After I finish I roll onto my back and she lays her head on my bare chest, draping her left arm over my waist. When it’s over there’s always this pain inside, like a small fist poking around in my gut. But I’ve never told her this. I close my eyes for a few seconds and take a deep breath.
You want to go again? she says. You know me, honey, no rush. Not for you.
I breathe in the apple shampoo scent of her dyed black hair and rub her arm. The shades are parted and a slice of sunlight streaks across the bed. I notice the room is messier than before. Some of her skirts and dresses and bras are lying on the floor by the TV. The sheets and blanket on the other bed are crumpled up. The room smells like a small gym and a smoky dive bar filled with women wearing strong perfume.
She lifts her head and looks at me; glittery makeup sparkles on the skin beneath her brown eyes. She says why do you look so down, Doug, when it’s so wonderful outside with the sun and the breeze? After I took a shower and put on that fancy red dress you bought me, I went outside on the ledge. Across the parking lot there’s a house with a bunch of trees and flowers in the backyard. While I was waiting for you I watched them nod to each other in the wind, like they all agreed it was nice out. Isn’t that funny?
I watch her young body as she talks, beginning at her pretty feet and then slowly moving up to her bronzed slender legs and tight ass, the black rose tattoo that crawls up her left side. Perspiration glistens on the contoured dune of her lower back and shoulder blades. She says she wants to move out of this motel and buy her own house someday. Then she can plant her own trees and flowers. She says begonias are her favorite because they come back to you again and again, no matter what. This is the best part she says, just talking. All the stories. How everyone is different but the same somehow, in this way she can’t explain.
I say everyone wants to feel something real. Like the cold touch of a lake’s water in early Spring. How we’re all searching for some kind of waves in this world that won’t pull us under, making it impossible to breathe.
But what’s more real than this, sweetie? The two of us here, in bed?
I say it’s not real, Eve. It’s all pretend. Both of us.
She sits up against the headboard and grabs a cigarette off the nightstand and lights it. She says I remind you of her, don’t I? Will you tell me something about her, Doug? I like it when you talk about her.
I think for a moment and I say that when she got excited her cheeks and dimples turned the color of cherry blossoms. That her smile could shrink the world, making you seem like the only other person alive. I tell her about the summer we rented a cabin on Lake Michigan and how every morning we laid in bed, just like now, and watched seagulls circle sailboats and waves crash against the dock outside the bay window. I tell her about the red dress I bought her for our second anniversary, and how stunning she looked when she wore it out to dinner each year on that day. How we said we’d always love each other, no matter what.
Eve stubs out her cigarette in an ashtray on the floor and sits up and exhales smoke through her nose as she reaches for the bed sheet, wrapping it around her chest and tucking it under her arms. She says she knows what’s it like to love someone and they don’t seem to love you back anymore. How maybe if they did, life would be different, better somehow. She leans downs and cups my face with both hands and gives me a deep French kiss. After I stand and dress and fix my tie, I turn to her at the door and say goodbye. She is lying at the side of the bed, picking up the envelope from off the nightstand and sticking it into her purse. She smiles at me, her dimples like little bruises on a peach.