“Watching you sleep.”

“What are you doing?”

“Watching you sleep.”

What a creepy-ass line. Though we never saw the movie, my friends and I kept repeating it when Wicker Park was in theaters, because it was so funny and disturbing. The idea of someone observing you while you’re in the subconscious sends chills down your spine. What is it that we’re so afraid of, though? For one, there’s the obvious fact that we’re completely defenseless when we’re asleep. But even if we were to wake up and see someone looking back, someone we trust never to harm us, it’s still somehow a bit discomforting.

Perhaps it’s because we’re afraid of being seen without the ability to consciously present ourselves favorably.

If you think about it, there are so many standards of social etiquette that we adhere to, but we never realize it because these have been learned gradually throughout our lives. We’re reminded, though, of these every time we’re thrown into a new cultural setting. Suddenly, you are bound by a thousand rules of what you can and cannot say or do. When those acceptable boundaries are crossed, they do get noticed. That which does not conform to our standards of polite tend to stand out, and tend to be labeled as impolite, unprofessional, or rude.

So in the context of human nature, reciprocally judgmental and self-conscious, it is kind of scary to have no control over how someone sees you. But there’s something beautiful about it. Beautiful in the way that a wild, untamed forest, free to grow however it sees fit, would be beautiful, and that a tract of identical McMansions, tidy and clean as it may be, would not be beautiful.

The last time I saw Cherry, I had the privilege of watching her drift off into dreamland. If you know Cherry, you know she’s pretty chatty and has a very animated face when she’s talking, so most of the time I’m wrapped around her words and taken by the excitement of her eyes. She also loves to dress up, with her hair, makeup and clothes always put together nicely. Now, this is in no way one of those “the best part of a blowjob is 5 minutes of silence” jokes; talking to her is one of my favorite things to do. And I like how she gets so into picking out an outfit and all. But when I watched her sleep that night, without any of those other “distractions,” I feel like I got to know her better, in a way that words never could have.

I took it all in. The warmth from her body. A calm, steady pulse. Her body gently rising and falling with every breath. The tiny twitches of her eyelids as she dreamt. Cherry, my Cherry. That unique collection of genetic material, physical and mental development, memories and experiences, and a soul if you believe in such a thing. Here she was, laying beside me, in her most pure state, her most natural form. And in the simplicity of it all, I came to appreciate the beautiful complexity that she is.

The beautiful complexity that we all are.