The fan is on the dresser. His mail is on the floor. Tara is on top. His hands are gripping each hip like a pair of octopuses (octopi? she wonders, am I smarter than a fifth grader?). It’s not her first choice, but necessary, and better than missionary.
He greeted her at the door with a note. She wonders now if it’s the same note every time, if he reuses it or writes a new one.
Please look straight at me when you talk, but you don’t have to slow down or talk loud, just speak normally.
His hands were like butterflies, sketching the air so beautifully she almost understood, but handed him the pencil anyway. Each time he silently thrusts into her, she dubs his voice in her head, amusing herself by giving him accents, or a particularly high or low voice.
His mouth is knit shut but his hands are stars—the sign he makes, she knows. He presses it into her breast and her belly, as if he could send the words inside her, too, through her “little extra” (“Tara’s got a little extra in all the right places, I know you’ll love her,” so deftly phrased and yet humiliating when waiting for a caller to say yes, yes to rent and savings and crème brulee at Sorrel). The knuckles pushing into her stomach start to hurt, and she takes his hand away, smiling, and strokes his arm. He takes her hand, spreads her fingers with his and tries to make her make the sign.
Learning the words in fifty different languages in grade three, Mrs. Bradshaw unveiling her surprise on the last day of school, “This one I know you all can do—and I know you will know it the rest of your life! And guess what? This one gesture means all three words! Can you all do it?”
They could. She won’t.
Everyone has a boundary and this one is the fence Tara rides every month, coyotes out, cattle in, her dad still calls cheerfully at the early darkness of late October, the last day he'll ride out before the snows come and it’s a tractor job. You have to have something, she thinks, something you won’t do, no matter how much. Something you still own.
His hands are like knives, he wants her to say it, he’s pushing her fingers, trying to fold down the two in the middle, and when she makes a fist like a stone he pries her pinky until it bends back and she punches him hard in the nose with her other hand, her strong southpaw arm straight down, punching through and not to, like you’re aiming for the back of his skull, sweetheart, and he will take his hands right off you. Then run.
Tara does not run. She reaches between her legs and holds the base of the condom around him, his penis now a Grinch’s heart, two sizes too small. His hands are on his face, the blood is running out between his fingers.
She washes her hands and puts her skirt and blouse back on, in the bathroom, fairly quickly.
There is a high keening, at first she thinks the air conditioner has broken, and then she sees his mouth open, his chest heaving each time he gulps and resets, the sound coming in waves. His hands are balls, his eyes puckered. Tara crosses to the dresser, glances at the fan, easy to count, snaps it shut, squares the bills, puts them in her purse. He is still keening, high and thin and slightly broken, the harmonica from the bottom of her brother’s toy chest. As she shuts the door, she turns the handle, slows the closing to make no shudder in the wall.
She crosses the lobby, smiling impersonally at the concierge, I was here to see a friend, you are the help, and steps into the sun, blind until she roots out her probably-real-Chanels. Sonchai is across the street, her driver’s rock-star parking karma attributed by himself to excellent behavior in a previous life. She catches his eye and waves.
whipchick's favorite creme brulee is the cucumber version at The Admiral in Asheville - a place that looks like they fix transmissions during the day and serve food at night, but is nevertheless amazing. Try the arugula/roquefort/hazelnut/apple salad.