I wake in the middle of the night again. The nightmare clinging to me like a wet shirt. The thing that is so confusing about the dream is the mix of emotions. For most of the dream I feel afraid. I feel like I'm being restrained or crushed by Lisette. I know that she wants to do something to hurt me and as she undresses me I become more and more confused about what that something is. Then the dream seems to change somehow. The things she’s doing to me feel good. Agonizingly so. So much so that the dream ends with me feeling hopelessly aroused. And that is how I wake up every time. Except this time I don't find myself pressed against the wall, my body craving interaction that I will not get. Tonight I wake clutching Noor to my sweaty chest. My body is curled so tightly around hers that I can scarcely believe she is still sleeping. She isn't supposed to be here, but in this moment, I don't care that she didn't leave when I asked her to. I am only glad that she’s still here.
The room is hot. My mother always turns off the air conditioning at night to take advantage of the cool sea breeze. No breeze blows tonight. The air is so heavy with humidity that it feels like the room is crowded with people. I reach above my head and turn on the fan, wondering why I didn’t do that before I fell asleep.
I look at Noor in the light that filters in the through the window. She sleeps fitfully, her brow furrowed, her lips whispering things I can't understand. She is just as sweaty as I am; her hair clings to her neck and face. I brush it aside gently and lean in for my first taste of her skin. She tastes both sweet and salty with her sweat. She doesn't budge an inch as I kiss and caress her. She always sleeps so heavily. I turn her face toward mine and coax her sleeping mouth with my lips. I kiss and kiss her until she begins to respond. Her mouth opens under mine, warm and wet as her skin.
"I'm so sorry." she whispers.
"No, I'm sorry. I should have never told you to leave."
"I should have never used you that way. It was wrong."
"I know you didn't mean anything by it. You were just trying to get something from me that I have been denying you since the moment we met."
"You had a good reason. You were doing the right thing."
"Was I? If I was, could you please remind me what it was again?"
She turns toward me in the semi-darkness.
"I keep telling you to save it for someone who loves you, but the more I spend time with you, the more I start to wonder if what I'm feeling is love."
Noor frowns and squints her eyes at me.
"Turn on the light," she demands.
"I need to see your eyes."
I frown. "Why?"
"I just need to. Turn on the light, Joaquin."
I reach over and turn on the little lamp next to the bed. She holds my face between her hands and looks deep in my eyes. "Now say it again."
Suddenly I understand what she is doing. She doesn't believe I’m in my right mind. "I love you, Noor." I whisper.
She looks stunned. "Say it again," she asks breathlessly.
"Noor, it's me. I'm in my right mind."
"I know. I just want to hear it again."
I smile, happy to oblige her. "I love you," I whisper again, the words feel at home on my tongue.
She gives an excited little giggle and then kisses me in that way that makes my spine tingle. What little resistance I have left fades away in those moments.
I've never made love this way before. It’s entirely possible that I have never made love at all before Noor, so in a way, it is the first time for both of us. There is no fuzziness around the edges. I see, feel and taste everything with sharp and vivid clarity. Her hand pressed against the chipped blue paint of my bedroom wall. The sweat that collects to form a puddle at the base of her throat. The beads of moisture on her petals. The smoky taste of her, like something delicious that I can't put my finger on. The smooth arch of her back as she lifts her hips for me. That first...tight...warm…slick feeling of her intimate embrace. The feel of her molding and fitting to me. Holding me in her secret place where no man has ever been. Her breath as we rise and fall, rise and fall against each other. The things she whispers to me: I love you. I’m meant to be yours. I belong to you. We belong to each other. These words are inscribed on my heart—all of the things she said, but one more than others. Heal.