The older I get, the more obvious it becomes that life is not black and white. It’s not a straight path, though all lead to the same end. The Neighbor and I made love again last night. Or maybe we fucked. Our groans and kisses braided together with our breath and sweat, our hands rough and tender simultaneously, my bed once again a stoic witness to our inability to stay apart.
Saturday I agreed to do a 30 Day Clean Living thing with him for September. He thought it could be a gift I could give myself. I’d been considering it on my own and thought, Why not? This weekend last year found me drunk from Friday morning to Monday night, my heart bent and trampled from the finalized divorce and my first birthday truly alone. This year I wanted to come at it collected and sober, my strength gathered beneath me.
Yesterday, the one year anniversary of my divorce, I woke up tired, but thankfully not hungover. I turned my back on the luxury of my bed bed only when the grumbling in my stomach forced me to search for food. My refrigerator laughed at me with a gaping, spare mouth. I would have to leave the cave for sustenance.
I stepped into my yellow dress, pinned my hair up in a loose chignon, and applied minimal makeup. I look fresh-faced. I completed my look with a pair of ballet flats. With surprise, I realized that next to my empty belly I felt something else: I wanted a little retail therapy.
Naturally, I texted TN to see if he’d like to join me. He’d stopped by every night of the week and we’d had plans to watch a movie Saturday night which were conveniently foiled by an overly-friendly Downstairs (drunk) Neighbor.
He knocked a few minutes later and said he’d be delighted. He was wearing the t-shirt I’d made him for his birthday two months ago, the cum stains I’d dared him to leave there from the week before were obvious to only my eyes.
He took me to eat and told the sandwich maker it was my birthday (though, it wasn’t) and the guy handed it to me for free; he got me more napkins when he noticed I was low and raced to open all the doors for me as we headed to the mall.
At Nordy’s we tried on sunglasses and I laughed when he paired giant, round frames with his boyish, 1950s looks and 5 o’clock shadow. I made my birthday purchase and we meandered to the men’s section, picked out some t-shirts and headed to the dressing rooms. I sat in a plush velvet chair in the waiting room content to wait, but he called for me to join him instead.
My heart froze. And then it began to beat as I found my limbs lifting me up and my legs walking me back to him.
The room was smaller than the last time we were there and it was hard to find space. Our camaraderie, our third partner in all of this, took up a lot of space as did our sexual chemistry, our fourth little friend. There was a menagerie in a 3 x 5 foot space. I could see in the little mirror hanging on the wall that my breasts strained against the confines of the cotton just like the two of us did against our meager friendship boundaries. I would never enter the dressing room of any of my other male friends.
And in this little box we laughed riotously over some of the graphics on his chosen t-shirts despite the awkwardness. He chose a $40 graphic T of weiner-dog-boom-box and we left.
Stuffed inside another little changing room I helped him pick out some more shirts. His broad shoulders and chest hair taunted me; the ever-present bulge in his jeans jeered at me, but I remained professionally friendly and a respectable distance away. He was careful to avoid grazing my breasts with his knuckles when I rolled up his sleeves and held still as a church mouse as I slipped my fingers beneath his shirts to straighten them out.
He carried my iced coffee as often as store employees mistook us for a couple.
I made one last stop at the lingerie department as we left Nordstroms. I disappeared into the changing room alone and he wandered the store patiently. I settled on a beautiful pale pink bra and matching panty and gleefully had his name paged over the loud-speaker to return to me. The salesgirl laughed with me as I jumped up and down and clapped my hands together with glee as I heard, “Attention Nordstroms customers: would The Neighbor please return to the lingerie department?” His name was slowly and clearly enunciated. I heard him say, “Very funny, Hy!” from a forest of clothes behind me even before I saw him.
On the way to my parents house with me to water their plants while they’re out of town I told him I felt weird. How could I possibly explain that my heart was heavy, I was sad and lonely, but I felt the continued relief that’s accompanied me all year-long that the divorce was the right thing to do, and that I was in the company of someone I really liked on a day I’d rather not spend alone?? “Weird,” was the best I could do.
I broke our quiet cease-fire inside my folks’ empty house. “Too bad we aren’t fucking anymore because there’s nothing more I’d love to do than fuck in their house right now.” He remained nonplussed and only laughed. We got back into his sleek, fancy car and headed home. I felt like I weighed 1000 lbs.
At our doors with our bags of wares dangling like deflated balloons from our hands we said goodbye. I had plans to float in the pool and read my book, weightless and crispy brown. He, I could tell, needed to be alone as well. “I don’t know if I’m gonna be up for a movie later,” he said referencing rescheduling hopes.
“Ok,” I said, “That’s fine.” The words felt slick in my mouth and real in my heart. I sat down in my club chair and cried.
Not for him, but for the day: my loss, my broken heart, my loneliness, my grief, my happiness, my luck. I texted my exhusband and thanked him for being wonderful and told him I was grateful he was still in my life.
With tears still on my cheeks I picked up my book and began to read the final chapters of A Dance With Dragons. I’d get to the pool eventually. Ser Barristan Selmy had just slewn the pit fighter when there was a knock on my door. TN came in wearing his swimming trunks. “Lets go swimming!”
“No. I’m reading.”
“Come on!! You can read later!”
As if in a fog I agreed and dog-eared my page, demurely shut my bedroom door to change and emerged in my emerald-green bikini. “I should have shown you my new bra and panties,” I casually mentioned as I gathered my pool things.
We played in the pool for two hours throwing tennis balls and leaping off the sides to catch a toss and laughing, laughing, laughing. My heart began to lift with each throw and giggle that’d erupt from my lips. I love to play.
When we tired we convened on some steps and floated and chatted, the bath-water warm water cooling us only barely. TN submerged for seconds at a time, weightless and away from me. I pulled down my bikini bottoms and showed him my white bottom. I asked him, “Did you see that??” with a twinkle in my eye when he rose for air.
“No. That’s inappropriate, Hy.” Rebuffed I laughed it off and said I was ready to get out. As we gathered our things a girl with a lithe, athletic body appeared, her fake breasts pert melons under white triangles of material. I watched TN watch her.
“They’re fake,” I loudly whispered as we made our way to the gate.
“How can you tell?”
“Well, take mine, for example.” He looked at my tanned swells. “See here?” I pointed at the slope. “It’s seamless, no crease. Hers have a crease.”
“Lemme see under there,” he said wiggling his eyebrows.
“No, TN. That’s inappropriate.”
We climbed the stairs and said goodbye again. I showered and wrapped myself in towels and realized my belly was once again empty. I padded out to my living room and sat down at the computer and began ordering a pizza online when my frail castle walls knocked again.
Naked but for my towel wrapped about me and the towel on my wet hair I opened the door. TN stood there silently looking at me with a DVD in his hand. “What?” I asked. He said nothing. “Are you ok??” Nothing. “Is something in your mouth? What’s going on?” He remained mute and looked helpless then pushed past me into the foyer.
I followed him into the room. “Here’s the deal. My knee still hurts from hitting it in the pool and I realized I’m not going to run 3 miles tonight so I’m also not going to start my 30 Days of Clean Living Tonight. I’ll start tomorrow with you.”
“Good timing, TN. I’m ordering pizza.”
I ordered us pizza and got dressed in pj shorts and a white mens Hanes tanktop and took the DVD from his hands. “What’s this?” I asked.
“Stranger Than Fiction.” He loaded it into the player and sat down to watch.
“I’m not ready yet,” I said and went outside for a cigarette, my desire first, then filled a glass of wine.
The movie was brilliant and poignant and a fuzzy reflection of my own life. The buttoned up hero a loner in life, regimented and safe; his love interest a passionate soul with color and scuff marks. They clashed at first until they fell in love. My husband, then my lover, two shades of this hero and I a closer shade of rose to the artist than I cared to admit.
My tears rolled down my cheeks and I excused myself to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and sobs came roiling up. I flushed then splashed some water on my face trying to erase the sudden ruddiness of my face. When I walked out into the living room TN was juggling. He stopped. “Were you crying??”
I stopped short. “Maybe.”
“Yeah, maybe a romantic comedy wasn’t the best idea.”
“It’s ok. It’s a wonderful movie. Let’s keep watching.” We sat back down and I curled up into a tight little ball, knees to my chin, as my tears splattered on my kneecaps. I didn’t care. The heros were so like me and mine my heart constricted, my soul tripped. I simply ached.
When the movie ended we talked about magic and life. I asked him what he’d do if life was all just a big joke. He claimed he already knew it might be and that he’d live it to the fullest. I was so weak I didn’t even have the emotional muscle to scoff.
Laying on opposite ends of the couch our knees touched. I cradled his feet propped up on the pillows by my head. He began running his hand absentmindedly on my ankle and calf. “What do you think happens when you die?” I probed.
“It just ends.”
“Does that scare you?”
I told him about the baby a friend of mine lost at 32 weeks and tears welled up in me again. He squeezed my leg. I began running my fingers lightly from the inside of his knee to his instep, his skin a pale cream under a light dusting of dark hair. “A soul never recovers from loss.” I said.
“No, it doesn’t.”
“It just becomes part of our patchwork; we learn to manage it, but we never forget or don’t feel the pain.” I know he was thinking of the brother he loved and lost. I was thinking of my monster father, my marriage.
We had slowly begun to stretch out further and I’d flung my leg across his lap, his erection hot and hard beneath me. “You have a freckle right here,” I noticed and pressed on his foot where a little crumb of a freckle stood out. “Did you know that?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“And you have one here,” I pressed my fingertip on another little fleck on his calf. “Did you know about that one?”
“And one here,” it was further up his leg. “I wonder if you have any here,” and I slipped my hand into his shorts. My fingertips explored his warm, fuzzy sack for freckles. “Hmm, I don’t feel any here,” I quipped.
“Are you sure?? You should check all over.”
I laughed and he stretched like a cat as my digits roamed over his shaft, its mouth was sopping wet. We lay like this on my couch, a million miles from another million miles with billions of other breaths and lives throbbing around us. Only the pillows and man beneath me had my attention. And the familiar tugging in my womb.
“Lets see if you have any freckles,” he suggested rising and pulled me up with him.
In my darkened, watching room, he filled me and kissed me and emptied his seed into me. I rained my relief down around us and cried with every inch of my body. His cock atonement for my sins, I felt him buried deep in my belly, my heart only inches away. I came twice with his warmth deep inside of me and shook and cried when I let him use his hand on me. I spilled hot ejaculate into the cup of his hand and he crooned to me with pride. He loves what he can make my body do.
I crawled over into his arms and we talked. Not about us. No, never us. We are the fifth passenger when we are together. There’s me, him, our camaraderie, our sexual chemistry and then the omniscent We. We never do what we want, what he wants or what I want. We continue to come together in times of need, emotional and physical. We ignore plans and promises and we have no care for ramifications. Because we might know something we do not.
I sat up and groped for my robe in the dark and slipped it on. I wanted to be alone. I was exhausted, still. He quietly gathered his clothes and headed to the front door. I opened my arms and he stepped into them. I kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you,” I whispered as we held each other tightly.
He chuckled. “Yes. Thank you for fucking me.”
“You know what I mean.”
The door closed behind him and I went to sleep in our wet spot.