In February, love month, cold month of snow-cased love, we didn’t. Not in the bed, nor on the couch. We didn’t standing up, in the stand-up shower, or sitting down, in the sit-down tub. We didn’t late at night, as the TV played on the mirrored wall. Didn’t in the morning, when no-colored light sat on the windowsill. We didn’t even as our bodies, invisible and warm, rested beneath the feather duvet. Those days, those nights, it felt as though we moved within the carcass of a great animal, a maroon cavern so large we could not comprehend—and we didn’t, not even in that sweet-blooded darkness, we did not.
He thought we shouldn’t and so we didn’t. We didn’t because we wanted it too much. Didn’t because we already had too much. Didn’t because doing it was how we had once called forth dark waves. I still remember the tide of rushing horses, their frothed manes, how they rode in and rose quickly, how their wet bodies moved and spilled. They screamed horribly but were so beautiful, so soft to touch.
We boarded a plane to Florida because we longed to be who we were not. We touched each other’s hair. We shrugged off our heavy clothes. We rode in the back seat of a black sedan to Naples, and the carpeting in The Ritz was older than I had imagined it would be. The bar had colored bottles and people were laughing and smoking, tilting drinks, coldness on the insides of their throats, leaning in with their legs crossed and uncrossed. They talked and their words became layers of sound. They were real live people. This seemed so strange to me. He curved his arm around my shoulder as we passed through.
Don’t look at them, he said. Just don’t look.
We didn’t in the stiff white sheets, didn’t on the balcony, didn’t even though his father was paying for the whole thing, the flights and the hotel, but we didn’t care, and we didn’t. We didn’t do it as ants crawled up and down the legs of bedside tables. Didn’t do it as the sway-backed tide slid toward night.
We didn’t later, in the hot tub, lit from beneath. Didn’t as the water moved in our faces. Didn’t as we spoke of doing it, as we spoke of our love, as we imagined we would speak of that very moment after years. We didn’t together, but he did alone, in the warm water. It was salty and smelled of chlorine. I watched his face as he did it, memorized shadows and the shape of his skin. The palms. The darkness. The cots by the pool. The metal fence. The dark spots on the concrete. We weren’t unhappy. We were something worse, a black-and-white photograph of the first sunset you’ve ever seen.
Rachel Yoder edits draft: the journal of process, a publication which features stories, early drafts, and interviews with the author (). Her writing has appeared most recently in The Collagist, The Sun Magazine, The Rumpus Women Anthology (Paper Internets, 2010), and is forthcoming in YOU: An Anthology of Essays in the Second Person (Welcome Table Press, 2011). She lives in Iowa City and teaches creative writing in the community. For more info visit .