They say not to bring home girls with hollow backs, boys with wings under their skin. But this is neither of our homes, and somehow I think that protects us both. On his land, I don’t think he would dare to touch me.
When the night began to grey I heard the first peals of the bell and then the cawing of the crows. I curled my face in to his shoulder and breathed him in, almost surprised at how solid and present he still was. Wood smoke pine maple sweat sweet sky wine and something animal and alive. He didn’t smell like he’d be gone in a few hours, but fairy gold never does for all that it’s made in their image. Though perhaps made in mine too, being gone just as soon, and his sort always did love shiny things. For a moment, his face winks out in to the darkness, but when I look back up from his shoulder it is there again, gently blowing smoke in his sleep.
With the next ringing the crows again threatened to drag the sky in to daylight but darkness still held our corner of the room. Light enough though that for a moment I was scared to turn around, that though I could newly see, I would not find him laying against my back where I’d remembered him, or that he would be wearing a different skin. A deep inhale behind me, an exhale through the nose that blows cool air between my shoulder blades, where he had asked me to press against on his own back a few hours before (“a thumb, or your chin”), a curious feeling of wings under skin when I did so. I had rested my face there, wrapped my arm around and nearly scorched my fingers when they rested above his heart. I find myself surprised at the lack of fire on his breath now, though his chest still heats the bed on its own. When I wake in a few hours the muscles between my own shoulder blades will be unusually tight, but for now I let the steady puffs of air pull me back to sleep. I do not turn to look.
He was up before the third chime, and suddenly – no more space between us, no careful blanket distance or borderlands. He wrapped around me less like a man than a large cat, a dragon curled round its hoard. There was the sense beyond what I could touch, of too much body and too many limbs, collapsing in to materialization upon contact, a flock a birds landing on me relentlessly one after another, shockingly heavy in their multitude. And then as quick, untangled and up, putting on boots heavier than they should need to be and gathering bits of himself from around the room.
As he opened the front door, I heard the ring of the third bells, but now, no crows cawing. They wait. When the door closed behind him, a sunbeam filled the space he left, illuminating the yellow stairs with his afterimage, the radiance of transformation.
From outside, I heard something like a purr, footsteps rumbling and rolling, and a great rustling, as though a tree had unfurled all its leaves at once with the snap of a lady’s fan, as though they had browned and dropped crackling against each other in the next breath, as though a great many wings were headed skyward and south, away from the still-warm bed and me in it.
They say not to go home with girls with hollow backs, boys with wings under their skin. I wonder if a kiss can be somewhat like a bite of food, a taste of something irrevocable, a contract signed on contact. I wouldn’t know. We don’t kiss. Just hold each other or more often a careful space between. We chart a different elsewhere in this no mans land between bodies. Although somewhere the sap boils in to syrup and perhaps there will come a time when the crows demand their gold paid in truths…here, now, this, is enough.
With the third set of bells he was gone, and a little later so too was I.