All There Was to Say
All there was to say when Leslie told me, was fuck. And then more of the same. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. It was all I could say and all I could do. Those words encapsulated entire feelings and thoughts, the anger, the love and the disbelief. And then Leslie started to cry.
What a scene it was, the two of us with the lights off, sitting there on the kitchen floor with our backs up against the stove. Her tears kept coming and her shoulders shook. I put the orange I'd been peeling between us on the white linoleum floor, and with sticky hands I reached out to Leslie and pulled her close. I lied and told her it would be okay. I lied because things wouldn't be okay, and I knew it. She knew it too. But lies are good. Sometimes they're all we've got. Someday maybe things would be better. Someday they'd turn out okay. Not this day, or the next or the one after. Nothing and no one would be okay. And it would be like this for her and for me for a long time coming, and only time, as slow as it ever was, would do any good.
I held her there against me as she cried, and all I could think about was how my arms were around the same woman who a month earlier had someone else to hold her, and how all this shit now coming down was a direct result. I could feel my dick getting hard and it made me feel bad and sick but I couldn't stop it. You can't stop the automatic. Its like trying to stop the ocean waves from eating the beach. There isn't a chance in the world, it's what Mother Nature does. The bitch gives and she takes away just as easy.
I ask Leslie even though I already know the answer. The way her face was scrunched up into itself, her nose and eyes all puffy and red, it made me think of a newborn. And she tells me that it wasn't mine. That it was his. And hers. They had screwed and with that horrible knowledge I could feel the hot knife blade poking around in my gut, and the thought of Leslie with him, some fuck she barely knew. And with no idea what to do now, we just sat there on the cold kitchen floor with the half-peeled orange between us. I wanted to help and hurt and kill and bleed and run and turn back time and all of those things all into one, but all I could do was apologize. For what I didn't know.
Have you called him, I ask? Does he know? She tells me that she has and that yes he knows, but that he hasn't called back because he is busy with work. He works a lot, Leslie tells me. She is in this deep. She is one half of the equation, and here I am on the outside looking in and I already know the score. I know he's running and that he isn't going to call or offer an apology or money and I know what type of guy he is and the only thing that'll work for this him is a nine-iron upside his head. But I don't say any of this because Leslie doesn't need to hear the truth. Not yet, and not when the truth is about as bad as it can get. Not when the truth will tell her what she already knows: she is alone.
We keep holding onto one another, like nothing will hurt either one of us as long as I'm there to protect her, like I'm her father and not her ex. I whisper through her long curly blonde hair that she'll be okay, and I keep telling her this, that in the end it'll be all right. I tell Leslie that life is dirty, that we're all dirty and shit happens. Its like we've been lucky for so long that something like this was bound to happen. Just, fuck, not this. And as I let go of Leslie she wraps her arms around me tighter, holding on, sucking me in. We sit there, not moving, barely breathing, just existing with the crazy dark swirling over us, wrapping around us like a ghost.
We finally let go and I see her eyes and her lips quiver and she tells me that she feels gutted, and that even when her friend Eve went with her to the clinic that she felt all alone and cold in the stirrups and that was when it set in that she was one of those girls. One of those girls who makes a mistake and feels ashamed, and the guy rolls on. One of those girls. And I tell Leslie that this is some Maury Povich talk-show bullshit. She laughs, if only for a few seconds.
Leslie tells me that she can't eat or sleep, says she's been drinking and smoking for the last three days. I see it in her eyes, and I tell her that for someone who is navigating through the shit storm that she is right now, she still looks as beautiful as the first day I met her. Again I lie, because really when I look at her sitting beside me I also see a girl who I loved who fucked some guy and let him come inside her and now she's crying and wanting me to help her out and all I can think about is how if things weren't so messed up she'd still be bending over for the other guy. And I think about her in those stirrups all alone in some fucking white room clinic with paintings of beaches on the walls and a five-month old People magazine in the waiting room and I immediately want to find this guy and put a cinder block up his ass and pull it out through his throat. I can feel the hot knife poking around in my stomach again, and I wonder why I'm here for her, why I'm here in the dark with Leslie.
I tell her that it is late, that she looks like she needs some sleep. I tell her to shower. Take a hot one, I say. I tell her I'll make her bed up and put on some tea and that I will take care of her. What I don't say is that a big part of me is wishing to run like the other guy already has, just take off, fly, get gone.
I put the tea on as she starts the shower, and I can peek through the bathroom door that has never fully closed and watch as she slides her panties down over her hips and her breasts slip out from under her black bra and she stands there waiting for the shower to heat up. I instantly want to hold her, to grab her, to feel her skin on my hands and to kiss her neck and forget all of this shit. She steps behind the shower curtain and is gone in a moment, disappearing from my eyes. I move from the kitchen into the bedroom and flick on the lights. I go about making the bed and I begin to wonder if this is where it happened and what position and if she sucked his dick or he made her come or if she was better with him or if I was smaller or larger or if he looked better naked. All of that truth we all think about but never admit to. It is better that way.
Leslie calls to me from the bathroom. Steven, she says. Come here. She's never really called me by my whole name, and it shocks me, like hearing my mom mad at me. But I go in and there she is naked and inviting me to join her, and just then the tea kettle starts whistling, but I don't care at this point, with Leslie inviting me in, telling me she needs me, to feel something other than what she feels right now. She says she needs to feel close to me. And before I know what I'm doing or the ramifications of getting naked with an ex, my clothes are dropping to the ground like the first night we spent together. I step in and hold Leslie's soft smooth body to mine, and let the hot water cascade over our shoulders and run down our bodies, washing the dirt away. I soap her hair and wash her back and she brushes against my dick and laughs about how hard I am and I feel bad, like getting a boner in church when the preacher is talking about how Jesus died for all of our sins. But Leslie laughs and tells me that I was always up for sex, and as she laughs the hot water brings life to her face, as if it has ironed out the last few days of no sleep and cigarettes. She smiles, and in the kitchen the tea kettle keeps on whistling, and in that one simple smile I forget everything and it is just her and I and we are laid bare in front of one another and it is like we've been born again with the hot water slipping over our skin and falling between our toes.
Leslie leaves the shower first and runs to the bed. I turn off the stove and let the tea cool. I pour two cups of tea into the mugs we bought on vacation in The Outer Banks a year ago. How did we get from that to this? I add milk and honey to her tea, the way she likes it, and I stir it as I bring the mug to her bedside.
That night I stay above the covers, clothes on, stroking her hair as she falls asleep, falls into a world for a few hours where none of this mess has happened, where she can fly or pass through time and space with a single flip of a switch, where anything and everything is possible. The only thing that stays the same is change, I whisper to her. I tell her time will heal all of this, and I can hear her breathing from under the covers. I spoon her and for a few hours we stay like that and I barely can sleep because all I want to do is hold onto her. We all need things to hold onto, and for these few hours I'm beside her, I can have her. She is mine. Nothing can touch us as long as we remain here in her apartment. Not that guy, not the past or present. Its like time will stop if we just stay here, Leslie and I. Because once we walk out that front door and into the daylight, reality will come back and hit us. That is just the way of things, I whisper to Leslie.
The hours pass and finally I have to go. I get up slowly, not wanting to leave, and grab her keys from the mantel where the clock reads 5:17am. I wonder where the time has gone, how we get from there to the here and now. For a moment I just stand there in her living room and stare at the clock. I make sure I am quiet, like I am seven again and sneaking my way into the family living room to spy on Santa Claus. But those days of peace of childhood has long since passed us by.
I unlock the front door and step out into the chilly morning air and take in the silence of the world at this hour. I turn back, lock her door, and slip the keys underneath and head off into the morning darkness.
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