It is the first truly warm night of the year---warm enough for him to sleep with his window open. I am overjoyed. I can see him now as I sit perched on the window sill. No more pressing my ear to the glass for a faint rustle of sheets or the sound of him breathing. Here he is, in full view: the man I love.
He lies prostrate, eyes closed, mouth slightly open. I hear the air moving in and out of his lungs as his chest rises and falls. He is exposed. Vulnerable. I have only ever seen him wearing clothes before, but now here he is, a thin blue sheet the only thing between his smooth flesh and the open air. These are the fewest layers that have ever come between us.
He looks so peaceful, so restful, and yet, watching him, I become sad. I am fully aware that he must never know me. Not by sight, nor sound, nor by any of his other senses, and especially not by touch. If he did... well... I am all too aware of what disastrous consequences that would lead to.
So I watch. It's all I can do. Well, that's not true. I can dream, too. I dream of crawling into bed with him, wrapping my bony arms around his strapping frame, brushing my skinless mouth against his warm cheek, doing the best I can to approximate a kiss. If Heaven were real---as I know most assuredly it is not---I can imagine that that is what it would feel like.
Suddenly, a large, chilly gust of wind slams me from behind. I have no time to react, no chance to steady myself. Before I can grab hold of anything, down I go, tumbling into the room, straight onto the floor. My brittle body lands with a clatter. For a moment, I lie still. Silent. Did I wake him? No. My ears are tuning back in to the sweet rhythm of the air as it exits and reenters his body. He is still asleep.
A thought comes to me. An exciting one. If he is asleep, and here I am in his room, then maybe---just maybe---I can finally get a closer look at my beloved. For a moment, I weigh my options. Is the risk worth the possible gain? Many things could go wrong, it seems. He could wake up and see me. Or worse. I might accidentally brush against his skin. I should be absolutely devastated under either circumstance. And yet, I am fully aware that I may never get another opportunity to be this close to him. No, I decide, I simply cannot allow such a chance to pass me by.
I pull myself up and slowly make my way over to his bed, my calcified feet clicking on the floor as I go. I pray he won't wake up, but I can’t seem to tread any more lightly. That’s always the way, isn’t it? Just when you want to be most careful is when your body decides to defy you.
At long last, I make it. He is even more beautiful up close. His deep olive skin glistens in the silvery moon light. His dark brown, almost black hair is charmingly mussed. Even though he's aged twenty six years, he looks more like a boy sleeping here before me than a man. For a moment, I nearly forget myself. I reach out for his cheek, but stop my hand in mid air. No, I scold myself. You can never…. Never….
Just then, my thoughts are interrupted by a different sort of sound. He's doing something more than breathing now. Speaking? Speaking in his sleep? What is he saying? It sounds like... a name of some kind. No human creature has ever spoken or even known my name, so I know it cannot be mine. Whose is it? I strain to listen more closely. He speaks again.
I freeze. A woman's name. I feel a sharp pain. One with no physical point of origin. He has found someone else. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that this day would come---he is too beautiful to lay unclaimed forever---but never did I dream it would hurt so much. Tears begin to fall from my lidless eyes. A few droplets hit his bed sheet. They soak in, creating tiny, darkened spots. I choke back a sob, still trying to be quiet as I contemplate my next move.
Then it hits me. It’s a truly terrible plan, and yet it’s guaranteed to keep me from feeling this kind of pain ever again. Or at least any new pain of this kind, for I’m sure I’ll never completely recover from this moment for the remainder of the accursed millennia I have left. I look at my pointy fingers, trying to decide if I have the strength to go through with it. I do. I must. He will never be mine, it's true. But now, he will never be hers---or anyone else’s either.
I start with his hair, running my fingers through it. Every strand I touch turns from dark brown to gray to white, becoming thin and falling out in places. My shame is nearly unbearable, but it’s already gone too far to stop now. His beautiful face is next. I place a finger affectionately on his nose and, within seconds the skin grows thin and every bump and bend become visible. Without breaking contact with his skin, I move to his eyes, which immediately sink, leaving his lids to stretch grotesquely over his orbs. I go down to his lips and watch as they go pale and become thin until they nearly disappear.
I'm almost done. My tears flow like a waterfall, but I must finish what I’ve started. I place a hand directly over his heart. How sad that a moment like this should be the first and last time I touch such a chest. All at once, his eyes dart open. He gasps for air. Every muscle in his body contracts and convulses. His stare meets mine and, through his pain, confusion, and utter horror, I hope he can see how sorry I am. And then, just like that, it's over. He falls limp, his formerly youthful body now dry and pale, his skin nearly splitting where the bones poke out underneath it.
There is no point in remaining, I decide. With no one left to wake, I let my sobs come freely now as I step up on to the window sill. I take one last look at the withered corpse I leave behind. When at last I can bear the sight no longer, I give myself over to the wind and allow it to carry me far away. I know that, no matter where I land, no matter whose bedroom window I’m taken to next, I will never stop mourning him, the man who would never be mine.
So, if you’re ever lying awake on a warm night, and you hear the sound of someone faintly crying outside your window, take a moment to think of the sweet, olive-skinned young man, and one who loved him above all else.
Written by Jdeschene