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“So,” he says, this beautiful man that you love who is sitting across from you finally after days and days without him, sitting across from you at a sidewalk table at a restaurant in Greenwich Village with the low evening sun so warm on his face and his hair moving around in the breeze, this man you haven’t seen in over a week which is the longest you haven’t seen him since that time you’d rather forget (all those months and months, you feel cold even thinking about it). He says, “What’s changed about you in the week and a half that you’ve been in New York?”

He says it in a teasing way, but you can hear something else beneath it too, some part of him that is worried that you have changed or will change and they won’t be bad changes, they will just be changes he can’t keep up with and he will lose you and that scares him.

“Well,” you say brightly, “I now want to punch anyone who ever touches me accidentally. It’s a personal space thing. You get so little of it and the second someone takes it from you, you just-” You make a gesture that’s meant to convey intense anger, but mostly looks like you’re tying yarn. He laughs at you, that closed mouth laugh of his that means he thinks you’re ridiculous but that is 80% of why he loves you completely.

“Also, anyone with a backpack on public transportation is certainly the demon spawn of Satan.”

“So you’re telling me this city has managed to turn you from quiet and sweet to completely volatile in less than 14 days?”

“Yes,” you say. “I also discovered that there are so many things you can put on a bagel. I had no idea.”

He reaches out and takes your hand. His skin is warm and welcoming and you’ve missed him so much that it seems like a waste of time to be sitting here with all of these people around you when the only thing you want is to be alone with him. But you also get a thrill of pride that everyone will see you holding hands with such a handsome man, that he is yours and only yours and you selfishly like to think that no one else in this restaurant is as happy as you are right now. You push your fingers between his and you both just smile and smile and smile.

“I love you,” he says so quietly you barely hear it but he squeezes your fingers in time with the words. “I missed you.”

On the F train back to Brooklyn, you lay your head on his shoulder and close your eyes to the rocking of the train, the simple warmth of his existence next to you. His fingers play with yours and he talks quietly to you about his trip up, what he did those days without you, how he thinks the two of you should get a dog together. You are tired suddenly, the good sort of tired, the full of wine and love tired, the late night subway car going home sort of tired, so you’re just humming in response, focusing only on the cadence of his voice and not really the words. What his voice sounds like - the rhythm and the melody of it - is your life.

You kiss slow and heavy in the darkness of your room. His hands pull hungrily at your skin so it almost hurts a little, his desire for you. That pain turns into an ache somewhere deep inside of you, a place you can’t even locate because so quickly it becomes everywhere. Being with him is your favorite surrender.

“Don’t leave,” are the first words you say to him in the morning, before his eyes are even open and all he does is kiss you. It’s enough it’s enough it’s enough, you tell yourself.

“Showering in a communal bathroom at a school you don’t attend when you are almost 30 years old is a weird feeling,” he says as he walks back into the room with a towel wrapped around his hips, his hair dripping down his face. He runs his fingers through it, shaking out the excess water.

“Showering in a communal bathroom in general is a weird feeling.” You stand up and kiss him, standing a little apart from him, trying not to get your clothes wet. But then he wraps his arms around you and tackles you onto the bed, thoroughly soaking your shirt.

“You’re all wet,” he says, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

“You’re horrible,” you laugh, trying to push him off.

“You love me,” he says and presses a kiss to your throat.

You put your hands on his face and don’t know how to tell him that that doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The cab ride to Penn Station feels both long and short. You hold his hand and close your eyes to the wind coming in through the window. Every time the cab swerves or hits a pothole, he squeezes your hand, but you know it’s not about the recklessness of the driver. You know there’s something else, because you’re scared too.

This is how it is when you’ve loved someone and lost them and then loved them again. What being apart from him does is remind you that you can lose him, you have lost him. As you cross the Brooklyn Bridge, you look over at him. He smiles weakly at you with the wind blowing his hair all around. Lose you lose you lose you, you try not to think.

You stand together, silent and not touching, in front of the departures board. His train is on time and just that sort of makes you want to cry. He’s pretending to be occupied with the zipper on his duffle, but neither of you is convinced. He finally drops his bag on the ground in front of him and turns to you. “I’m going to see you in two weeks. It’s fine. We can do it.”

You even hate the words ‘two weeks.’ Half a month. Fourteen days. What those words represent is your struggle to reconcile your dream of pursuing art and your dream of being with this person you love. You know you can have both, but the time between now and then feels like a choice you’re being forced to make.

On the board, the track number for his train pops up. Those boxy letters and numbers announce ‘11E’ and the rush to the train starts, but he’s just standing there looking at you and you realize he’s waiting for you to say something, some sort of confirmation. But you can’t really give him that so you don’t say anything. You can only let him kiss you and turn away before you have to watch him disappear.

You take a rattling empty subway train back to Brooklyn. You transfer and wait on a thickly hot station platform. You sit at a window seat on the G. You listen to a group of teenagers swear at each other. You read the same ad for bed bug protection twelve times. You watch each stop go by until you get to yours. You are only thinking about him.

When you climb out of the subway station, Clinton Hill is purple with dusk. There are people everywhere: joggers, dog walkers, kids on scooters, strolling couples. It hits you hard, that stinging loneliness that comes with not really being alone just being apart from someone. Your phone buzzes in your purse, regaining its signal. You have three missed calls and a text, all from him. The text reads, “Two weeks is nothing against us.”

You stop at a corner, waiting to cross. You take in a breath and then the light changes.

unfold is the author of 102 other stories.
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