“My father thinks I should have stayed in Ireland,” he says after a few ticking beats of silence, “gotten a proper job.”
I glance up to him. “In manufacturing?”
He nods. “He reminds me I’m the oldest, that it’s my responsibility to care for Molly when he and Mam are gone. I assume I’ll go back, someday. Always have.”
“Are you ever homesick?”
I miss Des Moines in these unexpected bursts. Like when the sirens wail past, over and over outside my window, and I just want quiet. Or on trash days, when all I can hear is the crashing and creaking and jostling of metal and refuse. Or when I leave my apartment and feel like everyone wants to stay in their bubble and not interact with another human on the planet.
“Yeah.” Calvin rolls to his back, pulling me so I’m half on top of him. “It feels easier there in some ways, and harder in others. The world feels smaller there—which is good and bad. I suppose we choose our hardships. I thought it’d be easier to find work in New York, but I was wrong.”
“I can see how the years just went by, though.”
“Yeah.” He inhales slowly, and my head moves with the expanding of his ribs. “It’s so much less lonely now that I’m with you. Before, I felt rather untethered. Everything here feels so aware, if you know what I mean. Everyone pays so much attention to themselves.”
“Well, it is the theater district.”
He laughs like I’d hoped he would. “I mean more than all that. I mean how it feels like we’re all always posing for a selfie, even when we’re just talking.”
“You’re not like that.”
He pulls back, looking down at me. “No?”
“No. You’re this huge, larger-than-life presence and you don’t even realize it.” I run my hand over his chest. “You’re a genius with that guitar, but you’re also so . . .”
“No, simple,” I say, quickly adding, “and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I want to think that, with you, what you see is what you get.”
“I’d hope so.”
“Everyone likes to think they’re that way, but so few people are.”
In my words, I can hear the small question, Can I trust this moment right here? I am suddenly so aware that we’re naked. That we’ve just made love, and that I think he wants to again.
“You’re just saying that because you like me.” He smiles, rolling slightly to kiss me.
I think he means it to be a small touch, lips to lips, like punctuation at the end of the sentence, but I press for more, climbing over him. He’s right, I do like him. In fact, I worry in this moment right here that I’m falling too hard and too fast.
“Well, yeah.” I reach down, wrapping my fingers around the part of him that is hard again, so soon. “Haven’t I heard you say you like me?”
He watches me lift my hips and lower them back down over him before his eyes roll closed. “Mo stóirín, I fear I’ll like you too much.”
“What does that nickname mean?” The question comes out tight, already out of breath.
His hands slide up my waist, cupping my breasts. “It’s strange. I haven’t ever used it before.” My skin heats beneath his palms. “My granddad used to say it to my granny. It means ‘my little darling.’?”
The next few weeks are a blur of sex and takeout, of roaring applause and winter turning into spring, of quiet conversations in the rain on our way home. And every single time we walk in the front door, it feels like a warp back to surreal: Calvin isn’t just staying in my apartment anymore, he lives there.
I’ve never had a sexual relationship like this: sex everywhere, every day, almost like we can’t get enough. Instead of taking turns in the shower, we shower together. There’s barely enough room for one, but as Calvin correctly points out, that’s the best reason to do it. Some afternoons we have lunch with Robert and Jeff, but more often than not we’re at home—preferring the quiet comfort of home pre-performance—reading, talking, watching a movie on the couch. Or tangled together in bed.
Calvin is a nearly insatiable lover, and his appetite for it calms the fever mirrored in me, makes me less self-conscious about the way it seems I want him again nearly as soon as we’ve finished. He kisses me constantly and brings me tiny gifts: bookmarks with quotes from books I adore, my favorite chocolate-covered oranges from the candy store around the corner, and tiny pink treasures—earrings, a woven bracelet from a street vendor, zany fuschia-rimmed sunglasses. He eats like a ravenous teenager and prefers to be completely naked when we’re home—Just for the craic of it—insisting there’s nothing like airing out after an intense day of rehearsal. Ah, Holland, he says, putting on a thick accent, it feels amazen. T’ere’s nothin’ like going bollocks bare when yer sweatin’ in yer trousers like da’.
And then he tackles me on the couch and tickles me until I’m hysterically laughing . . . and naked, too.
I try to remind myself that this isn’t real—and it certainly isn’t forever—but every time he rolls over in the middle of the night and wakes me up with his hands and his weight over me, it feels more real. Every time he brings me a cup of coffee with his crazy bed head and pillow lines on his face, it feels more real. Every time he holds my jacket for me to slip into before we leave the apartment, and kisses my cheek, it feels more real.