Daniel W. Thompson
We talk shit about coworkers and watch our toes wiggle in the green lake water. I say, Seth always smells like cheese and sweat. You say, Rachel definitely has breast implants. I say, Adena pinched my ass at the wait station and now I’m definitely scared of her. Then the cold forces our feet out and we walk back to your apartment.
On the walk back I ask you about Jeff. You say he’s working and for a second I think you smile, but maybe not.
We’re both working the dinner shift tonight and we have an hour before we have to be at the clubhouse. You go to take a shower, but tell me to stay and hang out, if I like. My apartment is next door so it feels like I’m basically there already, that it makes little difference here or there, even when you’re standing naked in the shower letting the hot water turn your skin pink. That’s my argument anyway.
I flip through a People magazine. I learn that Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt are still in love.
You come out of your shower with a white towel wrapped around your torso, your chest splotchy, and your knee caps purple. You say, let’s have a drink before work. That it will be dead tonight. It’s the end of the month and the only diners will be ones needing to meet their membership spending quotas. I say, sure. We cut limes and mix vodka tonics.
Still wearing your towel you sit next to me on the couch and a burst of coconut and lime run up my nose. I rehash in my mind the foreignness of it all. You, a married woman. Me, still in college, working at the resort as a summer job. You said you and Jeff got married right out of high school but wished you’d taken more time. No, it probably wasn’t a mistake, just rushed. If you had it to do again, you would have traveled more, lived together prior, and taken time to soak in Jeff’s shortcomings- the raging fits he inherited from his father, the obsessions with cleanliness. Before you get in bed with him you have to take a shower. Before you kiss him you have to brush your teeth. Before you touch him, even, you know, there, you have to wash your hands.
I drink quickly.
You make me another.
Your hair has dried except for where the ends stick to the top of your bare shoulders. Though only a few years older than me, I feel your age like a body heat. It comes from the stress around your eyes and the way your hand shakes when you lift your glass. I’ve even watched you sniffle and double over out on the apartment balcony.
This is not the first time we’ve walked down to the lake and had drinks at your place. And I know later we’ll ride to work together, because Jeff appreciates conserving gas, and it only makes sense for coworkers to carpool when possible- our part of the excuse. During our shift we’ll tease each other, you untying my smock, me pushing a soft knee into the back of your knee. You’ll fall back, and for a brief moment, my face will meet with your coconut hair. As the night wears on the reality of you going back to Jeff and me going back to my apartment will chip away at the banter. We’ll revert to common coworkers and neighbors. We’ll give each other cordial good nights and refuse access to imagination. I won’t picture you showering, again, and climbing into bed with Jeff. You won’t think of me on my balcony, drinking vodka and laughing at how badly I smell of grease and onions.
Back on your couch we watch the hour before work come to an end and you do that thing where you look past me. You face me but your focus is on something else. You do this a lot, but whether just with me, I’m not sure.
I get up and tell you it’s time for me to get ready myself and say I’ll meet you in the parking lot.
Sounds good, you say, and you get up to walk to your bedroom but just as you move through the bedroom doorway, you do that other thing. You let the white towel fall from your pink skin. You do it without turning around. You don’t close the door. You just disappear.
About the author:
Daniel W. Thompson’s work has appeared recently or is forthcoming at publications like Bartleby Snopes, decomP, WhiskeyPaper, Wyvern Lit, Noble/Gas Qtrly and Cheap Pop. He lives in downtown Richmond, VA, with his wife and daughters, cleaning up diapers and dog fur.