I could feel the weight of another person beside me in bed. One more inch to my right and I’d be forced to roll into them.
Curiosity opened my eyes. I was pleased to see Camera-man Dave. He slept with his back to me, a pillow squeezed between his knees.
I wanted to poke my finger through the small hole in his T-shirt and wake him up. Maybe he could make Mom and me French toast.
The night before she had thrown me a party for turning seven. “Happy birthday to YOU!” she and her friends had all cheered, swaying in a circle above my chair, their arms slung over each other’s shoulders.
There was still blue frosting dried on the hairs that grew over Dave’s ears. I had made a birthday wish before the cake had been thrown against his face.
I watched Camera-man Dave, thinking about the time he had put me in one of his movies. I had sailed back and forth in a frilled dress from the rope swing that hung from a tree in my backyard.
I poked my finger through the hole in his shirt. He kept sleeping. He would usher me past the empty six-pack pyramid in our kitchen and push me on the swing later.
Mom’s bedroom door would be locked for most of the day. She wouldn’t be making me French toast either. She would sleep through her alarm and make cereal for dinner.
Later that year, Mom moved to Florida to get clean. Her friends would disperse, moving out of their cars and into real homes, trading in dogs with bandanas around their necks for their own children.
I was visiting Mom in Florida. I was now old enough to invite men into my bed on my own accord. She was still lining her nostrils with cocaine like I filled my lungs with air. We were driving somewhere when she asked if I remembered Camera-Man Dave.
“Did you know he died a few months ago? I think he had a heart attack.”
The devastation I felt surprised me. I focused on the layer of dust on the dashboard to ignore the sting of tears that I was usually so good at reserving for myself.
I only had a few memories of Dave, but I would never forget the morning I woke up next to him.
I was too young to understand the scene I was a part of, the child ignored by a drug-addicted mother. But as I watched Dave sleep, hesitantly touching his back through the hole in his shirt, an unfamiliar safety had found me.
I’m lying in bed with a man I met four hours ago, his breath too hot against the space between my shoulder blades and his arm is draped over my naked waist.
It hadn’t been difficult to get here. It seemed like all I had to do was make eye contact from across a room to get a few hours of compliments and human contact.
I run my fingertips up and down his forearm before closing his fingers in mine. I don’t care about this man and he doesn’t care about me.
I hope he doesn’t wake up. These tears are for me.
Jordan Wilkinson is a full-time student studying journalism at the State University of New York at New Paltz in New York. She is The Exclusives section-editor of Avant-Garde Magazine, a campus publication focused on the empowerment and self-worth of women. She has been published in bot Avant-Garde and The Little Rebellion, the online publication of her college’s journalism department.
© 2012, Jordan Wilkinson