When I have opened the door, Antoinette is standing on the doorjamb jamming the doorway, being a new door, tapping her bare foot and douring me a look.
I say, Have I been long?
Her silence is less difficult to interpret than most silences. The unambiguity is abetted by the fact, and of facts there are few and each one vital, that this time when I open the door for the first time, she is fully clothed and on two feet, one tapping. Her arms may be crossed or her hands may be on her hips, but not both, depending on your own experience with women. Her clichéd or postured but communicative posture does not negate that she is on all fours skirt hiked to hips with an orchid in her hair, how can I have not mentioned that, I am distracted, with an orchid in her hair the other first times I open the door, and standing with the prospect of hiked rear yet other first times, and exhibiting said posture of displeasure promising nothing when I have opened the door this first time, the only time I will ever open the door, if I may be so premonitionally bold, this time, going this direction. Which is out of the outside and into the inside.
I say, I am sorry. I have been exploring. And though I have made no kind of decision on the matter, I am committed to ruining my life with you for a few moments of rabid pleasure, no I will not degrade what it is we share, will share, which is a few moments or one attenuated moment of desperate love, the ephemeral eternal that we are each, or allow me to speak for myself, I am attempting moment by moment to perpetuate, because it is all I have ever found to live for, the remainder being foreplay and memory, like a God dammed aesthete, which if I am decapitate me now or I will do it for you. But before we are to arrive at the time when we will have had sex, which will fall hard on the time when we will have begun having sex, no matter my endeavors, no matter my clutched longings, no matter my acts of sin and my acts of whatever is the opposite of sin, virtue perhaps, though virtue somehow does not suffice, no matter how much I strain to clamp down on my impulse, I have an inveterate need to use your bathroom.
She is moved. She reaches to hug me but is prevented by the sticks in my pants and in my hands, which is just as well because by this point I really do need to pee, which is a need a hug does not help. I read in her face that she completely understands this need, and therefore me. She steps aside, providing me access to, and thereby inviting me into, her one room but more importantly the door to her bathroom. Which I open and shut, and pass through in between.
I go to undo my pants but I have a problem, or several. Number one, I have a problem I will not discuss right now, so it does not count even if it is the only one that matters. So number one does not exist and I will begin with the first. First and secondary, not to mention irrelevantly, I am still wearing the shirt I removed to absorb the sun. Secondarily, my pants are full of sticks protruding every which way, sticks that have been removed lovingly by Antoinette and stacked like cords of firewood in her one room, sticks that I now carelessly and hurriedly extricate and pile on the counter, sticks with which I will shortly build a miniature cabin, a dollhouse without dolls while I prolong the pleasure or pain of my moment with Antoinette. Which I do ineffectually like I do most things besides collect sticks and gather rocks because I prolong the moment or moments before the moment, the moment itself proving to be an orchid, no, proving to be an elusive thing, partly because it is no thing. Partly because it is beautiful. Partly because it dies easily. Yes yes, I have sticks in my hand that Antoinette has stacked in the corner of her one room lovingly but this is no problem because I drop them in the one room in haste, I grant you that, so I may open the door to the bathroom, the door handle of which requires some jiggering, as it sticks. In fact, these problems are not the problem for me that they are for you, I imagine, as you are stuck in a world where multiple occurrences cannot be occurring to your sticks at one time. No, what is a problem for me that I will discuss is I by this point really need to pee and with the toilet there as a receptacle for my urge reminding me of my need I in point of fact have no time to rip more sticks that are not there from my pants. I take one step to the toilet, one step being the breadth of the bathroom, find my stick or pencil or flathead screwdriver or pipe wrench or gooseneck ratchet or six-inch c-clamp or coat tree for Reb’s coats or her clotheshorse for pet names, a name horse then, which is not a problem for me to find as I am often finding it among sticks that are and are not stuck in my pants and I pee.
Bless God for this opportunity, wherever he is.
* * *
When he closes the last door, which is Allen’s, who was born first, after saying his last I love you, sweet dreams, relax, don’t think about anything, think about something relaxing, imagine you are floating, I know you’re not floating, that’s why you imagine it, it’s relaxing, there’s no light, it’s easier to imagine in the dark, because that’s my job, this is relaxing, then try harder, are you breathing?, breathe for god’s sake, then focus on your breathing, long exhale, long inhale, long exhale, long inhale, long exhale, long inhale, yes I used to have these problems before I was this tired, keep that up until morning and you’ll be all right, breathe, in out, in out, in out, good night, Mary is standing there in sweat pants and nothing else, shivering.
So, she says.
I got cold, she says.
Well you don’t have a shirt on.
I had less on. But I was splayed on top of the covers waiting and fell asleep and when I woke up I was cold. I’m looking for you.
You found me.
You take a long time to do anything, she says.
Just building up the anticipation.
Do you have a few minutes before you have to close another door behind you? It won’t be long before you get back to it. Hello. Cole. I have work to do too, Kole. I have to grade Geometry. What are you thinking about? Where are you? Coal. Fuck it, I’m cold, she says.
I have been. In the position you told me you liked back when you communicated, back when you said you liked things. But my ass got cold, she says.
I’m sorry. I had an idea.
About your story? she says.
For some dialogue.
Why don’t you use some dialogue on me? she says. See if it works. You said this is a sexier story.
So, she says.
Do you want to do it? she says.
Is this your dialogue? she says.
We are talking to each other.
Is this why you never do anything? she says.
You always want to talk about it, she says.
I have characters to do things so I don’t have to ruin our life. All I want to do is do, you see, but it’s a bad idea. I have characters to do so I can explore what it is to be.
What is it to be?
It is a long walk with a cute girl.
And the quick of your wife.
And the long quick with your pretty cold wife.
You’re talking to yourself, she says. You can’t write about it if you don’t do it.
You don’t want an explorer for a husband.
Yes I do, she says.
Explorers are never home for dinner.
You never play along, she says.
It’s not a game.
It could be, she says. We can do it and talk about it, she says, if you want.
Listen, I want to do it, but the last thing I want to do is talk about it.
Then shutup before I go find a cucumber to sit on. I’m cold, she says.
A hot dog.
Better, she says.
A hot beef injection, a jalapeño pepper, a soldering iron, a soldering irony, a wood engraver, a fire poker.