In Islamabad, Being in Love Feels Like This

(Mehreen is, in no particular order, a romantic, a feminist, a cat and crochet enthusiast, a writer at heart, and a huge fan of feminist (and regular) science fiction and fantasy. She blogs at www.kissinginthecapital.wordpress.com)

It is hot inside. I see you breathing next to me. You have kicked the sheets off your body, and I can see beads of sweat forming on your forehead, your nose, your upper lip. I can almost see the sweat misting off your skin. It makes a haze around you. I extricate myself from the sheets. I lie on my back. I turn my head to the left to face you. We are lying, skin-to-skin, in the hot, humid stillness of the room. I hear a generator start up outside. It is not mine. Your body glows in the neighbours' sudden lamplight. It glistens. You shine next to me. You are beautiful, because I love you.

You shift, and I see the muscles move underneath your skin. I smell the sudden scent of sweat and sex. I smell the remnants of this morning's deodorant. I smell myself on you. I smell us. We smell like Old Spice and coconut shampoo and wood-smoke and flowers and salt and humans and the lovely, musty smell of air from old-fashioned air conditioners. You smell like love. When I think of love, I think of this smell. When I think of love, I think of your heart beating against my back, your laugh, your breath, your warmth, your touch. When I think of love, I think of us.

You prop yourself up on one elbow and peer out the window. The moon is overhead, clear and bright, you report, but it isn't fully eclipsed yet. I don't turn to look. You shift closer and cradle your head in your hand. Your neck tautens and I can see an artery pulsing at your throat, so close I can almost feel it vibrating. I can see your heart beating; I know when it will beat again. I reach out my hand to touch the silky, warm skin of your neck, I anticipate your heartbeat, I bring our bodies into sync again. My fingers vibrate minutely to the beats of our hearts.

"It has only just begun," I tell you, "and it's meant to last a while. You can't rush these things. They are natural and beautiful and they happen in their own time."

You look at me, straight in the eyes, and my heart automatically beats faster, my stomach drops as I am reminded of things we share - kisses and contact and ourselves - and the memory makes me breathe a little harder and you smile at me. I have to take several deep breaths before I can think straight again. I realize your pulse has quickened along with mine. A bead of sweat rolls down my forehead and sticks a lock of hair to my skin. You wipe it off my face slowly, painstakingly, with such delicacy, like I am beautiful and fragile, like I am priceless, like I am some work of art, or something so perfect that you don't want to disturb it, but so beautiful that you can't help risking just a small touch. I know exactly how you feel. I am equally enamored of you.

You make me feel beautiful.

The room is very warm. The neighbours' wedding party resumes. Our window hums with every amplified drumbeat. The air is very still, but restless all the same, brimming with energy. Or, we are very still, but restless. We are brimming with energy. Inside, I feel our hearts beating; outside, I feel the world beating - it thrives; it is joyous and alive. A bead of sweat trickles down my back and tickles me into shivering. I feel the pent-up energy in the room dissipate. The air seems to breathe again. My heart resumes a restful pace. I draw my hand from your body. I sit up.

Let's go, I tell you. We dress ourselves lazily. We climb onto the roof in the moonlight. It is strewn with broken doors and broken flowerpots and broken furniture and other debris from the past. My house is old and weary. The roof inclines slightly. A cat, startled by our appearance, steals out from behind a sheet of discarded corrugated metal. You put your arm around me. Your hand slips under my shirt and rests on my hip. Skin-to-skin, once again, I lean against you.

The neighbours' wedding party begins to dwindle. The music turns off. One-by-one, the guests begin to shuffle out, brightly attired, sweaty, happily full and exhausted. Some turn their faces upwards to look at the eclipse; the moon is fully eclipsed and is glowing orange in the sky. I can hear their awed murmurs. They do not know that we are here. They do not know that we can hear them, that we are seeing what they are seeing. They do not know what we share. They do not know that we are connected. They do not know that we are alive.

We share this moment with strangers.

I put my hand on top of yours. I smile, but nobody knows.

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