“Autumn Sweater” plays.
And there we are, sitting, existing, in this space whose size we cannot know. And it’s a cliché, but clichés sprout from truth, and that’s a heavy truth that just sits there unless you do something with it from time to time. I decide to leave it for some other day.
And my hands and toes aren’t cold anymore, but they still hold the memory of being cold this morning. My breathing is steady – until I recognize it. The first snow is falling, just like it ought to: it’s beaten the first frost to the punch, and it’s confused – wet, sideways, huge flakes, bringing yellows and reds and oranges down to the ground with it.
And we’re trapped by one another on the couch – not all that comfortable for one, much less for two. Everything is a little cramped. My cheek hurts, and you’re asleep so you don’t realize it, but you’ll soon open your eyes and roll over and your neck will be sore. We spend a lot of time wrapped up like this, you asleep and me awake. You sink into sleep in a way I have never been able to. It gives me energy, and I’m proud to finally find words to describe this — like I’m hosting your nap. It’s both yours and mine. We both know it.
A few more songs pass.
My eyes are wandering from the hairs on your neck to the flames, consuming the logs, comfortably but slowly, just calmly enough to remind me that if I fall asleep, really asleep, it’ll go out. Now out the glass door: four seasons at once. A big bright yellow branch hanging into the frame, and Grandma’s garden, still flowering pink and purple, and the huge, wet snowflakes, and the patio table with the sun umbrella peeking out, just asking to be set with ears of corn and cups of iced tea.
You shiver and I think you may be getting up, but your eyes stay closed. I’m glad.
The fire is dying down and needs stoking. It crackles, but the flames are gone.
And the playlist is good, – “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” now. I remember refining it for an entire autumn, under whispering trees and in the library, on cool walks and in the kitchen alongside late night smells of cinnamon and orange boiling in pots of cheap wine. I trust it enough to know that whatever comes next won’t be disruptive.
There are items on the table: last night’s whiskey glasses, this morning’s coffee. A bowl of nuts, rotten. The remote to an entirely irrelevant TV. Grandma’s reading glasses, and my book, that I haven’t started.
I think about never wanting to lose this place, and I think about you – no, not you-her, but you, you, yes, you, the one doing the writing, about what you must be seeing right now, looking at me, at us. I think I like what I imagine you’re seeing.
“Blue Spotted Tail” comes on, and maybe we should just listen to the whole record. But then, “Everlasting Light,” and that’s not a bad one-two.
I think about writing, but I’m still trapped by you, just as I want to be, and my notebook is out in the car, so that doesn’t at first seem like an option. But then I remember something a man with a sidewalk table full of books once told me, about some author, German I think: the guy, the author, taught that you should only bother to write if every bone in your body is pulling you to, if your soul gives you no choice. And at that point, you owe it to the world to write, it’s out of your hands. And I realize that I haven’t felt that way in a while, and that I absolutely feel it right now.
So I roll you over, and my teeth have left a mark on the inside of my cheek from leaning on you, and you cringe as you move your neck.
I go outside and get my notebook. I stoke the fire. Should go another 20 minutes now.
I open the book and begin. You take over. It feels good.
Jeff Schwartz lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.
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