His head is on your shoulder. His arms are around your waist. His hand is resting against your thigh. His sweat is on your skin. His seed is inside of you. And even though you are married, you lack the strength to resist his temptation, to tell him no, to pull away.
U2 are playing in the aisle between the bunks, and you know it’s her because you have heard ‘Elevation’ twenty-seven times. No one else would dial your number that many times, keep their phone pressed to their ear that many minutes, without allowing themselves give up hope.
You know you should answer your phone because she’s your wife. You owe her that much. And even though it might not seem like it, you do love her – you wouldn’t have married her if you didn’t – and you feel guilty for not wanting to talk to her. She’s worried about you and only wants to help you, to offer her words of comfort, and pray with you, to tell you she loves you and understands what you’re going through; but, you don’t need that right now. It will only make you feel even worse about your actions, and all you want is to be left alone with your thoughts, to lose yourself inside of detached memories, to completely stop feeling.
There’s a shuffling toward the front of the bus, and then the door that separates them from you opens.
“Aaron,” Grant says. His voice is lowered from him normal pitch and you know he knows, they all know. “Are you going to answer that?”
Your eyes never stray from the top of the bunk above you and you hope he answers it – because even if it takes all night, she won’t give up until someone does.
“You can’t keep this up forever, Aaron. One day it’s going to catch up with you,” He tells you as he searches through your stuff for your phone. “Jamie? No, it’s Grant . . .”
A kiss is pressed to your throat, and it startles you because you hadn’t realized he was awake. He brushes a strand of his hair from your face and before you can do anything about it, his tongue is in your mouth. You don’t kiss him back, not his time, but you don’t pull away either.
“Yeah, he’s around . . . but he’s already gone to bed . . . No, we’re in Atlanta, east coast, so it’s closer to ten . . . Yeah, I know. He’s been going down earlier and earlier . . . I think he’s a little homesick and getting tired of being on the road – we all are.”
He laughs, and even though on any other day you would have found the implications of Grant’s double meanings just as humorous as him, you turn your head away from him. Both of you are living too close to the edge to take even the smallest amount of pleasure from all the half truths and lies so many people have told at their expense just to keep you holding on. You know that Grant is right, that one day everything will catch up to you and – in either this world or the next – you’ll have to suffer the repercussions of your actions.
You had never once lied to Jamie. The first time she had seen him laying his head in your lap – you had smiled and told her that he was your best friend, that you guys were closer than brothers. When she over heard the fight you had when he found out you had proposed to Jamie from the band’s forums because you had been too ashamed to tell him yourself – she had wrapped her arms around you and comforted you, never once doubting your explanation that he was hurt and scared that the two of you would begin to drift apart after the wedding, that he would lose you. And the night you let his name leave your lips instead of hers – you broke down, confessing that no matter how much you struggled or how hard you prayed, you couldn’t take your mind off of him. You told her about the dreams you sometimes had at night that were so realistic you would actually wake up with your lips tingling and still able to feel his hands on your body, how no matter how hard you focused on her touch and her taste, his image still managed to enter your thoughts.
And when she looked you in the eye and asked you if you wanted to be with him, if you ever had these kinds of thoughts about any other guy, you had looked right back at her and honestly told her, “No,” without a moment’s hesitation – and meant it, too.
But sometimes, in situations as delicate as these, holding back the truth can cause even more damage than lying and denying everything – especially when instead of being angry with your confession, she was compassionate and concerned. Instead of being disgusted by your sinful hands, she was gentle and held you until you had calmed down and smiled at her. Instead of accusing you of being dirty, she had immediately began to pray both for and with you, calling you on the road to see how you were coping, encouraging you to resist your thoughts.
And she never once treated him any different than she had before, not even batting an eye when the two of you shared hotel rooms on tour, or questioning the times you left home a week or two before the start of a tour because you claimed you needed the time with him to sync your voices, to help keep the bands unity and rhythm.
She has so much faith invested in you that it tears your heart in two every time you’re with him and every time you touch her, because you know how dangerous you have let the situation become. No matter what happened, someone is going to get hurt. You are too far gone for there to be a happy ending.
“Is he . . . Well, I . . . Jamie, I’m sorry . . . Yeah, I know. He just doesn’t . . . always want to talk. When you talk to home, you miss it more, y’know? He just has” – You hear Grant sigh, pausing a moment before he continues. – “Yeah, he’s awake . . . No, he can’t hear you . . .”
You can feel his fingers tracing around your belly button and up your chest before he takes your left hand in his own. Even though you had gotten used to him holding your hand years ago, he had picked up a new habit last Thanksgiving that you have not yet been able to grow accustom to – and doubt you ever will.
The first time, you had curiously watched him, unsure of what was going on behind his brown eyes, but he had not offered an answer. You had known that bringing the topic up would only create even more tension between the two of you, and you assumed it was just because it was going to take some time for him to get used to you belonging to someone else.
But now when he takes your hand in his, slowly spinning your wedding band around your ring finger as if by habit, it is almost like he is doing it just to spite you, to increase your guilt, to turn the only connection you have to her when pressed between the bus wall and his naked body, and locked away from the world by closed bunk curtains, against you.
You had betrayed him, and he had never forgiven you for it – no you yourself.
“Aaron . . . Aaron, are you listening to me?” Grant suddenly asks you. “She told me to tell you to be real strong.”
You hear him, and her words strike you like flint colliding with flint inside your chest, sparking and reigniting the pain already inside of you, but before you can reply, he beats you to it.
“Ask her why she’s still here.”
His eyes narrow as his name seems to almost echo against the walls of the bus, and he moves away from you as far as the narrow bunk allows. For a moment you are taken back, unsure of why he has suddenly shrunk away much like a dog struck by an owner, or a child reprimanded for the very first time by an otherwise lenient parent, but then you realize that you had exclaimed his name at the same time Grant had, and that whereas Grant had done so out of shock, you had responded out of hatred.
You had violated the sanctity of the bunk you shared with him. You had broken the only unspoken rule between the two of you.
You had taken her side over his.