Adam sat on the armchair next to the hotel bed and watched Sauli sleeping.
He sleeps so easily, floats into sleep rather than falls. He’s such a free agent, for all his mind is so conscisely ordered, with a compartment for this, a compartment for that. He tidies his thoughts up and then runs outside like a kid who has completed his chores.
I’ve slept next to a few people in my time and with all of them – and I can’t think of a single exception - it was like sleeping next to a cupboard, a cupboard whose shelves were either full or completely bare. “You do love to spoon,” my ex used to say, pushing his legs into the crook of mine and putting his arm around my waist. But that wasn’t it. I was turning my back on that cupboard energy that reached out to pull me in and make whatever adjustments necessary to make me fit inside his world.
Not with Sauli. With him I sleep on my back, arms and legs akimbo, my chest exposed to whoever wants to look inside. Gods or demons, I don’t give a fuck. All you will see is a castle on a hill. With a drawbridge. And a moat. And if you’re lucky you’ll see me sitting at a table high up on the battlements, drinking mulled red wine with the person I love.
Don’t, whatever you do, attempt to swim across that moat.
The morning light in the room, diffused by the sheer curtains, cast a glow over the bed and its sleeping occupant. Exhaustion made him want so badly to lay down beside him but there was something to be said for watching over someone you love.
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of sweetness show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness see you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.
Can’t beat Auden for saying what I long to know, and knowing what I long to say, he thought, as his eyelids batted like trapped insects against his determination to stay awake.
"Who has hurt you? Tell me, this instant. I won’t tolerate it for longer than an instant.”
“I do it myself. I am open when I am shut. Shut when I am open. People swim across the moat surrounding my inner life and crawl into my heart’s subterranean paths and stairs, making their way up into my halls, dripping water on the flags while their phones and tongues wag. And even my closest friends wade across, looking for entrance to my private apartment, wanting to know if it is true that I am getting married, or whether I am as happy as they want me to be, or to reaffirm their strong wish for my safety from prying eyes.”
"Oh, I can soon fix that.”
And he led me out onto the drawbridge, and placed his hand on my heart, and leaned out over the water.
"Tell me your greatest joy,” he said. And after I told him, a single tear slid down his cheek into the murky moat below.
"And your greatest fear.” He tapped my chest with the flat of his palm “For good measure,” he added. And when I finally blurted it out, another tear rolled down his cheek and fell below.
"That should do it,” he said. He wiped his capable hands and grinned down at the moat. “Come with me, my American visitor. I want to share with you our traditional mulled red wine. And my winter kisses, which will furnish your heart with Christmas snow.”
Sauli’s eyes opened. His gaze, falling upon Adam, was so immediately clear and deliberate in its focus he could not possibly have been sleeping. He must have closed his eyes simply in order to think.
He patted the bed. Adam lay next to him and endured, yet again, the shock of pleasure in seeing those desert blue skies, Sauli’s eyes, calmly taking in the small figure of his soul, and then that mouth, as devoid of machinations as the the curves of a bay and just as sweetly receptive to the little waves of Adam’s oceanic soul. He truly loves me, Adam thought, but not with cupboard love. He’s as spacious as hills that run down to the sea and bury their heads in its shores.
He turned to face Sauli. He caught the hand that had brushed back his hair and pressed his lips into the centre of its palm.
“If there was a special blessing for hands,” he said, “yours would foot the bill.” He turned Sauli’s hand over and examined it.
“Blessed are the hands that can steady a human heart," he continued, "and till straight rows in a field of clouds, and firmly, taking no arguments, close a door against a hurricane.”
“You are a poet,” Sauli said, crinkling up his eyes as though at a good fortune.
“No, not me.”
Adam fell asleep on his back, starfish fashion, with Sauli’s head against his shoulder. As he fell asleep he remembered some more lines from Auden’s poem. ‘I think this is the only poem I ever bothered to memorize,” he thought.
Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.
The moat had miraculously become clear of weeds and even of depths. A stony bed was visible. The water was bubbly as though aerated. Small fish, tropical looking in colour, darted to and fro.
"You will have no more problems, my love,” he said to me, as he ran up the stairs, three stairs at a time.
And it is true.
His tears of love, ambrosia to me, are like poison in the moat surrounding my inner life.