The ceiling is off-white, with that popcorn thing: uneven bumps that look like popcorn crumbs. I’ve always watched a lot of HGTV; homeowners and renovators hate it. Scrape it, they always say. If no one likes it, why is it on the ceiling of every apartment?

Ten minutes I’ve been awake, contemplating the room. The green walls are covered with posters lined evenly across the limited space. Band posters, both for groups I’ve never heard of and for punk bands I like, too. Mid-morning sun rays seep through the broken blinds over the window, and gentle snow falls in silent flakes. His compact bedroom is perfect for one. Probably cramped with two.

The winter air on my uncovered legs trails a shiver up my spine, so I pull the blanket over them as gently as I can. He stirs a bit at my side, throws his arm over my midsection. It’s how we fell asleep last night in his bed—wait, futon mattress. I don’t mind; I slept on a futon for six weeks when I first moved out on my own. Everyone’s had a futon at some point, right? He at least has a sheet on his: a soft cotton one that my cheek isn’t opposed to laying against as I turn on my side. He’s taking up most of the pillow we’re sharing. He snores lightly—background noise, like a radiator in a dorm room.

I glide my hand across the tan and scratchy carpet in front of me, and wonder when that need-to-run feeling will kick in. Like it always does when I wake up at someone else’s place. I once shot up in my friend’s apartment at two in the morning and bolted out the front door without so much as a parting word. I’ve become infamous for this, both among my friends and in my own mind. 

When we walked into his apartment last night, I commented on the front door, painted a bright, saturated red.

“Makes your place easy to find,” I said with a shrug as he unlocked the door. 

He laughed. “Hope that comes in handy later,” he said. “For the next time you visit.”

Next time.

The slight smell of sweat lingers on the air in his bedroom. We didn’t turn in until the wee hours of the early morning, and the sun is just starting to rise in the sky. Still, part of me hopes he’ll wake up, say I should probably get home soon. Make that decision for me. But the desire to run still has not reared its head. Strange.

Scattered across the carpet: two empty shot glasses tipped on their sides, a couple unpaired socks, a glass of water and a bottle of ibuprofen next to the mattress. He has a mini-fridge that hums in contrast to the rhythm of his light snores. It reminds me of living in a dorm my first year of college, three years ago. Familiar. His closet is open, messy, clothes spilling out. But it’s not dirty and unforgivable. All young adults have clutter. God knows I do.

His room feels safe. Welcoming. The delicate snow outside escalates to heavy flurries. Walking home in that, though his apartment is only a five-minute walk from mine, sounds awful.

He’s asleep. He won’t care if I stay. At least until it stops snowing.

I pull my hand back and set it on top of his, the hand that curls around my waist. My hands have been the same miniscule size since I was ten, and his seem massive compared to them. I can’t help but smile at this contrast. He told me last night that he finds it funny how far back I have to crane my neck to look him in the eyes. To kiss him. But still he found it endearing.

In the stillness, my eyes start to grow heavy again. His snoring stops, and he shifts, giving me room on our shared pillow while pulling me close. Maybe the room is fine for two people. Maybe this strange new thing he and I discovered last night will become something more than I’m used to, something more than this one night. Maybe I don’t have to be the girl who runs.

I don’t really mind popcorn ceilings, after all.


PAIGE PRICE is a senior Creative Writing major at Ball State University, and the Lead Prose Editor for The Broken Plate literary magazine, 2017-2018. She lives in Muncie, Indiana.