I won’t let him sleep in my apartment yet. I haven’t invited him to meet my friends even though he wants me to meet his, wants to show me to his parents, wants me to sleep next to him in a tent next weekend and sit next to him on a plane the week after. He wants me to come half a dozen times every night. He wants me to stay, even when it means he’ll have to wake up to drive me home at six in the morning because I forgot to turn off the alarm clock on my bedside table and I don’t want to wake all the neighbors. He sends shivers down my spine, curls my toes, packs an extra sweatshirt that he pulls out of nowhere when my teeth start chattering on the walk to the truck – and I won’t let him sleep in my apartment.
When I was in elementary school, I used to show up in the office at least once a month, at least every time there was a lice outbreak around the school, claiming that my head itched so they would have to pick through my hair with the lice-searching chopsticks. I never had head lice. I did that, I tell him, I so liked the feeling of my head being scratched.
I go to an early yoga practice Wednesday morning. Twice during class, the teacher walks past me during a pose and presses her fingers into the back of my neck, where the muscles are activated, tendons tight and strained when they should be relaxed. The second time, she says: Recognize this. Just be aware of it now, through class, throughout your day. Recognize that you carry tension in your neck.
This is where you find the balance between effort and surrender, she says. It would seem, based on the words themselves, that effort is the hard part, but for many of us, that’s not the case. It’s not wrong if that’s not the case for you – but recognize it. She says: Try to find the balance.
Instead of sleeping at my apartment, we spend nights in the bed he shared for four years with the woman before me, and somehow he sleeps easy. Last night I lay awake and stare at the same walls that she maybe lay awake and stared at, in the beginning or toward the end of the fourth year or both. The place is haunted, I think, or I am. He doesn’t believe in ghosts.
Last night, when I roll toward him and then away, toss and turn and subtract from the already-meager four hours of sleep he will get before work, he lets me, he smiles, he runs his fingers through my hair like he’s searching for lice or in love. You okay? he whispers, as his hand moves over my head and down the back of my neck. Recognize: it is tense. Recognize: I am trying to find the balance.