The first 24 hours.

When she breathes, each exhale curls her body closer to me, melting her to my side. In the pallid light of mid-morning, the entire apartment is case with an indifferent, neutral glow. It makes the sight of her, creamy and supine on her side on the bright red bedspread, striking enough to take away my breath.

T-15 seconds and I had blasted off. I knocked over the coffee I’d brought her and ran down the aisle, throwing off my headphones (until that point, blaring Beck’s Sexx Laws on repeat) and kissed her hard, kissed her deep, looked into her eyes and saw that she was crying. It was a rare opportunity to get her at the airport, to hold her and love her with such passion in front of holiday travelers, gruff taxi drivers, airport personnel. People who see thousands of such reunions and farewells a day, but there was nothing like this, nothing that I had ever experienced or felt with such a euphoric fervor. This was my Paris, this fruit vendor lukewarm espresso on the floor city of blaring Hennessy ads and hazel-eyed girls in puffy white coats. This was mine to seize and she gave herself to me, her beautiful breaths back into the grease of the city. Those were mine.

We waited for weeks to say it. I wanted to breathe it into her mouth, those precious charged molecules, wanted to scrape it into my skin I’ve never meant or felt such love so hard before. We waited until we were in the apartment, ascending stairs and hauling luggage and buoyant on promises and wings on our feet. Outside the window is a big, strange, world of neutral colors and tones. We are colorful celestial bodies, painting and dragging with our fingers and hands and we are beautiful in what we do and what we don’t and that is why I told her that I loved her. For hours, we drifted in and out of consciousness, our only memories of the wrapped limbs sinuously gripping other limbs in a universal tangle. She is tendons and strands and structure and nerves wrapped up in a fragile package, tender with resilience and capillary beauty in lacework across her skin. When she blushes I can see it move across her, a wave that curls her toes and flutters her eyelashes. I love her in pieces and in whole and across oceans. I do not want to let her go.

Eventually, we stir. We watch a documentary and peer out the sliver of sky gutted by pipes and window shutters and do not leave, enamored by the words engorging from our lips and the promises we whisper in candy-colored lip paint and Carmex gloss. What do we do when we do what we do, I cannot tell you because I do not know. Its appeal is intimate, its scope universal. We huddle and retreat to technologically-enabled animals in fleshy suits and tailored jackets, asleep in a huddle of blankets and love. Were you to photograph, document the 35% of time we spend in bed, the 35% of time we spend fucking, the 10% eating, the 20% leaving, you would be bored and I would be entranced, swayed by watching myself do what I do in my place alone, watching her hands across my face, rewinding the video in the dark at night alone, whatever you do, keep it real. The reality is what we fear, what we cannot succinctly sum up in fragments of TS Eliot and borrowed books and nail polish. The truth is ugly and the world is small. But what could be more real than the scream of nerves and the slap that rings across Paris? I feel her inside of me even when she is gone, from the throbbing of my skin to the pulpy tightness in between my thighs, the wrench of satisfaction from my tongue. She clamps her hand tightly over my mouth, the dumbness momentarily capped as I stir beneath the sheets. Her eyes are shut, her heart is open, and I taste the beat of my heart in blood and thumps and she takes me in a swoop and I glow.

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