“You are beautiful,” he said.
That sentence never failed to unnerve her. It stirred something she didn’t quite like. That part was dark, and deep, and she didn’t understand it or the things it made her feel when it stirred. Not understanding, she decided not to trust it, but he had said those words and now she couldn’t avoid that part of herself.
And what was she supposed to say in return? Telling a man he was beautiful seemed vaguely insulting, unless he was gay. Seeing as how they lay tangled together she doubted his sexual preferences ran towards men.
“Thanks.” Weak answer. Maybe she could sleep now and escape the awkwardness of this moment.
“You have beautiful skin.”
Now that she knew what to do with. She took care of her skin, not out of some vain desire for beauty but because if she didn’t it itched. It itched so badly that she would wake in the night, bed sheets bloody from scratching her legs while she slept.
“I use a lot of lotion,” upon reflection, also probably a weak answer. Well damn him if he didn’t like it. She was unprepared. She didn’t rightly know how she had got to this moment, this conversation, this man. Oh she remembered clearly the events of the evening, the individual words, but she didn’t understand how the sum of what she remembered equaled this moment. This was certainly not how she had planned this night to end. So damn him for knowing what to say.
Had he planned this?
No, not possible. This had come to pass mostly by accident and, she had to admit, because her mouth tended to say words before her brain had time to think of the consequences.
How much of my life would not have happened, or happened differently, if I could just think before I speak? A good chunk of it, she decided. Well she didn’t, and it had.
She wished she could sleep in her own bed. She could wake without all of this stress and complication. Life could continue as it had before, easy and sometime frustrating, but mostly easy. This, however, was going to be hard and messy, no pun intended. She did giggle at it though, just a bit.
I should just be a nun, she thought, nuns seem to have wonderfully uncomplicated lives. Of course being a nun requires a belief in Christ, which she lacked. She supposed nun-hood was out then.
He turned on his back and looked at the ceiling. She felt she should say something, but could think of nothing but “shit” which seemed both unromantic and inappropriate.
“Your little girls are really cute, but their eyes are blue and yours are brown. Isn’t that odd?”
He continued to look at the ceiling. “My wife has blue eyes.”
Perhaps “shit” would be appropriate now?
She wondered what subject would be safe. She wondered why she cared. Once you stepped up and accepted the role of home wrecker why should any subject be taboo? After all, if the Christians have it right, you’re already going to hell. Why not enjoy the trip?
“Want to get breakfast tomorrow?”
He continued to stare at the ceiling.
“Or is that too public?”
He rolled over and glared at her. “My wife’s blue eyes are pretty sharp, so ya it’s too public.”
For years she had been babysitting his kids, making fruit salads for picnics in his backyard, and helping his wife quilt but now he couldn’t be seen with her? This she knew exactly what to do with. This emotion was familiar, known, and so to be trusted. She could argue. She could scream, but her mother had taught her well. The best way to break a man was quietly and thoroughly.
She removed his arm from her abdomen and swung her legs out over the cold, bare floor. Swiftly she shifted his pants, a blanket, the garish maroon condom wrapper, to reveal at last the faded yellow cotton underwear she had thrown on before leaving her house. If she had planned this she would have chosen the lacy black French cuts that matched her bra.
“You’ve got to be kidding.” He sat up. “You’re really pissed? Really?”
She looked at him over her shoulder as she snapped her bra. She doesn’t say a word. Her mother had told her men could always imagine more spite and viciousness than you could. Their minds, she had been told, were capable of frustrating them more so than you ever could. If you could use silence effectively you could do more damage than all the screaming in the world.
Silence was her atomic bomb. His confidence was her Hiroshima.
“You are going to blow it. You’re going to ruin my life.” His voice climbed an octave and gained decibels. “She’ll leave me and take the kids.”
All she had left were her shoes. She began to put them on. The kids, she thought, now he thinks of his children and his wife, her best friend. How like a man not to realize what she stood to lose by this.
Silence, she thought, is my laser guided missile. Say goodbye to your manhood.
“Did she tell you to do this?”
She raised just one eyebrow. It was enough.
“She did. Oh God. She told you to follow me to the bar. She wanted you to seduce me.” These are not questions. She watches the man she once called friend slowly crumble into himself. His shoulders fell and he rests his head in his hands, feet braced against the floor.
“The kids. The house. Oh, God everything.” His shoulders shake and he sobs with each sentence.
Now for the killing blow.
Her jacket on, her hand on the open door, she stares at him until he looked up into her eyes. She shook her head and laughed, just a little laugh. It was enough.
Yes, she thinks as she drives home, I am beautiful. Beautiful like a village silent and emptied by Ebola. Beautiful like a street lights glare on a Tommy gun. Beautiful like a mushroom cloud obscuring the horizon. Yes, I am beautiful.