One Million Truths
    Dan Roberts
They slept back to back, not because they fought, but to avoid their 4 a.m. breaths fermented in bad dreams.

And because the air was cold and her back felt warm.

But mostly because nobody wants to wake to a face they've seen every day for four years, stare at closed eyelids and wonder, who is this person?

* * *
You're up anyway. Not up; awake. Too cold to stand. You want to stand, you wish that you could, wish your blood was warm enough, want to stand and push against the empty walls, propel forward sixteen steps to the bathroom so you can piss. But it's too cold. You'd let your kidneys burst before you'd stand.

* * *
She'd waited a year before she would fuck him. Wouldn't even let him sleep in the same bed.

"It's just not that important to me," she'd said. "And it shouldn't be to you."

"But I love you," he'd cried.

"I know. That's why everything has to be perfect."

That makes no sense, he'd wanted to say. It's not like you're a virgin, you stupid...

But no, he couldn't talk to her like that. What if I really do love her? he'd thought. It feels almost close.

* * *
He'd told his brother, who laughed about it every chance he got, except for the day he whispered that no woman was worth that.

"You're right, I know, but I've waited this long."

"Does she blow you at least?"

And he'd said yes, a blue lie that exploded in the back of his mouth.

* * *
When she finally let him, he swore to himself (and to her) that he was glad they had waited. Did she know he was lying?

He knew.

Make it count, he thought. When you're done, she might make you start waiting again.

* * *
She's so quiet when she sleeps. Her back never twitches. Her feet never kick. Maybe she sleeps like this because she's exhausted, because you fuck her every night now, because one day she might say nope, and then you're back where you started. Perfectly illogical. You almost expect it.

Maybe you really do love her. Sometimes when you tell her, your voice sounds like you mean it.

* * *
"I have to go," she says, and I think, who is this woman that can read my mind in her sleep?

Never have I had to piss like this.

I listen close, hoping she'll sleep-talk me a secret, one of her million truths she keeps hidden from me.

"I don't love," she says, "you."

* * *
She says, "You're up. I can tell. Don't you fucking act like you're sleeping."

* * *
"Whatcha dreaming?" she taunts. "Liar."

The sheet dampens. What could this person know about me?

Dan Roberts is the author of the novel Paint, portions of which have been featured in Inertia and Spoken Interludes. His short stories have appeared in The Northridge Review, Versus and Brighter the Light, Deeper the Shadow.


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