By Leila Sinclaire
Falling in love with my husband Mike coincided with taking regular doses of malaria medication, Larium, which you are not advised to take if you have a history of depression or mental illness. Heavy stuff, seeping into your dreams and your waking. We were both on Larium because we were living in remote parts of Asia at the time. We stared at the backs of each other’s heads, at hands, elbows, knees, trying to be discreet, though our breathing was shallow. Maybe it was the altitude, we told ourselves. Maybe it was the dramatic scenery: mountains like dragons’ scales, rocky tidal waves, straight out of ads for adventure travel. Maybe the tea or the noodle soup was laced with local herbs.
Anyways, we were falling, falling. The electricity, the molecules abuzz, fraught with longing, seeking release. I wanted to stay there forever, to die there, to spontaneously combust. I was twenty years old but I felt I had experienced everything. I was flooded, saturated, finished. Electric. Kissing like plugging in strings of lights, the burst, the illumination.
We do not kiss much anymore. Mike’s beard scratches me, I want to brush my teeth first, then I end up washing my face, maybe rearranging my beauty products, something I have been meaning to do for ages, just a second, I’ll be right there.
But back then it was impossible not to kiss, not to hold his arm. His mom said something, called me something. I didn’t care.
There was that world, the jangling outside, and there was this, our world.
How is it that I have never felt so comfortable as on that threadbare mattress propped up on two trunks by a few boards, the mattress in his college apartment? Our mattress now is appropriately firm and covered in an organic cotton topper that makes it puffy and plush, but I toss and turn and reposition myself endlessly. Back then I slept like a dead pharaoh. I woke up refreshed, ready for more kissing. Back then our tongues were tango dancers.
Now at the dentist I am embarrassed by this floppy fish in my mouth, why won’t it stay back, why does it keep troubling the tooth the dentist is working on? Get back, lie still, just stop all that touching, Just stop.
The miracle of his skin, so soft and also firm—in my family, soft parts were also squishy and sagged. The wonder of his pointy knees, how did they hold him up? I thought of the improbability and alien beauty of Barbie dolls. Strong warm hands, short capable fingers. Blond hair! I had not had a boyfriend with blond hair since sixth grade. That boy’s name was also Mike. Mike, more of a non-name, so generic: Mike, almost a word rather than a name, like “boy.” But my Mike, he wrote me love letters, and the words were fresh like dew. I read them quickly, then slowly, again and again. I was loved, I loved him, we were in love, lovers, loving and lovely.
“Get a room!” someone yelled from a passing car when Mike was pressed up against me against his car pumping gas at a station in the backwoods of Wisconsin. He didn’t pull away.
Leila Sinclaire is a mother, teacher, writer, educational consultant, recovering perfectionist and lapsed optimist, an Ohio native living in Berkeley, CA. She writes a lot about her young children but rarely about her husband, who she adores. Leila can be followed on Twitter as @leilasinclaire.