We are wedged into the purple chaise in the dark room, me on the bottom, Rivi more or less sitting nearly on my lap. The chaise is further being shared by a bottle of Chivas Regal, which takes turns being in either her hand or mine. We have no need of glasses tonight. Swigging from the bottle is good enough for this fine evening of low cheer.
“My plan was to stop believing in love when I turned twenty-one,” Rivi says. She lifts the bottle and takes a drink. “That plan obviously turned out to be shit.”
“You’re a romantic,” I say. “You’re doomed from the start with that one.”
She snorts and pushes the bottle between my leg and the arm of the chaise. “Romantic my ass. I’m an idiot.” She undoes the top button of her dress and scratches the skin beneath it with her fingernail. “I’m also drunk.”
“Just a little drunk,” I say.
“And I feel a little sick.”
“If you throw up on my chaise, I’m going to disown you.”
She scoots down lower in the chaise and turns sidewise, putting one leg over me and resting her head against my shoulder. “I’m not going to throw up. I’m a lady who can handle her booze, thank you very much.” She closes her eyes and blows a heavy breath out between her lips. “Am I underwater? I feel like I’m underwater.”
“You’re in my living room,” I say. “You’re not going to drown in here.” A car drives by outside the window, and the headlights race from the far wall across the room, weightlessly touching first Rivi’s hip, then my own, then extinguishing themselves against the other side of the window’s curtains.
“Do you know who I am?” she asks me.
“I’ve known you for ten years,” I say. “I’m pretty sure I know who you are by now.”
She undoes a second button on her dress. In the dim light, the shadow of her skin is only sightly lighter than the dark of the fabric around it. “I’m not coming on to you, so don’t get any ideas. I’m just hot.”
“I’ve known you for ten years,” I say again. “I’d never get any ideas.”
“Good,” she says. “You’re not an earthquake. You’re solid ground.” She puts her palm against my chest, and I can feel her fingers tapping me softly through my shirt as I breathe.
“I have no idea what you mean,” I say, although that’s not exactly true. “You’re drunk,” I add needlessly.
“Not drunk enough,” she replies, although she leaves the bottle where she’d put it a minute ago. When I decide she’s not going to change her mind, I take the bottle and set it on the windowsill, then with one hand, screw the cap back on. “I’m going to get you some plants,” she says. “You need plants in your window.”
“Bad idea,” I say. “I kill everything I try to keep alive.”
She stops tapping my chest and presses her hand against me. “Not everything,” she says. “Not at all.”
“Stop coming on to me, Rivi,” I say.
“Shut up, numbskull.”
The wind picks up and rattles against the window, and one minute becomes two, and then five and more. Finally, for a few seconds the moon manages to slip through the clouds, and the blue light which seeps into the room now does make it seem as though we are underwater, floating beneath a calm night sea. The air is cold like the Pacific, and the quiet ambient hum of the silence in the apartment whispers like waves dancing a fathom above. Rivi puts her hand into mine, and in the moments before the clouds swallow the moon again, before we are covered once more in darkness, she looks up at me, and I can see the ocean’s depths in her eyes, bottomless and full of promises and secrets and currents that I’ve never explored, and for the space of a heartbeat or two, I wonder where those waters would take me if I would just let the air out of my lungs, and let myself sink into the heart of her sea.
And then the moon is gone, and so is the sea, and her soft and even breathing tells me that Rivi has fallen asleep against me in the chaise. I keep her hand in mine while she dreams, so that if she wakes during the night, she will know that there is someone there to keep her from drifting away over the curve of the earth, swept along in the aching waves of the lonely tides.