“What’s this one?”
“Altissio.” He took the small, purple Nespresso pod from my hand and dropped it into the machine’s compartment. “You’ll like it.”
He kissed me lightly on the mouth before turning away to shower. I could taste the night on his lips—I wondered if he could taste my own staleness and I felt self-conscious. Once I heard the shower running upstairs, I leaned over the sink and rinsed my mouth from the tap, wishing I had brought my toothbrush.
The espresso maker hissed angrily, announcing that it was finished choking and spluttering and shooting the last spurts of steaming black into my cup. I removed the mug and moved to the kitchen table to wait. The curls of vapor peeling off from the espresso teased my nose with a deep, musky odor, and its familiarity comforted me as I looked at the unfamiliar furniture: a modest china cabinet holding books instead of china, a secondhand couch a decade out of style, and the plain pine table where I was seated. There was nothing to distinguish this small apartment from any other small apartment, and yet I was there and Ben was there and my Altissio espresso was there.
My phone vibrated violently against the table and I flipped it over to read the screen.
Jason. Text message.
I set the phone back, facedown.
Ben’s jaw, unshaven for just the amount of time I liked, scratched my own as his arms wrapped around me from behind. He was finished with his shower and fully dressed, and I could feel the minty-freshness of his breath against my cheek. Again I wished for my toothbrush and wondered if he was the type to let me borrow his.
He popped in his own Nespresso pod before sitting down across from me to wait. His shirt, unbuttoned at the junction of his collarbones, revealed a few wisps of black. I wore the striped tank top and joggers I had shivered in while waiting on the patio last night.
Jason. Text message, my phone reminded me with an impatient, second buzz; it did not like to be kept waiting.
“How did you sleep?”
“Fine.” I continued to ignore the phone. I felt guilty, and I felt guilty for feeling guilty. “Fine. You?”
“Never better. Do you take breakfast?”
“No, not usually.”
He got up and put a piece of bread in the toaster for me anyway, touching my hand with his own as he passed.
And Jason on the other side of the world, unshaven just the way I liked. Just a name on a phone now, but he hadn’t always been. In the mornings he had been beautifully untidy, hair bullied by his pillow into abstract sculptures and eyes blinking away sleep. I would laugh as I pulled him out of bed and into the shower with me.
In the afternoons he had been five eleven and a half, and he had been proud of the extra half-inch that his dress loafers gave him. I would drop him off at the office and he would kiss me goodbye.
In the evenings he had been lips and arms and legs all tangled in my lips and arms and legs, and then he had been my pillow. I would kiss him good night and look forward to Jason-in-the-morning.
The worst part is that he is probably still all of these things.
But one morning he told me there would be no more mornings, and I had shrugged and smiled. I had died inside but I shrugged, and I had screamed inside but I said okay. He boarded a plane and said he still loved me, and I said okay.
Ben was back across from me, still smiling with mug and toast in hand, and I tipped the porcelain against my mouth. I had waited to drink my own espresso until his was ready; it was his espresso, anyway, and I liked it enough to want it for several mornings more. The first sip of the morning was always the most erotic, and I tried to let the bitter liquid slide against my tongue for as long as possible before swallowing.
“So,” he said, his lips pursed as he blew gently to cool his coffee, disrupting the columns of steam. “What’s on the agenda for today?”
“Work, mostly,” I was staring at inch-wide sections of his face, examining each and moving onto the next in a clockwise direction. “You?”
I looked at his face and his collarbones and thought of Jason. And of Alex. Of John and Steven and Dan. I thought I had lost something with each of them but as I stared at Ben and my phone burned the table with Jason I knew otherwise. And as I stared at Ben and his talking lips and his steaming espresso, I wondered if he was mine like they were mine or if maybe they were all now me.
I nodded at something Ben said and reached for my phone, this time swiping.
Jason. Text message.
I leaned my head all the way back, coaxing the brown, foaming dregs of espresso into my mouth. Ben took my dishes, brushed his scratchy lips against mine, and walked me home.