Staring deeply into her pale blue eyes, reflecting my own icy mirrors of contempt. Part of me wishing her dead, the rest of me lacking the strength and initiative to force the dream to become reality. Imagining the sweet, moist heaven between her legs, in stark contrast to her cold, festering heart.
Her legs are draped over the couch, her white flesh so familiar to me and my lips.
She blinks at last, and the spell is broken.
“Kathy,” she says, “Could you fetch me a beer? Thanks.”
She adds an afterthought: “And my book.”
Fetch her book then. Hiding behind a second-rate paperback, each page she turns reminds me how insignificant I am. Shared, comfortable silence has evolved into a purposeful ignorance of each other, a game I’ve no desire to play and always seem to lose.
The television is muted, saving us from an endless barrage of all-too-similar sitcoms and their canned laughter. From the stereo, Tori Amos sings, whiny, scratchy voice, the same song over and over and over, every hour on the radio. I hate this station. It’s Jessie’s choice, not mine. Never mine, unless I’m alone, but I don’t want to be alone.
I could throw the bottle at her. I could rip her book in half.
Instead, I open her beer, and deliver it along with the book to her waiting smile, a smile so perfect no one could fathom how fake it is. It’s what first attracted me to her.
In the dark, a sudden flurry of movement and her slender form rolls atop me, naked flesh against naked flesh, inserting her tongue into my mouth, her thigh pressed against me in exactly the right spot to make me forget about how much I hate her.
I should push her away, but her darting tongue tastes so good.
I should bite down, sever the tip, and spit the acid that runs through her veins back in her face. But her hands tease my nipples, supple fingers gliding over my skin like water over polished glass.
I should grab the lamp from the nightstand and shatter it over her head, laugh as she tries to remove the porcelain shards embedded into her scalp.
I should do any and all of the above, but instead I find myself exactly where she wants me, buried in her, tasting that raspberry sweetness, the scent of that intoxicating perfume, tantalizing and oh so invigorating because its been a long time. Caressing the tender folds of flesh, wet with saliva, playful nibbles at her thighs. She pulls at my hair when she comes.
“Thank you, Kathy,” she manages through heavy breathing, and sinks into the oblivion of sleep. That fucking smile, frozen on her lips, silently mocking me.
I lie awake, the remnants of sex drying on my face, and stare at the black patch of darkness that is the ceiling, and hate myself, and wonder why I bother.
Work in the morning, and my throat feels like shredded meat, and my stomach feels full of it. A shower does nothing, the scalding water reminding me physical pain still exists in my over-emotional world. To the medicine cabinet then, grabbing the antibiotics left over from last time, double the recommended dosage. I’m in no mood for this today. Skipping breakfast because I’m late, and the way I feel nothing’s appetizing anyway, and so I go to work empty, lost in a mental state somewhere between indifference and blissful light-headedness.
By noon and a thousand faceless customers later, my muscles are sore from folding clothes and refolding clothes, there’s always so much fucking clothes. The people pass by me like ghosts, stupid questions, my responses are automatic, repetitive, I never hear myself speak anymore. Mustering up some courage, I manage to ask for the rest of the day off.
I woke up feeling pretty awful this morning, I tell them, and it just keeps getting worse.
The way I look, it’s easy for them to believe me. Sure, they say. Go home and rest. Translation: Don’t think about calling in sick tomorrow. You can be easily replaced.
I need another extra-strength something or other. This headache is pounding, I can feel my brain expanding, breaking through my skull, and the street makes me dizzy.
Back home, the apartment seems full of stale air, blasting me in the face when I open the door. Jessie is nowhere to be seen. I can’t believe she’s still sleeping. It pisses me off, and I can imagine her peaceful dreams, a big empty bed all for her, the sun streaming in through the windows to bathe her glorious body in its light.
I’m careful not to slam the door so I don’t wake her. But I have to see her, I have to gaze upon her lying there, still and serene. I can still love her when she’s like that, quiet and naked and perfect, and all mine to look at, for as long as I want, all mine to touch, if only she wouldn’t wake up.
When I open the door to the bedroom it moans, seemingly in ecstasy, how weird, I wonder, until I see the open mouth of another woman naked on the bed, and another joyous moan escapes her lips. Kathy’s hands are on her breasts, and her head is nestled between her thighs.
It’s the shock that keeps me silent, watching and staring and not making a sound. They’re oblivious to my presence, and the noise of pleasure is like an evil song; it used to be my favorite when it came from me. Still, they look so beautiful together, Jessie and this stranger, this red-haired bitch (God, I wish I had hair like that) is in my place, and my groin turns moist with jealous wanting.
I could join them, or I could scream, or I could just stand there, waiting for them to finish. I could sneak up behind Jessie and slip a finger into her. I could grab her by the hair and pull her off, slap the both of them, chase the bitch out into the street. Or, I could just stand there, wanting and watching and feeling the empty ache of sex that should be mine but isn’t.
The redhead has opened her eyes and is tapping Jessie on the shoulder, who looks up and turns to me, but stays there, between the imposter’s legs. Sweaty strands of hair lay across her eyes, she’s sticky-wet around her mouth, and glistening in the sunlight.
Can she tell by my face how angry I am? Can she tell how much I want her right now? I never find out, because before she can speak (what would she have said?), I’m running for the bathroom, making it just in time before what remains of last night’s Chinese comes up into the world again, along with the stench of bile, and a slight, imagined or real, aftertaste of sex.
The quiet, subdued moaning that shortly reached my ears told me they were still out there. Oblivious to my presence, I was a ghost, a minor interruption. I could see them clearly; the closed door did not stop the horrible yet beautiful vision from appearing in my mind, playing itself out like a short film, no soundtrack, just small gasps of pleasure. Wrapped in each other’s arms, tongues intertwined, fingers rubbing and caressing, breasts nipple to nipple. God, I can’t believe I was getting turned on again.
She approached me later, after I’d flushed half my intestines down the toilet and cried away half my pain. I sat there, enclosed within the confines of the bathroom, sealed away and protected from the torturous sight beyond the door.
“Kathy,” she says, standing in the doorway. Blank expression, no smile, but no guilt either, and it’s just as well, because right now I don’t care how she feels.
“Are you okay?”
No, you fucking bitch, I am definitely not okay, you just fucked a complete stranger in my bed, in our bed, and it should have been me. When’s the last time you did me like that? I think this, but I don’t say it, because if I say it, I’ll scream it, and if I scream it, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop screaming.
“I thought I should leave you alone awhile.”
Leave me alone forever, what do I care, you already chewed my heart into a million bloody pieces and spit them on the floor.
“Are you okay to talk?”
Staring at the floor, I can’t say a thing. I don’t even want to speak to her, but I can’t tell her to go away. Checkered tile, cold and dirty, Kathy’s turn to clean. Always neglectful of her chores, neglectful of me, of my feelings, of my existence. Just leave me alone.
Leaning against the doorjamb, so casually, arms crossed, white t-shirt down to her beautiful thighs, her nipples are dark circles through the thin fabric. Look back down at the floor, I remind myself. I’m supposed to be angry.
“I know things have been fucked up between us for awhile.”
I wonder what I can use for a weapon. Razor? Don’t see one. Just smash her head into the mirror? Too much to clean up. The bathroom is making me dizzy, the tiles are some obscure hypnotic pattern, M.C. Escher, blurry vision, and my head feels numb, my brain has melted.
“I’m sorry you had to see that.”
Sorry you got caught. Sorry I was sick. Sorry I came home. Sorry I ever loved you. How many days, how many times have I been folding clothes while you fucked her? The steady drip of the faucet counts off. One day. Two days. Three days.
“It was a mistake-”
In the corner, the bottle of pills has rolled away, I dropped it when? When I heard the inevitable climax from the bedroom. The suction of a parting kiss. The bottle is empty, and I am full; it was a lot easier than I thought, each little white pill sliding over my tongue one by one, like tiny soldiers on a mission, every singular, pleasurable sound from beyond the door spurring them onward.
“-but I’m sure you’ve made mistakes too-”
What? She’s looking away, droning on, and the words (what words) I want to say are frozen in Limbo.
“-I’ve been driving you away, I’ve been such a bitch-”
“-you would have been a fool not to have cheated on me, the horrible way I’ve treated you-”
Oh, what’s the point? Finish your fucking speech, you psycho bitch. I don’t care anymore. The bathroom is one big blurry mess, and I can feel the tears landing on my legs before I realize I’m crying.
“-so maybe we can just call it even and start over-”
Her voice is lost, muffled, the pressure in my head too much, the faucet is still counting, and I just want to sleep for a very long time. The bathroom floor is cold, and I think I feel Jessie’s arms around me. If I wake up again, I wonder if she’ll be there beside me.