I’m already lying awake in the darkness when I hear the tell-tale clink of glass. The sound’s faint but I’ve learned to recognize it as a signal to intervene and so I gather my scattered clothing, dress, and pad barefoot through the midnight gloom. Ambient city light illuminates the living room well enough to spot Tanim’s dark figure passing back and forth before the tall windows. I perch on an arm of the couch and wonder aloud, “Does the pacing really help you sleep?”
“No, but the drinking does,” When Tanim catches the frown on my face and my pointed glance to the full glass in his hand he adds sheepishly, “I’m joking. This is my first, I promise.” But it isn’t a joke, not really, and we both know it. I nod to the couch. “Want to talk?” Tanim slides his gaze away from mine so his eyes won’t betray him as he offers the weak excuse, “It’s a conversation we’ve had before. What’s the point?” I only shrug and settle onto the couch, patting the cushion in invitation. “I don’t mind. You listen to me complain about the same things over and over, too.” I assume Tanim will brush off my offer, claim he’s fine and that I should go back to bed, but after a moment’s hesitation he acquiesces and sinks onto the couch with a heavy sigh. While he stares into his glass I sit in silence, trying to exude the same supportive patience Tanim has so often provided me in my own times of struggle. It’s the least I can offer when I’ve no true solution to his problem.
“I…” Tanim stumbles, fingers clenching around the glass, then closes his eyes and lets out a second shaky sigh. When he speaks his words are chosen with great care to keep his voice steady. “I truly don’t believe there’s anything perverse in my desires now, so why…” he swallows, “why do I still experience the revulsion? The loathing?” Now Tanim glances back up to me, searching my eyes for an answer or perhaps merely the comfort of understanding. His own churn with raw desperation as he asks, “Why do I keep slipping back into this old pattern? I feel selfish, like I’m not even grateful for what I have now or how far I’ve come. How far we’ve come. Why can’t I shake it once and for all?”
“Oh, darling,” I take the glass from his fingers and set it carefully on the floor. Tanim doesn’t protest, only lets his hands hang limp until I capture them in my own. “Of course you’re grateful. You prove to me a hundred times a day how grateful you are. This thing is a part of you, Tanim, a brokenness like my own. You can never be completely free but that doesn’t mean you’ve let it defeat you.” His hands tremble in mine and I draw him close to soften the bite of my words, true though they may be. “It’s okay to let yourself hurt tonight, love,” I murmur into his hair as he rests his head against my chest. “I’m here. In the morning you won’t feel this way. It’ll pass; it always passes. You know that.”
“Two steps forward, one step back, huh?” Tanim manages a tired, bitter laugh as I parrot his own words back to him and from the way he relaxes in my arms I know the worst of this night has passed. I look to the untouched glass of whiskey – a small victory, but a victory nonetheless – then kiss the crown of my lover’s head. “At least we’re moving forward.”