He is lying on his side with his back against the wall, arm over his head, chest raw and sweaty where our skin has rubbed together. Blowing cigarette smoke out the open window next to his bed. He inhales, I shiver.
“I dated a musician once,” I say, nodding my head at the keyboard on the opposite wall. The black and white are familiar to me but the rest are just buttons, digital headstones glowing orange. “He slept on an air mattress. On the floor. It didn’t last long.”
“Can’t blame you,” he says.
“Actually, he broke up with me.”
We sit apart from each other on opposite ends of the bed; he nudges my hip with his foot. When I was twelve, I fell off my bike and landed on a piece of broken glass with that hip. I didn’t cry, even when they stitched me up, and I remember feeling proud and surprised that I could be so strong.
“Is that new?” he asks.
“No, I’ve had it for ages. You never noticed?”
He looks away.
“So this musician. What was he like?”
I smile. “Are you jealous?”
“Did you love him?”
It is my turn to look away. “We said the words. I think we meant it, too, but I guess I can only speak for myself.”
I reach for his foot, still pressed against that hip. That hip, with the jagged white scar that gleams like a pearl, like precious stones shining through the rough brown earth. I couldn’t wait to get back on that bike, I remember. I didn’t want to be one of those people who let one bad memory haunt them forever.
“Did you mean it, John? Even if you don’t now. Did you mean it then?”
His bed is different, and his taste in cigarettes— even his skin is tattooed where it wasn’t before. But the look on his face is the same as it always was and I’m not sure I want to hear his answer.