It was surprisingly easy not waking him up. As he lay there, curled up on the sagging, old bed with his head comfortably nested between the safety of his arms and his shiny, ebony hair curtaining a calm face, slumbering despite the ongoing alarm which reverberated through the rented room. The room was dark and reeked with the mixed, pungent aroma of dust, musty clothes, and dried semen. The snoozed noise reminded me of what I needed to do, and I broke my lingering gaze from him as I turned the alarm off and got out of bed. The young man remained unmoving, drawing deep breaths from the air around him, and I studied him again as I pulled on some of the few clothes which weren't packed down in bags. ‘Why had he come?’ The question came naturally to me as I looked at him turning around in his sleep and reaching for a person which was no longer there. The emptiness of the vacant body didn’t stir him to wake up — instead he withdrew his arm back towards his chest and hugged it with his other. It wasn’t like I didn't want to be there with him, quite the opposite, but I needed to go, and yet I didn’t want to pull away from the sight of him, didn’t want to turn around and leave him there. So vulnerable and so pure. Yet I had to, so eventually I did, tearing my gaze away and unwillingly stepping out in the cold morning.
I walked over wet, cracked sidewalk to a corner café. Ordered a coffee Americano from a grimacing Indian woman behind the cluttered counter. The sky was as grey and bland as I felt that somber moment. I looked out onto the cobblestone plaza which stretched in front of the silent cathedral across the street. The smell of piss and wet dog hung in the air. Several city workers slowly made their way across the plaza with fire hoses attached to a tank on wheels washing away the filth from the previous night. They moved slowly as if in a dream.
I watched as I sipped my bitter coffee. The heat scorching my lower lip. I thought about him. Should I go back? Why am I so afraid to follow up on the pursuit of a relationship? Emotionally, I am so lonely, but the walls I have built around me are far too high and far too thick. I am truly lost.
I throw the styrofoam cup into a trash can cascading in putrid garbage and briskly walk back to the rented room. I am going to show him love, compassion, respect. Everything he asked for throughout the previous night. I stop. Light a cigarette, turn the other way, and return home…