Bells – Max Luskin

He remembered her name, and maybe she remembered his too. They’d only known each other for a night, but now it was morning. Technically, that’s two days. He was equivocating and knew it, but he brushed this disagreeable notion aside and rolled over to touch her cheek. She was tightly wrapped in the sheets, which provided more than enough warmth in September. The air conditioner announced itself after a brief hiatus and gradually they began to cool. She opened her blue eyes and beamed at him. She hadn’t forgotten.

He soared. Love will do that to anyone: it made him feel important, memorable, even salvageable – those rare and weightless qualities that anyone would be happy to bear for as long as they possibly could and longer. It was better than money; even being a billionaire has its limits, because no one could carry all that money around with them unless it was a check and then it’s not really your money anymore – it’s the bank’s money with your name on it. He remembered love can assign other duties with heavier burdens too, and wondered why his mind seemed to find such apparent joy in delivering solemn news and irrelevant facts during his happiest hours. Nevertheless, he would carry these things for the rest of the day without sweating. It wasn’t hot enough to sweat, and the course he’d plotted would propel him forward with the kind of cool tailwind that makes amateur boaters appear to be experienced yachtsmen.

There wasn’t much to say. There never is, or there wasn’t for him. They kissed, and he asked if she had to leave soon. She did, but made no apparent effort to leave quickly. The early morning had come and gone and she was still lying with him, still wrapped in the sheets, with her legs tangled in his, and their clothes lying haphazardly around the bed. She closed her eyes again, and he asked what she was doing.

Listening.

Listening for what?

Just listening.

I want to remember what it sounds like.

He knew what she meant – sounds had special meaning. She was water lapping at the riverbank, always inviting, and but he didn’t know what he was because no one ever hears themselves the way they hear others. He didn’t know what he sounded like, and wasn’t about to ask her, because she’d be confused because she was probably listening for birds or cars or branches swaying in the wind because that’s what most people do when they say they’re listening.

I hear waves, she said. She could hear him.

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