Listen to the alarm ring. Wake up. Feel around in the dark for the phone that’s never where you think you put it. Pick it up, shield your eyes from the light. Slide your thumb from left to right on the screen – “Dismiss”. Hear nothing. Let your head fall back on the pillow again. Suddenly realize something with a jolt and turn to your left. She’s still there. Smile. Squint so you can see if her eyes are open. Whisper her name, tentatively now, not too loud, “Daria”. Sometimes she will respond with your name or “hi”, today is not one of those times. Her breath will smell of yogurt. When she doesn’t respond, slowly take the duvet off you, constantly looking at her to see if she moves. Fling your legs to the right and put your feet on the floor, sit up on the bed. Put your face in your hands, sigh, breathe out. Get up in slow motion, listening for creaky bedsprings. Turn around to see if she moves; she doesn’t. Creep to the bathroom. Don’t open your eyes all the way through, they’ll have enough to see throughout the day. Piss in the bowl, flush with a hint of trepidation because you know it’s going to wake her up. Move to the sink, check if the water is warm enough, wet your hands and rub them on your face. You’ve never splashed it, always rubbed. Brush your teeth, your tongue, the roof of your mouth. Rinse. Turn off the tap. Walk out. She’s still in bed, but she’s changed positions so she’s facing away from you. Her right leg is completely bare and visible because she’s let it rest over the duvet. You always find her like this. Always.
Sometimes you wish she’d turn the other away – towards you – so you could see her left leg at 6:49 a.m. You’ve never seen her left leg at 6:49 a.m. You’ve seen every inch of her body at that time and at every other time of the day, just not her left leg at 6:49 a.m. You long for it. This is the one thing both of you have left to do, and it doesn’t even involve her being conscious, pity. There were thumps and thuds in your chest as you stood behind that bathroom door and turned the handle. One day you’re going to see that leg at 6:49 a.m. and that will be the day you leave, because you will then have seen, touched, heard, thought and smelled everything. If you’re strong you will leave, because after that waking up will become hard. The yogurt of her breath will begin to go bad. What was smooth will wrinkle. Instead of flinging your legs to the right you will drag them against their will, because you’d finally be able to tell yourself that you’d seen it all before. What was left? Nothing. Then you won’t even whisper her name, or glance at her to see if she’s there.
But today, today you walk up to her side of the bed, face her, kiss her where the roots of her hair meet her forehead. She will move, maybe smile, but she will always open her eyes. Wonder what part of you she’s longing to see at 6:50 a.m. Smile at her. Say “hi”. She will say “hi” back, she will stretch under the duvet till she spills out of it. It will excite you, you can do this, it is worth it, at least until you see her left leg at 6:49 a.m. Until you don’t: stay. When you do: Run.
Zain Saeed was born and raised in Pakistan, and is currently studying linguistics in Freiburg, Germany. He has no idea why. His work has appeared in Bird’s Thumb and FLAPPERHOUSE, and is forthcoming in Third Point Press, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Bahamut Journal, Cheap Pop and others. He tweets at @linguistictrain.