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Her arm hangs from the side of the bed like the letter L flipped over. And up on her shoulder the lamp light has turned her skin the colour of jade. Yeah, it’s late enough, sure, and every other fucking thing. But look at her. Dreaming. Keep it up, kiddo. Run those wolves back into Yellowstone Park. Me, I’m running enough as it is. Falling mostly, if I’m being honest, and you know how you hesitate before shutting the door?

Why is that?

I’ll tell you why. You almost want her to wake up. No reason for it. No reason at all. But still, you want her to wake up, because everyone has something they forgot to say. But you play it out, using your reading voice, the one in your head, to see if it will stick. And of course, it won't stick at all. ‘Just checking to see if you need anything before I go.’ And she was already asleep, so to fuck with that. What do you think she’ll say?

No, you just need something to carry you from the room and into your own bed. Something warm, something that clears the Tetris lines in your guts. Something to slip up your sleeve, like you’re cheating at cards or some shit and, in a way, you are. A look, that’s all. Just another look because who knows? You may never see her like this again. All wrapped up and melting from the heat in the room. That's what you're thinking about, standing there, trying not to smile or breathe or even move at all. Or you count your blessings, or something just as fucking weak.

That’s when the hesitation sets in. That’s when you’ve seen enough, but you still don’t move. And if she did wake up, would it stick? That’s what I’m asking. ‘Do you want me to turn off the light before I leave?’ Like sandpaper on a fucking window. That’s how that shit sticks. Because have you ever hesitated too long? See her eyes when she wakes up. Next time, take a good look. Then tell me if you’re glad that you stayed. Tell me if you said anything at all except for ‘Good night.’ And I bet you said that while you were half way out the door.

Because here’s the thing: People soften over time, especially over time spent in bedrooms, or during storms. You can see it, burning out of them, they can’t hold it in. Like when you measure a chocolate cake all wrong and it splits like over a Californian fault line. When there’s wine resting on your knees, or a fireplace to stand beside, or just something, anything, to flush out the rocks that settled in their bones over the course of another - fucking - day. People go soft. Just like that.

And you find yourself checking the time, because it can all break apart while your back’s turned. That person who lets their hand fall across your arm, or who doesn’t flinch when you brush past them, and sometimes they even lean into you which is oceans away from flinching at all. Well, it can all change once the sun comes up. Then you’re too scared to even catch them if they fall. Or you forget, for a moment, and hold your palm to their stomach. And take a good look at their eyes when that shit happens as well.

Someone said that fish and guests start to stink after about three days. You can smell it coming too, in fucking wavy lines like the cartoons sometimes have. All the way up from your guts. That’s desperation. That’s what that is. Like a fucking addict. You should just leave when the softness rolls around, all drunken and warm, but you can’t. And you know you should, you fucking know it. Just leave that shit alone and walk, while you’re all filled up with that softness of theirs. And what is it again that screws you to the seat?

I’ll tell you.

It’s hope. And hope can make you hurt worse than anything. And when you’re standing and watching the softness in those sheets, with the jade light resting on their arms, and the bicycle pump sound of sleeping, and you’re trying not to smile because you don’t even know why, well, that’s why you hesitate. Hope. That they’ll wake up, and look at you like they did before, and tell you that, when the morning knocks the shadows down the stairs and the fireplace looks like something a bad child would find in their Christmas stocking, well, even then, even after all of that, they still wouldn’t flinch if you touched them.

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