I’m waking up, and the first thing I hear is shouting from upstairs, my ever-angry neighbors arguing over whose turn it is to make the morning coffee. I look at Asa and am pleased that he’s still asleep, although I don’t understand how he can be. I sit up and grab my journal from the night table.
Asa curls into himself as the fight rages on, and I try to sift through my thoughts. The coffee forgotten, my neighbors now offer opinions on the previous night’s sex.
“You could do more than lie there. It’s like fucking a log!”
Maybe if you made me feel something, I’d do more than lie there!”
“Oh, you felt it … came like a freight train!”
I close my eyes and lean against the headboard. They’ll stop in a second. The moment anyone mentions climax, they get inspired to go have another. It’s a ritual — for them and for me. They remind me how many changes I’ve made in my life and then give me a lovely silent interlude between their angry shouting and sex shouting.
I go back to my journal, but whatever my dream was, I’ve forgotten it. I’ve been trying to keep track, but most mornings are like this one, and by the time I’m fully awake, the memory of my dream world is gone.
In the silence, Asa unfurls. His waking always pleases me. It’s a slow unwinding, a lazy spiral back to consciousness that spreads down his legs, out across his chest and arms, reaching his eyes last of all.
“You and that notebook,” he says, his voice thick. “Just like the movie.”
I have to smile, even though I’ve heard this every time he’s woken up beside me. He is seeing me in Henry and June, one of his favorite movies, seeing me as Anaïs Nin, who sat up in bed next to Henry Miller, writing and writing. From our first night together, he’s awakened to see me writing or daydreaming, my notebook open on my knees.
“You’re like Anis,” he’d said, pronouncing her name the way Fred Ward as Henry did on screen.
He sits up and kisses my shoulder then turns away to busy himself at the nightstand, rolling a joint. The shouting starts anew as the neighbors begin to build toward their finale.
“I always wake up just in time, don’t I?” Asa asks, looking over his shoulder to wink at me. “I give them five minutes.”
I smile. “No. At least ten.” Another part of the ritual, guessing how long after sex before they fight again. “Five minutes is just not nice.”
“How’s your chest?” I ask as he settles beside me and lights up. The asthma for which he has the marijuana prescription has been trouble these last few days. I want him to go to the doctor, but he refuses.
“A little better,” he says.
He holds out his hand, and I put mine in it. And the angry shouting picks up above us. The sex, after all, has made them late for work.
“I win,” Asa says. “What would we do if he ever hit her?”
“Call the police.”
He looks at me. “You sure didn’t have to think twice about that.”
“No.” Because all I ever wanted was for someone to call the police when I was the one getting hit.
The first time we listened, Asa got excited, wanted us to put on our own floor show. But it was too shocking for me, hearing the same insults that had been thrown at me, things I hadn’t heard in years. There was no way I could go from that to use their lovemaking as some dysfunctional turn-on. But I listen. In case they escalate, in case I need to make that 911 call.
Asa doesn’t know any of that, and I don’t want him to. I should. I should share everything. Of course. But who does that, really? He thinks I’m too strong to ever be that woman, and I don’t want to kill that image he holds of me. I want him to keep seeing me as Anis.
He leans back, closes his eyes. I keep listening, just in case.
There are any number of people I might be like. Anaïs Nin isn’t one of them. But I like it because of the explosive, pounding blood of the passion she and Miller shared. I’m no Anaïs, and Asa’s not Henry, but I want him to love me like that, want to believe someone ever could. The woman who said, “I fell,” every time she wound up in the ER didn’t inspire that kind of love. Maybe the strong one who captures her dreams in a composition book will.