Achilles’ Heel – By Ashley Vemuri
I have never once seen him sleep. Always, I manage to fall asleep first, drifting off against the bony surface of his chest, arms and legs wrapped around him like one of those miniature magnetic stuffed animals that are condemned to eternally hug pens. No matter where we are, I am always the first one to fall asleep, and the last one to wake up. But not today.
Unlike so many other mornings, today I feel refreshed and rested. And for once, I am awake before him. At first, I stay still, for fear that I might wake him with a sudden movement. But his breathing is even, heavy and deep, and it is clear that wherever he is, it is some place far, far away from here.
In the light of the sunrise that filters in between the blind, I can see his thin, concave abdomen peeking out between the sheets that hide his thin waist. His legs are bent and his back curls slightly, forming a pseudo-fetal position. I dare to run my fingertips across the contours of his face, tracing the bump on his nose, his high cheekbones, his sloping jaw line, his chapped lips.
He begins to stir, waking against his will. He murmurs a complaint, halfway between a groan and a reprimand, and burrows further into the mess of pillows and sheets. If he is trying to hide himself, then it is too late- I have already seen what he really is. He is no god, no hero of lore, but a human being, who breathes and sleeps, and is flawed, just like the rest of us.