it is not even about notes; music is passion, soul, feeling, emotion, the harsh cry of a bird and the rhythmic thwack! of a woodcutter’s axe, the raw hunger of the first droplet of fresh rain slapping against the eager earth. Music as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts… And part of its magic, its universal appeal, lies in that it can give of itself to anyone, seasoned performer or nervous novice, with the same passion.
There is a rustle of feet in the living room outside, but I am lost to everything but the moment. With each note I sing, his hands respond, hands that seem like an extension of my voice, living the music with me, his grip on my fist tightening as he devours the soaring highs, caressing my palm as I explore the hesitant troughs, our fingers entwining as I touch that glorious highest point in the song, the cry of an exultant woman to the man she loves, my own cry carrying in the sultry afternoon air…
Long after I am done, he continues to hold my hand as if unable to let go, as if letting go would somehow put an end to the music, for he knows – the song has ended, but not the music. The silence is pregnant with the longing that the song bequeathed even as it died away…
To his loving ears my music is perfect in a way that only my music can be. In bed, ridiculously naked, inelegant hair all over the place, lying in the most awkward of positions, I can make perfect music in a way that the most orchestrated of symphonies cannot and somehow capture his heart. He sighs deeply.
We lie quietly. I study his fingers: larger than mine, but neat. I place my own palm against his and he captures my hand neatly, a slow smile dawning.
What are you to me? I ask.
I don’t know, he evades. Why?
Are we friends?
The word lingers in the air.
He pauses, weighs his words.
Then, he starts to speak.
Somehow, I have the feeling I have unleashed a patient storm.
Some relationships have no name, he says. They are best left that way. Words complicate, creating something which is not true. Feelings are the only real entities in a relationship. Every second, we weave in and out of them, gossamer thin strands of relationships. A sudden smile, an angry word, the light, burning brush of your fingers against mine… Small frissons that leave us with the blissful, necessary illusion of a web of exciting, complicated relationships.
I take in a sudden breath as his fingers brush mine to prove a point. Then he squeezes my fingers and I am caught up in the flow of his words.
So much of it is imagination. Who knows what the other person was thinking at that exact moment, I muse aloud. Maybe my smile reminded him of his lover’s and that is all there was to that moment, at least to him… while my imagination leapt sky-high!
Exactly! – he says – and yet we conjure up entire self-deceiving illusions, desperately needing the ties that we use to bind ourselves to the perceived identity of another. And everything needs a name now. A mere ‘relationship’ will not suffice. Are you seeing each other, they ask. Is he your date for the evening? Are you lovers? Or friends?
As if – he says, a little angrily now – as if they must be mutually exclusive. Or as if a lover somehow outweighs a mere friend – ‘we are not just friends, we’re lovers’ – fools! he says, savagely.
I stroke his hand. He continues, almost unaware of my touch.
Lover s or friends, they will ask. And if you say Both, a smug smile. Lovers, then, their eyes say. Definitely lovers. So many questions – he pauses for breath – so many questions, some asked aloud and some poorly concealed behind curious, snapping eyes that follow you around, trying to strip you down to your last, naked thought.
He turns to me, eyes afire. His hand is curved around my hip.
I love my best friends passionately – he says – I am my lover’s best friend.
I smile at him, knowing I am both, and more. So much more… that our relationship does not have a name. I am suddenly terribly proud – of myself, of him, of us.
Let them smile, I tell him. Let them assume what they will, for they complicate, they create something which is not true. They are best left that way.
The light casts shadows on our bodies, revealing and concealing, distracting us from loftier matters, and our conversation dies down to glowing embers as it has forever now, and as it will forever hence.