Insomniac’s Love Letter

by Charlotte E. Wilde

You tell me I clench my jaw in my sleep, tapping out the morse code of my worries from 4am to waking or from waking to 4am.

I’ve no proof of this and you know I prefer quantifiable things but you must be right because I can taste them coppery in my mouth when I wake up and run my tongue along my ragged cheeks.

I wonder if you want to run your tongue along them too and briefly consider waking you.

Instead I watch you sleeping and marvel at the shape of your skull. I think of the would-be scientist, Cuvier, and those measuring devices from the 19th century that thought to quantify the unquantifiable thoughts of man using the structure of his bones, the shape of his forehead, the distance between his eyes.

Your eyes are like the marbles I confiscated on the playground and began to collect in a little jar in my desk. And maybe that’s a weird thing to think about, but I think it anyway.

I watch them darting back and forth like conductor’s hands at a silent dreamland symphony.

I know your dreams must be made of simple “all-american” things like apple pie and railroad tracks and biplanes which is both reassuring and not. Because like the books you read, books full of facts and historical truths, this kind of thinking has never really made any sense to me.

I scrap the thought and consider the heat of you. You’re like a radiator when you sleep, roaring to life under the covers with clinks and clacks and you always let me burrow my icicle toes into backs of your knees. An exaggerated whoosh of breath escapes you and you scold me jokingly at the cold of them but never move away. Nobody else ever let me do that.

Tonight is no different. I tuck my toes under your leg and push my face into the dip between your arm and chest, feel the springy hair and breathe in slow. You’re burning hot against my skin and smell like must and calm and safety. I’ve always had trouble with that smell.

Scents are tricky things, really. I wonder if maybe yours will one day be a Proustian Madeleine that sneaks around a corner and smacks me in the chest. I doubt it though, because nobody could ever smell like this but you.

I remember you told me once I smell like my room in the attic where you patiently waited for months until I told you you could have me if you wanted me and then you did. I understood then that I smell like slanted ceilings and red wood and must, not like you, but like the earth of my potted plants that spilled their leaves over all the windowsills onto the floor.

Cedar. Jade. Rosemary.

The problem with smells though is they’re intangible and you know i prefer quantifiable things.

“Go back to sleep, C,” you mumble without opening your eyes and as I try to slide away you drag me back across the slick sheets into the tattooed cage of your arms. I don’t squirm, knowing that soon you’ll fall back asleep and I can slip free. Night is a good time for thinking, even if you disagree.

I wonder what Cuvier would make of the shape of my skull and jaw, strong from all these nights of code-tapping contemplation. I think how different it would look from yours and imagine us side by side set high upon a laboratory shelf all white and smooth like hardboiled eggs. And maybe that’s a weird thing to think about, but I think it anyway.

Side by side, skull by skull.

I know you’ll never understand me sometimes— the smooth shapes of our craniums being simply too different to reconcile, but I also think that maybe you’re the only one who does.

I never did like unquantifiable things.

But you do.

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