She opens her eyes and sees the sky. Today is a perfect day. The window is right next to her bed and she keeps her curtains open, so she can always see the skyline in the morning. Today has a perfect sky. It is a very blue sky and very clear. She doesn’t have anything to do today either. Everything is fine at work. Everything is fine. Her mother is fine, not sick again, so she doesn’t have to worry about her. She has friends, and her feelings haven’t been hurt by a friend in a while. She has a good job and a nice apartment in a great city. And she had a date yesterday. She had a date with a perfect man. He is not too much younger, or older, than she is. He is good-looking, educated, and charming. He cooked for her too. And he was charming. She can still feel where he was on her bed.
She gets up to go to the bathroom. She looks in the mirror and wonders if she looked that messy last night. Maybe it was good to look that messy though, unnoticeable at least. She has to do something about her hair. Her hair is too straight to really do anything creative with. Her hair is just too straight.
Today she wonders, for the first time in her life, what animal, if any, she most resembles. Not a pig really, but a warthog, maybe. Maybe she looks like a warthog. When she smiles, the way her cheeks curl, it can possibly look like she has tusks. She smiles and frowns repeatedly in the mirror. Her nose can be very pig-like too, the way her nostrils are so obvious. And sometimes she thinks she has no mouth. No, she does not have a very prominent mouth. Yes, she kind of looks like a warthog. Even her forehead now is obviously the forehead of a warthog. How could she not have noticed this before today? She has a big warthog’s head on a frumpy boy’s body. This must be why she hates dancing in public. One of her friends always makes her dance when they go out. It starts with a simple come dance with me.
You go dance and I’ll watch.
Fine, I don’t want to dance alone. We’ll just sit here.
No, you go dance. Honestly, I just don’t feel like it.
Come on. Come dance with me. Do it for me, please.
All right, I will later. Let me drink first.
You can drink while we’re dancing.
I’ll just finish my drink first.
She ends up on the dance floor eventually, feeling all eyes on her. Her uncomfortable body, and its uncomfortable movements, are judged by all the men watching her. Men who are thinking about women and how they move their bodies. This is a dumb way to move an ugly body. Suddenly she realizes that all those men who have ever watched her dance must have been thinking exactly that. She does not ever want to dance but she does it, she dances sometimes. It makes her feel dumpy.
In the future she will do something with her hair. But first she has to brush her teeth. The brush seems especially rough against her gums today. It seems as if the brush will move her gums up further and further until there is a small ridged space between her teeth and gums where blood will slowly dribble down. She can feel her gums get tighter and tighter as they are being pushed back by the brush. The brush has a job to do and it is to take away the gums, take off all the gums, move them back, whether they want to go or not. Maybe she will stop brushing her teeth for a while, a couple of days or so. That way her gums get a rest. Unless, of course, he calls tomorrow and wants to see her again tomorrow, or in a couple of days. Maybe it would be good if he doesn’t call her for a couple of days. Yes, that might be good so that she doesn’t have to brush her teeth and her gums get a rest.
Maybe she should shower too. She usually showers before she goes to bed though. Maybe she should put on some clothes, go out and do something. Maybe she should even put some perfume on today. She never really wears any perfume, but she always has one bottle somewhere. She doesn’t like how everybody can tell she has perfume on when she puts on perfume. She obviously does not smell that good naturally, nobody does. She also never knows if she put on too much. Years ago her college roommate would spray perfume on her even when she had said she didn’t want any. Her roommate wouldn’t even ask if she wanted to put any on, she would just spray it on her. It would sometimes get in her eyes and mouth because she was unprepared for it. And for the rest of the night she would have to smell like whatever her roommate sprayed on her. She knew that as finicky as her roommate was about her perfume, if she had sprayed her with something that she liked the smell of, her roommate would have been furious. What could she have done though? Some conversations don’t seem worth having.
Why did you just do that?
Spray that stuff on me without asking?
I’m sorry. We’re going out though, I thought you might want to smell good.
But you didn’t even ask me first.
I love this perfume.
But you didn’t ask me.
I’m sorry. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal.
Don’t spray perfume on me again.
Fine. What’s wrong with you tonight anyway?
Then maybe her roommate would feel bad about having sprayed perfume on her. Maybe her roommate would feel dumb. She wanted to avoid all that. It is better to just allow people to be themselves around you, without making them feel dumb. So she would just walk out with the perfume on and explain to herself why it might be a good thing to have perfume on. It made her sick sometimes, all that perfume would get in her eyes.
Shower. Don’t shower. Shower. Don’t shower, don’t shower. She resists the urge to try and scrape at her skin because she feels there is no reason to indulge that urge. Something is wrong with her head today. It is making her sick.
She needs some music. The stereo is across from her bed, also by the huge window. With only her underwear on, she bends her body so she can fiddle with the dials. This she does most mornings so she can listen to music while she is getting ready to go to work. Today, however, she becomes more and more anxious as she imagines her body as a target. She imagines somebody watching her from one of the other apartment buildings. He is chuckling and snickering, planning to shoot an arrow at her. He will shoot an arrow into her anus because she is bent over, she is a target. If she does not move away quickly she will be in a great deal of pain. The arrow may go up and out through her mouth if she does not move away.
She turns off the radio and goes back to bed. She was so proud of her bed yesterday. All the shades of blue on one bed made such a beautiful bed. The fact that she chose so many shades of blue and put them all on one bed is one of the signs that she has a good life, a life of her own making. He must have noticed that.
Maybe she doesn’t feel well just because of the wine. She usually doesn’t have that much wine, but she got caught up in the moment yesterday. How many glasses of wine were there? One before he came over, because she was happy and nervous at the same time. One on the couch with him, one at the kitchen table, one on the couch again, with him. A total of four glasses of wine, but they may have been very full glasses. Maybe it was really more like five, or six, glasses of wine. She shouldn’t be drinking that much. She can’t be sure what is going on with her because she drank so much. Maybe she is too old now to be drinking that much and that’s what’s making her sick. She can smell him still on the bed and that doesn’t seem good for her stomach. Something is not right today. But it is a perfect day. Everything is right in her life. Work is fine, and she has friends, and she even has a boyfriend now, maybe.
If he calls and she is happy to hear his voice, then nothing is wrong. If he calls and she does not feel sick when she hears his voice, then there is really nothing wrong. It is no big deal to her. She is probably just nervous because he may not call again. Yes, if she knew whether or not he would, or wouldn’t, call she wouldn’t be so queasy. Maybe she should wash the sheets because her stomach is off today. Then she can stay in bed all day and think about him.
She recaps in her mind. She starts from the very beginning so as to anticipate the moment he walked in the door yesterday. He is very good-looking.
She met him through Margaret at work. Margaret told her that they would be perfect together because he is so mature and so ready to settle down. He has been one of Margaret’s best friends for a long time. He and Margaret tried to date and see if anything was there, but fortunately for her, there wasn’t. Margaret told her about the time they tried to have sex. Years ago they went back to her place drunk and slept on the same bed. He darted his tongue in and out of Margaret’s mouth, which turned Margaret off. He kept trying to rub on Margaret’s hips with his groin and she could feel him limp against her. Margaret was so turned off at that point that she had to turn around and pretend to be sleeping. He stopped rubbing up against her then. This story made him seem impotent and feckless. But Margaret insisted that he was very mature and very kind. There was just no chemistry between them, she told her. She also told her about the times he had been there for her without wanting anything in return. He is just one of those people, a good friend, a rare catch. So Margaret took her along for a drink. She and her friend had already planned to meet up. She could meet him and see what she thought. He was surprisingly good-looking for somebody who would rub his dead groin on his friend’s hip fecklessly. His voice was very deep and his movements were very slow. She liked him. He looked at her intently when she spoke. But he didn’t call right away. He waited a week, which was good because it made her very excited to hear from him when he did call. He decided they should meet at a fast-food restaurant. He ordered a coke, that he paid for, and she had a hamburger, that she paid for. The conversation was good though. He could talk about anything. She knew she really liked him when they were talking about why people have children. She thought it important to bring up all kinds of philosophies and theories on why childrearing is, and is not, a selfish act. He said it was all very simple.
Children just make some people happier.
Not all people. You are making a human life, you know? The implications of …
Children make people happier because they make their day-to-day lives about something other than theoretical implications.
He spoke slowly, moved slowly, and always seemed sure of what he thought. He could talk about his work, but without complaining, or seeming too enthusiastic. He could talk about travel, and the cultures of different countries he’d been to, but without being judgmental, or naive. He knows all kinds of things. He is a man of the world.
They talked on the phone a few times after that. Mostly to work something out so they could see each other again. He turned out to be very mature. He called when he said he would call. He called at the exact time he said he would call.
Yesterday was their second date. He came over to cook for her. This made up for the hamburger. It made him perfect. It was very reasonable to not spend money on somebody you don’t know yet. It’s not like he’s desperate. But when they got to know each other better he cooked for her, an intimate giving gesture. He is thrifty and loving. She was so nervous that she had to have just one drink before he came over. No one had ever cooked for her before. Usually she has a couple of dates with a bad-looking person, somewhere mediocre, and she never gets called again, and doesn’t really want to get a call most of the time. Here was a real man coming to make pasta for her. They talked about ingredients and wine like a team. He made her feel as if she was part of a team. He walked in and he looked good. He is good-looking. He brought his own spices for the sauce, but no flowers. That was good though because flowers are a waste of money, and he is too sincere for superficial gestures. He is not interested in superficial gestures and the spices were necessary so he could cook for her. They drank wine. He cooked. He looked especially good cooking because he was moving very slowly and he was making the kitchen warm and nice-smelling. They could talk about everything and laugh a little, not in that silly way though, in a very mature way. They laughed the way people do when they are having a mature, adult conversation. He made her feel as if she could be herself, but not get away with anything. He lets her know when he thinks she is not thinking logically, but he lets her express herself patiently.
If they had money then they wouldn’t be saying that …
That is not necessarily true. Lots of people who have that much money know what to do with it, and what it is really worth to them.
It must be hard to work for something like …
If you are only doing it for the money, maybe.
They sat on the couch after dinner and he got close to her, facing her. He looked into her eyes as she spoke, he smiled perfectly. It was not too big a smile, one that would be on the verge of immature, but not a smirk either.
I think it is easier to travel alone if you’re a man.
In certain ways, maybe, but not in every way.
I have a friend who has a geography degree and she said it hasn’t been difficult at all to find jobs in this area.
Isn’t it always less difficult to find jobs in some areas than in others depending on what you do?
I’m sorry about the books on the floor. I always think I will get to them but I don’t.
Why don’t you?
You know, I just get busy.
By the time I come home from work, relax for a while, eat, take a shower, it’s time to go to bed and do it all over again the next day.
It’s all about momentum. It would only take an hour out of your day to pick something up and read it.
Then he reached for her face and kissed her. So he does dart his tongue back and forth in people’s mouths, but she thought it was cute. Kissing him felt really good actually because it meant that he really had come over to cook for her, and that the pasta meant what she thought it meant. Then everything he did to her felt better and better as he kept doing things to her. He made wonderful noises too. He was not enthusiastic enough to be gauche, but not quiet enough to not be enthusiastic. He got up and slowly moved into the bedroom silently. She followed him. Despite the wine she was still so nervous that her heart wanted to beat right out of her chest. Here was a good-looking man who wanted to cook for her and have sex with her. Everything was perfect. Then suddenly she wondered whether or not they should be doing what they were doing at all. Besides the phone calls, last night was only their second or third time in the same room with each other. But it was all so wonderful, him standing over a stove in the kitchen while she watched him move as she sat on the couch. She thought it would be a good idea to see how he felt about what they were doing. She should just bring it up, ask him quickly. He had only been inside her for about a minute when she asked him to stop. She whispered, Wait, stop. She thought he would stop and she would explain that she thought maybe this wasn’t the right thing to do. That’s when he would kiss her and talk her out of it. It’s right because you are wonderful, and this has been wonderful, he would say. It’s right because I have never felt so much for someone so quickly. She would stop him and say something pithy, or witty, about whether or not people should be doing what they were doing so soon after meeting each other. Stop, she whispered. Wait, stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. But he still kept going. Then his wonderful noises started to sound like loud grunts. He couldn’t hear her, maybe. Maybe he just couldn’t hear her. “Stop,” she had whispered. He still kept grunting. Was she there? He didn’t know she was there. Stop it. What to do? What to do? She could scream.
Stop it! Stop it! Stop! Just stop!
What, what are you screaming for?
I wanted you to stop and you didn’t …
Sorry, I was just trying to make love to you.
Are you deaf or something?
Actually I am. I lost my hearing in the same car accident that took my little brother two years ago.
Sorry about that.
I have to go.
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just that I had been asking you to stop and you didn’t listen so I thought I should scream so you could hear me.
I have to go. I feel stupid for coming over in the first place.
Instead of having that conversation she decided she could just stop asking him to stop and lie there. He would stop eventually and she could stare at him in the meantime. No. No. No. No, stare at the walls. This is taking a while she thought. One. Two. Three seconds. The walls, she realized then, had billions of little, faceless, fast-crawling, mindless, colorless insects darting all over them. Maybe every surface does if you really take the time to stare at it, really look. She wished they had turned the lights on. She always gets a little frightened when she is alone in the dark.
He stopped when he was all finished eventually, and rolled off of her. Everything was fine though. He wasn’t rude or anything afterwards. He even rubbed her back while he was sitting up to get ready to leave. When she told him that he could stay if he wanted to, he turned around maturely smiling.
I think I better take off so I can wake up early tomorrow, the drive from your place with the traffic …
He kissed her goodbye. So, everything was fine. He didn’t think there was anything wrong, obviously. What to feel about this? After all, not being heard is something she is somewhat used to. She always has to shorten her stories because everybody acts like she tells really long stories, but she doesn’t think she does. They begin looking away mid-sentence, or they finish her sentences for her. All her friends do this to her.
He’s the one that I told you …
The one that was married to Sandra, I know.
But I didn’t even want to go because …
Because you thought Andrew would be there, I know.
One of her friends even thinks that she talks too loud and hushes her. She just tells her to hush while she is speaking. She will be talking while they are having lunch at a restaurant, or coffee at a coffee shop, and her friend will hush her. So she can’t even finish her sentences at all when she is out with this particular friend.
This is only the feeling of not being heard. Last night may be making her sick only because of what her friends have done to her in the past. It must be residual discomfort and embarrassment from having been hushed so many times before. It has nothing to do with him. She shouldn’t take it out on him. After all she has actually been told before to get off of a chair she was sitting on because one of her friends wanted to sit there. He didn’t do anything like that. He was never rude to her.
Can I sit in front I need the space for my crutches?
But if you sit in back then you can lay them on the back seat.
Can I just sit in front?
Can I sit by the light I’m reading?
But I’m reading too.
Well, do you need all that light?
And why shouldn’t this man want to be with a woman who wants him so much, all the time, that when he is inside her she would never want to ask him to stop? Why wouldn’t he want to be around somebody who could react to him not stopping by being flattered? Everybody wants that woman. Nobody wants to feel stupid. Everybody wants someone who will react the way they want them to react when they do certain things. That is what makes her feel loved, it is probably what makes everybody else feel loved too. When somebody reacts to something she does in the way she wants them to react to it she feels as if she was not stupid for doing it. And she is tired of waiting for people’s reactions to be what she needs them to be to feel loved. She seems to always be waiting for people to touch her when she’s sad, or call her when they’re angry. It is just silly. It is not mature. She can’t live her whole life feeling like this.
She rolls around in her bed and smells him. The sheets have kept him preserved the best. She imagines him hushing her, like a mother hushes while trying to put her baby to sleep in her arms. He is hushing her as she asks him to stop. Stop. His hands move slowly towards her to gently cup her face. He looks right into her eyes, kisses her mouth gently over and over again. Then he brushes her cheeks faintly with his lips as he moves his lips closer and closer to her ears so he can whisper, hush. Hush, he whispers, as he kisses her ears slowly. He moves so slowly. She looks at him and whispers stop, breathlessly. Her mouth is barely touching his mouth as she speaks, her eyes begging for him. Stop it. Stop.
Hush. Just hush.