Take Off Your Clothes, And Do It Slowly, So I Forget My Troubles

Michel van de Wiel
Michel van de Wiel

You used to come over late at night sometimes–it wasn’t in the sneaky, be-quiet manner of hookups but rather you’d been busy, shuffling papers and rearranging hangers in the way you did, but wanted to end your night next to my warm, sleeping form. I always liked that. It made me feel like the important part of your day.

I would be half-asleep when you called me, confused as to the time, a little misty around the edges. I’d put on my glasses and stumble out to the door where you’d be standing, snow dusting your shoulders and your boots, and you’d smile at my crumpled sleepy face and kiss me, follow me back to the mess of my bed. I’d listen to you undress, the soft thud of your jeans and belt. So many boys had watched me dress and undress in this way.

“Take off your clothes,” a boy said to me once, leaning back like a king against his couch. “And do it slowly, so I forget my troubles.” He kept his eyes right on my bra as I swooped my hands behind to unhook it. Just to spite him, I whipped my clothes off and left them in a puddle on the floor. I did not stay the night.

Another sat in my grey-painted bedroom and watched me get dressed for a funeral, watched me step into pumps and into black, wind my hair around my hand into a coil and pin it smoothly back, spray perfume behind my ears. Getting dressed for a funeral is like zipping yourself into a suit of black armor.

I never cared to reciprocate. Boys take their clothes off haphazardly, throwing shoes and socks and hoods in careless piles. They’re like little boys tossing each offending garment wherever it’ll land, cause someone will put it back where it belongs when morning comes.

But you, I loved watching you undress. You took such care with each button of your perfect shirts, sliding your tie silkily off, leaving your sweaters on top of mine, your shoes set aside neatly, climbing into the mess of my bed.

Because you were a boy, you slept nearest the door; you were protecting me from all sorts of outside demons.

I’ve never been anything but high-maintenance at night. The room must be dark, dark, dark, silent but for the whirr of a fan. I wake up at 4:30 every night and can’t fall back asleep. I toss, I turn. I curl into a tiny, high-strung ball and my shoulders always hurt for it in the morning. I keep myself awake running all sorts of stupid scenarios through my head. I have nightmares. I hold a melatonin in my mouth and let it dissolve bitterly, waiting for the slow melt, the heavy eyes. Something about you kept me asleep.

On your last night here, before you packed up your life and took it to a new city, I didn’t sleep and neither did you. Maybe I slept a little, but my brain was too busy cataloguing your mouth pressed to the back of my neck, fighting the threat of morning where I’d go to work, vomit for three hours and fall asleep on the table in the back. I fought that morning so hard–I didn’t want to watch you tie your shoes in the kitchen, hit your head on the hanging lamp one last time, dress yourself to leave me. But I did it. TC mark

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