(c) 2015 Eve Francis
“What do you think?” Alison said, flicking off the TV. “Should we head to bed?”
Cora groaned. She had sprawled out over Alison’s lap as they caught up with Orange is The New Black. She didn’t want to get up, especially if that meant the night was over. Alison’s hand caressed the back of her neck, where Cora’s dark hair was gathered into a ponytail. Alison took out the hair tie gently, then ran her fingers through Cora’s hair.
“Fine. Okay. You always know how to win me over.”
Alison only grinned as Cora got up, and the two of them headed to the bedroom. Just as Cora shut the door, Alison slipped off her day clothing and slipped on a pair of boxers to sleep in. But nothing else. Cora grabbed her tank top, and gym shorts to sleep in.
“Really?” Cora asked. “Just the shorts for you?”
Alison raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t want to do anything,” Cora said. “We actually really do need sleep. Early shifts tomorrow.”
“I know,” Alison teased. “I haven’t forgotten.”
As they slipped into bed, Alison placed her hand on Cora’s waist, holding her close. She kissed her, but didn’t let it develop into anything more. Cora could feel how tired Alison’s body was, especially after they had both already worked a long ten hour shift at their cashier jobs in a department store. She slid her hand over the slope of Alison’s back, her fingers trailing over the skin lightly before she gripped harder.
“You’re so skinny,” Cora said.
“And you’re so beautiful,” Alison said. “So, is it a crime for me to stay naked like this? Sometimes I just like the way it feels. Not sexual, Cora. You should know that by now.”
“I do know that. It actually reminds me of a poem I read one time.”
“Of course it does. But tell me in the morning?” Alison yawned.
“Sure, sure.” Cora turned over in the bed, allowing for Alison to be the big spoon and for their skin to brush again. Alison kissed the Cora’s neck, and within moments fell asleep.
Damn. Even when I’m this exhausted, I can’t get to sleep that fast. When Cora and Alison went to bed at the same time, it always felt like an inevitable race to sleep—one that Cora had resigned to losing. She could never shut off the thoughts in her head, never just let go. At least, not like Alison did.
Cora shifted, allowing their bodies to become much closer. Alison didn’t stir. Maybe I’m not comfortable. Should I get rid of my top, too? Cora didn’t usually sleep naked. It seemed too risky to her. No one really came into her room without knocking, but she still felt exposed by the thought of it. Now, with Alison’s body covering her and protecting her like a shell, she liked it. But taking off my shirt means moving, and right now, I like where I am.
So Cora tried to remember the poem she had read in English class about the feeling Alison described. Was it e.e. cummings? He was always touted as one of the most artistic poets in her small group of friends at college, but Cora remembered finding an erotic collection of the work he had done. Yes, it was cummings, she remembered now. He had written a poem that was about being naked with someone, and fitting together like a puzzle piece. Or was that puzzle part from Hedwig and The Angry Inch? Which was really just a reinterpretation of The Symposium by Plato. Hmm. Now I’m not sure of anything anymore.
“Shh,” Alison said, turning closer to Cora. “I can hear your thoughts. They woke me up.”
“No, no, it’s fine. Just…” Alison touched Cora’s face, then pressed their foreheads together. “Just breathe. Don’t think.”
“Doesn’t breathing requiring thinking?”
“No. Stop this. You know better.”
Cora bit her lip. She did know better, but that was partly the problem. Night made her thoughts cascade forward and sound like cymbals crashing in her ears. And–and– she thought, then went to look at Alison, but she was asleep again.
So simple. So easy. Cora breathed in and out, then tried to remember just the poem. Then, just the sound of the room. Before long, Cora was remembering the first day she and Alison had met in a bookstore where their drinks had been mixed up at the coffee bar. Awkward conversations led to long discussions at night in Alison’s basement apartment, until they both transferred to the same department store, and Cora moved in with Alison. That had been, what, six months ago? Cora nodded. She started to count those days, all 183 of them, instead of sheep.
It still took Cora another fifteen minutes, but she eventually fell asleep.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~