Chapter 33:

Day 7: Part I

Lost in Japan

The first time I woke up, his arms were wrapped around me. The palm of his hand sat below my cheekbone and his fingers rubbed against the sides of my ear. I could feel his heart beating and could hear his lungs breathing, and I fell back to sleep.

I may not be an authority on what qualifies good kissing, but when our lips touched, there was such warmth, like a summer breeze caressing trees. There was little movement for what felt like a while, though was probably no longer than a few seconds. Our breathing had been redirected to our noses and the exhales became a perfume across our sensitive skin. I leaned back to reposition. Sean took this as a rejection and started to back away. My lips felt as cold as winter. I pushed onto his lips. We connected with a bump and I fell back against the bed. He bestroed himself against my leg as his arm lay above my head, peering into my eyes and, with his other hand, fondled the strands of my hair then ran his finger down the side of my face to my chin. We locked our hands together as we kissed again. The whole of the Milky Way drifted through our tongues.

He let go of my hand. He straightened back and looked down at me who was blushing and smiling and feeling all sorts of things while I bit my knuckles. My lips were of want of tenderness. “We should stop,” he said.

“What? Why--” I tried to say as I reached for another, but he grabbed my shoulders and held me at his arm’s length. “Sean? Is it because--” and as I spoke I knew it not to be true. He had so unabashedly admitted it and openly hinted towards it, so there was no reason for me to feel it was the cause of his resistance, but there was a heavy weight in my chest like I had eaten stones for bread. An involuntary memory of a painted man, thirty-two, loomed far behind me as though it were part of an exhibit in the woods. It was to that portrait I had posed the rest of the question, “Do you think what we’re doing is wrong?”

He gripped his fingers deeply into my shoulders. His face was stern and sober against the lure of another kiss. “No. What? Alex, do you?” I closed my eyes and shook my head. His arms fell to the bed. “I don’t know how to say this without making you uncomfortable.” Sean scooted down the bed and shuffled his legs over so that they reached the floor. “I’m scared that if we continue I’ll do something wrong. Something that we’ll both regret. I really like you, Alex. I’m really happy.” He looked like his father had at the pancake restaurant and blushed like his mother.

“Me, too,” I said, then crawled towards him. “I want to be close to you.” I set my head against his leg like a pillow, looking at the sheet on the wall and the paused autoplay. “Even if we’re just laying next to each other. Like when we were kids.” I reached for his hand and brushed the tips of my fingers over his nails and they knotted together. At some point, like this, I had fallen asleep.

When I woke the second time he was gone and I was afraid. Afraid that the day had begun. Afraid that last night was too impulsively done. That what we did was wrong. I had been the one to suggest we let the hours pass laying next to each other but wasn’t that too big of an ask now that the clock was nearing the midnight of my departure? Maybe Sean had thought so, too. Maybe that was why he wasn’t laying there next to me.

I wish I had had a dream so that the day would feel that much longer, but seeing the unused futon and feeling the stiff aching of my neck, I knew that no concentrated effort of mind or will would bring me back to when I’d first awoken or to those final moments before we went to bed.

I got up and left his room. The scent of seafood grew steadily through the living room and greeted the puff of steam whispering away from an opened rice cooker. “Good morning,” Sean said. The cooker clicked closed as he walked to the refrigerator.

“ ‘M-morning.” I was determined that our conversation should have no reference to the night before. Not because I wanted to pretend it never happened--indeed, quite the opposite. I had thought that if we were to debrief and analyze our actions, that the significance of the moment, of having lived through it, of having shared a first kiss, would have been vacated to the inevitable enumerative interpretations and the sophistry of time. “Whatcha cooking there?”

“Breakfast. Nothing crazy.” He closed the refrigerator and held out a box of miso. “Just soup and rice.”

“Nice,” I said as he took the box to the stove along and picked up a ladle. “It smells good.” He scooped some of the gunk off the top and turned the dial off. He then scrapped some of the miso out of the box with the ladle and let some of the broth sink in. He let it dissolve before stirring it into the pot. “Looks pretty complicated.”

“Anything worth doing is complicated.”

“I don’t understand how you had the time to make it. How long did I sleep in?”

“What do you mean? It’s only nine.”

“Yeah but…” I took a seat at the table. Sean was humming to himself as he flipped the switch of their electric kettle. He brought it to a boil and then let it cool before pouring it into a small pot with a tea infuser. He scooped the rice and soup into separate ceramic bowls. He set them on a tray along with a porcelain mug and brought it to the table before me, then did the same for himself and the pot of green tea.

He sat across from me. He rose the pot. I held out my mug to him, the palm of my hands wrapped around the bottom and side. The green tea steadily warmed my hands like a hat or a glove. I took a sip and smiled. He set the pot down in front of me and raised his mug in the same manner. I poured more slowly than he had. My hands were trembling. I was scared I’d burn him like I had myself, but I didn’t. He took a small sip, then smiling, set it back down again.

We stared at our food, then at each other, then shared an awkward laugh. “Thanks, Sean. This looks really good.”

“Well, you know, this is Japan. You gotta say, ‘Itadakimasu.’ “

“Ha ha, right.”

We bowed over and clasped our hands together. My palms rubbed together as I waited for him to say it. We laughed again then said in unison, “Itadakimasu.

Lost in Japan