By Kristiina Korpus
Everything was still. Only the occasional drifting, whispering wind across the open window told me of a world outside the sweet warmth of your breath. Sheets rustle as I slide across the cool cotton to press closer and nestle into the crook of your arm, which is so perfectly suited, as if made just for me. Your chest falls as a heavy, contented sigh issues through your lips, and the current of air chills my damp cheeks. A steady rhythm beats against your ribcage; I hear its deep echo clearly, feel the strong and sure vibration that follows each drum beat. There’s a pain in my chest that I can’t identify, but with each of your heartbeats mine falters and flutters against my confining chest, a butterfly unable to be free. The butterfly sinks then beats its wings twice before again falling momentarily silent. Everything is still.
Lungs cramp in protest and I gasp, flooding the cage with air and sending my heart into a rapid succession of beats, as if it could ever catch up. I pant quietly, my forehead rested against your broad shoulder, as your arm snakes around my waist and you pull me close while you are still fast asleep. Again, I wonder how it is that you are so aware, even in your deep sleep. Does some part of your subconscious warn you that I may slip from your grasp? Small domes of salty water settle on your shirt before disappearing, their only evidence of existence dark spots on the already dark fabric. Evidence that will have long since dried up when you wake in the morning.
So many things cannot be said, despite how I wish to just grasp your hand and confess. But that would sadden you and ruin me. Therefore, this butterfly must remain caged. Because when it cannot express all there is to say, there is no way to say “goodbye” to you. No ability to obtain release until baggage is unloaded. This is the last night. And so I say “good night” in the hopes that those words will not lead you to say “goodbye.”
Mattress springs softly complain as I wiggle out of your arms. The wooden floors creek and chills run from the soles of my feet up my spine. Somehow, you don’t wake and just resettle with little protest. Across the icy floor I shuffle to the open window. The sky is inky this late at night, even stars seem to struggle to emit their untainted light. Looking at them makes me wonder how I might hope to overcome my darkness if even they fight against theirs, those creatures much purer than I. The night air renews the feeling of wet tracks running down my face. Or perhaps it was my own musings that awakened them once more.
The windowsill is washed blue-white by the glow of the moon. It becomes a perch and the whispering breeze ruffles the hem of my nightshirt.
You’ll never know I was here; so now I tell you “Good night . . .” instead of releasing the painful butterfly that is my confession, because you don’t want to hear “I love you” from me.