Shawna is toweling off her shower-pink skin with my one-and-only extra towel. There is nothing sexy about the mechanical and functional way she is drying herself. With head bowed, she’s examining some skin irritation on the shin of her still-drip-speckled leg. She looks at me. Looks at me, somehow, with her nose parallel to the floor and intense green eyes staring up at me and up from her face. It is haunting how dead and submissive her gaze is.
“What’s wrong, honey?”
So much, I think to myself. Jumbled and crashing together with that thought is an automatic response; it comes from my mouth as the uhh sound meets the ch sound in my mind.
Her eyes come to life flashing doubt, but not caring. Shawna strikes a “sexy” pose. I yawn. Right leg angled, as in resting lightly on her big right toe, body thus angled left and her right arm brings her right index finger to her lower lip and pulls it down ever so slightly. This pose is mimicked by would-be bathroom seductresses around the world. I am sure you’ve seen it tattooed on a left calf on some summer day or another. It bores me tonight.
Don’t get me wrong, though—under normal circumstances it can be one of the most achingly-adorable things a man can be privy to. Usually I would be all over her—all up in her. Not tonight. Not with her, anyway. I am done and I really don’t care anymore. In my youth I would have been able to push my upper brain out of the way and rely solely on my lower, baser, “brain” (said “brain,” having gotten me into this situation, is on my shit list at the moment; and since its yearnings were taken care of earlier, I can easily tell it to fuck off) and get on with the matter at hand. Tonight, I don’t want to wrestle or trick or really even deal with either of my brains and I am forcing myself to be content with that.
At some point in my adult sex life, without my knowledge, the once-persistent and annoying urge to spread some seed has slowly dissipated. The drive has slowed to a mere Sunday cruise around the countryside and my cranial brain has taken the wheel. Even so, it is still my penis/testes that got me into this fucking situation (take that as you may).
Out of my thoughts and back to the steamy and chilly bathroom. Over Shawna’s head I spy the tragic trio of bathing supplies she brought over last week. The simple little containers of body wash, shampoo, and conditioner make me want to wail with sadness. They mean something. The containers are like stakes in the Oklahoma territory land rush. This stuff thinks my bathroom can come as cheap. I want her to be wrong, but I am not totally sure.
“Baby do you have any soda?”
“Will you grab me one?”
I’m heading back down the dark hall with her goddamned soda, somehow avoiding the sconces that are just waiting to take a nip at my forehead. For some reason it all just pisses me off. I make a U-turn and stop in front of the liquor cabinet; I take a quick tug at the whiskey bottle and I’m back on my way to bring her the precious freaking soda.
By now she has made a nest for herself in my bed. As the cola can hisses hello to Shawna, I begin my descent toward the mattress and hand her the lukewarm can. The refrigerator needs some kind of tune-up and that would require calling the landlord, but enough. There are more pressing things to think about. This could be a proper time to break the news to Shawna that we need to break up. After a couple healthy gulps at the soda and what appears to be a very satisfying belch, she leans over me to set the can upon a book on the bedside table. Her bare nipple brushes my bare chest and my dick starts to rustle around in my shorts; but I will fight that urge. Really I am anxious to find out what Raskolnikov is up to … that crazy motherfucker. No more sex tonight and hopefully no more sex with her ever again.
“Do you mind if I read?”
“Not at all. I’m sleepy.”
With my left hand I balance the book into a generally-readable position. Now I make a spot for Shawna on my right shoulder and bring her in with my right arm. She gently snuggles in and I begin to ease her to sleep by softly running my fingers through her just-cleansed hair. My heart leaps just a little bit. This moment and moments such as these, I truly love. To me it is perfect: a dead author tickles my synapses and a beautiful live woman tickles my chest hair. I lightly kiss the top of Shawna’s fragrant head. Almost asleep, she murmurs acknowledgement and thanks.
I really do cherish moments like these, even with Shawna. Of course in my mind’s eye she is somebody else, somebody who makes sense. All this one does is fill space ’til something better comes along, something that is someone with whom I can see a future. Sadly for Shawna she rarely has an original thought. Tonight has been no different. Her main problem is that she is an actual idiot. There is nothing less attractive than someone who is grossly uninformed and an absolute parrot; unfortunately, Shawna is both.
So all I can tell myself tonight is “whatever.” I give in to sleep and pledge to spend more time in late 19th Century Russia tomorrow. My sleep is plagued by images of dead pawnbrokers and their sisters. These dreams startle me awake and I find myself hemmed in by Shawna and the open expanse of floor held off by the edge of the bed. Nowhere to go but back to sleep. During the brief waking periods I start to map a course of action; it becomes clear to me that I—we—are at a crossroads. Perhaps it is time to settle. The question is: Do I settle for this sexually-fulfilling and intellectually-empty relationship, or do I move on and continue to fight the good fight in search of true love?
Morning comes as a welcome distraction from my embattled dream consciousness. Back to the kitchen and the coffee I set to brew at 6:30 a.m. It is ready and I am looking forward to a cup and a smoke—a moment of peaceful morning solitude on the balcony just off the kitchen. I head out to bask in the glorious 7:00 a.m. birdsong quiet.
“Shawna, kiddo the coffee is ready. Time to get up and attack the day,” I yell down the hall.
“Can you bring me some?”
I start to make my way back down the hall toward the bedroom.
“Got you covered. Here you go,” I say, carefully handing her the hot, hot coffee.
I glance past my book and notice the empty blue box of condoms on the middle shelf of the bedside stand cum bookshelf. I am suddenly stricken by the thought that we have been together for 36 condoms and really no more. It is like some kind of beautiful way of marking time, except a really horrible kind of beautiful.
“Are you working today?” she asks as she slips into a pair of my flannel lounge pants.
“For some part of the day, I suppose.”
“Maybe we can go see a movie tonight?”
I don’t want to see a movie with her; but at the same time I don’t really want to spend the night alone. Being with her tonight appears to be the lesser of two evils; but she’s left the room and it’s nice to be away from her for a moment.
Hearing the balcony door groan shut I am able to sleuth out that Shawna is out back having her first cigarette of the day. I follow. My own need for nicotine trumps any thoughts I have of leaving Shawna alone for a bit. Back outside it seems more beautiful than before; Shawna looks beautiful. I feel beautiful and alive. Spring is supposedly the time for new love, rebirth, and all that shit. I think I want that. I think it is time for a talk.
“Soooo, where do you see this thing going?”
“Us?” she asks as she dribbles ash into her coffee.
“Yeah. What’s our deal?”
“I don’t know. You know, I don’t know how I feel about you—about us. I mean, I am kind of you know, content, but maybe just afraid to be alone?”
“Oh I know.”
What the fuck? These are my thoughts and feelings. She beat me to the verbalizing of them. Hmmmm. More to the point, she can’t be unsure of me—that hurts.
“I like you and all.”
“You know …”
“Know? Never mind. Well what do we do now?”
“I don’t know. How long have we been together?”
I can’t really recall specifics about any part of our time together. I know we cooked and then ate what we cooked; we watched movies; we had sex; we slept; we dated. All these things we did together, but we weren’t really connected or connecting. It all seems like wasted time—the kind of time period where you learn things like what not to do and what doesn’t work. Generally these are uncomfortable lessons to recognize and usually more uncomfortable to utilize in the future. It all feels hollow and depressing. The whole thing seems slightly tragic; but not quite as tragic as those goddamned soap containers.
Finally it is time for her go. I accompany Shawna to the door and the whole time I know we’ll see a movie tonight and we’ll probably use the 37th condom of our relationship; but I also know the end is insight. We are almost free of each other. Eventually the letting down gently that we are each doing to the other will be done. We’ll both be down and we’ll both move on. It’s not quite bad enough yet to pull the cord.
“Have a good day, Shawna.”
“Let’s see that movie tonight, hey?”
“Maybe. Call me.”
While I am brushing my teeth, I catch a glimpse of the travel toiletries. The shampoo is empty and I am empty. I suppose it is time to refill one or the other.
Erik is a cog in the works by day and a dreamer by night. He works and lives in Minneapolis.
Email Erik at firstname.lastname@example.org.