I did it again—mumbling in my sleep—at half past three. “No, please, no…”
Right on cue, from the other side of her comfortable king size bed, Katarina slides over, pushes up against my naked backside, and kisses my shoulder. Her lips are smooth and soothing as hot tea offered to a blind man in the cool pitch black of the morning.
“You alright, Jim?”
A gentle tug and I roll onto my back. Katarina snakes around me, smooth and constricting — an airtight perfect fit — and rakes long feminine fingers through my hair. Her breath tingles in my ear with a warm whispery mixture of Mediterranean cuisine, red wine, and pheromones. “You want to talk about it?”
“Nah, Kat, I’m good. Thank you, though. Sorry to wake you.”
“Okay, baby. I’m here if you need me.”
The weight of her body lifts from the mattress. “I have to pee,” she says, “I’ll be right back.” Katarina touches the flashlight feature on her iPhone and candles her way through the inky darkness toward the master bathroom. I listen, as always, for the large volume and powerful spray of colorless, dilute urine against white porcelain and water. Two years ago, she diagnosed herself with diabetes insipidus. The inconvenience of unpredictable, frequent, unbearable urges is her only flaw; other than that, she’s perfect. We’ll be driving down the road when, suddenly, without warning and less than a minute to comply, “Baby, baby, please pull over!” If there aren’t any public restrooms immediately available, right there on the side of the road she’ll drop her pants or lift her skirt between two open car doors barely shielding a tantalizing flash of nakedness fore and aft. After a hot and steamy geyser powerful enough to move rocks and erode soil, she squats on strong haunches—silky thong stretched around her ankles—and drip-dries by shaking her ass up and down like a female rap artist. It turns me on and once again I find myself driving stick, squirming behind the wheel with a salacious grin on my face, feeling a bit guilty for allowing myself pleasure from her plight.
Tonight, I hear a musical toot echo in the bowl midstream and laugh out loud. I love everything about her, down to the smallest detail—even those bathroom toy train farts. I think of couples who’ve been married for thirty, forty, fifty years or more and finally understand why those who love strong and long often die within hours or days of one another—some in mere minutes, still holding hands, warming each other in the bed even after they’re dead. I’m thinking of a lifetime of tiny unspoken details, two hearts welded into one, leaving a couple as inseparable in death as in life and double-dipping into a single grave.
My parents, for example. It’ll be that way for them. One or the other’s demise will create a massive black hole in a quasar that is more than half a century of loyal love.
There’s a poster that’s captured Kat’s attention: an old man and his woman, both naked and unashamed, ancient lovers, melting into folds of loose skin, wrinkled as prunes, saggy-assed, holding hands and launching off the end of a dock, midair, seconds from plunging into a lake. Best friends. Together in the cricket evening of life. Celebrating with childlike joy on their faces. “That will be us one day,” she often says.
Details. Nocturnal minutia. Katarina.
She walks like no other, otherworldly, with a ghostly glide—as if a plate of marbles were resting on her head and she wouldn’t lose one—shoulders straight, head erect, careful as a cat, but never haughty or showy in her deportment. At night, however, her footsteps land heavy on the tiled bathroom floor. I hear her thudding after she flushes. Boom, boom, boom, heel to toe. For a moment I see her standing there in the yellow light of the doorway, bouffant bed head, a mermaid’s long golden hair fanning out in ocean waves. She’s wearing gray cotton shorts. Her hardened nipples are noticeably erect and poking through a green t-shirt that says, “I love my church” in the center of a heart, innocent but seductive in an oblique way. Though the shirt is a lie, her body is the shape of a marbled Greek goddess, her anatomy fills it well, she’s tight inside, and the epiphany causes me to worship. Conveniently, her pajama bottoms are French cut with easy access to the pink and glistening front gate of her heaven.
All six of my senses continue to study Kat after she turns off the bathroom light and is guided once again by the glow of her phone back to the bed. I’m extra still, holding my breath, like a photographer who readies himself when a rarely spotted creature draws near and is unaware of a man’s gaze or intentions. My retinas project colorful starbursts in the enveloping darkness. Kat becomes a scary shadow person like what haunts my dreams—there’s an accusing one who spider crawls across the ceiling and stops directly above my face and another who rocks on his heels in the far corner, seven feet tall, watching me. My heart goes tachy for a moment but I manage to calm myself. She’s an angel, not one of my many demons — her goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of her love forever. Amen.
After many blissful weeks of living with her—no, almost a year (We aren’t married. We’re rabid fornicators.) —I already know which details are coming next.
Assuming I’m slumbering again—which is normally instant for me —Kat is considerate and extra gentle as she approaches the bed. She always has a difficult time falling back to sleep once woken and I feel rotten for accidentally rousing her with my recurring nightmares, private wounds yet to heal. Poor darling, she’s fallen in love with a messed up gypsy tramp.
My Kat girl stops at the bedside table for a generous gulp of ice water from a glass thermos. Water out, water in. Her condition requires constant re-hydration. Then, two drops of CBD under her delicious tongue. Yes. After which she won’t say a word for one whole minute because of the sublingual oil.
I wait, completely silent, but reach for her hand under the covers. She squeezes twice. She always does that. I give her wrist a come-hither tug. She slides over and rests her head on my chest. I play with her hair. We hold each other and listen to the white noise of a cheap Walmart fan which is extra loud on the highest setting and rattles like a turboprop taking off on an adventure. Eyes closed, we visualize taxiing down the sparkling runway of Lake Lure, flying higher, higher, higher, far above the troubled world below, and beyond the purple mountains. To a place of happy dreams.
Insomnia is the price Katarina pays for rushing to my aid in the night. She kisses me, plunging a soft and talented tongue in my mouth. I taste the oil and I like it.
Half a request, mostly a command, she says, “Put your cells in me. Don’t take your time. Can you do it in two minutes?”
“Alexa, set an alarm for two minutes.”
Two minutes starting now.
Both of us giggling like children in the night, I slide behind the loose opening of her shorts, not bothering to peel them off. The universe has granted my earlier fantasy.
Pinning her wrists to the firm mattress, I enter and she lets me have my way — but she’s still snickering because of the Alexa challenge. I can barely see through a half-parted curtain of hair hanging and swinging in my face.
“Katarina! It’s hard to concentrate when you’re laughing. I’m already down to a minute.”
“Is it hard, baby?” she teases. “I feel that you’re up to it.”
A good length of truth is found in her encouraging double entendre and it enables me to push on.
The headboard rocks and squeaks with a railroad rhythm, counting down, gathering speed and force. Internal bells ring, signals flash, whistles blow. Then, just like Amtrak, I arrive right on time with an explosive pop, pop, pop, deep inside of Kat the very moment the alarm sounds and, somehow, a tie in this unexpected race is erotic. She says, “oooohhhHHH” and then “MMMMmmmmmmm” and that’s the last I hear from her.
I think of the Greek proverb —sleep and death are brothers —as a look of peace completely relaxes Katarina’s face which was so animated with passion only a breath or two ago and discover that I‘m already missing her. Thankfully, sleep is only a temporary parting.
Fading fast, I take Kat’s lifeless hand and drop into a placid lake of slumber alongside of her.
Post-coital oxytocin. Sweet Southern comfort.