Where Sea Meets Sky(10)

By: Karina Halle

“Wow, you live here?”

He looks away and hesitates. “I live with my mom,” he says.

“Are we going to wake her up?” I ask quietly as he ushers me in first through the front gate.

He shakes his head, getting out his keys. “Don’t worry, my room is far away from hers and she sleeps like a rock.”

I can tell he’s embarrassed. I know he probably feels bad that he lives with his mom but if Vancouver is anything like Auckland, the rent prices are hard to afford. I don’t live with my mom, but I do have a flatmate.

As if he hears my thoughts, he turns to look at me just as he sticks his keys in the front door. “It’s an expensive city,” he explains. His face is shadowed and he probably likes it that way. “I pay my mom what I can but if I want a tiny, shitty studio apartment close to work, I have to shell out at least a thousand bucks a month.”

I briefly put my hand on his shoulder. “Hey, I’d do the same.” Little does he know, if it weren’t for my job and the fact that it pays well, and my flatmate, I wouldn’t be able to afford Auckland either. He also doesn’t know that I’m not one hundred percent sure I have a job to return to when I go home.

We go in the house. Josh moves his tall frame through the dark with ease, as if he’s used to coming home in the odd hours. I wonder if he goes out a lot, what places he goes, what girls he sleeps with. The guy has skills and he didn’t get them from practicing on himself.

We go into his bedroom and the door softly clicks shut behind us. He locks it and flicks on a small lamp that barely illuminates the darkness. He’s got a few framed Melvins and Tomahawk posters on the walls, a messy stack of vinyl beside an aging record player. There’s an empty beer and coffee mug on the windowsill and a small bookcase overstuffed with what look like second-hand paperbacks. I see some titles—Asimov, Goodkind, Gaiman, alongside Chandler and Hammett. Sci-fi and detective novels. Interesting.

In one corner are an empty easel and a paint-splattered toolbox. Against the wall, a tower of graphic novels and comic books flank battered sketchbooks and canvas still in their plastic wrapping. He has a small work desk and a large Mac monitor that looks like it’s about to topple over at any minute. A few photos and magazine tear-outs are pinned to the wall behind it.

Aside from the fact that his queen-size bed is unmade, it’s not too messy. It’s comfortable and has a bit of controlled chaos going on.

“It’s not much,” he says in a low voice. “But it’s home.”

Home. Tomorrow I’ll be heading home. After so long, the concept seems strange. It makes me both wistful and anxious. I want to go but I also want to stay. If only I could be in two places at once. If only I could be two people at once.

“You okay?” he asks. He takes a step toward me and puts his hand at the back of my neck. It’s a possessive move but his hand only massages me as he stares at me intently. “Sorry it’s such a mess,” he says, misreading me.

I give him a quick smile. “It’s all good. Sorry. Just . . .” I don’t want to get into it. I’m here to have some more fun with him, to prolong the last night, not to get into the sordid details of my life. “I was just tired for a second. Too much beer, I guess.”

He looks a bit disappointed but says, “Well, let’s get you to bed then. No harm in sleeping for a few hours. I’ll set an alarm.”

I grab his arm before he can turn around. “Sleep is for pussies,” I tell him. He’s taken aback but he likes it. Before he can say anything else, I drop to my knees and tell him to take off his pants.

He wastes no time, and neither do I.

There is no sleep to be had this night. After a blow job and a couple of sweaty rounds of sex on the bed and off, when we finally crawl under the covers for good, we stay up talking until the sun comes up.

I tell him about where I work in Auckland, where I live, what my favorite activities are. We have a similar taste in music—nineties grunge, experimental rock—so I tell him about some up-and-coming Kiwi bands. I tell him a bit about my mother and aunt, who run a winery outside of Napier together, and when it comes up that my dad died when I was a teenager, he doesn’t press or ask questions. I’m glad for that. My bad hand starts to tremor at the memory and I have to quell it before he notices.

Josh doesn’t talk as much, which surprises me at first. He’s so easy-going that I figured he’d be just as open. Instead he listens. I mean, really listens. It’s both good and bad. Sometimes I don’t want people to listen that closely. But when you’ll never see the person again, I suppose it shouldn’t matter.

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