Stranger Sleep


by Sarah Rose Etter


You make the call after you smooth pajamas over your skin and place your body into sheets. You put your head on a favorite softness and there is a moment when your mind goes blank.

But then the loneliness comes fast, slamming, a fist of your dead loves, all of their faces, jaws, hairlines, mouths. Their fingers touched certain parts of your body in different ways, with different pressures and you remember each heated torture.

The thought of their fingers makes your body a house of lack, each of your cells cold and needing, yearning.

There is want all over your skin and it creates a hard ache, your loneliness a thick onyx slab that presses down over you, your body held down by the cool hard heavy, your face up against slick black mineral.

This is when you feel for the phone.

“How can we help you?”

“I need one. Send one.”

“The same?”

“Any.”

“Fifty dollars. Be there in ten minutes.”

You lean back against your pillow and the next nine minutes stretch black desert miserable, you face it, you face it head on, you lay beneath the black rock and let it hurt, let it crush your ribs a little bit.

When the doorbell rings, the loneliness lightens and it is everything you can do not to let out a gasp of relief as you struggle out from under it. Trembling, you stand up and you open the door and it’s him.

He is tall and not handsome. You have never seen him before. He steps into your house and now the loneliness is a large black cube resting in your stomach.

“Hello.”

“Hello.”

You lock the front door and turn off the light.

Then you move down the hallway and he follows you.  In your bedroom, you climb into the bed and he does the same. You take your left side. He takes the right.

He turns to face you in the bed. He reaches out a hand and holds the side of your face for a moment, staring into your eyes. It is a calm pool look, it is simple, good. The loneliness is a dark mineral triangle in the center of your chest.

“Now?”

“Yes, please” and then you roll slowly over, putting your back to him and curling, waiting for him to do it, to finally do it.

Your body is electric with anticipation and then he does it, he moves his body around yours and presses, wraps his arms and one leg around you, buries his face into the back of your neck.

You exhale and go another type of soft, a softness unrecorded before, you sink back into him, rest your body on his thighs, chest, more. He holds tighter, tighter, and then your loneliness gets small, smaller, smallest until it is a pinprick, an inverse star, a dust inside of you.