Artwork © Eric N. Peterson
We begin to borrow spaces and make them our own.
First is the makeshift bed which saves us on New Year’s Eve. We planned to crash with my cousin but she’s too drunk to track down, so we come off our high in the lobby of a hotel where we don’t even have a room. Eventually, my friend texts, asking if I got my midnight kiss. I reply that I got the girl, but we need a place to stay. He sneaks us upstairs, past the security guards there to watch out for people exactly like us. His room is far above occupancy, but we manage to fit on a little cot tucked against the wall.
It’s the fifth time we’re in a bed together and the first time I don’t have to stop myself from melting into her, tucking my head in to her chest and admiring the contrast of such a strong heart sitting under such soft breasts. We barely say a word before sleep takes over, but it’s not the night I care so much about remembering.
The morning is what changes my life. Not telling her how I feel, or kissing her at midnight, not even asking her to marry me a few short months later. It all comes down to this: waking up next to her on the morning of a new year, with no time for nerves. Waking up to her, looking at me in a brand-new way, and whispering, “baby.”
The first time I feel her inside me, I’m muted by the room. There’s her, saying quietly, “baby,” me, closing my eyes to the room, closing my mouth against the moans, and whispering, love, already, love, “Nikki, I hope you know I’m already in love with you.”
“Would it be crazy to say I love you too.”
This is it. These words borrowed in a space where we were never supposed to be. The friend who told me in eight-grade that he hated gays, waking up seven years later to see us kiss and mutter, “you guys are hot.” Me, desperately wet, tortured by her teasing touch, as she sighs: “not here.”
Our first time is borrowed in the space of my parent’s guest bed. My room is still my room, but it is upstairs, and we don’t make it that far. We spend the entire day, until it is dark, discovering each other in the place I’ll never see the same again. Every kiss, orgasms, head to toe survey, is punctuated by the same word. Over and over, we look at one another and say, “wow.”
Today, we borrow a couch in my friend’s living room. It’s beneath a window, next to a sliding door, flooded in mellow sunlight, and shaped more like a bathtub than a seat. We pool up together, here, around one in the afternoon. Brunch isn’t sitting well in Nikki’s stomach, which makes angry sounds while she tries to sleep in my arms. Soon she starts to make small, unconscious sounds of her own, and it astounds me how ferociously I adore her.
And so, I fall in love with this borrowed place, too. This moment. The birds trying to make plans as the rain picks up. The sight of it starting to fall, set against a canopy of green leaves, the trees’ seeds spinning out of the sky like helicopters. There’s the sound of rain rushing into gutters from the red tin roof that frames this gray green house. It’s no louder than her breath, though, none of it. Not the birds, the rain, my thoughts. The whole world reflects only her chest. Rising, falling.
As her breaths steady, words find their way into my mind, urging me to immortalize this moment. I borrow them from a little alphabet with infinite potential. I promise to give them back someday, maybe to give them away altogether. To let them fuel someone else’s story.
Because as with the Earth’s energy; words, spaces, and experiences are not created or destroyed. Only changed. Only borrowed, like the places our love has grown. And this space we’ve made will not dissipate or be destroyed. It will be held as an invitation to others. As open, safe, and soft as the blue chair is beneath that rain-streaked window. As forgiving as we must eventually be, to the friends who realize that what we’ve borrowed was in fact ours all along.
Brooke Clayton (she/her) is a writer and ski patroller who lives in South Lake Tahoe with her partner and their pup, Sandi. She loves love; along with exploring the mountains, playing disc golf, forcing stick-and-poke tattoos on her friends, binging true crime documentaries; and of course, reading a good book.
Eric N. Peterson is from Atlanta, Ga. He’s been drawing cartoons all his life. He leans towards the absurd, imaginative, and the surreal, as that’s where all the flavor is.