Naked - A Short Story
We met in a hotel bar. I was on a business trip, just arriving. She, also on a business trip, but was on her last night in town. Just two people. Two random people thrown together.
We sat, had a few drinks, she from the West coast, me from the East, but here we were in middle America, drinking and laughing it up. It was so comfortable, like I’d known her for years, even though we’d just met. There was something quiet there, not just between the laughter, but in the laughter. Something soothing, something peaceful. Like a fish is meant to swim in the sea, there we were, in our element, exactly where we were supposed to be.
She was single, as was I. So we felt no obligations to anyone but ourselves, and to some odd degree, to each other. The time passed with more drinks, and without us realizing it, so much time had passed, that the bar was closing. She was planning on flying out in the morning, but I wasn’t ready for our meeting to end. So I invited her to my room. Without any hesitation at all, she said…
Within minutes, there we were, alone in my hotel room. We sat in those ridiculous hotel chairs, talking, looking out of my 8th floor window. There weren’t many tall buildings at all in that area, so it felt like we were on top of the world, watching it go about its business. Without even realizing it had happened, I discovered that we were holding hands. My attention had been on her words, and her eyes. I saw so much in her eyes. Sadness, yet full of hope, tired but alive, a turmoil of peace.
Life, and love.
She was human, and God damn, it’s a shame how few people I can say that about. But in her, I saw a soul, fighting to stay intact despite all the tugging and tearing the world can cause in a life.
At some point I kissed her. Probably mid sentence. It doesn’t matter what we were talking about before, because afterwards, there was a screaming silence. The lights of the small city below, now our only illumination. We kissed again. She collapsed into my arms, and I held onto her like I was made of stone. A statue, holding onto whatever it would forever. We stayed like that for a long time. I thought for a moment, she might be crying, so I held tighter.
After that first embrace, we kissed again. I saw then in her eyes, a spark. Confusion maybe, that somehow a fire in her was rekindled and renewed, one that perhaps she assumed had gone out long ago. We stood and undressed, kissing on occasion, but nothing more. There we stood, a few feet away from each other…
Our flaws apparent, and unhidden. I saw her imperfections, and I know she saw mine. We kissed again, long, hard, with all the fury our stupid flawed forms would allow. Then we went to lie down. Face to face on the bed, still naked, no blankets to cover what at all other times in our lives, we struggled to hide from the world, and sometimes sadly, from ourselves.
We spoke more, openly, honestly, and candidly. We spoke of everything, everything that actually matters to people, but somehow always gets missed in conversations. We spoke of pain and heartbreak, dreams and aspirations, hopes and fears, life, death, love, peace, war, sadness…
The sun had started to rise and our conversation was nearing its end, so I pulled her close and just held her. She in turn, held onto me like a life raft in the ocean. It was in this moment, this moment that could have lasted forever given the opportunity, it was here that we found something. Something we never really realized we had always been looking for. I tried to soak it in, pulling at this moment, trying to store this feeling inside me. I was nowhere but there. A fire could’ve been raging all around us, but still, I would’ve held her and still felt peace. True peace. As if for the first time we had each found another person that showed us what it meant to be human, and showed us everything that being human means, the entire width and breadth of existence.
The kind of happiness that makes you want to cry.
As the sun continued to rise, I knew our times together was drawing to a close. But still, I felt unprepared for it to end. So I tried to pull more, almost frantically now, but I discovered that with that approach, that mindset, it was like a faucet that the more I tried to turn higher, the less came out. It was then she said to me…
“I have to go.”
I hated to let her go. I kissed her one last time, and then we rose. I helped her gather her clothes, then she turned to the door. As she held the handle, she turned back to me.
“Maybe I’ll see you again.”
“Maybe,” I replied.
We both knew it wasn’t true.
I never even got her last name, and she never got mine. She opened the door, then she was gone.
When that door clicked shut, it was a gunshot, with the bullet entering my heart. I was alone once again, looking out over this small nothing of a city. Even worse, I felt alone, even more alone now that I had known that peace that we brought to each other. But like trying to hold a fistful of sand, it had all slipped away.
Some time later, long after I gotten back home, back to my usual routine of lots of not much, back the silly little self important life I lead, I discovered something. Something amazing. I heard it late one night.
It was late, dark, and the world had shut down for awhile, giving you space to react. I was in bed, and even though she was gone, I felt her there. Inside me somehow. That same feeling of peace came flooding back to me, like a reverberation in my soul. I took a long deep breath and felt it fill me to the brim, the world and I existed as one in the same.
And for once…
…once in the awfulness…
…and the hostility of the world…
…I felt so fucking happy.
I could do nothing but smile, and just be grateful…