There would be another morning

I got up this morning but my shadow stayed in bed. I walked through the sunshine in the front room, turned on the bathroom light – nothing.

Where was she? (I think of her as she.) I lifted the duvet but there was nobody there – just a deep indentation where I had slept alone.

She had to be somewhere – I think I may have said out loud. I turned all the lights out and felt that she was there. I turned them on again.

I closed my eyes and that worked too. I could feel her there, the warm darkness of trust. I kept my eyes tight shut and got back into bed.

There would be another morning, there would be some other light.

Come then and I will rub your back

Come then and I will rub your back and chest with menthol oil. The tingle will help you forget your lungs; the tickling scent will make me sneeze. “Not you too?” you’ll say and we’ll laugh and you will cough. When the racking stops, you’ll rub my head with menthol oil. The tingle will help me forget the headache; the tickling scent will not affect you.

Then, oilily, we’ll make sick-people love and gasp and splutter and wheeze. Soon perhaps we’ll flop in sweat and grin and gasp and feel the sheet hot, sweat-damp, beneath us.

A shower? The hottest water is cold needles on our reddened skin and then one of us feels faint so we towel each other carefully and catch each other’s eye and agree in silence to go to bed, this time eyes closed, and sleep.

Ari in bed, eyes closed

Stroke; stroke, stroke. Wriggle of shoulders, wiggle of toes.
Small tight grin, head under the bedclothes.
Toes stretched out. Stroke stroke itch.
Sole and top of foot and now the ankle too. Feather stroke.
Toes flex and stretch. Itch, smile.
Up the calf, feather light, behind the knee. Moving up and slowly slowly up.
Pull bedclothes close to face to hide the closed eyes smiling.
Pretend to be asleep.

Ari opened her eyes wide when her boyfriend screamed.
She opened her eyes wide and saw him standing by the door.
Not lying in bed behind her.
Not touching her ankle, not stroking her thigh, not moving up, up.

She twisted, half sat, and saw some of the spiders.