“How do you guys do this sleepover thing?” I wrote. “I can’t sleep at all.”
Customarily, my flings with strange men were brief. The men did not take note of my bathtub or my educational history before sex, and they did not linger after.
I came back into bed, disturbed by the rumble of his snoring, but his sleeping face on my pillow struck me. For the first time, the thought of sharing a bed with a man did not come from pure imagination. I now had a real image for this fantasy; I could pretend Jack was my boyfriend, reach for his face and whisper “I love you, good night,” then fall asleep and meet him somewhere in his dream as if we had done this a hundred times before.
The next day, he flew off to see his family for the holidays and the first weeks of the new year.
“merry crimmus,” I texted.
“u too, babygirl,” he replied.
After our sleepover, I didn’t hear from him unless I initiated — an unexpected change. Instead of giving in to my insecurity that the sleepover meant little to him, and therefore I meant little, I imagined other scenarios: him asking me to sleep at his place, for a change, or spontaneously calling me while I’m in line for my morning coffee. But because I had presumed a sex-only expectation from the start, I shamed myself for developing feelings.
“miss u,” he texted one random morning.
We stayed in touch and occasionally saw each other, weeks in between. On a hot morning, he snored behind me as I sat on the floor beside my bed, working on my final thesis. He put his hand up to my face, letting me know he was awake. With my eyes on the laptop screen, I took his hand and planted kisses in his palm, wallowing in these ordinary joys — the kind of affection I slowly grew comfortable displaying.
Longing to be more than casual with him, I sought a therapist to guide me through my growing feelings.