But how can two people who are undeniably more than just attracted to one another not give in? We’ve been on the road together for almost two weeks. We’ve shared intimate secrets and we’ve been intimate in some ways. We’ve slept next to each other and touched one another, yet still here we are, standing on opposites sides of a thick glass wall. We reach up and touch our fingers to the glass, we look into each other’s eyes and we know what we want but that glass won’t f**king budge. This is either inviolable discipline or pure, unadulterated self-torture.
“Not that I’m in any hurry to leave,” I say as Andrew gets ready to head back to his room, “but how long will we be staying in New Orleans?”
He picks his cell phone up from the nightstand and checks the screen briefly before wrapping it in the palm of his hand.
“We’re paid up until Thursday,” he says, “but it’s up to you; we can leave tomorrow, or stay longer if you want.”
I purse my lips, smiling, pretending to be deeply contemplating the decision, tapping my index finger on my cheek.
“I don’t know,” I say standing up from the bed. “I kind of like it here, but we still have to go to Texas eventually.”
Andrew looks at me curiously. “Oh? So, you’re still set on Texas, huh?”
I nod slowly, contemplating it for real this time. “Yeah,” I answer distantly, “I think I am—it started out as Texas…,” and then the words: maybe it’ll end in Texas, enter my mind and my face suddenly falls.
Andrew kisses my forehead and smiles.
“I’ll see you in the morning.”
And I let him go because that glass wall is too thick and intimidating for me to reach out and stop him.
Hours later, well into the dark early morning when most are asleep, I wake up swiftly and sit up in the center of the bed. I’m not sure what woke me, but it feels like it might’ve been a loud noise. As my mind comes together, I gaze around the pitch-dark room, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness and look to see if anything had fallen. I get up and walk around, opening the curtains just a sliver to let in more light. I look toward the bathroom and then the TV and lastly the wall. Andrew. It’s coming to me now: I think what I heard was something from his room, right behind my head.
I slip my white cotton shorts on over my panties and take my card key and the extra one he gave me to his room and I walk barefooted out into the brightly-lit hallway.
I raise my knuckles and knock lightly at first.
I knock again a little harder and call out his name, but still get no response. After a pause, I slide his key in the door and open it quietly in case he’s still asleep.
Andrew is sitting on the edge of his bed with his elbows on his knees and his hands folded together draped between his legs. His back is slumped over forward in an arch where his head has fallen to where he can only be looking at the carpeted floor.
I glance to my right and see his cell phone on the floor with a shattered glass front. I know immediately that he must’ve thrown it at the wall.
“Andrew? What’s wrong?” I ask, approaching him slowly, not because I’m afraid of him, but because I’m afraid for him.
The curtains have been pulled wide open, letting the moonlight in and bathing the entire room and Andrew’s half-naked body in a grayish-blue haze. He’s wearing only a pair of boxers. I step up to him and slide my hands from his arms down to his hands, taking them gently into my fingers. “You can tell me,” I say, but I already know what it’s about.
He doesn’t look up at me, but he takes my fingers into his and cradles them.
My heart is breaking….
I move closer, standing in-between his legs and he doesn’t hesitate to wrap his arms tightly around my body. Feeling my chest begin to shudder as I take on his pain, I wrap my arms around his head and pull him toward my stomach.
“I’m so sorry, baby,” I shudder out the words, tears are streaming from my face, but I try my best to hold my composure. I grip his head gently and he presses his forehead deeper into my belly. “I’m here, Andrew,” I say carefully.
And he cries quietly into my stomach. He never makes a sound, but I can feel his body trembling gently against my own. His father has died and he’s allowing himself to grieve the way he should. He holds me here for the longest time, his arms constricting around me when the worst waves of pain move through him and I hold him tighter, my hands locked within his hair.
Finally, he raises his eyes and looks up at me. All I want to do is take away that pain in his face. Right now, it’s all that I care about in this world. I just want to take away his pain.
Andrew pulls me by the waist over onto the bed with him and just holds me here, gripped within the hardness of his arms with the entire length of the back of my body pressed against the front of his. Another hour passes and I watch the moon move from one point to another in the sky. Andrew never says a word and I don’t try to prompt him because I know he needs this moment and if neither of us ever speaks again, I can live with that as long as we stay just like this.
Two people unable to cry finally cry together and if the world ended today, we would be fulfilled.
The early morning sun begins to wash away the moonlight, and for a time, both of them are hidden in the same vast expanse of sky so that neither dominates the other. The atmosphere is bathed in dark purple and gray with splashes of pink, until the sun finally prevails and wakes up our side of the world.
I roll over onto my other side, facing Andrew. He’s still awake, too. I smile at him softly and he welcomes me when I lean in to kiss him softly on the lips. He reaches his hand out and brushes the back of his finger across my cheek and then touches my mouth, the pad of his thumb barely skimming the center of my bottom lip before falling away. I move closer and he grips my hand within his, both of them resting between our pressed bodies. His beautiful green eyes smile gently at me and then he lets go of my hand and wraps that arm around my waist, pulling me so close that I can feel the warmth of his breath on my chin as he breathes in and out.
I know he doesn’t want to talk about his father and to bring it up might ruin this moment, so I don’t. As much as I want to and as much as I believe he needs to talk about it to help him grieve, I will wait. He needs time.
I bring up my free hand and trace the outline of the tattoo on his right upper-arm. And then my fingers make a delicate trail to his ribs.
“Can I see it?” I whisper softly.
He knows I’m talking about the tattoo of Eurydice down his left side, which is still pressed into the bed beneath him.
Andrew gazes at me, but his face is unreadable. His eyes stray for a long moment before he rises up from the bed and crawls over onto the other side so that the tattoo is visible. He lies on his side just like before and pulls me a little closer, afterwards moving his arm away from his ribs. I lift up to get a better look and run my fingers along the intricate artwork that is so beautiful and lifelike. The head of the woman begins about two inches from underneath his arm and extends to her bare feet to the middle of his sculpted hip and a few inches onto his stomach. She’s wearing a long, flowing see-through white gown which presses against her body as if a strong wind is pushing against her. Wisps of long fabric blow behind and all around her within the invisible wind.
She’s standing on a ledge, looking downward with one arm drifting delicately behind her.
But then it gets weird.
Eurydice is reaching out with the other arm, but the ink stops at her elbow. Another arm has been added in on the other side, but it’s not hers; it appears to come from someone else and it looks more masculine. Streams of fabric also appear out of place within the image; it’s blowing in the wind like hers. And just below it, propped upon the same ledge is a foot on the end of a muscular calf where the ink cuts off just below the knee.
I run my fingers along every inch of the tattoo, mesmerized by the beauty of it, but at the same time trying to understand the complexity and why the missing pieces.
I look up at Andrew and he says, “You asked who my musical idol was last night and the answer is Orpheus—kind of weird, I know, but I’ve always loved the story of Orpheus and Eurydice—especially the one told by Apollonius of Rhodes and it just kind of stuck with me.”
I smile softly and gaze at the tattoo again; my fingers still resting on his ribs. “I know of Orpheus, but not so much Eurydice.” I feel a little ashamed that I don’t know their story, especially since it seems to mean so much to Andrew.
He begins to explain:
“Orpheus’ musical ability was unrivaled being the son of a Muse, and when he played his lyre or sang, every living thing listened. There was no musician greater than him, but his love for Eurydice was even more powerful than his talent; he would do anything for her. They married, but soon after the wedding Eurydice was bitten by a Viper and died. Stricken with grief, Orpheus went into the Underworld, determined to bring her back.”
As Andrew tells this story, I can’t help but be selfish and picture me in Eurydice’s place. Andrew in place of Orpheus. I even compare the silly moment in the field that night with Andrew when the snake slithered across our blanket. So selfish and stupid of me to think this way, but I can’t help it….
“In the Underworld, Orpheus played his lyre and sang and everyone there was enchanted by him, brought to their knees with emotion. And so they let Eurydice go into Orpheus’ care, but only under one condition: Orpheus could not look back at Eurydice even for a moment on their way back to the Upper World.” Andrew pauses. “But on the way up, he couldn’t fight that desire, that need to turn around to make sure that Eurydice was still there.”
“He looked back,” I say.
Andrew nods sadly.
“Yeah, he did just a moment too soon and he saw Eurydice in the dim light from the top of the cave. They reached their hands out to each other and just before their fingers touched, she faded into the darkness of the Underworld and he never saw her again.”
I swallow down my emotions and just stare longingly into Andrew’s face. He isn’t looking at me, but seems lost in thought, staring past me instead.
Then he snaps out of it.
“People get deep, meaningful tattoos all the time,” he says, looking at me again. “This one happens to be mine.”
I glance down at it again and then up into his eyes, recalling something I remembered his father say that night in Wyoming.
“Andrew, what did your father mean when he said that in the hospital?”
His eyes soften and he briefly looks away. Then he moves his arm back down and takes my hand into his, running his thumb along the side of my fingers.
“You caught that?” he asks, smiling gently.
“Yeah, I sort of did.”
Andrew kisses my fingers and then releases my hand.
“He used to mess with me about it,” he says. “I got the tattoo and told Aidan what it meant and why it wasn’t technically complete and then he told our father.” Andrew rolls his eyes. “I never lived it down, that’s for damn sure. For the last two years, my father has cracked my ass about it, but I know he was just being Dad: tough-guy that doesn’t cry and doesn’t believe in emotions. But he told me once when Aidan and Asher weren’t around, that as ‘pussified’ as the meaning behind my tattoo was, that he understood—he said to me: (Andrew twirls his fingers in the air harmoniously) ‘Son, I hope you find your Eurydice one day—as long as she doesn’t turn you into a p**sy, I hope you find her.’”