[November Breaks] NOW | 27 | Brett

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TUESDAY 5TH FEBRUARY 2019

You’re driving because it’s your car and I can’t be trusted with its wellbeing. I push my seat back and put my feet up on the dashboard. I know you’re looking. I know you are and I know you’re going to say something. You’re trying not to, but—

“Brett, don’t.”

“Why? Too much dirt?”

“No. Yes. But if the airbag opens, it’ll break your legs and smash your knees through your face.” You rest a hand on my thigh and it’s supposed to be a warning, but I choose to treat it as something else.

“Don’t crash then.” I slide lower in my seat, trying to encourage your hand in the direction I want it to move.

You know exactly what I’m doing, so you put both hands back on the wheel and watch the road through the windscreen wipers slashing at rivers of rain. But there’s a small lift to your lips and I stare at the side of your face because there’s nowhere else for you to look. You’re either going to look back or pretend not to notice, and you can’t pretend not to notice.

You resist for another thirty seconds, then lift a hand off the wheel again. It finds the side of my face, holds my jaw like leather-wrapped iron and turns me away from you. “We are not doing that again if it makes you like this.”

“Like what?” I mumble with my teeth against your thumb. “Irresistible?”

You let go, and a shadow of laughter grudgingly crawls into the corner of your voice to die. “Insufferable.”

I sigh deeply, and it’s as close to contentment as I ever get. This, right now, is as close to contentment as I ever get. For the first time in I don’t know how long, there are fewer streams of data firing through my brain and even the ones that are there are slower, more elegant, dancing to cascading orchestral arpeggios instead of the grinding overdrive of impatient industrial machinery.

I plant my boots back in the footwell and take a pack of cigarettes out of the glove compartment. “Want one?”

“Not while I’m driving. Open the window if you’re having one.”

“Obviously.” I dig for your silver lighter that I tucked in with the cigarettes before we left the house, light my smoke and lower the window a little. A rush of cold sea air roars in and the nicotine hits me hard. The car glides like silk flowing around the bends in the road and your hand finds my leg. Actually, this is as close to contentment as I ever get. “I want to do it again.”

“I know.” Your fingers tighten and the muscle in my thigh tenses in response. You take a deep breath of second-hand smoke and exhale from your phantom cigarette, the one you definitely can’t stop thinking about smoking right now.

The promise of more physical contact is quietly destroying me. There’s always something more intense in anticipation than in satisfaction. “Do you want to?”

You move your hand to the back of my neck and your fingers tighten again, just enough. “What do you think?”

I lean back and close my eyes, taking another draw from the cigarette and trying to ignore how much I need you right now. I don’t stand a chance at forming words to reply. “Mmm-hmm.”

You grip tighter, finding the pressure point where my neck meets my shoulder. And it aches.

I turn as much as I can to look at you. Not because I’m trying to make you look back. Not this time. Just because I want to watch you, to absorb every detail and commit them all to memory for the thousandth time while the pain flares and I swear to god it’s all I can do to stop my eyes rolling back in my head. My breath shakes and I lift the cigarette to my lips again, but you let go and take it from me. One torturously casual draw and you pass it back.

“We’re nearly home.” You put both hands on the wheel, leather on leather.

I imagine your shoulders like ripples of warm stone and try not to think about how much this, what we did today, might have changed you, changed us. Not because I don’t want to think about it, but because I do, I really do, and because I want to find out. And I’m restless again. Of course I am. Isn’t it always about anticipation?