Her hair was coarse and I hated running my fingers through it but I loved to wrap it around my fist when we fucked. She was still learning all the ways girls can screw girls, which is like what guys can do but better. Anyone can drive an automatic, but girls are like stick-shifts and you gotta learn to work that clutch for a smooth ride. But you understand, you and your whisper soft touch were always there.
First time I saw Her, I was smoking outside the DVD store where I worked with The Sister. The Sister was inside, arranging new titles by release date, but I watched Her standing outside by the ATM. The Sister was petite but wiry, pretty in a workhorse sort of way, one of those scrappy girls you know would win a fistfight. But Her was the type of girl who has others do the fighting for her. I made conversation with Her, she asked me out for a drink. I couldn’t resist Her’s confidence, the way she’d known I’d been looking at her and how she’d looked straight back at me. It was only when I was in the club watching Her work her hips to the music that I found the first sign in her handbag. I didn’t realize what you meant at the time, but I know you saw me too.
A little while later, we were at Her parents’ place. The Sister was in the bedroom with The Boyfriend and we were in the lounge. I heard The Sister fucking but that was okay because Her and I were making out. I’d known she was nervous, I’d known how badly she’d wanted me, I’d known I was only the second girl to be with Her. My hips pushed back against the desperation in Her, I felt Her breathe, hot delicate moans in my ear. I’d heard the bedroom door open but didn’t let that me slow me down. I remember making eye contact with The Sister as she went to get a beer for The Boyfriend, watched her pause and stare blankly as I touched Her. When she heard the rattle of the beer bottles, I felt Her try to shove me off her. The Sister seemed not to notice, seemed not to see one of us on the couch, the other on the floor, disheveled, panting. But as soon as The Sister shut the door I let Her pull me close and shove her hands down my pants. I always wondered if she pushed me off the couch because she knew I fucked The Sister. It was only after I was shuffled out the front door an hour later like the cheap fuck The Sister just had that I got in my car and saw you. A single strand of hair on my shoulder, delicately draped across my shoulder. You were long and blond, glinting in the street light as we drove home. You were not mine, not Hers, not The Sister’s.
Her and I spent a lot of time together those next few months. She finished school and I got a real job shuffling papers and sending emails. We went from fucking to making love and that made me uneasy. I was tempted to lose myself in her, but it wasn’t about the wet slap of sweaty bodies or salty skin against my tongue anymore. For Her, is was about eye contact and tenderness, about feelings and futures. It became the difference between fiery street salsa with its humid cross holds, turns, and throws and the calculated repetition of the fouetté, fermé and effacé of ballet. One time, in the bathroom, I held the sink’s edge like a ballet barre and practiced in the mirror until it came naturally. I learned the measured moves; I learned to say I loved Her.
One morning, as I headed to work, I weighed the pros and cons of falling in love. As I realized I felt obliged to give up the ass I got on the side, I saw you again, a strand of blond hair curled on the passenger seat like a viper. I looked at you every time I stopped at a light and you looked back. I almost asked you how you got there but I knew you wouldn’t give me a straight answer. I tried not to think about where I’d find Her on the days she dropped me off at work and used my car.
The first chance we got we headed to the coast with The Sister. The three of us shared a bed because there was no couch. As I lay there waiting to fall asleep, I thought about a threesome but figured that’d be incestuous, so I pinched Her nipples how she liked but she pushed my hand away. We hadn’t had sex in a week. I crawled out of bed in frustration and waited for Her to come to me, but she didn’t. I wrapped Her hoodie around me and went for a smoke on the balcony. The faint light from my cigarette tinted your blondness a shade of red as you cuddled on the sleeve. You quivered in the late-night breeze and I wondered how far you travelled on your own, if you moved in the wind or slipped through drains to find me.
Her and I had carried on as usual for a month or so; until she got a place of her own. I went against my gut and believed Her when she told me it made sense to live closer to where she worked. The next time I saw you, you were nesting on a hairband around her bedpost. I heard you slither while we slept and though about taking you off but I left you there and watched you while we fucked. After she fell asleep, I crept into Her bathroom and practiced in the mirror. I’d gotten quite good at saying I loved Her. My eyes lit up and I could hold my open smile, but when I looked into Her eyes they were blank.
Sometimes I thought of what I’d say if she asked me about The Sister. There really wasn’t much to tell. The Sister and I hooked up on a weekend and a few days later, The Sister was crying because The Boyfriend I hadn’t known about had kissed another girl.
I hadn’t seen Her in a while when I was sitting in my apartment and she texted to suggest a break. She asked me where I’d been but I couldn’t tell Her because I didn’t remember their names. I saw you watching me from the couch. I almost ignored you but then I picked you up and took a closer look. I measured you against my forearm, checked to see if there was a root attached like they do with transferred evidence in CSI. I rolled you between my fingers, held you up to the light, then I set you aside while I lit a smoke. I picked you and put you in my mouth. I pressed you against my tongue, wrapped you around it. I ran you through my teeth, slowly, because I could. Then I held you close to my cigarette and watched you sizzle and curl. I rinsed with Listerine. Sometimes I thought I’d find Her cheating on me. Some days I wished she would.
When I heard Her tell me she was in love with Her Ex, I was relieved. I was sitting in the tub as we texted, watching your lithe form snake across the water. I dipped my toes under so they wouldn’t get in your way, then I moved my hands under the water, cupped them around you and brought you close. I took comfort in knowing you’d always be there
A few days later I text Her. I text The Sister. No one replies. I imagine The Sister with The Boyfriend, Her with Her Ex. I practice in the mirror, hold the sink edge like a well-worn barre, try to deaden my eyes, stiffen my lips. My hands leave clean spots on the sink where they’ve brushed the lint away. I take a rag and clean the edges, under my toothpaste and brush. I worry because I haven’t seen you in days. I pull out the trap in the tub and both sinks, fish behind the toilet through all manner of fuzz and dust. I use the broom for under the bed and behind the couch. I check between my books and behind the microwave. I even use tweezers to pluck out one of my own. But it’s black, stunted, dull. I rest it in the palm of my hand, breath on it, whisper I love you, but nothing moves.
H R Green lives and writes in the Midwest with work appearing in publications such as Pank, The Rumpus, and McSweeney’s.
Photo by: Ana Prundaru