Toothpaste Optional

My alarm clock buzzes. 5:31 am. My hand rises quickly then deliberately descends through the darkness and shattered silence to cease its grotesque greeting. My breath is all I hear. It’s a constant push and pull of disbelief and acceptance that I have slept alone yet another night. My only companion is the muffled sound of my upstairs neighbors beginning their day.

They fucked last night. Woke me up at 11:41 pm with her heavy moans (he never makes a peep) and their headboard gently rapping against the wall above. The walls are thin enough for me to hear her inflection upon receiving each thrust or initiating each bounce. I don’t mind the disturbance any more. I often fall right back to sleep. I’m happy for them, their sex life is so consistent and healthy; I know their schedule. Thursday nights at 11:30ish, Saturday mornings around seven, Monday and Wednesday evenings around six. And that’s just when I’m home.

There are moments though, off schedule, when I think I’ve heard a faint moan of pleasure. I’ll stop in my tracks, listen, and then confirm that it is indeed the couple upstairs getting laid. I hear her verbalization of pleasure echoing through the walls. I stand in the middle of my living room, barely moving, barely wanting to breathe, and I listen to the ardent sounds that I feel so moved by, so drawn to. I listen like a pre-teen hurriedly slipping a note into his crush’s locker as the bell rings and a deluge of children fills the hallways. My senses become heightened and a not insignificant fear of being discovered encroaching on this couple’s intimacy takes hold.

I desire what they share. The intensity and openness it takes to move in sync with another human being – in spite of having an entire lifetime of separate experiences. The determination and patience it requires to inhabit quarters with another fully functioning member of the human race who has insecurities, silly quirks, and annoying tendencies. I applaud the way they move around their apartment when they bone as if their goal is to explore each corner and feel the cool touch of every surface. But because I’ve never seen either of their faces or know who they are, my imagination is free to fill in the blanks between the silence and the fucking.

I imagine they see each other as perfect. As the one. I am moved by their consistency of the act. I imagine their sex life isn’t a schedule at all, but it just so happens that every Thursday night when he is standing in the bathroom doorway brushing his teeth, mouth foaming, light from behind him flowing into the partially darkened bedroom, and she is lying in their bed reading her book before sleep, she says something funny without lifting her head, like, “Spit or swallow?” He responds with a burst of laughter while the toothpaste flies from his mouth before he can cover it or swing around to unload it into the sink. All over the door frame and carpet in the adjoining bedroom it spews. She laughs out loud, covers her face with her book, then crawls to the foot of the bed to see how bad the mess is, “Spit, I guess.” He fights off fits of laughter while he rinses his mouth at the sink as she unfolds her bent, naked legs, stands up, and chuckling, tiptoes toward the bathroom for a towel to help clean up. As she passes him, he tugs on her sleep time tee shirt (which is actually his, of course) and kisses her with a fresh mouth as she pulls him backwards onto the bed. It’s amazing how quickly incessant laughter can ease into a lax-faced kiss.

Then it’s 11:41pm and I’m awakened to her moans of pleasure and the gentle rapping of their headboard against the wall above. That’s how it goes every time. Toothpaste optional. Bright smiles and heavy laughter required.

This, and all my fantasies, clearly reflect what I seek in a relationship. I recognize, however, that the longer I fantasize, the more that, in reality, what I seek becomes a fantasy. But I don’t know how to stop it on my own, so I continue to listen to the sounds of pleasure of my upstairs neighbors’ fucking. And in the silence after they’ve finished, it’s only my breath that keeps me company with its constant push and pull of disbelief and acceptance that I have slept alone yet another night.