It took eighteen minutes for her to get in bed, and be reminded of him. Eighteen clicks of the hand- of incoherent babbling, tossing and turning before ending up right where she’d started; staring at the empty ceiling.
It was always the same routine, always the same reasons.
It was easier to push through the day with no minutes left to spare. To be so tired, your bones ached for an escape. To be so caught up in the enertia of things, and be completely ignorant to what defines them.
To be crushed enough to breathe through it.
But when the night drew in, and her head hit the pillow- thoughts ran astray. And she was once again, reminded of all the things that made her feel less than herself. Of that clueless girl pining for someone that didn’t return the favour- crying for someone that hadn’t stayed.
Eighteen. What an odd number.
It wasn’t all bad; her thoughts of the past that more often than not, left her aching. It wasn’t the heartbreak, it wasn’t the cold. It wasn’t the pack of cigarettes in her bedside drawer or the empty words on her cellphone.
It was the possibility that drove her to the edge and back.
The possibility of what could be, of what was and what had eventually become of them. She wasn’t scared– there was nothing to be afraid of. She wasn’t suffering– her hands were clean, her walls anew. She wasn’t waiting– she knew all too well time was something to hide behind.
She just wasn’t happy.
It took her too long to realise, took too many scalding showers turning ice cold. Took too many cups of coffee sipped through the hours until dawn.
It took too much of what was left, to realise she wasn’t content.
Maybe it was her, maybe it really was him. All that she knew, was that it had never been more clear why they said the right thing at the wrong time, is the wrong thing to do.
Maybe he wasn’t meant to be hers when she was meant to be his. Maybe he had to wait- or maybe, she had to. Maybe they never really stood a chance.
Maybe, just- maybe, they never really got the chance.
And, as the sun would rise and fall, her heart would recall the things it had no business keeping prisoner. And, her mind would wander to the cusps of her universe, only to come back with a handful of memories- churning in the wake of soft ebony hair and earthy brown eyes.
She welcomed them.
His return, felt like an arrival. A welcoming of the past- a broken record humming the same forlorn tune. His smile was the same- the crinkles hadn’t faded. His hair just as dark- gently curling in on themselves.
He smelled the same. He smelled like temptation.
The thought should terrify her; it should leave her running for the hills. But it was hope that kept her wanting more than she could have.
More than she should have.
It was the familiarity that wretched her insides. The phone call, the dinner after one too many drinks.
The dress that never made it out the closet, the shoes that lay abandoned.
The brush of his hand, the leg against her own.
It was too familiar to feel threatening- too beautiful to be painted with sin.
The smoke cloaked the thing’s she’d forgotten, the familiar scent of his clove cigarettes masking any trace of doubt she’d harboured. His hands grasping her own, his mouth searching hers.
It felt rushed, felt desperate. They chased each other- tugged and pushed until they’d moulded back into themselves. It was clumsy; a shot in the dark.
It wasn’t perfect. It had never been.
His finger traced the stars in the sky; something she’d forgotten to care for. Something she’d lost to time. But he had brought it back; pieced her together with nothing more than a smile, with no words to spare. It was enough.
She wondered when was the last time she’d left that way- felt like she didn’t need anything, felt like she was whole.
It was a stolen moment. A stroke of luck re-lived on borrowed time. His embrace felt colder as the hours waned, his cologne fading into the air.
It wasn’t meant to be.
It wasn’t reality.
It wasn’t right.
But it was always the truth.
The rooftop was the same as they’d left it- a skyline that never changed, the concrete that never cracked. The city felt like something they would always have, felt like it knew them more than they knew themselves.
They lay there- in the dark, in the light, in the clouds. As she watched him burn through the cigarettes, she knew it would be on her for the rest of her days.
It felt like a dream. Felt like a product of her delirious desires, the manifestation of her memories played on repeat.
But his kiss felt too unforgiving to be hallucinated. The head reasting on her lap, the soft curls threaded beneath her fingers, the warmth of him seeping through his shirt- it all felt too real to be a lie.
And as they watched the stars align and shimmer, in the wake of another night spent over a billion definitives, it felt like time wouldn’t run out on them just this once.
Felt like the clock had turned back to eighteen minutes.
“Cigarettes and stardust- we make quite the team.”
She knew, she wouldn’t have it any other way.