Usually I can sleep like a stone.

Lightning seeking the ground next to my bedroom, or birds calling loudly in the morning, have never bothered me. So why am I listening to the slight whine of box springs in the room I rented?

My boarders are softly rocking. Through the plaster walls I hear their breathing, his sudden puff of air. Then the springs ebb to silence and the rhythms of their snores filters over to me. But still I cannot sleep.

I came to St. Augustine to find a husband. And after two years all I've got is three jobs and a hundred dancing shoes.

Twice a week I instruct retired men in the art of shagging. It's the only job that I really enjoy. And they flirt with me, always ask me to marry them, maybe a little seriously at times. And we laugh and even pretend that I will, until it's ten o'clock. Then we close for the night.

They're nice, these older men. They think I'm beautiful and treat me with respect. Although, I admit, on bad days I giggle just to keep them coming back. On those nights, I feel heavy, clumsy; their touch and smell make my skin crawl. But I smile and snuggle into their shoulders, anyway. Next time, when I'm in a better mood, I may want them, so I chose not to spoil things.

My day job at the University is so full of paper and procedure, I often long for another's touch. And on good evenings I kick off my shoes and dance barefoot with all the men who have come just for me. And later when I lie here, I can feel each of their wrinkled hands on my waist, my shoulder, the weight and pull of their flesh. Its like having ridden a car for hours, responding to its motion even after its come to rest.

But of course who I really want is my husband. I've always believed one day I'd find "him" and he would fully hold me, envelop me like no one ever has, make me whole.

However, where he is, is a mystery.

I am the oldest of a family of five children and none of us has married or stayed married. My parents relationship was strained at best. As kids we ran between the vacant rooms of their boarding house, while my mother changed the sheets, swept the remains of the night before into a waste paper basket. Guests liked us, because she would never tell what she heard or saw.

The house became a game of hide and seek between the wishes of Mom and Dad, each of us learning how to play their contradictions to our advantage. I guess I sided with Father, mother seemed so cold. Dad was ineffectual and moralistic, but always had time for me, made me feel I was his "girl."

I reach for a glass of water on my window sill when suddenly a flash of lightning illuminates my room, the walls, my oak bureau, the pictures of my family are now bathed in a steel blue light. I sit up and look down on the outside just as another vein cuts across the sky. It glows on the tree tops, the shiny lawns below; dark rain like a curtain follows, tapping on my glass.

And then the voice begins to fade, the one that's been keeping me awake. I slide back beneath the covers, feel as though I'm floating. My hand, with a mind of its own, wanders between my legs; soon warm water rises, overflows.

And now at last I can feel sleep near me; it's coming closer, over taking. It wraps itself around me, and I fall into its stream.

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