I’M A ZOMBIE before coffee, especially after a night of shots and celebration and who knows what else. I don’t even remember walking home from the bar, so I don’t fully believe my eyes when I find Oliver asleep on my couch at 7 a.m.
He’s sprawled awkwardly, so long and angled. One of his feet is flat on the floor; the other hangs over the end of the couch. His shirt rides up to his ribs, exposing a flat stomach cut down the middle with a dark line of hair. Limp-legged, arms askew, and with his neck at an angle that will be sore when he wakes . . .
He’s really here, and he looks amazing.
It isn’t the first time he’s crashed at my place; the loft is only a few blocks from the store so we gave Oliver a key in case he ever needed to let one of us in, fix a leaky faucet, or make a quick sandwich on a break. In the eight months I’ve known him, he’s slept here twice: One night he worked so late before the store’s grand opening he could barely walk to our place, let alone drive home. He was gone before I was awake. Another night we’d gone out after the store closed, and had too many drinks for any of us to operate a moving vehicle. But that time, it had been the whole tangle of us, with random bodies crashing on any available soft surface.
London is already up and gone—surfing, most likely—and I’ve never had the joy of waking up and finding him here, alone. Admittedly, I’m being supercreepy, staring at him while he’s still asleep—and I’ll make every effort to feel bad about it later—but right now I just love seeing him first thing in the morning. Absolutely relish it.
I know it’s only a matter of time before Oliver’s stress about opening the store lessens and he can focus on other areas of his life . . . like dating. Like Hard Rock Allison. Heaven knows he has enough girls hanging out at the store hoping the hot owner will notice them. I don’t like the idea, but I know eventually it’s going to happen. The obliterating distraction of career has been true for me, too¸ and all of the travel recently has allowed me to keep my head in the sand about how much I genuinely like him. It’s allowed me to be happy taking whatever I can get.
But in the past few weeks, even with things feeling more insane than ever, I’ve emerged from the fog. I’ve had to admit to myself that I want him. And last night we were more flirtatious than we’ve ever been. The memory trips a fluttery, anxious beat in my chest.
When we met in Vegas, he was good-looking and interesting and had the sexiest accent I’d ever heard, but I didn’t know him. He didn’t want me? No big deal. But spending time with him—nearly all of my free time, if I’m being honest—and having him be such a fixture in my life has made the minor gnaw of desire grow into this painful kind of ache. Now, I know him, but I don’t know his heart. Not that way. And lately . . . I want to. I want to tell him, Just give me a week. A week of you, and your lips and your laugh in my bed. Just one week and then I think I’ll be okay.
It’s a lie, of course. Even having never kissed him—beyond the quick, soft kiss at our sham-of-a-wedding—I know I would be worse off if I had him for a week and then lost him. My heart would be warped afterward, like a wool sweater loaned to a body too big and growing misshapen until it doesn’t fit quite right anymore. Who knows, maybe I came to Oliver misshapen to begin with. But unlike every boyfriend I’ve had—a couple of weeks here, a month there—Oliver never seems to poke at the tender spots, needing to know every detail. Instead he’s collected my details as they’ve been offered.
Maybe it’s why he’s still so close to me; I haven’t yet had the chance to ruin it by clamming up exactly when intimacy is needed.
Our first night, while our best friends were breaking headboards in Vegas hotel rooms with their libidos, Oliver and I walked up and down the Strip talking about work. About writing and illustrating, about the portrayal of women in comics, about the books we were currently reading. We talked about Razor Fish, and about his store—vaguely; I didn’t even know early on that he would be moving to San Diego.
It was so easy being with him, like a tiny taste of something delicious I want to keep eating until I explode. Somewhere at the tail end of the chaos on the Strip, I’d grown brave enough to stop him mid-step, and, with a tentative hand on his arm, turn him to face me.
“Our rooms are probably being used,” I started, staring at his chin, before forcing my eyes to his.
He smiled, and it was the first time I realized how perfect his teeth are—white and even, with uniquely sharp canines that made him nearly wolfish—how smooth his lips are, how blue his eyes are behind his glasses. “Probably.”
“But we could . . .” I trailed off, blinking to the side.
He waited, watching me, eyes never betraying that he knew exactly what I was going to say.
I looked back up at his face, finding my bravery: “We could get a room for the night, if you wanted. Together.”
His expression remained exactly the same—Oliver’s amazing poker face held that gentle smile, that nonjudgmental, soft gaze—and he very politely declined.
I was mortified, but eventually got over it, and we’ve never spoken about it since.
Later, when I discovered he’d moved here and we had these people in common, and this passion for comics in common, too, we saw each other all the time and the awkwardness of that rejection dissolved. In its place came sort of a perfect friendship. Oliver doesn’t judge, he doesn’t mock, he doesn’t push. He doesn’t mind my quiet moods, where all I want to do is bend over a scrap of paper and draw. He doesn’t mind when I get worked up over something and babble for an entire hour. He’s honest in this completely easy way when I show him new story ideas. He plays weird music for me and makes me sit and listen because, even if I hate it, he wants me to understand why he likes it. He can talk about everything from Veronica Mars to Gen13 to NPR to car repair, or he can just as easily not talk at all, which I sort of love, too. He listens, he’s funny, he’s kind. He’s entirely his own self, and that easy confidence is only part of what makes him nearly irresistible. The fact that he’s tall, gorgeous, and has the most perfect smile doesn’t hurt, either.