He wasn’t there to hit her any more. Not that it had ever actually come to physical blows. There was the time she’d thrown the wrought iron skillet full of what might have been paella at him from across the kitchenette, but he was quick, and it only stained his pants. The stain of saffron never came out of the paint, or the countertop. Still, she was no longer in her body, his words slashing at her, and the image of his eyes peering seriously, almost hatefully though the depth of her mind at her, here, now.
A gentle knocking on the door. This man, not him, asking if she was ok. This man was kind. He was interested in her, approved of her, and she took pleasure even in his admiration of the frivolous things which busied her mind throughout the day. This man sat glimmering eyed across the table from her while she talked about shoes, schedules, and all the reasons why it wasn’t going to be possible to stay the night. So much to do, so many things to accomplish before sometime next week when something she couldn’t remember anymore was going to happen.
He had never been interested in those things. He was only interested in himself. He would demand his dinner in very much the same way he demanded sex. He would eat just as quickly too, and with no more concern for her participation, or contribution. He was a pig, but rather than abuse him for this, she chose to suffer, and destroy herself instead.
She listened to the sound of this man’s feet moving away from the door, the tap running in the kitchen, a toilet flushing. Outside the window the sound of early morning began to waft up from the street below and stumble against the glass. Busses make so much noise when you live in the upper flat. She had no idea. She’d never lived in an upper unit.
This man had been delicate. His warm hands seemed to know exactly where to go. It was as if this man had been reading her mind, and knew the contours of her body. She hadn’t expected their dinner to turn into an interlude, but somehow they got to kissing, and this man was so patient. She pressed against his shoulder softly to get a bit better leverage against the slippery couch, and this man rolled onto his back, pulling her up to his lips. She straddled his torso, and began to move forward, taking him. This man welcomed her strength, he closed his eyes and made no sound.
She hated making love on the couch. He had always been ready to fuck wherever and whenever. He didn’t know her, didn’t seem interested really. Whatever had been true several years ago, whatever he’d decided in his mind was, in his stubborn opinion, the truth. Nothing she said or did swayed him from his ideas. He was rough, and quick, and mean. Not always, he could be tender and really very sweet, but his coarse nature was all that she could remember now.
She’d been just about to let go. Surprised that this man was still present, and hadn’t made any movement but to meet the tension she delivered with an equal amount of pressure. This pulled the string between her forehead and the center of her so tightly, that it was irresistible. Just as her hips began to shiver, this man reached up and grasped her shoulders, rolling her over onto her back and losing himself in her. This man whispered such sweet things in her ears. First into the left ear, and then the right. She succumbed to what was inevitable and loved it. Tender, foreign, and different as it was, it was somehow just right in that moment.
They lay together until the blue light of morning began to peek through the blinds and the sound of nearby birds began to chirp. She lay there with her eyes closed, while this man stroked her face softly with his index finger. He said he loved her smell, that he loved the way she felt. She withdrew into herself, and eventually had to get up and retreat into the walk in closet which was carpeted, and had a window about 6 feet up from the floor.
“I’m doing this for you god damn it!” He’d screamed at the top of his lungs. She simply stared at him in silence. “Fuck!” His piercing eyes, and red face were the last things she’d seen. They were all she really saw when she closed her eyes to rest. The words, his face, his hands, and the feeling of defeat, betrayal, anger, and failure echoed, even now, from deep inside of her. No man could kiss these scars from her torso. The bruises on her face were hers alone to see and heal. She could barely stand the sight of herself, and found it difficult to accept even the most casual of compliments.
She stood up and wrapped a warm coat over her shoulders. She looked down at her feet. She had painted her toes with an glittering silver orange polish a few days ago. she had almost removed it before her date last night. “What if…” She’d said from somewhere in the back of her mind, seeking to protect herself from his abuse and critical eye. He had entered her subconscious mind, and his bitterness and disappointment had become the measure of her self worth. Yet, she no longer groomed the way he liked her to. And she’d decided to leave the polish on her toes. She hadn’t shaved her legs, or her pubic hair in months, and they felt soft now, personal, and her smell had changed.
She reached down and opened the small brass doorknob with a click. They both walked from the closet to the bathroom. She splashed water on her face, and fixed her hair in an elastic band. He folder his arms and leaned against the door with a frown, not saying anything.
“Everything ok in there?” Asked this man, with a gentle tap at the door.
“Yes, I’ll be right out.” She said calmly. He mocked her, and made that ugly face he always made whenever she was being polite.
She folded the towel on the counter, and opened the door. This man was standing there in the hallway smiling the pleasant smile of a man concerned for her well being. She smiled slightly, looking down and then up at him. He did not reach for her, though she could tell from his posture that he would have if she hadn’t been hiding in the closet for the last twenty minutes.
The three of them sat down together at the fifty’s style breakfast table and had coffee and a baguette. He didn’t drink his coffee, or join the conversation. He stared at her for a long time, though she didn’t look at him, she knew him well enough to know what look was on his face. Soon he leaned back in his chair, and looked out the window. As the light bloomed outside, he faded into a beam of sunlight and drifted away with the dust.