Quiet nights of quiet stars
A girlfriend fell asleep next to me, spooning in bed. In the middle of the night I heard a faint but persistent screeching noise, like the sound of nails on a chalkboard, or the sound of some animal or someone screeching and scratching, trying to break into my ground floor apartment. I woke up,
“Do you hear that? What is that noise?”
She mumbled that she heard nothing and dozed back to sleep. I tapped her,
“No, really what is that noise?”
Then in a sudden state of shock and embarrassment, she sat up and realized,
“Oh, I am grinding my teeth again. I’m so sorry!”
The next morning, “Was I really grinding my teeth? Was it that bad?”
“I’m staying with Steph. I love London. I could move here. Steph asked me to buy a house with her. And her friends. Steph also grinds her teeth! It’s so funny, we try to talk to each other while wearing our mouth guards before we go to bed…. You know, I always thought there was something special about people who grind their teeth.”
I stared at the bananas thinking, “So I guess Steph is yet another single gay woman that she shares a bed with…”
“My Dad grinds his teeth,” I interrupted.
“I love London. I could live in London.”
London? I was pushing around a shopping cart in a giant, odorless, lifeless ICA supermarket in Stockholm, Sweden. Nothing was remotely appealing in that supermarket except for the giant wall of at least 50 different kinds of bulk candy. The Swedes are big babies.
What about “we?” What about “us?” Does she want me to act jealous? Should I be acting jealous? Should I ever feel jealous?
Jealousy was an emotion that I hadn’t experienced in years. And when it arrived, it pinched my stomach, curled my spine and burrowed somewhere deep in my head.
The clock was winding down. I picked a date to leave France for Sweden. I closed all my accounts. I ended my lease. When I told my boss that I was leaving, he was dumbstruck.
“But France is where you belong… Sarah, you’re more French than most French people! Sweden is so cold and dark, you’re going to hate it there.”
“You know me. I need change, I just feel like it’s time to go.”
We were both teary-eyed.
“I’ll offer you part of the company if you stay.”
“No, I just… I’m done. Please know how grateful I am. Know that I’m extremely grateful.”
The exhibit was a Jeff Koons retrospective. Dorothée and I were heartbroken and seemingly counting each minute as they passed. At that moment, Koons’ gaudy kitsch seemed anything but clever.
“Didn’t Warhol do this years before him?” I sneered.
“I mean, I guess one could say that it’s aesthetically impressive by itself. It’s shiny,” Dorothée shrugged.
We got a drink at a bar not far off, one that we had been to so many times before. Dorothée, who normally kept herself together finally looked at me, broke down in tears and burst out,
“Je ne le crois pas Sarah. Tu es con, tellement con !”
To this day, I can still hear the word “con” coming out of her mouth. And how it was pickled with an odd mixture of sadness and anger. Up until that point she only encouraged me to pursue my dreams, follow my intuition, but here she completely let her guard down.
Quiet nights of quiet stars
“Babe, you’re snoring,” she said to me, irritated.
“No I’m not. I’m not asleep yet,” I defended myself, half asleep.
“Yes you are.”
Her voice felt irritated, condescending and I shrunk underneath my pillow. She, fully dressed in pyjamas, turned her back to me. We dozed off. Hearing that familiar screeching crescendo, I looked over her and repeatedly whispered, “Babe, you’re grinding your teeth.” I put my finger in between her clenched lips.
This time, without waking to excuse herself, she stopped.