it's a hotel night.
you've forgotten what state you're in, nevermind what city. every room looks the same when you've been at it long enough.
tyler had mentioned the pool in passing earlier. now, suddenly, you're here. everything is hazy. time moves like a whirlpool on tour, and you've both been circling the outskirts.
it's late, that's all you know. the elevator ride downstairs was eerie and strange, the kind of feeling that only exists in the liminal space between late night and early, early morning. the pool is on the first floor, but it juts out from the rest of the building, a glass roof the only thing between you and the sky.
the water ripples in the window. tyler's reflection floats lazily in the greenish haze, her form distorted and warped in the glass. your neck hurts from watching the ceiling.
"josh," she says. you look down, at the real tyler in the pool. she's still on her back, her body suspended between above and below the water. liminal. her voice echoes, multiples of her presence.
neither of you had brought swimsuits. you've resigned yourself to a waterlogged sports bra, but tyler's opted out completely. the water laps at her thighs, traces the sides of her chest. her tattoos ripple and warp under the water.
"yeah?" you answer, belatedly. a gentle splash, and tyler slips beneath the water, and resurfaces, close to your spot sitting on the pool's edge. she scrubs her hands down her face, over her shorn head. there's black paint beneath her nails.
you straighten your legs, reaching for her. she comes closer, lets you grasp her hips with your calves. "nothing," she says. she puts her hands on your thighs, wet hands on dry, unshaven skin. you shiver.
she drums her fingers on your thighs, tilts her head. she meets your eyes. "do you think i'm too much?" she asks, previous answer forgotten.
her eyelashes are stuck together, eyes huge and tired. there's a drop of water trailing from her cheek to her lip. you reach over, wipe it away. she closes her eyes. a line forms between her brows.
"i love how much you give," you tell her. your voice is rough. "you feel so much. it's admirable to carry it with so much grace."
she opens her eyes. her brow is still tight. she opens her mouth to say something, and closes it.
"i wish you wouldn't torture yourself with it," you say. you can feel her deep breath even with your calves at her hips. everything is still. neither of you breathe. the water stills completely, and the stars cease their light, if even for a moment.
she kisses you, then, presses her whole body up against yours. wet against dry, your warm chest and stomach pressed to hers. her kiss is urgent, not so much in the mouth, but in the grasp of her hands around your back, moving, holding, touching. you cradle her head in your hands, thumbs rubbing over the short hairs.
her urgency is limited, exhaustion creeping up. she eases, and you follow her lead. your arms come around her waist, protective.
"let's go to bed," you whisper against her lips. she's tired to the bone, eyes dark and lidded. her yeah is all but a breath, distorted with echo, muddled with the sounds of the artificial current.
you follow tyler back upstairs, holding her clothes to your chest. she's wrapped in a towel she found in the pool room, bare legs covered in goosebumps.
she stops in front of your door, watching with lidded eyes as you dig your keycard out of your gym shorts. you feel like you're still in the pool, limbs slow and movements muted.
your room is dark, barely touched save for your open suitcase. you flick the lights on, and the room glows. tyler follows you inside. she sits on the end of the bed, still wrapped in the towel, and watches you. you put her clothes next to your suitcase.
“do you want to stay here tonight?” you ask.
she nods. “yeah. is that okay?”
“yeah, of course,” you answer easily. “do you want to borrow some sweats?”
she shakes her head, and stands. she dries herself off fully. you watch dumbly, appreciating the goosebumps along her arms, and the water droplets clinging to the stretch marks on her chest. she looks up. she smirks.
“hey,” she says, and gives you some sort of exaggeratedly sultry look.
“hey,” you answer.
you hold eye contact, until she yawns hugely. you can't help but laugh. she huffs, and goes to get in bed.
beside her, the world moves again. she's curled up on her side, out like a light, and you lie awake watching light creep beneath the curtains. every bone in your body reeks with exhaustion, but your heart is soft and young.
tyler rolls over in her sleep, now facing you. her face is soft, brows unkempt and hair still so short. you give into the urge to pet her. your hand on the crown of her head, and she shifts, pressing closer. a quiet hum rises in the back of her throat.
outside, the sun rises. outside, the buses lie in wait. outside, the midwest crawls on for miles, highways like veins through a sleeping beast. inside, the world is still.