Despite knowing what she’d find, she checks herself in the old mirror in her living room. It had belonged to her aunt, who claimed it was a family heirloom. But, knowing her aunt, it could have been picked up in a yard sale. Or won it in a sketchy poker game.
She had meant to re-finish the frame.
She dabs at her eyes with a tissue, but they are beyond that point. Way beyond that point. The eye liner carefully applied mere hours earlier, is now mounting a full-on revolt and trying to get as far away from her eyes as possible.
He sits on the couch. He writes “Hi” in the condensation on the side of his water bottle. Then he wipes it away. He holds the bottle to his cheek.
She tries to run her hand through her humidity-ravaged hair.
He rubs his forehead and slides his hand up under his baseball cap.
She turns to him.
He looks up.
This game of silence chicken is about to have a winner.
“That’s how you want to leave it?” he asks.
“It’s not about… want.”
“It is a little.”
“You don’t understand.”
“You won’t explain.”
She walks towards him. But not all the way. She stops in the middle of the room. She puts her hands on her hips.
She crosses her arms.
“That was really your answer?” he asks.
She puts her hands back on her hips.
“I just…” she replies.
“I’m smittenfatuated. You know this.”
“Did you say smittenfatuated?”
“Stop being cute,” she half-commands.
“If only I could.”
She walks the rest of the way over and sits next to him on the couch.
But not right next to him.
She stares at her half-open bedroom door. Images flood back.
On top of him.
Holding the headboard.
His strong hands on her.
With common, aggressive purpose.
She is sure her hair had looked better even then.
“I like me better when you’re around,” he says softly, without taking his eyes off of the frantically spinning ceiling fan.
Tears fall. Again. She doesn’t bother wiping them. She tries to speak, but her throat is dry.
He passes her his bottle of water.
She stares at a piece of paper on the coffee table. A (poorly) hand-written (lovely) poem. For her. About her. The night had started well. It really had.
She takes a drink of water.
He stares at her. She is wearing a vintage sundress. He thinks about how she’d dazzle in any era. The curves he can navigate with his eyes closed. He puts his hands in his pockets. To stop himself from touching her shoulder.
He stands up.
“Are we going to leave it at ‘I don’t do monogamy,’ really?”
She can’t look at him.
He turns and walks towards the door.
He stops and looks back at her.
She stares at the piece of paper on the coffee table.
She falls over on the couch.
He walks down the stairs. Still half in shock.
He walks out the front door of her building.
He stands on the steps, his brain working overtime to re-write a life’s worth of future plans.
The door opens behind him. He turns expectantly.
It is the Cuban woman from the third floor.
The woman smiles. He nods a reply, as he finishes deflating.
He turns back to face the street. He looks to the right. He looks to the left.
He decides that the right will allow him to disappear the quickest into the city night.
He steps down on the sidewalk. He pulls his cap down low over his eyes.
He starts to walk.
He hears it, but keeps walking.
He hears it again. Louder.
He turns back and sees her leaning out of her window.
He wonders if she knows how gorgeous her hair looks tonight.