I am sitting on the edge of your bed while you are shaving your legs in the bathroom. There’s no door; the layout is the kind that opens up into your bedroom. Is that called a walk-in bathroom? Probably not.
I feel like a peeping tommette. I have spent countless hours imagining this very moment, just watching you do the simple things – shaving your legs, getting dressed, fixing your hair. But you aren’t doing this for me. I am not meant to see this side of you. Not tonight. So instead I force myself to browse your two-leveled bookcase and try to find something to say. Anything to make it seem like I still belong here. If we’re at least talking then there is no reason for me to leave just yet.
You’re well-read. Your bookcase is filled to capacity with a variety of authors and subjects. Hardcovers, paperbacks, magazines. I absentmindedly run my finger against the spines of the books, casually looking at the titles and start to panic at the amount of dead silence that has already passed between us. I stop at Doctor Zhivago and pull it out.
“Oh hey, I have this book. I haven’t read it yet though.”
The rushing water from your tub is drowning out my words. I peer around the corner, holding the blue bound hardcover. You stop mid-shave and glance up, squinting over.
“Doctor Zhivago. I have this same copy. I just haven’t read it yet.”
“Oh well you really should. You can borrow mine if you want.”
“No, I said I already hav–,” I almost correct you but I know it’s not that you are ignoring me – it’s just that he is the only thing on your mind right now. “No thanks, I’m sure I can find it at the library.”
“Okay. I would tell you about it but any time I try to explain anything to anyone I end up spoiling it. But can you believe he actually changed his flight to come back two days early? He said it was a last minute thing and he doesn’t have anyone else to pick him up but I think he just wants me to do it.”
“Yeah, that part is pretty obvious, right? It’s funny how hard he tries. Kind of transparently desperate.”
I look over at you again but you are concentrating on gliding the razor over the curve of your knee and you don’t hear that last part.
I think he’s good for you. Probably. Every time when you bring him up, you smile and you get those three little lines at the corners of your eyes. The ones that only show up when something really means something to you; your Duchenne smile. I’m happy for you. I really am. It’s just that his little flight change has interrupted what was supposed to be our night.
We just finished eating the dinner that you cooked and drinking the wine that I brought over and we were both starting to feel the fuzziness from the merlot but we still decided to open another bottle and we were about to settle in and relax and talk about everything and nothing. Tonight we were going to bare our souls and laugh and cry and flip off the universe. Together. You wanted me to listen to more Paolo Conte and you made a playlist but I never got to find out which songs you chose.
But I don’t bring that up. I need to think of something that will bring this back to us…no matter how little or insignificant.
“So then for my final project, should I focus on one dialect or several?”
“For what? Oh…oh right. Sorry, I almost forgot. I think you should try to cover at least three of them.”
“I don’t know. I doubt I could ever realistically handle more than one.”
“What?? No! I know you are more than capable of this.”
He is not the one who is transparently desperate tonight. I know that this prompt would bring a compliment from you. You have told me more than once how much potential you see in me and how I remind you of yourself at times and how we have that Gemini-Libra connection and how easy it is for us to get along and how simple it is for us to forget that I am the student and you are the teacher.
I’m leafing through Doctor Zhivago, making sure not to dislodge the post-it notes you have stuck in random pages when you come out and ask me to zip up your dress. I look up, startled, and laugh at your back and think about how when I pictured you asking me this very question, it was a much different circumstance but I don’t say that and you turn your head and peek over your left shoulder at me.
“Oh no…is this dress too much? Think I should wear the green one instead?”
“This is the green one.”
You glance down at the front of your dress and take a deep breath in.
“Oh right. Okay, zip me up?”
I stand up and grab the zipper between my thumb and forefinger. I feel your back rise and fall as I try to slide the little metal piece up. It’s stuck so I pull you closer to me and you don’t expect that so you clumsily fall back into me and once we are settled I do a little jump to my tiptoes for momentum and the zipper finally gives up and glides up to the bottom of your neck. I grab your shoulders to help you steady yourself and sit back down on your bed.
“Perfect, thank you. How do my boobs look? You can be honest with me.”
You’re looking at yourself in the full-length mirror and the way I’m sitting on the bed has me directly behind you and I’m glad that you can’t see my lack of a poker face. I try to think of how to describe your boobs safely. I mean, it’s not like I can tell you that they look like they would fit nicely into my cupped hands from behind or that they look beyond perfection but would look even better pressed up against me or that they would find my mouth far more comfortable than rubbing against the fabric of your dress.
You turn around, awaiting my verdict. I glance down and directly back up to your face, not sure how long is too long to stare at a woman’s boobs, no matter if she asks you to do so.
“They look fine. I mean, they don’t look bad…so that’s…good. I think? I don’t know. I’m the last person to ask about fashion.”
You fidget with the length of the dress, pulling it up and back down and finally settling at about an inch up from your knees. Your eyes are looking around your room, through the mirror.
“What are you looking for?”
“My black boots. I thought I put them in that corner but I don’t see them there.”
“Maybe your boots were made for walking…and that’s just what they did…”
You glare at me, your eyes reflecting off the mirror. You tilt your head slightly to the right, raise your eyebrow and attempt to suppress your smile but fail and I see those three lines at the corners of your eyes begin to form. I stare back at you, trying to pull off my best innocent look, knowing that you know how I can never pass up a cheesy joke.
“Very funny. I’m running out of time and I can’t bend in this dress. Can you check under the bed for me, please?”
I crouch down onto my knees and lower my head, lifting the hanging duvet cover up so I can search around. I put the back of my right shoulder down to the ground and stretch it as far as I can, my right cheek jammed against your bed frame. My fingers flail around aimlessly until I feel the leather. I grab the boots and pull them out and stand up.
I hold up the boots like I’m posing with a huge catch from a deep sea fishing trip and that’s exactly the angle I am going for but you are still staring at yourself in the mirror.
“This is way too much. What am I thinking? This is stupid. I’m not wearing this.”
You haphazardly take the boots from me and toss them in the general direction of the corner and hold your hair up and turn back to me again. As I grab the zipper, my fingertips graze against the back of your neck and goosebumps start to form.
“Oh, sorry. I don’t want to pull it down too hard and break the zipper.”
“This one is tricky so it’s fine if you have to tug it harder than usual.”
I maneuver the zipper down its track, holding the top of the dress taut and I try to be careful to not to snag any of the fabric on the sides. About halfway down I glance up into the mirror and for the briefest of moments, we are staring directly into each others eyes and now it is me who is getting goosebumps. We both smile and I find the end of the zipper line just before you turn around to face me.
“I’m so sorry about tonight.”
“No, it’s not ‘fine’. We both rearranged our schedules to make tonight happen and now here I am skipping out on you. I want you to know that I am acknowledging that I don’t feel good about this. But I feel like I just really need to see him. Especially since he changed his flight for me.”
You’re standing in front of me, holding the dress up to your body with one hand and I’m standing in front of you, holding my words back in my mind with one strand of logic barely keeping it all together.
I smile and nod.
“I get it. It actually is fine. At least we got to eat, right? Don’t worry about it. Go and see him. And quit being such a girl and fussing over what to wear. He should be happy you’re going at all.”
I take a step past you because I don’t want to give myself the chance to bring up the illogical nature of your reasoning and you turn to watch me start to walk out of the bedroom.
“You’re right. Are you leaving?”
“I think I should go now. Unless there’s more zipper duty?”
There’s not and so I go into your kitchen and I get my purse and I grab the freshly opened bottle of wine and I call out to you saying that I’m going now, and I wait for you to come out to say goodbye. But you don’t. You just shout it out and I can hear you opening and shutting drawers; I can hear you rustling through your jewelry box, probably trying to find the perfect earrings or something.
I walk back to my house and sit out on the curb and drink the wine from the bottle and all I can do is laugh to myself at the irony of how I technically went through the motions of all of my overplayed daydream scenarios of you and me but just not on the same level…at all.
This was six years ago and I still haven’t read Doctor Zhivago.