It doesn’t sound sexy at all, this medical condition that makes her fingers turn blue in cold weather. Dangerously blue. She worries constantly about frostbite and nerve damage, even amputation. Her fingers are long and slender, like twigs used to start a fire on a camping trip. Twigs do not sound sexy, either. But whenever Jennifer rubs her hands together, briskly, vigorously, you cannot help but think about the way her fingers would feel if they were wrapped around you. The palm of her hand feeling your heft, your warmth. Probably this should never happen because the two of you met in recovery and according to absolutely everyone you have ever spoken to, jumping into bed with a fellow alcoholic is a horrible idea. Still, you know that you will never forget the day Jennifer walked into the very same meeting that you were attending, snugged into a pair of hard rocker jeans and a scoop-necked t-shirt. Legs up to here, sun-kissed cleavage, eyes that were feline and feisty and hard. How in the hell were you supposed to concentrate on sobriety sitting across the table from all of that? Pretty soon both of you stopped going to meetings and started playing tennis on the local high school courts. Buying air mattresses at gravel-driveway rummage sales. Sitting on the couch watching movies from the 80’s, belly laughing at things that were funny at the time (and also at things that were not).
The point about sleeping together is moot tonight because when Jennifer stumbled into your apartment for dinner, she immediately passed out on the living room floor. Her arms and legs are splayed in all directions, the drunkest you have ever seen her. It has been 14 months since you took your last drink, so Jennifer has never seen you passed out on the floor or drunk at a bar or even a little bit buzzed at a work event where liquor is served in clear plastic cups. There is a part of her that hates you for being sober, and this makes you feel like every woman in your life who has refused to love you is looking over your shoulder, all at the same time. You kneel on the floor and lay a blanket across Jennifer’s flattened form, stretching it out to cover hands that now seem miles apart. In spite of yourself, you cannot help but wonder which one of these hands you would save from frostbite, if saving both was not an option. You wonder which hand she would hold you with if it ever came to that. You wonder if she would love you if you promised to start drinking again. Without warning, Jennifer stirs in her sleep. Her eyes open into drowsy slits as she begins to mumble.
“Hey, come here,” she says, rolling partly onto her side. “Stop being such a pussy.” She reaches out and grabs your wrist, pulling your hand toward her and plopping it onto her chest. She moans softly and releases her grip as her eyes slide shut again.
You have been lectured about the biology behind addiction before, about the release of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens. Whatever the science, right now you are only aware of the questions and cravings and desires careening around the inside of your head. For a moment you think about calming this chaos with a cold beer or a deliciously chilled glass of Chardonnay, a thought that shivers you back to reality, to this specific moment in time. You lean down and kiss Jennifer on the cheek, gently taking back your hand before standing up. Walking into your bedroom, you grab a different blanket for yourself, one that is well worn, clean and available. A blanket that will keep you warm for as long as you want it, as long as you decide that you need it.