It was the first time he’d been to my apartment, and the suspense boiled hot in my guts. Would we laugh? Would we fight? Our fights could level cities, and we hadn’t even kissed yet. We dodged someone waiting for the elevator and headed for the stairs. Impossible to know which random stranger worked for the company, or maybe took pilates with his wife.
I’d never noticed how decrepit the stairs were until I imagined the way they looked to someone like him. He had the kind of house where mulch was dropped at the end of the driveway by a dump truck. A place someone like me would never know except from the stories he told me. Back then he told me everything.
His favorite song flooded us when I opened the door, and I knew he must’ve known I’d planned it. He smiled.
“Do you want a tour?” I asked, although there wasn’t much to see. Living area, bedroom, bathroom. I apologized for the mess, even though I’d spent hours cleaning.
“Sit with me,” he said.
I’d been dreaming about it for weeks, what it would feel like to be this close to him. How we would finally talk side-by-side, not staring each other sheepishly in the face across a desk or café table. He had a face that was hard to look at and talk to at the same time. Dark, serious eyes. Salt and pepper stubble. He sat lengthways on the couch and I lay across his chest. I put my hands under his back to keep them from shaking. I breathed in. His cologne was too strong, and I could smell his sweat underneath it. If he’d been obtainable I might’ve been repulsed.
“You smell good,” I said.
I pulled my hand out, and he held his hand up to see how much bigger his was than mine. Then he ran warm fingers up and down my waist and across my back like a father. I absorbed the shock waves, tried to think of something important to say.
“I just want to inhale you.”
“Such a sensual little thing, aren’t you?” he replied.
I sat up to face him, and his eyes turned from spring to winter. Can’t lose control with you, he’d said. “Why can’t you just let us be what we are?” I was always saying. “Someday,” he was always saying.
I leaned forward, buried my face in his neck. He didn’t pull away. The music continued to play, dreamy and convincing. He rested his hands at his sides, which I should have taken as a sign but didn’t. Instead, I ran my lips across his ear, his cheek. Then, my mouth touched his mouth. He tasted sour and rotten, or maybe it was me. He sat, unmoving, not kissing me back.
Brittany Terwilliger is Managing Editor at Pithead Chapel and her novel, The Insatiables (Chicago Review Press) was published in 2018. Her short fiction has appeared in JMWW, Ghost Parachute, Five:2:One, Ponder Review, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere, and has been nominated for Best of the Net. Find her on Twitter @Brttnyblm.