Finally He Touched Her

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The room was black. The windows whispered a thin line of light in, and they too were shy. And as the coffee poured, it fell into the mug more aggressively this time. It too was black.

Mateo wore these past few months on his face in an unkempt shadow sprinkled around the lower half. He’d often wonder, in these pensive moments, if anyone else noticed.

The bundle of satin sheets began to stir. Mateo hoped she loved his bed. He would have purchased silk if he could.

“Is there enough for another cup babe?” said the voice from  under the sheets. Mateo was stirred out of his reverie and his heart leaped.

“Of course sweetheart, you know I’d always think of you.”

“Haha is that so?..” It was the “sweetheart,” Maria was referring to. Her response was met with silence, and the room was cold. This was Mateo’s coldest winter.

She had forgotten last night already. In fact all notable traces of carnal embrace vanished  under  the faint ray of light from the window, and it was only high morning.  The sunlight gave warmth to all that it touched, except her words, they stayed cold.

Life for Rent (1)

She was already broken by the time he had found her, shattered. From then he started his project to piece her together like some impressionist art. Love is abstract, but pain is concrete. And when you allow yourself to fall, the ground is often further than you imagined. Last night he fell asleep to the even tide of her bosom, the smooth of her pristine skin. He could “feel” her, but he could never really touch her, and from that melancholy grew his beard.

“I get it”, he would say to himself, “I understood her”.  But he was in flames while Maria was chafed. A different kind of burning.  She was a product of the careless craft of lost men. Through the passage of time she was beaten down into something sharp, uninviting to touch. It always seems to be a a matter of time. Through it all she became comfortable as a stranger to the outside world, and she preferred “lonely”.

“What is this Indy nonsense, Mat. I always laugh at your taste in music, you are so soft.”

He returned again after having drifted off. It’d been happening often lately.

“I like it, It’s zen.”

He had no clue why he felt the need to justify himself, or why she found it strange that a black man wasn’t always in the mood to be “mobbing with his niggas.” He was tired of fighting. In the ring with his family, his boss, his inner child. He just wanted peace. Maria was peace. The ” this will be rough, but it will end” kind of peace. The one you feel before writing your final exam. Going in for a knee operation. Running a big race.

She put on her clothes in a rush, grabbed one of his funky Ikea mugs and poured herself some black.

“Peace homie.” The door shut loudly as she made her usual uncouth exit.

“I loved that mug. ” He resigned to take a seat while the music played on. Oh Lorde.

Maria always kept a safe distance. At diners, during  drives, through texts. This space swallowed Mateo whole.

The day dragged on as it always does when you feel like you’re carrying around a dead horse. Mateo sat at his desk and glanced at his phone every 130 seconds. It was after lunch now, and so far he had bettered the temptation of responding to it. She needs to understand that she is not that big of a deal.. k$%&@… , I miss her. He turned his phone over.

“You doing no shave November or something? Looking like the Loch Ness, Ha-ha” said his co-worker Kelly.

She meant the Sasquatch. Her skirt was shorter today, he couldn’t care less.

“Err…Yeah, something like that.” It was nothing like that.

Mateo and Maria’s relationship was completely imbalanced and for all he knew, there were others. He hated the “not at all” and in turn justified the “not all the time.”

He returned to his phone, and typed, ” Yo, you want to chill tonight?” Translation : I haven’t heard from you all day, I’m dying to see you. I just want to hang out in my bed, and watch some Netflix maybe.

1:36 min later. “Sure… I’m hungry.”

What does that even mean?

“Awesome, meet me at my place, I’ll pick up diner.”

Backspace. “Dope, I’ll be home at 7, come over.”

The train arrived at the stop 3 min away from his apartment at 6:20 pm, and the train was on time. Throughout  the entire ride he listened to his workout playlist. It was full of “trap” music. Tonight he was going to be the man she wanted. She arrived at 7:46. By then he was starving, the food was cold, and the wine was warm. He led her into the apartment and she B-lined straight for his bed. And  still, somehow, all was well in Mateo’s world.

Conversation started as it usually did, with gossip. Making fun of the people who they felt were living lives  worse than their own. People very much like themselves. Somehow it shifted to talking about art. Mateo hated Maria’s apathy towards art. Mostly because her feelings were disingenuous. Art is not drinking a cup of water. It doesn’t come from logic. It asks it’s audience to care, to feel. Mateo knew that all Maria was doing was avoiding touch, all Maria ever did was avoid touch.

Tonight he had had enough.

Other(3square)

His face was a cool, but his tone was fire. It was the timely juxtaposition of trap music and wine. He broke in midsentence,

“When you drove through the country side, and gazed out the window, or took a walk by the ocean… when you saw that old couple sharing an ice cream in the park, did you not know art? have you this soon forgotten !?”

That didn’t even make sense .

She began her condescending laugh.

“Mat.. What..”

“No! You listen to me,” he interjected.

He drew nearer to her and gripped her shoulder as his father did to assert authority. Mateo needed her to be here, right now. Her body quivered as if it were shaking free the ice, that thick layer of ice. Mateo swore to himself, from then until forever’s reach that he would never let go.

“I KNOW YOU ARE TIRED, I KNOW YOU ARE HURT. I KNOW YOU’RE SCARED AS SHIT. I KNOW THOSE GUYS BEFORE ME BROKE YOU.”

He was shaking.

“I know every single time someone has ever held their hand out towards you, it was a slap in the face. I get it.”

He held her there, in the silence, in an embrace that reached deeper than her calloused skin.

The audacity of touch. Here the hell that threatened them became a heaven within them. All that “deep downwardness” ensued.  She was touched.

Her clenched fists were fighting to say, I will not cry, I am not weak. Goosebumps had formed. Breaching the authority of her head, her hands found his. They were the first to give in and she wept.

She woke up before he did the next morning. She had had such a pleasant sleep that she wondered if his sheets were silk, they felt great. She was feeling light as one of those organic snacks she would find around his place. The window let a faint ray of light in. With it the illusion of warmth, and it too was strong.

 

by @sledain

photo by Yasmin Al-Samarrai

 

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