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After Him

Descriptive Sketch

He opens the windowed door as silently as possible. We know what happens if we get caught and we have no desire to ruin our last year. The chill of a November night bites at our cheeks and noses. The cold is getting worse; winter is getting hauntingly closer. He smiles at me over his shoulder, a big toothy grin that confirms what I already knew: we were golden. I hold the rough, polyester curtain back so that he can walk through the doorway. I can barely see him once he enters the darkness of the backyard. I take the door from him and my hand brushes his. I ignore it and step trustingly into the nighttime after him. The wind pierces through my sweatpants and my leggings. I shiver before I turn to close the door slowly. I press down on the handle so that it doesn’t make the metallic click when it slots into place. When I spin back around, he is already halfway to the stairs. I follow him slowly. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this; it’s become a weekly occurrence, but it still feels risky every time. My boots shuffle along the light pink boards of the deck and I weave around the glass table, making sure that I don’t collide with anything. As the wind picks up, I pull my fleece blanket tighter around my body. He’s already at the bottom of the steps leading to the soft grass. I follow him at a steady pace, trying to be as quiet as possible. He waits for me in front of the towering pine trees that create a barrier between us and the neighbor’s yard. We had cut a rough path through the branches a few weeks ago. We were taking down the gazebo on the deck for winter and he grumbled about always hitting his head on the low-hanging branches. I told him that it wouldn’t be a problem if he was a normal height. I helped him cut them anyways. We shuffle in the dark through the tunnel, making our way towards the side of the house. His silhouette dwarfs my own, making this an exercise in trust. I could not see over him and so I followed him wordlessly. The emergency lamp on the side of the house flips on, creating a harsh, blinding light that forces us to pause before continuing towards our destination. We reach the empty space lined with pine needles and evidence of our previous encounters. He grabs two of the four milk crates that line the pastel green plastic siding of the ranch house. One is handed to me and we place them so that I can face him and he sets an industrial camping lantern between us. We only ever turn it on if the emergency lamp shuts off. It never does. It’s more a precaution than anything, but it makes us feel safer. He removes his backpack and the acrid smell of weekends past emanates from the bright blue drawstring bag. He grins up at me, not like his previous smile. This one is suggestive. He knows what we’re about to do. He knows I love what we do. He removes the grey toiletry bag from his backpack and unzips it. We throw caution to the wind every night we do this and it exhilarates me.

Later, we are back in the warmth of the house and I have a package of Oreo Thins on my lap. We’re watching some horrible animated movie and it’s the funniest thing we’ve ever seen. He’s waiting for something out of the toaster oven and standing in the doorway to the living room. His dark hair is more wild than usual today and his eyes are more blue than I remember. He glances down at me when he senses me watching him and he smiles. Not big or suggestive. But lovingly. It’s my favorite smile on him. It makes me feel warm inside. He lights a fire in me that no one else has. This is the happiest I’ve been in a long time. When I think about how we will end up sharing the couch later, both of us too sleepy to find separate places to end up for the night, it all seems worth it. Tomorrow morning, neither of us will remember the exact events of the night before, but I know that the way I feel will never be forgotten.