I made the cab driver let me out at the house on the corner with the green roof. At the time I thought I had convinced him to drop me off at some place he was not supposed to and that my superb negotiating had offered me a daring escape from what surely awaited me at his intended destination. At the time I was still kind of drunk.
I knew the back door would be unlocked, and I stepped softly through the kitchen to the room that used to be a screened-in porch but was now a bedroom. I tried to enter silently, but the door, with its twelve individual panes of glass, refused to fit the doorway and reverberated loudly when I pushed it open. He opened his eyes.
“What happened to you?” he asked, appraising the hospital bracelet on my wrist, the bruises on my hand from the IV, the EKG electrodes still adhered to my skin, peeking out from below my collarbone.
“I need to sleep,” I answered, and he moved over to let me crawl into bed next to him.
It was after midnight the first time I saw Colorado. I couldn’t find any mountains through the darkness, just the distant lights of Denver as we drove on 70 past buildings I would eventually come to hate seeing every day. I don’t know if it was one or two in the morning when we got to Mark’s house; somewhere between Hays and Denver it had become Mountain Time. December had left gray slush in the parking lot of Mark’s apartment, and we navigated between the piles to fish the key out of the mailbox.
Inside the apartment it was quiet and dark and we whispered about who would sleep on the couch and who would take the floor. Despite my protests, he made me sleep on the sofa while he laid his sleeping bag on the carpet two feet below. He had driven most of the way to Colorado, and within minutes I could hear the long breaths that meant he was asleep. I stayed awake just a little longer, my hand dangling off the side of the sofa, fingertips brushing his. And then we both slept.
I took the last flight on Friday from Denver, and it was late when he met me at the airport. We talked a bit once we got home, lying on air mattresses on the living room floor, but my eyelids felt swollen and I craved sleep. I awoke several times in the night, uneasy with the feeling that he might not be there when I opened my eyes. Each time, though, he was there, awake, reading or writing emails or just sitting there, staring off.
On Sunday night we sat at a table in the bar and he told me he didn’t love me anymore. Everything became blurry and I could barely see him staring into his beer. The waitress came by and asked us how we were doing and I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand and told her we were doing great.
“Are you sure about this?” I asked him.
He nodded. “I might be making the biggest mistake of my life, but…” He shrugged as his words trailed off.
“I’m happy for you,” I said. I wanted to mean it.
We said goodbye the next morning outside the Greyhound station. He nervously took drags of a cigarette and I stayed mostly silent. When I did speak, I heard horrible things come out of my mouth, things about how I didn’t want to talk to him and how we are not friends and how maybe, one day in the very distant future, we could be acquaintances. He got on the bus and I went home.
The next morning, when my plane landed in Denver, I turned my phone on and saw a message from him. It was a picture of me, asleep in a chair, taken by a boy who doesn’t sleep anymore.