The Light We Lost (Page 39)
When I got back to our couch, you’d already paid the bill.
“Want to go for a walk in the park?” you asked. “We can get some water from the bodega out there.”
“Sounds good,” I said, putting my hand out. You grabbed it and stood. That moment of skin-to-skin contact felt charged. You looked at me, and our eyes locked. My breathing slowed, unconsciously mirroring yours. You took a step closer to me.
“Gabe—” I started.
You let go of my hand. “I’m sorry,” you said, looking down. “I forgot myself.”
“Gabe,” I said again, trying to put a whole sentence’s worth of meaning in that one word.
You looked back at me, and this time neither one of us could break the connection. I reached out and touched your lips with my fingertips.
“We shouldn’t,” you said, holding my hand in both of yours.
And then I don’t know who leaned in first, if it was you or me or maybe we moved at the exact same time, but my mouth was against yours, and all of a sudden everything wrong in the world felt right.
You pulled me closer so our bodies were pressed together, thigh to thigh, stomach to stomach, chest to chest.
“Where’s your hotel?” I whispered.
“I’m staying at the Warwick on Sixth Avenue. But . . . Luce.”
“It’s okay,” I said. I’ve never wanted anything as much as I wanted you in that moment.
I kissed you again and you moaned, slipping your hand into the back pocket of my jeans, just like you used to.
• • •
WHEN WE GOT to your hotel room, I think you asked me four times if I was sure this is what I wanted to do. I said yes every time. I was drunk, but I wasn’t incapacitated. I knew what I wanted. What I needed.
“Do you want to do this?” I finally asked.
“Of course!” you said. “But I don’t want you to regret it.”
I kissed you harder and concentrated on the taste of you. Gabe plus whiskey was a flavor I knew well.
“Lucy, Lucy, Lucy,” you whispered, like you couldn’t believe you were getting the chance to say my name again.
You grabbed for the hem of my T-shirt. I put my hand on yours, self-conscious all of a sudden.
“My body doesn’t look the same,” I whispered.
You pulled the T-shirt up and over my head.
“Your body is gorgeous,” you whispered back.
We wrestled each other out of our clothes and you lifted me up and tossed me onto the bed. A move you’d used on me eleven years before. I reached up and pulled you down with me, running my hands along the muscles of your back, feeling them contract under my fingers. The line from that E. E. Cummings poem kept running through my head. i like my body when it is with your body. I do, Gabe. I like my body better when I’m with you, I like myself better.
“There is no one like you,” you whispered as you slid into me. “There is nothing like this.”
I answered with an arch of my back and a moan. “No one,” I breathed. “Nothing.”
Afterward, we lay naked on top of the blanket, your body curled around mine the way it used to. Your hand was on my stomach. I thought about the first time we went to Faces & Names, the trip to your apartment afterward, your confessions in the dark.
“What if you came with me,” you said, “to Jerusalem.”
“What if we traveled down a rainbow highway and danced on the moon,” I answered.
“I’m serious,” you said, kissing my neck.
“This feels like déjà vu,” I answered. “Though now I could probably figure something out with my job. Working remotely. A satellite office. They wouldn’t want to lose me.”
Your teeth tugged my earlobe. “Brilliant beauty,” you said.
I flipped over to face you. “I can’t,” I told you. “You know I can’t. My kids are here, I can’t leave them, and there’s no way Darren would let me take them to Israel. Especially if it meant I’d be taking them to you.” I twined my hand with yours. “But if it were just me, I’d be there in a heartbeat.”
I still can’t believe I said that. That I was truly considering your offer after one afternoon in bed with you. Though it wasn’t one afternoon, was it? It was one afternoon thirteen years in the making. And I’d thought Darren was done with me, that he’d found somebody who ticked all the boxes in whatever new checklist he’d made.
You didn’t say anything more, then, just bent your head down and ran your tongue in a circle around my nipple. I felt you, hard, against my leg.
“Again?” I asked.
You took your mouth off my breast. “You make me feel like I’m twenty-three.”
“So again,” I said.
You kissed your way down my stomach in response.
• • •
IT WAS LIKE we were that binary star again, orbiting around each other, no planets or asteroids for light-years. I should’ve been thinking about my children or my husband, but I was thinking only about you and how you made me feel. How, with all the years between us, our connection felt deeper than it did when we were twenty-four. We’d both changed, but in ways that made us more compatible instead of less so. We talked about us, about staying in touch, about whether I’d be able to visit you in Jerusalem. You typed your new address into my phone.
“I want to see you again, like this,” you said, running your hand down my naked body.
My skin goose-bumped, from my shoulders down to my ankles. My nipples stiffened. I rolled over and wrapped my arm around your chest. “Me too,” I said. “But I can’t figure out how we can make that work.”
“If he’s cheating on you, you should leave him,” you said, your chin resting on the top of my head. “You should be with me.”
I kissed your neck and sighed. Lying next to you was intoxicating—I felt the euphoria of that Gabe high; the addiction was back. I’d have to go back to day one, kick the habit all over again. Except I didn’t want to. “It’s not that easy,” I said. “But I’ll see if I can figure out a reason to travel to Jerusalem for work . . . Maybe London? That’s more plausible. Could you meet me there?”
“Lucy,” you said, your arm tightening around my back, “I’ll meet you anywhere. I never thought I’d have a second chance with you; I’m not going to screw it up. You’re my light. You always have been.”
“I know,” I said quietly, absorbing your words. “But I’m responsible for other people now. That’s partly why I haven’t said anything to Darren about this other woman. What would it do to Violet and Liam if I left their dad? You and your mom were so hurt when your dad left.”
You were quiet for a while, and then you said, “But what will it do to you if you stay with him?”
I pulled myself closer to you. “They’re more important than I am,” I said. “But maybe Darren will make the first move. Let’s see what the universe has in store.”
“Take the current when it serves?” you said.
I smiled at the reference. “It always comes back to Shakespeare with us, doesn’t it?”
“‘When to the sessions of sweet silent thought, / I summon up remembrance of things past,’” you said. “I have a book of his sonnets that fits in my backpack. I’ve read Shakespeare in every hellhole this world has to offer, and that’s my favorite line. It always makes me think of you, no matter where I am.”
I was in your thrall again, Gabe, because even though so much of you had changed, so much of you hadn’t. And that part of you—the part that quoted Shakespeare at the drop of a hat—made me feel young and hopeful and infinite. I thought for a moment about asking you to stay. I wondered if your answer would be different than it was ten years before. But I was afraid that it wouldn’t be. And that my question would ruin the beauty of our afternoon.
“I’ll let you figure things out,” you said. “I’ll give you some space.”
“That’s probably best,” I said, wishing it weren’t.
You grabbed my hand. “But know I’ll be thinking about you,” you said.
“Me too,” I whispered.
We shared one final kiss, and I took the subway home, still orbiting around you in my mind.
There are so many kinds of secrets. The sweet ones you want to savor like candy, the grenades that have the potential to destroy your world, and the exciting ones that are more fun the more you share them. Even though our secret was a grenade, it still felt sweet to me. I went home and took a shower, thinking about your touch, your words, your body against mine. I put on an old Columbia sweatshirt that I’d worn when we lived together and a pair of leggings. Instead of turning to my computer to answer e-mail, I pulled out a worn copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I hadn’t read it since college. I’m not even sure how it escaped getting sold back to the Strand for so many years, but I was glad it had. I skipped right to chapter fifteen—John Thomas and Lady Jane. Do you remember that chapter? It’s the one where Lady Chatterley and Mellors escape together into the garden shed and weave flowers into each other’s pubic hair. I found the scene so sexy in college. I still do.