Checkout.

The sheets are warm with the scent of your lover beside you. She’s entwined in your arms, snoring gently, as the first light of dawn pokes through the curtains.

You have three hours left.

Except it’s not even three hours, and that’s the unfairness of it; some of that time will be spent picking up the clothes you’ve tossed around the room, packing away all the bathroom supplies, showering and getting presentable for the ride home.

You’re in a long-distance relationship, and this brief and beautiful moment you could touch each other is now coming to an end. It was always was, you suppose, but on Friday night you barely felt the tick of that clock because it was subsumed in the joy of being reunited, and on Saturday you had a whole day with each other and spent it on grand adventures…

But now it’s a cold Sunday morning, and the end is shining down upon you.

You snuggle into your lover, burying your face in their shoulder, trying to stamp every aspect of them deep into your memory. Long months will pass before this happens again. You’ll text, you’ll Skype, you’ll phone, but nothing will replace that feel of her skin on yours, the taste of her kisses still on your lips, just watching her whenever you feel like.

You curl up for the ritual of The Last Lovemaking, which is always bittersweet; sometimes those final couplings are slow and languid, taking all the time in the world. Sometimes they’re brutal and ferocious, because you want to leave marks that will last all those months, a physical ache to mirror the one in your heart. Sometimes they’re headachy and painful because you stayed up too late last night and drank too much and if you had all the time in the world you’d wait until you were both more well-rested – but this is it, the last time, and you can’t pass it up even if you’re not ready.

But whatever happens, there comes that time when you pull away, and it feels like pulling away forever. Now comes the gruntwork of separating your lives, of packing away all the things that brought you together.

It’s like mourning before the funeral.

Worse, there’s no illusion that this cycle will never stop. Maybe you’ve got lives too distant to get together, children who ensure you’ll never live with each other. Maybe you’re polyamorous secondaries, and she has a husband and you have a wife to get home to, and it would be so rude to run off with them when your spouses have been so very generous to give you this moment. Maybe you realize that your relationship only functions in small doses, that moving in together would tear you apart…

But for whatever reason, this is all you’ll ever get. There will never be unlimited time to spend; there will always be snippets of time stolen from whatever satisfying life you have back home. And it is satisfying back home, in some distant way you know it’ll be good to return to your house and your pets and your food in your fridge, but…

You’ll always be on the clock with this person you love. You will never get to say, “Oh, we’ll get around to that whenever.” You have to plan your meetings, you make lists of Things You Want To Do, and there’s never enough time for all of them, never enough time.

The light streams through the window. None of this has happened. Yet. She’s still asleep next to you, tangled in the covers, still smiling from the intensity of the love you shared last night.

The clock is ticking. Checkout time is coming.

You hold her tight and try not to count the seconds.

1 Comment

  1. Sandy Conley
    Dec 14, 2015

    Oh, so beautiful. It’s been years since I’ve felt this particular pain, but you bring it home as if he was still in my arms.

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