I don’t go back inside. Instead, I text Amanda that I’m going home, please forgive me.
She replies with a smiley face, and I’m weirdly confused by it.
I’m tempted to renege on my last comment, and there’s a fleeting desire to remind her that actually, you should beg my forgiveness, how dare you talk about my stupid mental issues to random dudes!
I type out the message, but get no further. I’m drawn to looking out of the window, watching the excited pubs and beautiful people in snapshots through the window, my phone resting lazily in my palm.
But I’m seeing absolutely nothing except the stalwart frame of Ben, towering above me in the dusky evening light, leaning toward me, gently comforting me with a soft smile and a malachite gaze.
Who – what – is this man to have wrapped me up so wholly in a manner of minutes, nesting me and all my highly evident psychosis in some easy cocoon of genial comraderie? The gentle giant, studious, frank, obviously fighting the ramifications of some horrid disease that’s twisting his limbs toward uselessness… Christ almighty, the final thought releases pangs in my tummy, cold strings of guilt and shame at my own warped fascination with his disability.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, you’re all sorts of wrong…
The entire journey home, I’m hearing his voice humming deliciously in my skull; I’m watching his legs drag uselessly away from me as he leaves… I’m replaying the conversation I had with him over and over – a silly record on repeat.
It’s all wrong.
I’m dutifully picking out everything I did wrong, from running outside, to crying, to the pathetic outpouring about my mental state – surely, I’d have appeared less vitiated had I just hitched up my dress and spread my legs wide enough.
At least I’d have kept my mouth shut; at least I’d have kept my grizzly little confession securely contained.
Would I feel better had I just admitted to him that I’m also weirdly fascinated, intrigued – fucking attracted – to the poor guy’s disability?
Each addition to my ramshackle list of wrongs just compounds upon the sharp, icy ache in my belly, until I feel quite ready to purge Antarctica from my stomach.
I stare at my phone, gazing intently, and delete my previously typed message. I’m barely seeing the M glaring back at me in Amanda’s name.
It’s black, angular, distorted and impresses deeply on my other nagging curiosity: MS. I quickly give in and type it into the search bar – such is the beauty of modern technology, offering me a crash course in neurodegenerative disease on my way home from the pub.
I have to lean back after a while, finding myself wholly overloaded with symptoms and stats, facts and figures that may mean absolutely nothing to him – drugs, side effects, complications, types and subtypes, and even mortality rates. The only rational conclusion I dare come to is that MS seems to be fucking nightmare of a disease, turbulent, fickle, insidiously volatile.
I close the phone, refusing to face his reality any longer.
I’m also increasingly aware that there are other people around me, and the last thing I need is for them to have any inkling about my perversion – for what else is it?
I’m standing at the bottom of the stairs outside our front door – smoking, of course – when Amanda clip-clops effortlessly up the path in her super skinny stilettos. She immediately reaches out and pulls me into a quick cuddle.
“I’m okay,” I tell her. “Just…” I pull back. “Why? How?”
“I know,” she breathes, standing back and giving me a quick survey. “He’s a good friend, Jo. Honestly. That time with-“
I nod, quickly, closing my eyes and ducking my head. “Yeah, okay.”
“Jo, babe, I was scared, okay? I was just sat on the stairs by reception at stupid o’clock and shaking and a bit, just, disoriented with everything, and he came through from the lab and stopped and asked what was wrong and I just, I told him.”
I look at her again. Her blue eyes are wide, glassy with unshed tears, imploring me, begging forgiveness. She continues, harried. “That and, I dunno, he understands this shit Jo, you know? He’s never judged you. In fact, he’s always asked me about you since it happened.”
I pull another drag, stunned. “Seriously?”
She nods. “Yep.”
I shake my head. “I don’t get it.”
She shakes her head, grasping my free hand. “With him, there’s nothing to get. He’s Ben. He’s genuine. He’s amazing really. Countless times, I’ve poured my heart out to him over coffee at lunchtime and he listens and advises and just, is there. Well, okay, normally, it’s work related bullshit, the bloody politics and what-not, how to handle sticky situations, but never-the-less, he’s got this knack for sussing people out and putting things right. He’s wasted being hidden in that lab, you know. Ben should be a bloody ambassador for peace or something.”
I smile at that, a diffused chuckle passing my lips. Peace-maker, yes, I definitely got that impression.
She half turns to me as we climb the few steps toward the flat, a devilish grin on her lips. “You were outside for quite a while with him.”
I have a chance – a slim chance – of salvaging something here. “Um, just a few minutes. He told me what he thinks will fix the car.” I take a long drag on my cigarette, pumping my lungs with smoke and courage. “Listen, d’y’think he’d mind if you gave me his email?” Deep breath. “Just, y’know, to thank him.”
She grins again, ever-so-wickedly, pulling the cigarette from my fingers and taking a slow drag herself. “I’ll do you one better, my dear Jo.” She tosses my nearly finished cigarette in the empty flower pot near the door.
I roll my eyes and simply follow her inside, curiosity driving my feet.
My phone’s reminding me that it’s 23:22. Eleven minutes ago, I had every intention of composing a message, and yet not a single character has been entered. I squirm again, kicking off the duvet entirely from where it had been tangled about my feet – it’s just too damn hot. Pin-pricks of heat stab my neck, my lower back, between my thighs.
And I’m questioning my own sanity – I’m teetering dangerously on mania of some sort, my brain a disordered flock of mangled sentences, punctuated by the erratic tempo of my accelerated heartbeat.
No drugs required, either. Ha, go me, right?
The hated curser blinks: off, on, off, on, a mocking fingerprint tap-tap-tapping inside my skull. The digits of Ben’s phone number seem to crawl toward me.
“Fuck it,” I murmur, and let my fingers carry themselves.
Me>>> Hi, it’s Jo. From the pub earlier. Just wanted to thank you. For listening. And understanding. And I’ll tell you how I get on with the car.
I hold my breath when I hit send, the tension mounting as if the phone would spontaneously combust from texting – from texting him. As if by doing it, I’m tempting fate, I’m asking time to stop, I’m asking the world to stop turning because Josie decides to text Ben.
But it doesn’t. Nothing happens. Fate, time, the earth, they’re all right on schedule.
The tick-tick-tick of my bedside alarm clock carries on as it has done. Life continues.
I remind myself that I bear no weight whatsoever in the turning of the world – it carries on, whether I text Ben or not, whether I tempt fate or not, whether I breathe or not.
I’m a nobody.
Me>>> And if I offended you, I’m really sorry.
Me>>> And if I woke you up, I’m sorry too.
I chuck my phone onto the bed and fold my arms over my face, and offer a chastising whisper:
“Ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous.”
The darkness penetrates, surrounds, laying heavy, the clock’s incessant tick-tock a driving base-beat to my heart. I scramble out of bed, shove myself into a rather too-bright red dressing gown and sneak outside to smoke. I’m halfway through angrily shaking a defective lighter that’s dangerously on the brink of being spent when my phone vibrates in my pocket.
I fight to light my cigarette before daring to look.
I could just be Amanda, telling me off again. Yes, it’s got to be…
My phone vibrates again.
I quickly yank it free and draw in a sharp breathe when I read:
Ben<<< Im awake just studying. No apologies necessary. And happy to listen. I know its not easy. Esp when we are telepathic and know other peoples thoughts. X
Ben<<< That was meant as a joke. Sorry. Im talented at not engaging brain sometimes lol x
A massive smile cracks my face, a quick chuckle escapes my mouth; I’m incapable of stopping it.
The two kisses received aren’t lost on me either.
I’m all too eager to type my reply, this time not hesitating – the words flow from my fingertips easily.
Me>>> Studying anything exciting? And I wasn’t offended at all. Made me laugh actually.
Ben<<< programming. exciting would not be my adj of choice X
Me>>> I’ll take your word for it. What’s the right adjective then? Xxx
I admittedly hesitated on the three kisses, but whatever, right?
It seems an age – 6 minutes precisely, before he replies.
Ben<<< Dry! You always up late? x
Me>>> So you’re into electronics and programming and word modifiers. Interesting mix, lol. Yeah, a bit of a night owl. Xxx
It’s 9 minutes before he replies, and I find the waiting periods become increasingly stressful.
Ben<<< I never claimed to be exciting! Realy dont mean to be rude but can we talk tom? Im sorry I just need to sleep. Swear its not personal xxx
I bite my lip, the sharpness of my teeth matching the pang of guilt in my chest. I remember reading about fatigue in MS being quite debilitating.
I know he needs to go, needs to sleep, rest, recuperate. The image of him walking away from me flashes again, and I know that this time, I can’t let it happen again. I can’t. Deep within, buried in the pit of my stomach and in the primordial recesses of my mind so frequently hidden, there’s a churning of our potential, an intrinsic yearning for him that I can’t – I won’t – ignore again.
The necessity for Ben feeds my fingers:
Me>>> No worries, I understand! I’m sorry if this is really innapropriate but do you finish early on Fridays like Amanda does? Just that I’m off tomorrow and I wondered if maybe you wanna hang out? Get coffee? There is a place in town called Crème that’s really good xxx
I hit send, not even bothering to apply the heavy review and edit cycle normally given to any form of written communication I use, because time is of the essence.
But as dutiful as ever, my ramshackle insecurity still imparts a tug of war with my urgency and I’m compelled to offer him an out.
Me>>> You can say no. I mean, it’s okay if you say no, I won’t be offended or anything. x
Me>>> Sorry hang out is so American. X
I shove my phone back in my pocket, finishing off my cigarette and trundling back to bed. My phone vibrates as I’m kicking off my slippers, but I wait until I’m safely nested in bed before daring to look – momentarily petrified that he’s declining the invitation.
Ben<<< stop apologising. And yes. Sounds good. I have an appt after work so meet about 4? Let me know tom x
Ben<<< Sweet dreams x
I don’t know how many times to be precise – because all rationality departs that instant – but I read, and reread, and reread each message again, and again, and again. Seconds, minutes, possibly hours later I’m able to place my phone gently beside my bed, and settle myself so still that it’s practically death-like.
I’m lulled to sleep encased in a blanket of internal peace I’ve fought to find for years.
Peace doesn’t last, of course. I wake up, momentarily still riding my bliss clouds until it dawns on me that I’ve got a quasi-date thing going on and holy fuck, clouds aren’t any protection against the pummelling of nerves.
Date, well, maybe? Possibly? Maybe not. Just coffee, right? Just coffee, just a quick non-alcoholic drink with a guy I barely know… pure platonic and then some.
I take my time getting ready because I need to smoke myself to death between each stage – shower, makeup, hair, clothes. Somewhere inside my helter-skelter routine, I have to put music on, industrial, dark, moody – because it fits, because why try to force a square peg into a round hole, right?
I’m late because of the stupid clock on the oven being slower than I’d expected, because of the stupid road-works forcing me to wait a goddamned eternity at temporary traffic lights. Thankfully, there’s a parking space in the tiny little car-park across from the café – though I’m even more precious minutes eek by because I’m a pissy, edgy wreck at this point and it’s not the time to have to dig in one’s handbag for spare change for the car park.
The parking ticket tells me it’s 12 minutes past four and I jog across the road, not bothering with the zebra crossing because fortune’s offered me some grace in the form of a convenient gap in the traffic.
I throw myself through the door and a quick survey finds him easily enough, toward the back, dressed in a navy shirt, on the phone. He catches me eye, lifts his hand in a slow wave, a small smile playing on his mouth. He says a few words more as I carefully walk over, a prickly hot wave of fresh nervousness washing over me.
He mouths a quiet “Sorry” at me as I sit across from him at the small, round bistro-type table, and I make a big show of sorting through my handbag – bloody typical that I immediately find the pound coin that viciously eluded me moments ago. I know it’s rude, but I listen intently as he’s discussing something about waveform magnitudes, scopes and amplifying something, before gently begging to be released.
The call ends and he quickly places his phone face down on the table, looking somewhat sheepish. “I'm really sorry, we’ve got an apprentice at work and he’s panicking about exams a bit. I feel guilty letting him flap about in panic.”
I smile warmly, quickly, squashing my bag in my lap and shaking my head. “Don’t worry about it, shit happens, right? Besides, it’s my fault for being late and anyway, it’s awesome you’re helping.” I clutch desperately at my bag, wondering if he’d help me like that? “I mean, I assume that’s what was happening. Um, yeah, I’ll – I’ll uh shut up now.”
He shakes his head at me, barely breaking eye contact. “Don’t be daft. You’re absolutely fine.”
I smile wanly at that, severing away to sweep the table desperately for some distraction. Nothing. Nada. I’m on the brink of convincing myself that I’ve made a hideously pathetic mistake in even thinking he’d want to be here, with me of all people, when he says the most incredulous thing:
“Jo? It’s okay. Seriously. No pressure.” The words are soft, sweet, delicately whispered.
I stare at him. I feel my mouth part slightly, my tongue suddenly dry and stupidly swollen – I don’t feel capable of coherent speech. I swallow an arid urge to fabricate my well-being, because at that moment, I truly don’t think he’d believe me. Those green eyes meet mine, and I’m split-open before him; neurosis, psychosis, frenzied absurdity, it’s all lain bare. I want to cry, I need to laugh.
I catch him grimace slightly, and subtly shift in the seat. He looks down at the table. “Sorry,” he murmurs. “That may have sounded incredibly condescending, and I honestly didn’t mean it like that, I just-“ He raises his eyes to me again, and I don’t miss a flash of pain, self-doubt, misery; though it’s gone as soon as it’s registered. “I know you’re nervous, and I don’t want you to be, that’s all.”
My feeble tongue still feels distrustfully useless.
Typically, such visceral exchanges between me and new fellow humans never end well. I’m well adept at surveying the land prior to erecting an impenetrable wall that I hide behind in preparation for war. No one’s permitted so close, so quickly.
So why the hell am I letting him in? Why the hell do I need him in?
I succumb to the insanity of it and reach across the table, hesitating briefly before touching my fingers to his. He feels cold, and twitches rather suddenly as I make contact. I retract immediately, feeling the slow burn of rejection, murmuring my apologies and shaking my head at my brazenly foolish attempt at connection.
I’m fucking useless at connecting. Who was I kidding?
I fumble with my bag, and sling it back over my shoulder, quickly standing. “I-I’m sorry, I shouldn’t-“ I refuse to meet his eyes. “I’m an idiot, I-“
“Jo, stop. Please.”
I feel tears pooling, and I feel words crowding. Useless tears, useless words. “No, Ben, you’re, like, fucking awesome and I-I don’t belong – I’m obviously not- I made a mistake“
He fumbles for but grabs my free hand across the tiny table. “No, no, don’t go. I can’t…” Desperation clings to his tone and he glances about him quickly. “I’m sorry if my hand freaked you out, I swear to god I didn’t mean anything, it’s a spasm, it’s my MS.” He swallows quickly. “I have a lot of degeneration spinal cord, so my nervous system doesn’t work properly; consequently, my muscles don’t either.”
I feel my face blanche before quickly becoming beetroot, because I could never be so casually flippant about my own issues… somehow, yeah, I was sorta’ tortured for a long time and now my brain’s screwed just doesn’t want roll off the tongue as casually as the weather.
His hand is still cold on mine, but I can’t stop feeling… warmth. Electricity fizzles, ignited somehow as his fingers twitch weirdly against mine.
Ben sighs. “See?” He breaths.
I stare at his wrist, at mine, needing to cement the idea that he’s touching me.
Fuck, the spark of his touch feels capable of emancipating me from my own sordid self.
Our eyes lock and I’m somehow seeing him anew, fresh, tantalising in his willingness to pursue kinship.
It’s bolstering me against the insecurity. I don’t look away.
I hold his stare, I hold his hand, reeling as space between us warps, twists, collapses on itself, though we’re both stone still, silent. Here’s the impasse, I know it – with its torturous, candid electricity between our flesh; I know that this is the bit where our next actions will decide the entirety of our acquaintance, where a film soundtrack is meant to crescendo in anticipation. My feet are conflicted, our hands remain linked; and my brain’s latched on to reciting do I stay, or do I go-go…
I bite my lip, and slowly sit back down again.
I don’t immediately release his hand, instead offering a delicate squeeze, which he gently reciprocates, a faint smile forming a tightrope between us.
And when the brutal impasse has crumpled, I relinquished Ben’s hand back, and force mine firmly back in my lap, fingers brutally picking at my fingernails.
The silence between us has solidified, and now feels frighteningly impenetrable. I don’t understand – have I screwed this up? Has my impermanence forced another tick into my pathetic litany of failed relationships? “Sorry,” I murmur, unsure what else needs to be said.
He shrugs, and it seems that to him, we’re suddenly back to just getting coffee.
My mind feels ready to break apart, because the more I feel compelled to present myself as balanced, the more my instability shows through the cracks.
He speaks, normally: “Jo? Honestly, there’s nothing to be sorry for.”
Yeah, just me freaking out, it’s all gravy, dude...
“Anyway, what can I get you? Because-“ And he braces against the table to scoot forward slowly in the chair.
But I cut him off, grasping desperately at a menial task to orient myself. “Uh, no, my turn, because you paid last night.” A convenient excuse; though I’m more worried about the logistics of his carrying a tray of coffee across a busy coffee shop after briefly glancing at the walker situated behind him. I stand again, digging in my handbag for my purse, where I remove a crumpled £10 note and leave my handbag on the table – because the logistics of carrying a tray of coffee with a handbag liable to sliding off the shoulder are also problematic.
Plus, this way he won’t think me a fat pig for getting two sugars, because what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, right?
He asks for a decaf iced coffee, no ice – interesting for a guy – and gives a quick smile. I notice his eyes drop, looking toward his hand on the table.
I reach out, and simply brush my fingers against his, craving… him, and damnably bold in my doing so. “Hey,” I whisper, leaning close. “I gotta’ do this. Because I’m so anxious I’m going to, like, pick the paint off the table soon. Simple tasks are good for me.”
His brows furrow. “Um, it’s pure aluminium.”
“Exactly.” I say, pulling away to go get coffee. “We gotta’ get this, um, date-thing back on track, right?” And I cringe as I turn around, desperate the smack my own forehead because god, why do I do that?! Go from needy bitch to flirty whore and back again before I’ve even fetched coffee.
Walking back after the usually arduous coffee ordering debacle, I’m careful to balance the tray of liquid just right to prevent the oh-so-predictable tumble to the floor, and I don’t meet his eyes, keeping mine locked on the coffee levels.
I notice he uses both hands to slowly lift the plastic iced coffee container off the tray. It dawns on me then that maybe he can’t grip well, or can’t lift well, or possibly can’t use his hands properly? I’m not sure. I wonder if the iced coffee thing is more for the ease of lifting – plastic is a hell of a lot lighter than oversized ceramic bowls disguised as mugs.
I remember last night, and I’m thankful the barista placed a straw through the lid.
I sit down and make a slow performance of stirring sugar (yeah, two, whatever) into my coffee, guilty embarrassment twinging painfully from my earlier ridiculous comments.
“Thanks,” He says. Amazing how his voice just seems to melt the ache away. “Apparently, if you don’t watch the tops of the mug when balancing liquid, it’s easier to keep level.”
I look up, deftly raising my own stupidly full coffee to my mouth. Delay tactics. I’m good at those – sometimes.
He picks at the straw. “My sister. She’s full of little tit-bits like that. But has got about as much common sense as a hallway carpet.”
I smile at the analogy, but my lips feel a bit disjointed; I’m aching for some form of contact again.
I make do with his eyes.
He stares into mine, and I note his eyes narrow ever-so-slightly, and I’m quickly paranoid that I’ve made the fatal mistake of barking up the wrong tree entirely – doubt swirls, tapering my previously daring confidence. “I’m sorry,” I murmur again, “I mean, I understand. I think I got this this wrong, so if you’re like, seeing someone, or-“ I squeeze my eyes shut to block him out, to stop myself seeing the way his gaze subtly shifts from carefully guarded restraint to moderately abject surprise – the majority of which is in his eyes, so beautifully trained on me, so wretchedly nearly skinning me alive with their quiet brilliance.
I hear him shift. “Jo, no, you’ve not got this wrong. I just…” He stops.
I force myself to stare at my cup to avoid those eyes, to compose myself. It doesn’t seem to work and I chuckle. “This is becoming a trend or something, me getting all stupid and emotional. And we barely know each other.”
“That’s – Okay, hold that thought for a sec,” he says, and in the midst of more shifting, I look up to see he’s pulled the walker in front of him and is slowly levering up to his feet. Almost as soon as he’s nearly standing, his legs start to subtly quiver and I don’t miss the exasperation in the brief twitch of his lips. A self-conscious glance to the left confirms he’s got a bit of an audience; my own fascination is boiling inside and I hate myself fiercely for being unable to pull my eyes away from his shaking legs, those bent knees, the way it obviously takes a few attempts to force that left foot to move just a few inches.
I’m suddenly rather confused; I’m not quite grasping the point of this obviously taxing exercise. I watch as he quickly reaches for the empty chair next to me, yanks it out further and then performs a hasty, clumsy pivot to before gently lowering himself down again.
And I get it – he’s moved closer to me. I attempt to shatter my mug by squeezing it to death, because his new proximity is making the burning desperation to touch him all the more potent.
“Look,” he breathes, and his eyes meet those of the strangers watching his earlier movement. There’s no dare, no fight, no offer of anything except his gentle acquiescence, and he just looks straight back at me. “Last night, I walked outta’ there pretty intrigued by you. The discussion we had certainly isn’t what I would normally talk about with people I’d just met, least of all women - not that I talk to lots of women or anything,” He chuckles, it’s more self-deprecating than mirthful, and I feel an overwhelming twinge of empathy.
So, as casually as possible, I place my hand over his. “Me neither. Guys, though. I mean, I don’t talk to a lot of guys. So please tell me you’re single,” I murmur.
Now he laughs, nodding slightly. “Yeah, you’ve nothing to worry about there.”
And of course, despite the beautiful direction this conversation is heading, the inevitable hangs there, taunting me – and I echo it: “But?”
Ben sighs, staring at the table. “I honest to god am flattered Jo, truly, but I need to be straight with you. This, me, my disease, it’s not going to get better.” There’s a brief pause before he seems to force his eyes back to mine. “I have primary progressive MS. Progressive being the operative word.”
A stone sinks in my gut – I’m unable to tell if it’s excitement or dread.
He continues. “Normally, people with MS have a relapse and then improve. Mine doesn't work like that. I won’t improve, I'll just slowly get worse over time." A nervous swallow. "I’m honestly not saying this to scare you, or force your hand, or make you pity me or anything like that, I just need you to know what you’re getting yourself into here.” There’s a new fervour in those green eyes, a dare staring back at me; but I also register the insecurity, the shame, even the fear.
Which matches my own because the first thought I have is that he’s going to die at some ridiculously young age, and I feel myself tear up – stupid, stupid, stupid – but he must have understood.
Or he saw it – I had the look again, the one we both so casually bonded over less than 24 hours ago. God, I really am an idiot.
He’s probably used to it – idiots, that is.
He just squeezes my hand gently. “I’m not going to die from it, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Relief must have poured from my face, for he cracks a rather cocky smirk that’s bordering on incredibly sexy.
A glum giggle escapes my mouth. “God, I’m that transparent, aren’t I?” Of course, I want to probe, to ask a million questions, to understand precisely what worse entails, but it’s not right, not yet.
Ben smiles that sweet, kind smile. “You do seem to wear your heart on your sleeve.”
Tell me about it, I think, and I know that it’s now or never; without much pushing, the words spill out, unbidden in an attempt to rekindle our earlier connection, however short-lived. “It wasn’t pity, Ben. I swear. I just – you’re –“ I squeeze gently at his fingertips, feeling him return the gesture with that typically odd spasm; except this time, it imparts much more comfort than surprise and spurs me to continue. “It’s – fuck’s sake, I don’t know. I feel something about you. Crazy, I know, because I only met you less than 24 hours ago but there's something about you, I feel it. Something good. I don’t know how else to say it. I just, god, I know this sounds entirely fucking crazy, but please, I’m not trying to dick you around or screw with your head. I’m just trying to make you understand that I’m serious here and this isn’t some sick joke or something.” I swallow hard, my voice becoming a dark whisper. “Please believe me. I’ve had sick jokes played on me before and it’s cruel, and I swear to god I don’t do cruel.”
Ben nods, slowly, quietly, gently. “Jo, you don’t have to explain yourself. It’s not crazy, okay? I believe you.”
He gives me a delicate smile, reassuring. “Yeah, I do.” He pulls away from my fingers to pick up his drink and take a long sip. “I get the impression something… bad… happened.”
I feel myself go beyond white, and a sinking sickness scours my belly.
He continues, eyes fervently wider, “No, no, it’s okay, you don’t have to tell me, you don’t have to ever talk about it if you don’t want to.” His hand comes back to mine, eyes sincerely locked on mine. “Let’s just, go slow. I’m no good at fast these days. I-If that’s - is that okay?”
I smile, only offering him a simple nod, a warmth spreading throughout that disintegrates the knot in my belly and quiets the discord in my head. It’s incredible. It’s immense. It’s fucking perfect in its gentility and for the first time in my entire life, I’m beginning to understand just what freedom from myself could feel like:
It could feel like love.