I Shall Wear White Flannel Trousers, 7
Note: This chapter is for the older readers, because of the romantic relationship themes.
Howled again. I cupped my hands at my belly, turned my palms into a basket. The light puddled. The loon fluted. Petunias, maples, watering can.
I looked ahead: the sun rays were a staircase up the mountain. I climbed them in memory, returning to a day exactly two weeks before.
-- My last day with him, before the break-up call the next morning.
I had gone over early on a Saturday. It was my boyfriend's first day off in thirty days. Called a "sub-I" at the hospital, the rotation required that he work shifts that were frequently overnight, and always at least twelve hours, and he only had one twenty-minute break per day to eat. Because of this, he carried nuts and chocolate in the pocket of his white coat. We had been looking forward to this rotation being over for a month.
As soon as I sat down to eat breakfast in his kitchen, my boyfriend pulled me onto his lap. I gave a mild and disgruntled roar. He kissed me, still with his nose strip on. "The most important meal of the day," I protested.
"Over-rated." He wrapped his arms around me.
I grunted, again. "'Tis no good."
Then I laughed, because he was Eskimo-kissing the back of my neck.
"Honestly." I turned around in his lap. "Go for a run. You have so much energy in the morning."
He put a hand over my face, pushing away my hair. He dotted one cheek with a kiss and then the other. I ran my hands over his back -- haphazardly and sloppily -- and then said, "Really, in the morning I can only think about eggs and pancakes with butter, and tea with thick cream."
He dropped his head then, resting it on me. "Do you want tea?" he finally said, into my hair.
"Mm. . . yesh."
"All right." He pushed himself up with his arms. "Stay here, and I'll boil a pan."
"No, wait --" He was swinging me off his lap, but I pulled him back, his large heart opening mine. But I was still out of my skin, and when I found myself wanting to blow raspberries rather than canoodle, he finally said, amid my giggles,
"Let's just have breakfast."
I conceded falsely, "If we must."
I had a bowl of Greek yogurt with walnuts, bananas, and cinnamon. My boyfriend showered, and later we met his friends at a bakery in town for lunch.
I ordered a quiche, and he allowed himself a pale beer and a roast beef sandwich. A folk band was playing in a corner, and a young girl was dancing around the restaurant, her arms hooping above her head. One hand was holding a CD for sale. The other hand twisted a skein of air. I couldn't stop watching her. Her shoes were scuffed, and squeaked on the floor when she turned. She spun by our table. Her hair was pale blonde like a horse's mane. One stubby pirouette, and then another -- and we smiled at each other. Fuchsia-flowered lips. She had Band-Aides on her two fingers. Then she was gone.
We went next door to an antique shop and browsed through the button hooks and hairbrushes, yellowing ivory and rows of rings. We laughed, our hands on each other's backs. I tried on silk gloves, brittle and stained, and my boyfriend knew the name of a wooden contraption -- its purpose so obscure, I now forget. The seams of the gloves were disintegrating.
We walked outside and sat in the shade. The courtyard looked like Rome to me: scalloped iron balconies, a fountain. A yellow stucco building, with begonias splashing from the window ledge. There was another couple kissing on the fountain. I watched them out of the corner of my eye, then sat down on the arm of my boyfriend's chair, draping my arm around his neck -- making my fingers a light necklace against his skin.
Afterwards the four of us went into the country to a dairy farm. I drove, because he was cautious about alcohol. We ate ice cream from a Styrofoam cup, using two spoons. Indian bread pudding, gritty as stated. We quipped with his friends, talking about flies and cults and Vassar's library. There was a pen of goats nearby, and we walked down a dusty path. One goat pushed against the fence, and I slid my hand through the slats and scratched its rocky head. Knuckled the knobby skull; sliding my hand over its bloated belly.
We said goodbye to his friends, and he offered to drive, because my brain was feeling arid. I re-soaked it on the fields, in the visions of lush grass. Suddenly, we drove by a stone church -- magnificent, ruined -- peering over the edge of a river. "Did you see that!"
"I did." He pulled into a parking lot.
"We need to turn around."
"That's exactly what I'm doing."
"We had the same thought at the same time."
He smiled warmly as he smoothly turned the wheel. "I love that we had the same thought."
"You can park here on the side of the road because -- oh, I'm suddenly remembering that I've been here before. This is exactly where I parked. But what town are we in? This feels like the middle of nowhere. Oh, no, there's a sign for Mt. Wachusett. Yes --" then my voice sputtered, stopped. "Yes," I unsnapped my seat belt, "I've been here, years ago."
We got out, and people were picnicking and fishing.
I looped my arm around his waist, and we stepped into the church. There was a circular window near the roof and the dirt floor was limed with pigeon droppings, almost like snow. We walked outside again, and a teenage girl was standing in one of the concaved windows. She was tall as an orchid, with a veil of black hair across her face. She was wrapped in a skirt of filmy white, and went suddenly up on her toes: pushing the muscles of her legs, stretching into a treble clef. I realized she was en pointe, and I saw a man with a large umbrella and camera. I looked at the girl for a moment. Incomplete lines, framed by the stern church. Lissome against the granite. Then we ducked out of the way, and followed a footpath down to the river.
Under an august oak tree, I saw another beautiful sight: a man cradling a baby. He was sitting cross-legged, with cropped hair and bulbous arms. His skin was smooth as coconut flesh. The infant's head was vulnerable -- walnut-shaped, and soft-spotted. The man's arms were so large, and the weekling so small, that I felt a strange, sharp clench in my gut. Two little boys, tow-headed and skinny, tumbled around the picnic blanket. A dark-haired woman, maybe his wife, was standing by the shore with a fishing pole. Another blonde boy had a smaller pole next to her. The man was feeding his youngest a bottle.
I led my boyfriend farther down the footpath, dry and wreathed with vegetation. "Let's lie down in the sun."
"Eh. There's poison ivy on the ground."
"Not over there, there isn't."
"It still looks patchy and dusty."
"Okay. Yeah, you're right."
We returned to the church and climbed up a barricade of rocks. I held out my hands and jumped between the boulders, and then my memory fully opened before me. I remembered the place, because I had been there with my first boyfriend. It was winter, and the grounds were deserted. We had walked the same ridge. As the images crept in, I cautiously touched my own heart, looking for any spongy spots. The wind that day had turned my cheeks red; the water was stewing with ice, and I was desolate. He was behind me, and my arms were out in the same way, and I had felt utterly alone.
"How do I feel now?" I asked myself. "Neutral," I answered. "Good," I responded. "That means I'm moving up the scale." My current boyfriend was stepping across the rocks behind me, and I explored the sensations. I decided I was at ease with his presence. "So the next relationship, I will move up even farther, and feel ecstatic. -- Or maybe I mean the next time I'm here with my current boyfriend," feeling scandalized at my own thought. I hopped off the rock.
I took off my shoes and splashed in the water. Cold up to my ankles. He bent down and skipped a stone. It nicked the glass -- six, seven, eight times. I threw a chunky rock and it plopped deeply. Then I went to him and inserted my head between his arm and chest.
"Are we out of the way of the photography?"
"I think we are." He glanced back, but we were in a dip in the sand, hidden by a rock wall. He leaned down and kissed me.
Velveteen hoop: always good; always leading.
"Now tell me about your week."
"I was working with another med student most of the rotation."
"And what was he like?"
"She. She's a few years older but in my class. She also hates the system, so we had a lot of laughs."
"Oh, I am so glad you could bond over that. Med school is borderline abusive, so you need solidarity where you can find it. Did you do anything special last night to celebrate?"
"We got guacamole and chips and salsa. Here, look. We piled everything on a table in the break room." He took out his phone and showed me a picture of the feast.
"And was that with all the other students?"
"Yeah, with some others and that girl."
A gust of wind scudded a water bottle across the sand. "She sounded awesome. I'm really glad you had someone you connected with."
"I was thinking, if circumstances were different, and I were single, would I date her?"
I looked down at the water bottle in the sand. It had lost its cap.
"And would you?" lightly.
"She has some attractive and positive qualities. And isn't bad-looking."
The bottle was crunched in the middle. There was some sand inside the bottle. The label was half ripped-off. "And probably brilliant," I added.
"But then I also found out she was crazy."
"Except we're all a little crazy."
"But her craziness doesn't line up with mine."
"You have to have the same kind of craziness in life," said my boyfriend. "She smokes cigarettes and I get the feelings she drinks a lot."
"What are you crazy about?" I watched the cars crossing the bridge.
"Not smoking cigarettes. Not missing out on things in life."
I slid my hand into his pocket. "That's a part of your life I know fluently."
He then named two other things.
"Yes, I know." I turned my nose deeper into his chest. "Those ones, too."
"They're the parts of our relationship that don't work. That we haven't made progress on."
"But we were having such a good day." I tried to laugh. "Do we have to have to continue this conversation?"
Soberly, "I don't think we should avoid it."
I took my hand out. "Then keep going."
"It feels like we've plateaued. Like we haven't made any progress in a while."
At my feet, the sand was coarse. I saw a mussel half-buried and jagged. Like a black trident.
He then said, "I actually wonder sometimes why I've stayed as long as I have, without those issues being resolved."
"But we're working on them," my voice barely coming out.
"It just seems crazy to me."
"I know. And I know we come from different worlds and different expectations and experiences. And I know this has been hard on you in different ways than it's hard on me."
"And you say we want the same things, but I am not seeing the progress in that direction. I never thought I'd be eight months into a relationship, and be in this place."
"But think of all we have to make up for it. We are warm and loving with each other." But the sentence went out like smoke and ended almost in a cough. "Still, I know this isn't entirely what you envisioned for a relationship. I know it's not what you want. And that's okay. I actually get it. I really do."
"It just that I'm hurting, Sarah. A lot. And I'm trying my hardest not to talk about it with you. I know you're going through your own things with it."
"No, you can talk about it."
"I'm trying not to burden you. But I need you to know it's wearing me down."
"I do know. Without you saying it, I can see it. So maybe we've tried as hard we could, and that's just it. Maybe these things are immovable differences, though we've both done our best to get around them."
-- But I heard no response from him.
"Do you want to leave now? It looks like they're done with the photography."
The two of us walked to the car, but we did not go side by side. I was intimately aware of the ground. Swelling bone-dry, tufting tough as a shieldmaiden. I walked ahead of him.
I got into the car and closed the door. I put my head against the passenger window. The glass wasn't cold. I looked out at the trees. I almost didn't see them.
"I'm also aware of some major red flags with us parenting together." He eased the car off the side of the road, with a crunch of gravel.
"I think we're going to have serious conflicts with our approaches."
"We might." My vision was sooty. "But, wait. Where is this coming from?"
"It's just something else I've been thinking about." He turned onto the main road. "We will have different styles."
Gray leaves, gray tar. "Probably."
"I think your approach will be markedly passive. And mine won't be. I would actively parent."
"So will I. We just have different definitions of that."
"I define it as leading and guiding."
My mind was beginning to feel hot. But I heard my voice, not at all wild. "I agree with you."
"Except I believe there are decisions that a parent makes, because of life experience. I would never let my child make his own educational choice, like you would."
"Well, I do believe parents have the authority to draw certain lines, like if it comes to harm, like drugs or whatever. But I think for the majority of cases, people are born with an internal blueprint for their lives." Something had cracked in my brain, and my lips were moving in rote speech. "Children, if given love and support, and freedom and space, can find their own paths. And excel at them and succeed."
"So maybe it's dependent on personality."
"I think what's going to happen is I'm going to let you make the decisions, and then do what I want when I'm by myself."
The glass was warming under my skin. "Are you saying you'd go behind my back?"
"I just know you're going to make all the calls." He flipped on his turn signal.
"But I don't want to make all the calls!" We passed weeds -- wires -- toothy telephone poles. A broken complex of brick. "I need your strength. I want your different perspective. Imagine if I had a child who wanted to become a doctor like you. I'd be so lost. I wouldn't know the first thing about laying opportunities in their path. You would. But, look, could you raise a daughter like me?"
"I think I could." He turned, the wheel running through his hands.
"Your confidence is startling."
"I know I could."
"You'd have to leave her alone, you know. Because I found my life path by spending a lot of time doing what could be called nothing. Wandering in the woods, and writing stories. I didn't need or want direction. In fact, anyone telling me what to do, or who to be, just made me furious." We were approaching an intersection; the light switched to green. "I'd be able to parent a child like that. But then maybe there'd be a child like you. I would feel lost, trying to help with that linear path you had to take. So I think we could work together, and pool our resources and perspectives. We would come up with a hybrid approach."
"Maybe," he said. "But I worry, too, because you're soft towards your own self."
The traffic blurred by: cherry, black, and dirty white. The wildness returned.
"I worry it would play into your parenting. You're a bit comfort-seeking."
I took my head off the window. "That is so offensive," I said. "Especially in light of all the times I've comforted you. That's just part of being human. That's what we give each other -- sympathy, understanding. A safe place to heal. And people are more sensitive to other people's feelings when they've seen suffering themselves. I'll give my children my soft arms when they need them, just like I've given you. So in light of that --"
"That's not really what I meant," he turned the wheel onto his street.
"Then I can guess what you meant," my voice thin again. I unclicked the seat belt. "You meant I'm weak-willed, like you've called me once before. You mean I bow out of life sometimes and duck away. I don't forget those kind of words." The car was parked and we stared straight ahead. "But you know what, if you knew me better -- if you knew my story and my life, like I've tried to share with you over and over -- you'd see that sometimes those comfort-seeking actions are all I can do to keep my head above water. And you'd say good job. Very good job." I opened the car door.
My boyfriend walked into the house as I was pulling my snacks into my backpack.
"What are you doing?"
I zipped it up. "I'm getting ready to leave."
"I didn't think you'd want me here after that." I picked up my laptop from the table.
"After what? Wait, can you please stop for a second."
I wrapped my laptop cord around my hand. "All that in the car."
"What are you talking about?"
I slid my laptop into its case.
"Sarah, what is going on!"
"That entire thing in the car and at the church sounded like a pre-break-up speech." I pushed the cord into the case, and slung the case and my backpack over my shoulder. "I expected you to end things as soon as we got here, so I was preemptively packing."
"I am not breaking up with you."
I stopped in the middle of the kitchen floor.
"Sarah, I am not breaking up with you."
"It sounded like it."
"No. I am not breaking up with you."
I became a trembling sheet of flame.
"Wait, wait. Put down your bags and talk to me. Please put them down. Listen. I wasn't breaking up with you then, and I'm not now. Let's talk."
"I don't want to talk."
He was shaking now, too. He put out his hands. "Then let's make dinner. Let's nap. Let's walk. Let's watch a movie."
"I think I just want to go home. Or to Ruthie's or something. I don't know."
I stood in the middle of the kitchen. My boyfriend brought his fingers together to his bottom lip. He looked down at the tiles, and folded his mouth. Right then I loved every line of his body, his shoulders, his legs. His longing, his emotion, his intensity. If I painted him, I would use fast, hard, unfinished lines: green lily-leaves. And I knew he was thinking intricately, catastrophically. Calculating. Then he looked up again, into my eyes.
"Cuddle with me for a bit," he said.
"I don't feel like it."
"Just a nap. We won't talk."
I slid my backpack off my shoulder. "I don't know." I held it by the strap. "I think I should go."
"I'm not breaking up with you. Okay?" with pointed luminosity. "You at least understand that?"
My fingers finally let go of the strap. The backpack rested on the floor. "Okay," I echoed. "I didn't know. It just sounded like it."
"I am not."
"All through the car and even at the church."
"I'm not and I don't plan on it."
"That is good to know." Then the heat that was flooding my body went up to the lids of my eyes: I felt the sudden desire to cry explosively. "I still might want to leave. Conflict-avoidance and all that. Comfort-seeking."
"Listen, that's totally okay. I understand. But will you listen to me for a second?"
"I am going to use the bathroom right now. Would you do something for me?"
"Will you please still be here when I come out?"
"Of course," I said. "I wouldn't do that."
"Thank you," he said and closed the door. "I'll be fast, I promise."
The bathroom fan hummed. I looked down at his papers on the table. He always wrote on graphing paper, with a mechanical pencil. Then I picked up my phone and texted Ruthie. "Actually, maybe we're not breaking up. I'll keep you posted."
She quickly responded. "Well, I still have chocolate and movies all set up here if you need them. And your very own jar of peanut butter."
A squeak of the knob: he opened the door of the bathroom. I looked at him tentatively, and he looked at me across the room. I went to him.
In the middle of the kitchen, he held me. "All that at the church." My face was in his green hoodie, the soft inner fleece on my cheek. We rocked. "Why did you say that about the other girl?"
"What other girl?" his cheek against my hair.
"The girl at the hospital."
"Oh, the med student. She doesn't matter."
"But enough for you to hypothetically think about dating her."
"No, Sarah. No. That was just me thinking, in passing, about alternative realities. It doesn't mean I actually wanted to date her." He rubbed his hand in small circles over my lower back. "I never would. She smokes cigarettes."
I granted a smile. "I thought that because you were thinking about other people, you were telling me that you didn't want this anymore."
"It sure sounded like it."
I turned my eyelid into his zipper. "Why did you say it, then!"
He quickly passed his hand over his mouth. "I don't know. I wasn't thinking. Things have just been weighing on me lately. -- But I shouldn't have. I'm sorry."
"I don't do that to you."
"It was reckless to say and I didn't mean anything by it. I don't care about her and I'm not interested in her at all. You know what I don't like about her?"
"No, you don't need to."
"She pretends to be high energy, and puts on a big show when the residents are around, with a huge smile and sugar-glazed talking, and then eleven hours into the shift she just breaks. She has an absolute melt-down."
"Because that's what happens with prolonged pretending."
"It's silly. I'd rather just slump in the chair and look sleepy if I am sleepy. Even if the attending physician walks in. I have no pride."
"I know you don't. And that's how you conserve your energy. But you also live close to your skin. Many people don't."
"She and I started a system where we wrote a list of the hours, and checked them off as each one went by. You know, three a.m., four a.m. When the attending came in and asked what it was, she started making up something about rounds. But then I just said straight-out, 'We're counting the hours until we're done.' And the girl looked at me like I was out of my mind."
I laughed. "Fearless brazen fellow. I flipping love your honesty."
"I just don't believe in knuckling under to bullies. And there's no point in being false."
"It is my favorite thing about you. Also, I am not comfort-seeking."
He rubbed his nose back and forth in my hair in response.
"Or sometimes I am, but it has helped me in life."
"Mm-hm," he said, "it's okay."
"You don't really believe that."
"It doesn't matter what I believe."
"It does, though. I don't want you to see me as only soft."
"You have your approaches, and I have mine."
"But I am not only soft!"
"I see that."
"No, you don't. In all the time you've known me, you've never once called me brave. "
He pulled back, his hands sliding to my waist. "Sarah, I didn't know that was something you wanted to be called."
"I crave it above all things. It's how I measure myself."
My boyfriend looked off -- at the lights, the bowl of spotted bananas. I didn't know what. "Interesting. I guess I just never think about bravery, as a concept or virtue. That or valor. If someone called me brave, I wouldn't value it."
"I know you wouldn't, because it's how you live every day anyway. Your personality is uncommonly fearless. But I have to try for it, and I wish you saw that and affirmed it. Like the day before I moved to Europe alone, I was curled up in a fetal position in my empty apartment, my stomach like acid. Or when I lived alone in a castle for eight months. Or when I continued to choose writing, with all its instability. I wish you saw those things."
"I see them," in his even voice, "but I didn't know you needed me to say it."
"Well, then, we're just different in that way."
"I do know you've risked a lot, Sarah." His words caressed me. "Even with me, you've allowed yourself to expand."
But I laughed shortly and gritted my teeth. "You told me once that you needed to be with an adventurous partner. Do you remember saying that?"
He pulled back a fraction, eyes glinting.
"That night when you ran out and into the shower without the water running, and said that in the corner. I haven't forgotten that one."
"Sarah, we talked that episode over. You know I was feeling penned by school and life."
"Yes, I know. I'm sorry."
"But I'll re-affirm it was an outburst you didn't deserve."
"It just hit me where I'm weakest. I measure myself so much by my courage."
"I didn't know that then. I know that now." He passed his hand silkily down the back of my skull. "Sarah. I feel like things have been different between us lately."
But he just enfolded me to him.
"Tell me what you think is different," I pressed. "Are you stuck again?"
"Penned by me?" The syllables were almost absorbed by the cotton of his sweatshirt. "Or stuck in general?"
"I think I've been feeling very limited in life. Missing out is weighing heavily on me. I'm feeling influenced by my sub-I. And other things."
My mouth almost wet the cloth. "What other things? You aren't talking about this morning, are you?"
I inhaled the smell of his tin zipper, sharply. "Well, I'm sorry about that. I was just in a funny mood. I couldn't stop laughing for some reason. I wasn't myself. We're just off this weekend."
"So you've felt a physical difference, too."
"-- Yes, but only recently. Yeesh, being around you is like a catalyst to truth. But not overall. That's incredibly normal for couples to have off days. Think about not so long ago."
"There is also a difference in our kisses," he said.
My heart started beating faster. "There is?"
"We kiss differently than we did in the beginning."
"But how did we kiss in the beginning?"
"There was more exploration. More variety."
"Like moving our heads?" The sentence sounded awkward as soon as I said it.
"I don't know."
"What specifically?" I pressed. Blushing.
"We're just missing something."
I ran my hands up and down his back, pleadingly. "No, I disagree. Maybe our styles have changed, but the authenticity is still there."
"Do you want to nap? Let's nap," I said with sudden force. "I've decided I'm staying longer."
We moved into his bedroom, and as we lay in bed, I wrapped my arms around him. And thought.
Yes, our kisses had become doughy. When he first put his lips on mine, I had noticed nothing, because I myself was oscillating, variegated. Then as time went on, the more I became startled by his mouth. He would make us parallel, a tender citadel. A soft ring fort. Finally he told me, "You have softened yourself!" and I said, "Have I?" then, "Thank you," because I knew I had lowered my banner before his gates: yielded and learned his dance, dry and circular.
So I said to the ceiling, "I was thinking about our kissing the other day. So it's funny you should bring it up. When we first started, I was kissing like I knew how to. Then I acclimated to you, because I thought I found out what you liked, and I wanted to please you. But I also stopped whatever I was doing before. I stopped what I was used to; even some of what I liked. Maybe we both lost out, then."
He was silent.
"-- I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said it that way. It just came out fast. I wasn't thinking. I'm sorry!"
"No." His voice was gentle and sad. "I know you've kissed other people before." He rolled over. "I'm just -- I don't even know what I am today. I don't know if it even has anything to do with kissing or whatever."
He was turned away from me. I looked over at him. His shoulder, always so masculine and like a root in the forest -- shrouded up to the forearm. And suddenly his shoulder crunched up.
"Oh, no. I'm sorry." I pushed into him and put my hand over his shoulder.
"It's all right. It's not you." He laid his hand gently over mine. "I just need some time right now."
"Do you want me to go into the other room? Or stay?"
"Stay," he said sweetly. Then he pulled his knees up to his chest and twisted the sheets around his fist, and pushed his eyes into the sheets.
I quickly moved to fit him -- to bark his tender skin. I palmed his shoulder like a barnacle and laid my face against his neck as if I were his flesh, too. And then I did not move.
We both did not move.
Sometimes, when my boyfriend was experiencing deep emotion -- hideous muscles of an iceberg, jagged in places I couldn't see -- his body would jump, twitch once or twice, like his guts had been socketed, and the current was flicking his feelings up to the surface. Splashing up, shocking me with an electrified jerk as we lay cuddling -- and then his body would settle and be still again. "I'm sorry," he would mutter. "No, no," I would whisper, brushing the folds of his neck with the tips of my fingers. "It's okay. I'm here." But this was different: a total tundra, an arctic across our bed. I could not warm him with my hands. He was coiled somewhere in a cave, despite my shell around his body. My mind longed to lance the darkness, to light the title of his grief. He wiped his eyes, his knuckles white with sheets, once. I wanted to feel his cheek, to see if it was wet. But he hid his face again, and I could only smell the musky hairs against my nose.
"I don't see the point," he said at length to the threads. "I don't see the reasoning behind work and school. I'm lost."
"You've lost your vision briefly, love," I said to his acromion. "That happens to everyone. You'll regain it. I think this sub-I ground your bones to dust, but you've gotten through it like a hero. And it's over now. It's all over."
"I'm just spent. It emptied me of everything."
"I know, hun."
"I didn't want to tell you this --"
"-- but I was in a really dark place this past month."
And he told me about it. My response was a constellation of kisses across his back. I slowly dropped a line of stars from shoulder to shoulder.
But deep down, somewhere where I would never tell, I thought: "I still can't let this thwart me; I still need to say it to him. Not now, but later."
"Sweetheart," I said aloud.
We lay there until he loosened -- by each tendril -- spore by spore -- until he was cotton again under my hands.
An hour passed, or maybe two. When he woke again, the sun was winking above the roofs; it was dinner-time. Birds hopped back and forth on the ridge. I could feel the new energy in his body. But I myself was beaten, shaggy. I had been lying on the thin sheets, looking up at the ceiling, waiting for him to wake.