Standing Room Only

By Sandra, Xanii@aol.com

The rain never seemed to fall right. Like the time I tried to walk from Kinloch Museum to my apartment and stopped briefly to wait at the bus stop. I sat on the bench and watched the rains come down straight, like spaghetti and the dripping collected on the overhang like full grapes. A young boy caught me staring at the rounding drops and moved his seat a bit farther away.

"You're all wet!"

His eyes worried that maybe I'd get him wet too.

"It's raining." And I smiled, sure that my lipstick had faded in the middle and remained berry colored along the edges. I looked away.

I don't think I was ready. Not just yet. Maybe I just didn't want to be. But she wanted me to be. So I pretended, for her.

I pulled my wet carpenter jacket around me and noticed how deep green the rain made it look. The open pockets on the biceps had filled with rain. I squeezed them, losing some of the extra weight. But I wasn't even half way home. They would fill again - soon.

My bangs had melted down my forehead with the rain and poked me in the eye. I pushed them aside and let the rain slick them back down. A car honked me to move from the middle of the street. I crossed and sought refuge under an awning by a doll shop window.

I knew where He was. Not far from here, up. Third? Fourth floor? It wouldn't matter, I'd find him.

My palm left a heat mark on the window. The lady on the other side frowned, making her hand to shoo me away. I stood, looking first at the dolls on display then at my slight reflection. My hair hung out of the ponytail on the sides and plastered to my cheeks. I wiggled my toes in my K - Swiss and saw the rain ease through the canvas. My jeans were soaked through to my panties. I walked back and watched as my reflected silhouette - wetly clothed and bulky - became hazy in the now diagonal razor rain.

The metal of his door was warm against my knuckles. He answered on the third knocking intrusion.

His black hair tousled with the jolt of him pulling the door with such force. He leaned against the doorjamb, crossing his arms across the blackness of his long sleeved shirt. His bare feet crossed at the ankles.

"What the Fucks' with you? "

His eyes blinked dark behind his silver Aztec rims. I looked from his eyes to his folded arms to the Welcome mat beneath my feet and noticed the flood of water I dripped in front of his door.

"I'm sorry."

"Get in here."

Stern. His voice pulled me in. The door slammed behind me holding secure with a latch chain. He bustled to the back.

The TV was on in a low tone. Men were talking or making love and my eyes wandered to the vacant spot were he had sat- indented with the shape of his slouch and surrounded by pillows, a drink, magazines, the remote. Beyond the couch, the window touched the ceiling. Now the rain became a pale peach dusting against the sky.

The kitchenette had a two seating table and planted herbs on the sill. A dull spotted dishcloth hung over the deliberately dripping faucet.

"Grace! "

Sloppy wet tracks marked my beeline to the bedroom. Past the couch, beyond the wall- right. The left was were I would sleep if company had been over. The men on the TV embraced.

His legs were pale and strong. Men legs I suppose: hairy. They seemed to be as pellucid as the whitish tile in the bathroom.

"Just stay! "

He held his arms out and motioned me to stay. Incense burned in the bedroom. Something like jasmine. He rolled his black sleeves above the elbow and squatted to untie my shoes. He'd changed- from the sweat pants that greeted me at the door into gray windbreaker shorts. The balls of his feet screamed red as he grunted to pull my sneakers off. He rested them by the door.

"C'mere. "

He jostled me forward and yanked at my jacket. It fell with a wet splattering sound. He scooped it, folded it, and then dropped it by the sneakers. He worked quickly stripping me bare. His nostrils flaring at my clammy body smell and his jaw clenched at my ashen brown skin. My eyes kept note of the goose bumps radiating on his legs. Reaching in the shower, he turned the water on, tested it then watched to make sure I stepped in. His brows knotted sharply, water splashes wetting his lenses.

"I'll be right back. "

He hands me a comb, soap, shampoo.

"I'll be right back."

My nudity didn't embarrass him when he scrubbed the soft towel against my breasts and thighs. But he left when I sat to pee. The stark white robe enveloped my arms and neck and feet. A large blue towel turbaned my head.

He sat waiting for me, sunk in among the beige pillows and comforter. His legs were still bare in the shorts. I walked to the foot of the bed and gripped the footboard. He clicks the remote. Three men disappear this time. He sat Indian style, patting a space close to him, I took his cue and sat beside him. He adjusted his glasses and closed his eyes.

"What's going on? "

My lips made a sticking sound when I tried to lick them. He looked over, I watched his eyes follow the outline of my lips, the pink of my tongue. He blinked slightly when my nostrils flared.

"Even now, I feel her fingers on my back." I blinked, forcing fresh tears to well at the bottom of my eyes. He held my hand. I smiled, gesturing to my face.

"She... has this thing... that she did... when she kissed my chin... and she'd bite... you know, softly, on my chin." I smiled, making the tears seep out the corners of my eyes. He held on to my forearm.

He watched as my chin quivered and my teeth clenched.

"She didn't love me... you know." I look to him for assurance, as if he would really understand.

"... she told me that I shouldn't ask about Lina, that it was a nothing that didn't involve me. And then I found her in our bed, waiting, knowing I would be home... and waiting for me to get there. She didn't love me. Not really. "

He slipped his fingers on the side of my face and pulled me closer. His lips moved, saying something, I wasn't quiet sure.

"But I've loved you." He tells me.

I shake my head and pull away, he steady keeps me closer.

"But ...I love you. "

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