Creature Comforts

     "Its just that... every time I see a sunset, every time I feel proud of an accomplishment, every time I even run up and down a flight of stairs, I wonder how many more times Ill get to do that. Nothing is infinite in life, especially those things which seem most boundless."
     At the close of that statement he just looked at her, waiting for a reaction. Her gaze met his blankly for several moments, and then in a flurry of poorly feigned interest, "Wow, I know what you mean man... ya just gotta live life, ya know?" she said. He laughed quietly and cast his eyes to the ground, it was exactly the response hed expected; that hed wanted, even. She wasnt going to argue philosophy with him, she wasnt going to question or think- she was completely detached and complacent, the coming night would be his moment to make.
     As if to punctuate his thoughts, she spoke. "So what do you have in mind?" she said, "Im up for anything...." Her last word trailed and left a corner of her mouth upturned as it went- a wry, innuendic smile that seemed to come quite naturally. "I was thinking," he said, and leaned in close to her, "of a nice... long... game of Trivial Pursuit. Of course," he sat back in his chair, "Ive never actually played the game, I dont think anyone has, I just brought the cards..." he dropped two boxes of cards onto the table hed pulled from his duffel bag. "Do you want to go first, or shall I?" She looked startled and confused, he loved doing that to people, and it only made his smile bigger than it was. After a few seconds regathering herself she just broke into a chuckle and said, "whatever you want man." Wonderful, he thought...
     "Wonderful! Ill start" said he, and then removed the cover from one of the boxes and shuffling through the tightly packed cards, picked one. His brow creased while surveying the questions, he took on a pensive air, then thought to go with the topic of history. "What, collectively, are the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States known as?" The question out, he looked upon her expectantly. She took on that blank look again... "ummm... the... declaration of independence?" He winced. Through a concerned face he said, "No, they are the bill of rights." "Oh..." she said. He tossed the card to the floor and picked another, "The two hundred year span of peace and prosperity in Roman history is known as..." He looked upon her carefully, this time with hesitant expectancy. "Oh I have no idea... the crusades?" Somewhere, deep in his brain, there was a train wreck. At least... at least shed heard of the crusades, he told himself. In that vein, he flung his card to the floor, swooped into the box, pulled one out with much exaggerated drama, and holding it some distance from his eyes read loudly, "What... is your favourite colour?" He raised an eyebrow and looked at her with almost comical inquisitiveness. "What? Wait... um... green..." she said, not quite catching on until her last word was spoken. "You think Im stupid, dont you?" she said, "No no..." the reply raced to the edge of his mouth and fell out, just barely beating a laugh, "lets just watch T.V., what do you say to that?" he asked. She shrugged it off, "hey man, youre the boss... what are we gonna watch?" "I was thinking, actually, of a movie... The Labyrinth, to be specific." he said, "No one doesnt like The Labyrinth." "Really?" she said, "Ive never heard of it." He hung his head in great dismay and walked to the VCR and inserted the tape. "Whats the world coming to..." he mumbled to himself, then pressed play.
     "Come here and sit on the couch with me." He plopped down and patted the cushion next to his. Finally now, as she got up, she didnt seem so lost. She left the table where they were sitting and walked to the couch, taking her time. She got to the couch and sat very close to him, almost on his lap, he seemed pleased with this and put his arm around her. She smiled up at him, and letting her hand rest on his inner thigh, met his shoulders and his neck with her lips, very slowly, very deliberately. He turned his head to look at her and gently lifted her chin with bent fingers so he could see her eyes... "dont do that, youll miss the movie" he said smiling and vaguely sardonically. "Here," he continued, "you just lean against me, and enjoy the film." She seemed rather puzzled, but complied. "Ya know, this is a whole lot of money for a whole lot of nothing" she said. "Are you complaining?" he asked, "No..." came her humoured reply, and she let her body fall onto his, she laid her head on his shoulder, and he his head on hers and they watched the movie.
     It was about two-thirds through the movie that he noticed shed fallen asleep. He rubbed her gently and listened to her breath... and finished out the movie. Once the credits had finished rolling, and the room was dark he found the remote controls, hit rewind and turned the TV off. The room was then black... and fairly large for a hotel room, having a bed, a table, and couch. Behind the table at which they were earlier sitting there was a window too, and through it, he could see the parking lot, and beyond that, a field, and beyond that, the endless sprawl of the night sky. It was clear tonight, and with this countryside view he could see many hundreds of stars through his window. What a perfect way to end the day, he thought... then ran the thought through his head a few more times, finding new meaning with each iteration. He burrowed his free hand underneath her knees and with one great shoveling motion lifted her into the air. She stirred, and wrapped an arm around his neck. He stood for a moment, letting the whole of the night sink into his skin then walked to the bed, kicked the covers back with his feet and laid her down, then went round the other side and climbed into it himself. He brought the strewn covers up around them both and as she lay facing him, he drew her close.
     "Lemme guess," she was awake now, and obviously wondering what he was doing, "just lay here and enjoy the night". He laughed at this, "Something like that, my dear," he said, "but you cant go off to sleepy land just yet, stay with me for awhile, well talk." "Talk?" she sounded confused and frustrated all at once... but she resigned herself to just going along with it, after all, she reasoned, the situation could be worse. "Watcha wanna talk about, hun?" she asked. He smiled. "Oh... everything... nothing... what do you think when you look out that window over there?" Her reply to this was blurted out like she was reading from a script, "Stars..." she said. For the first time in the day now, he wasnt sure what to do or say, he hesitated, then said, "Yeah..." They were both looking out the window and for some time silence was only heard. He thought about many things, he thought about what she was thinking, he thought about himself and found to his surprise that he was now completely comfortable. "What are you thinking?" he asked. "Honestly?" she said, "yeah..." he replied. "Im thinking youre a really weird guy, I mean..." she laughed, "you act like a virgin, arent you a little old to be a virgin?" Her bluntness stayed him for a moment, but he couldnt help but find the humour in it; he chuckled to himself. "What? What are you laughing at?" she asked. "Oh nothing," said he, "this is just too perfect is all." "What do you mean?" she asked, "Now Im curious..." she leaned up on her elbow, "whats your deal, man?" Stillness for a moment... and then he took a long, deep breath.
     So much he could say. So much he wanted to say... had wanted to say for so long; but buried in the dust and confusion in his head he found the very heart of everything he felt. "Like you said," he said, "I just wanna live life, you know?" Even though he could hardly see her face through the dark, he could almost feel her confusion. "But you havent done anything, what are you talking about?" she spoke rapidly, he wasnt quite expecting to arouse this level of curiosity in her, but all for the better, he thought. "Au contraire... what are you talking about? Ive done almost everything now," he spoke through a teasing smile, "my life is almost complete." "Dude, you are weird." she said, and as she collapsed back into his arms he said, "oh you cant say you havent fun." "Well yeah, I suppose..." she said. "Well see then? Thats the whole point, right? Whats so weird about that?" he said, and she mulled on his words, then, "Youve got a different way of looking at things, you know that?" "So Ive been told." said he, and continued, "Let me ask one more thing of you, just one... for tonight, and until you wake up tomorrow, love me with all your heart and soul." She snorted. "You are a virgin, arent you... figures you had to wait until I was this fucking tired before you had enough nerve to get on with it..." "No no no no no," he said, "dont you move a muscle." He paused and continued, "Dont do it, say it." Through the dark, she stared at him. "What are you talking about?" she asked. He thought a moment, then told her.
     "Once upon a time," he said haltingly, "in a time and place far removed from our own, there was a creature who lived on a crag on the edge of an immense ocean. The one thing the creature longed for was to dive into the ocean and never return to his little hole..." he stopped and glanced at her, she appeared absolutely befuddled. He realized his habit of explanation through metaphor was going to go nowhere and he tried anew, "eh... some men place import on their conquest of the sex, for me, it is conquest of the heart... Ive always wanted this one thing, and I have a feeling that Im never going to be quite happy or at peace until I have it..." at this, she stirred. It was as if somewhere beneath her detachment and complacency she was waking up. When for a long time she didnt make a sound he said, "Dont think about it, just do it... I only want your heart for this one night, and youll get it back tomorrow in the envelope waiting for you in my bag." She turned around to face him, and through his hands and with his eyes he could feel her, and see her reach back and slowly cast away the mists of detachment. There she was now, bare before him, no longer the object, but a woman. "Alright," she said, and then almost nervously, "for this night, I can... I mean, I will love you; I feel silly though, I dont even know your name..." he laughed a little, "Does it really matter?" he said, and she quiet, then laughed in return "I guess not". He waited awhile to let the moment sort itself out, then went to complete the act. "So say it." and as he said that, he was, for the first time in the course of the night, vulnerable. His heart raced. He felt sick. She sensed his unease... and spoke the words. She said it tenderly, soothingly, but most importantly, she said it sincerely, and with that she nestled herself snugly within his embrace. He could feel her head beneath his chin, and brought a hand up to stroke her hair... and replied in kind. The words fell so gently onto her ear that she no more heard them than felt them slide into her head and sing her to sleep.

     The harsh early morning light poured in through the window and directly onto his eyes, he opened them to see what all the discomfort was about and saw the hotel room, saw the woman lying with him, and he remembered. He had hoped the light would wake him up like this, it was why hed picked this room. She was still sleeping soundly next to him, and according to the deal, that meant she was still his... he could feel her like a slowly pulsating warm comfort to the soul. He let the feeling wash over him like a drug, a tsunamic tide of contentment leaving all troubles obliterated in its wake. He thought about what had transpired to bring him to this point. He thought about how his life had seemed almost empty because it was so full of everything but what hed wanted; what he had was material, what he wanted ethereal... so hed decided to trade one for the other. Surely, hed thought, all my accumulated wealth and doings are worth this single eternal peace. He remembered a day so long ago it seemed as only yesterday, when he'd gathered the titles and deeds to all his manifest worth, two boxes of Trivial Pursuit cards and put them in a small duffel bag. He remembered going to a caf, jotting down a note on a napkin, then going out and walking the seedy districts of the city, looking for someone with whom he felt he could make the trade. He remembered the first woman that had approached him, her body, her smile, her words, "Hey hun, you look lost, maybe I can help you." She was perfect, hed thought. "Maybe you can," hed said, "Im afraid Ive lost myself... think youre up to that?" Shed laughed coyly, "Baby, I know Im up to that..." and with that hed walked with her to his car and came to a small hotel near the countryside. He remembered leading her into the hotel room and sitting her at a small table near a window. "So youve lost yourself, eh?" shed said. "Yeah," he laughed, "something like that," hed said, "Its just that... every time I see a sunset, every time I feel proud of an accomplishment, every time I even run up and down a flight of stairs, I wonder how many more times Ill get to do that. Nothing is infinite in life, especially those things which seem most boundless..." his thoughts trailed now, and his mind slowly drained itself of all thought. He stared out the window for a bit, an absolutely clear and tranquil stare. Suddenly a thought breached the quiet in his head. This is it, he thought, this is the trade, right now, this moment. For a few more seconds he looked out the window and then closed his eyes, took a small capsule from his back pocket, and ingested it. He moved slightly to bring the woman closer to himself, and then on her forehead, gave her a kiss. She moved now, and put an arm around him, though she still slept. He was immersed in an almost painful happiness now, so perfect, he thought, and smiled sweetly, feeling his eyes grow moist... then fell quietly back to sleep.

     She woke up when she felt something wet fall on her cheek. It was morning now, and she looked up to the mans face.... Being morning, her job was done and she slipped out from his arms and rose to leave; she tried to be quiet so as not to wake him, but he seemed too deep in slumber for her to be terribly concerned with that. She walked over to the duffel bag and looking for the envelope inside found that in fact the envelope was the only thing there. She took the envelope out and opened it up; it was a manila envelope, shed expected just a regular white one. Inside she saw a rather large bundle of hundred dollar bills, which contented her curiosity, though she did see other papers and things. Time enough to look at that stuff later, she thought, and walked out the door.
     When she eventually did examine the contents of the envelope, she was shocked. The worth of the papers it held was more than shed ever dreamed; entitlements, deeds, bonds... each one more valuable than the next. One of the papers though, was in that sense, worthless. It was a napkin with a handwritten note on it; she unfolded it, and read it quietly to herself:

     "...and then the creature said, with eyes of tears turned red: I cant return from whence I came, I hate the sun and fear the rain, leave me here to live among the waters..."

     She never really understood what the note meant, but in all the future trials and turbulence of her life, the envelope, its contents, and the man whod delivered them never quite left her mind. In the rare times she ever found herself looking up at a clear starry sky, shed think for a moment she could see his face beyond them, beyond the stars, shed think she could see the contented face shed left that morning- and she'd think she felt a bit sorry for him. The feeling was strange, but in an odd way good; it was like she knew that, where ever he was now, hed finally got what he wanted, he was finally happy... he was finally at peace.