Today had an augur of good fortune.
He had, after all, said yes to lunch. What else could he have said? It was about his wife. Chelle and Cliff smile at each other perfunctorily over their menus. Chelle shifts her foot and her purse topples. The condoms inside scatter like they're skidding across ice. She leaves her purse on its side. No one stops to pick the condoms up, including her.
Across the table, Cliff's eyes shift to the floor, the slick wood shiny and reflective. He stares at the spilled contents and finally tears his eyes away, careful and questioning.
"The cobb salad is good, I hear." Cliff holds her eyes and she feels naked. Erect nipples prominently stand out from chilled breasts, like condoms gliding across the floor spinning in figure eights, drawing his gaze.
She studies her water glass. She can't speak and she watches the condensation on the glass. Dripping. Small talk will normalize it. He clears his throat.
"I love cobb salad," he says.
"I don't like egg in salad."
She regrets not liking egg in salad, now. Cliff's brow furrows; he studies the menu, seeking another selection for her. She didn't mean to shut him down but she wants to tell the truth. She would do this with integrity.
Her napkin slips to the floor and she blesses her luck. She pulls the condoms close to her, covers them with her shoe. The crackle of wrappers gets drowned out by the low rumble of patrons in the hotel cafe. A plant waves behind Cliff as if fanning him. He looks like he could use a good fanning.
Sweat drips between her breasts even though the room is chilly. "You're probably wondering why I called. To meet you, I mean," she says.
"I wondered what you look like now," Cliff says.
She wonders what Cliff’s wife looks like now. Cunt. Whore.
"Well, I'm right here." She mirrors him, hands resting politely on the table when she doesn't feel polite. She doesn't want to act cold or be cold. She's so tired of cold.
"Yes, yes, you are here. You look great, by the way.”
"So do you.”
"Eh, I'm still an average Joe," he laughs, looks around and scrapes his chair as he scoots in closer.
She knows he says it to excuse Marilyn. Both men love her. Cunt. Whore.
"No, you're not average. You look great. Not a day older." Like a painting; a suit. Like a room arranged perfectly, pillows just so. Organized disarray.
He doesn't deserve what she’s doing to him.
"Well, it's been what, four years? At our age, things slide south faster every day."
"Yeah. Four years. God…it's weird how time flies."
Across the aisle in the chapel, Cliff and his wife sat with straight backs. They didn't look at Chelle. She couldn't believe they came to the funeral. Their daughter didn't join them.
She forces the church interior from her mind and pictures him shirtless, on top of her, and warms when his brown eyes blink too rapidly. He's human, too. Like her.
"I've always thought you were very attractive," he says.
"Thank you. I needed to hear that," she says, looking down at the menu.
"Yeah, it does a number on your ego, doesn't it?"
"It does. Yes. So, does she know you're here?"
"Marilyn doesn't ask. She doesn't have the right to ask."
Cliff revoked his wife's rights. Chelle can see his backbone through his chest now and it makes him taller.
Marilyn. She is Marilyn.
"So, how are you?" she asks. The outside world intrudes in the form of bus boys filling their dripping water glasses. The room is all white except the plants and the floor.
He has sad eyes now, and all of her nervous energy throbs in her neck, creeps up her throat. She doesn't want to show him her wounds. If she does that, he'll understand why her husband does it. Cliff would see her cold manner, her sagging breasts, her screeching vibrato when she tries not to cry.
"I'm doing just fine. You?" He looks at her.
"I want to fuck," she says. Her shoulders sag from the release of her thoughts. She could fall asleep right now, her head is so heavy. Had she slept a full night in four years?
He doesn't answer her, but there has to be a way to patch the hole in the ice.
He has to piss. The delicious hardness he'd felt at lunch subsides with each step to the hotel room. And he has to piss. As he walks, his adjustment to hide the waning hard-on now makes it so the underside of his cock scrapes along his pants zipper through the opening in his boxers. He can’t adjust anymore.
When they enter the room, Cliff ducks into the bathroom quickly and the harsh light makes the circles under his eyes seem smudged in, like he'd used a pencil, or like after football practice. He stares at his face and wonders what happened to his upper lip. He knows he had one at some point.
Cliff finishes and flushes, but before he puts it away, he strokes it. His cock feels like it's been dipped in numbing solution.
He sees lotion and opens it, then thinks again. What if Chelle wants to go down on him? She'd get a mouth full of...honey-lime verbena lotion. Or what if she's one of those women like Marilyn who has the cunt of a histrionic hypochondriac? Anything but flesh and she needs to go to a fucking doctor.
All of this hasn't helped his cock get hard and so he pictures her in the room, lying down spread eagle on the bed. Her pussy is open to him. Her olive-skinned legs are bent up and he'd come out, still dressed, and eat her. By then, he'd be hard enough.
He turns out the light in the bathroom and walks out, but she isn't where he'd hoped she'd be. He isn't stupid enough to think she'd be spread eagle on the bed, but maybe her fucking purse could be on the fucking table, at least.
Numb, numb, numb.
Her eyes widen as he approaches her and the lost look she'd had has been replaced by something he hopes is lust; playful, with a touch of...what is it?
She looks like she could bite, now. But he doesn't want it like this. He could go anywhere and get this. It needs to be personal.
He ought to say something. Like before you lower someone into the ground. A few words.
Before he can speak, she does. And he listens to her talk about his wife and her husband and he clenches his jaw because it doesn't get any realer than this.