Now & Then

by Zsofia McMullin

The cat’s soft paws against the bedroom door, banging slightly, then scratching. Rain hitting the metal roof. The house quiet otherwise, dark, sleepy.

“I am so turned on,” you say as you press against me. We push the heavy duvet covers to the floor and expose ourselves in the bright morning. Your blond skin is feverish against my palm.

 “Two eggs coming right up!” Plates clank and orange juice spills on his math homework. I wipe his soft, round face and hold it between my hands as he tries to squirm away.

You lick Nutella off your fingers and I catalog the fact that you drink your coffee black and you like your eggs scrambled with something sweet after and you lean back in your chair and I want to smear chocolate all over your neck.

 I linger in the shower just one extra minute and aim the hot water at my aching right shoulder and the top of my chest and try to breathe in and out and in and out and imagine my muscles relax and the weight fall.

Your thumb brushes across the curve of my breast above the white bra that later I can’t wear without thinking of how you paused on that spot and moaned against my skin.

I Google your name first thing every morning to see its comforting round letters and soft, humming m’s. I don’t know what I hope to find but I am scared that one day this is how I’ll discover you are gone.

“I want to bottle your scent,” you breathe into my hair and we sniff each other like dogs—your hair and ears and neck and your hand’s in mine and the smell of the river and the foggy city all over us as we stumble back to our hotel.

Paper towels, laundry detergent, toothpaste, milk, eggs. Doctor’s appointment, car registration, bake sale, birthday party.

Fuck me, fuck me harder.

My husband and I like to sit at the bar on date nights. Prosecco; gin martini, three olives. We plot and plan: finances, trips, summer camps, family visits, weekends. He entertains the bartenders with useless trivia, his hand on my thigh the whole time. It’s so easy, I think, to belong like this.

For a moment, you put your hands on my head and grab my hair. I gasp in pleasure but you think it’s protest and let go. No, don’t, hold me there, show me, tell me, make me.

I dry off his curls and wipe toothpaste from the corner of his mouth. His bed smells like it did when he was a baby and he whispers secrets as I rub his back. He drifts off, his small hands loosening around my neck. I stumble to the bed where my husband waits and he holds my hand as we say good night.

You nestle me in the crook of your arm, my head on your shoulder, and arrange the blanket over us, legs entwined. I trace the paths between the small freckles on your shoulder. You kiss my forehead. We pretend for one night that we belong like this. 

Zsofia McMullin’s essays have appeared on The RumpusFull Grown People, Motherwell, Rum Punch PressProximity, Cargo Literary Magazine, and several other online and print publications. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times. To see all of her work, visit zsofiwrites.com or follow her on Twitter: @zsofimcmullin.

Artwork by: Thorpe Mayes IV