His right forearm has a tattoo of a grackle, the louder, more annoying cousin to the crow and not much of a fan favorite, as far as birds go. Its long spindly legs stand straight up, running alongside the tendons and veins in his arm. Its body blooms, puffing up its inky feathered belly anytime the man carries something heavy.
He wraps his warm arms around me at night, sweetly holding me in that warm nook against his chest. With my back against him, I can feel the soft, even swells of his breathing. But when I close my eyes, I dream of birds attacking me. Dive-bombing me from all different directions. They bite at my skin and nip at my cheeks, leaving bloodied pocks. They pull on my hair and yank it out with their sharp beaks, flying away with my long brown locks, limp from their mouths. In the depths of this sleep, worlds removed from consciousness, I run to you. With your tattooless arms, you pick me up and hold me so tightly against your body that we are practically zipped up, not a seam of air between us. I wrap my legs around your waist and lean back to look at you more closely. It’s been so long. Where have you been? I run my fingers over your face and trace the little freckles that sprinkle your nose with my pointer finger. I kiss your lips and tug on your earlobes. Softly, softly, I kiss your closed eyelids, left and then right, as if you are a doll I’ve lost but spent my whole life looking for. I can’t believe it’s really you. I’ll never let go, I say, holding on to you so tightly that I’m certain I’ll take little bits of your skin with me underneath my fingernails.
When dawn’s yellow light pushes herself in through the window, I can feel you slipping out of my grip as my body makes the gentle tremors of waking up—pointing toes, arching back, rubbing eyes. The warm arms wrapped around me pull me back under. Stay in bed, they say with a tug. He is still in that sweet haze of sleepiness and kisses me dreamily on my shoulder. I give in and sink back under the covers, threading his heavy arm underneath mine. “Holding you makes me wish I had more hands,” he says, still half asleep. I lace my fingers into his and pull his arm tightly around me until the inky black grackle is right up against my heart. Nothing in between. Somewhere outside, a hungry dog barks.