by Joel Pomerantz
written 1996 (posted 2002)
I'm stroking her hair and saying bye, coat
and hat already on.
We've been meaningfully quiet for a few minutes, sitting on the edge of her single-sized bed.
"Please don't go home yet. I wasn't done being stroked by you."
"I wasn't done being stroked by you either, but I'm going home now."
"I haven't even started stroking you yet."
"Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo: a grammatical sentence. D'you see it?"
"It has the same form as 'Cars people drive kill people.'"
This is my parting entertainment. My show of caring during de facto rejection.
"Oh, hmm," she says with casual enthusiasm. "That's clever, I guess, but do you have the ability to resist making a political project of everything?"
I stop stroking her. "The ability, huh? I sure love those test questions. Okay, then, how about, 'Words people speak encourage understanding'?"
She grunts annoyance.
"It's the same grammatical form still. Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo."
Reaching up, not touching me but inviting my touch, she turns her body away and then back again, as if leafing through a book to a new scene. She extends herself out, arching sideways on the soft, white bed. Her arms wriggle with pleasure among the cumulus puffs of duvet beside her head.
I begin to play with her hair again, draw pictures on her
ribcage, flex her hand with mine spooned against it. As
a token of my ambivalence, I leave my coat, hat and scarf
on. I sit by, not in, the low bed.
I resist her attempts to guide my hands. I prefer to play her as the rims of a glass harmonica, tuning.
More stroking. Abundantly more. But by me not her. She still hasn't even started.
The sacramental gesture of my hand on her skin nourishes, animates her glee. I hold my hand flat against her, near her heart. I feel her love of my love.
"You're very absorbant," I say. "I'm going to the bathroom where I plan to think about your temptress ways."
While I'm in there, I wonder if she's putting in her diaphragm.
I return and soon capitulate entirely, taking off my clothes.
We're both feeling languid and full from dinner. We continue slowly; I continue, I caress her all over and we kiss. I feel her love of my love.
She takes my hand and strokes herself with it. I hum approval.
I realize that she may not have after all: "We safe? You're pretty fertile right now."
"Oh what a pain." She gets up.
She squats by the heater whining ritually about how long it will take to warm it up. I smile with lovelorn blindness at her half shirted back.
She returns and I start to hug, cuddle, kiss her some more.
"Weren't you headed somewhere?" she coyly intimates.
I hasten my approach, though I'm boundlessly enjoying the asides.
"I really love the way you make love to me."
Yes, you do. I'm pleased that you do.
"Why do I like making love to you so much?"
"Because you're a man."
"That's real good to know. Um... But why do I like making love to you so much?"
"I guess the proper answer, then, would be, 'Because I'm so charming.'?"
"Well, that's the other extreme, I guess. I was looking for actual insights. Or you could just take it as rhetorical."
"'Because it seems to work'?"
"First one extreme, then the other, now the tautological center. Why don't you just take it as rhetorical."
We're cuddling. No, I'm cuddling her, rocking, pressed against her.
"It's okay," she asserts. She thinks I am doing it only for her.
"What's okay? If you'd like me not to do this, you can say that. Don't second-guess my desires, though. I'm liking this a lot."
"Hmmph. Stop. I don't want you to get excited by rubbing on me."
Dramatic body language. Pulling away. Closing for the night.
At least she grins in response.
I wrap my legs and arms warmly around her from the side.
"You're stuck with me now. You can't get rid of me. I'm your love slave."
"Really? Wait. What time is it?"
"Past twelve? No more buses to get you home?"
"I could take a cab."
"I know my bed isn't comfortable for two. I guess we'll manage." She says this every time, never eagerly.
She unsentimentally pries my limbs away and goes out.
When she returns, I'm lying on the floor half asleep, contact lenses removed, eyes closed.
"What are you doing?"
"Sleeping on the floor."
"Really?" She sounds a little too happy about it. A wrenching pain invades my love slave heart.
She climbs into her little bed.
"You've got the rug all pushed up."
I think she's worried about the rug, not me, but I ignore it, drifting.
Three hours pass. I am awakened by loud, terrified cries in the street.
"No, NO! Please stop? Please stop? Please stop!?" A very helpless pleading not half a block away is getting louder, shriller, though farther. Absolute fear in the woman's voice. And then a full scream, getting more distant.
I am blind without my glasses. I sit up and wonder if anyone can see what's happening. Has someone gone to help? Called the police? Should I? Where was it coming from?
No more noise comes from the street. I sit in a daze for many minutes. I'm awake alone.
I go to the toilet, then wash up. When I return, the door closes louder than I mean it to. I sit on the edge of the bed for a while, feeling shaky.
I lie back down on the floor but hear movement in the bed.
"Yehh," she responds cautiously.
I remain silent, wondering what to say. She is listening.
"What." She uses the non-question form: not wild about hearing the answer.
I glumly tell about the screaming woman. "I feel so helpless about it," and feel so again, as I recount.
"Sometimes couples fight," she says.
"Great. And besides, I don't think, if you'd heard her, you'd say that's what it was....I should've called the police or something. But I couldn't see."
"Well I didn't hear it. If I had, maybe we could've called the police while it was happening. But it's too late to worry about it now."
"I'm still worried."
She doesn't hear me, or ignores me and continues, "It was a lot worse at my old house. I used to hear stuff on a daily basis that was horrible. Sometimes I didn't call the police and sometimes I did. Can we go back to sleep? Can I ?"
I sit up and lean my elbow on her pillow.
"I didn't know what to do," I mumble. "I couldn't tell where she was. I couldn't see."
"You said that already. Stop repeating yourself." She turns over so she faces the wall.
"I'm still upset."
"What do you want me to do?"
An impatient attempt at tenderness? Or I should take it rhetorically.
"Mmmwth," I vent noncommittally.
"Well, what do you want from me?"
I hesitate. "Comfort. Not a lecture on how I can't do anything about it now. I know that. Comfort me, that's all."
She explains something about my being focused on myself, while I sulk, not listening.
I go to sleep, indifferently freed from my feeble slavery.
The alarm rings. She gets up and leaves the room with her blue and white bathrobe.
While she's in the bathroom, I dress and go home, leaving only a note.
"Thanks for eating and playing with me. Sorry I woke you up during the night. Don't forget to take out your diaphragm."
She always somehow forgets.