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I'm going to do this. Somewhere in his mind, his tired mind that can find no sleep, he makes this determination.
He pulls his arm out from under the covers. He rubs his mouth with the palm of his hand. He flicks on the small reading light on the nightstand. He turns to her, beside him. He looks at her, sleeping but not asleep. "Let's play a game," he whispers.
She looks at him in the semidarkness with her deep brown eyes that have come back to beseech him all over again. "What kind of game?"
"We'll take turns telling each other what we liked most about the last person we were with. You'll tell me what you liked most about Ryan. And then I'll tell you what I liked most about Michelle."
"I don't like the sound of this," she says. "And why do I have to start?" She watches his face for the slight twitch of his mouth that will tell her if he's being sneaky, for the faint shift of his eyes that will tell her if he's being deceptive. But his face is like a sheet of glass in the shadows.
"It's my idea, so I'm offering you the chance to go first."
The chance, she thinks. Like it's an opportunity.
"All right, then. I'll begin," she says. "But what are we talking, specifically, when you say 'what we liked most' about the other person?"
"You know. Something special. Or funny. Or maybe even sexy," he says, still holding her eyes with his. "No holds barred. It's not like we're seeing them anymore." He is still speaking quietly, almost in whispers.
She thinks about what he has just said. She thinks she doesn't know the purpose of this "game". And she blinks at him in the semidarkness, blinks at him with her brown eyes that are now beseeching him to please not go there. She is not sure what to make of it all. Not sure whether or not she should trust him. And she is not feeling good about how this is sitting on her skin. Or how it will sit underneath it.
"You seem reluctant. Would it make you feel better if I went first?" He looks at her with the same steady, glassy face. He looks at her while his head rests on his pillow and her head rests on hers. "Would it?" he says gently.
"I guess." Her voice is as non-invasive as a speck of dust in the cold, dry bedroom air.
"Come here. I want to hold you when I say this, just so we'll both know what's real for us right now." He comes closer to her, and slowly folds his cool arms around her warm body. He breathes in her intoxicating smell. "You smell like crushed violets," he whispers in her ear. And he thinks that he would like to suck her like he would suck the pulp out of an orange.
She looks into his green eyes. Green with tiny flecks of gold. Eyes that change color with his mood, going from green to hazel to gray. Eyes that are always so quiet, but that seem to hide so many secrets. She looks into them, now. And sees green inside green inside green. But she doesn't know why she is so uneasy. And she doesn't know why they're doing this.
"What I liked most about Michelle was her hair," he starts, and her heart jumps a beat. She hadn't expected him to start so abruptly. "It was this gorgeous, rich, auburn color that glowed like liquid fire in the sun, and it danced around her shoulders." He is still looking into her brown eyes, and he is trying to read what they might be thinking. "We'd be out walking on a windy day," he says, his hot breath creating a thin sheen of mist on her nose. "And the wind would tousle her hair, and it would go flying all around her face. Some of the strands would land on her lips, and she'd squeeze her lips together. That was when I wanted her most."
She is still looking into his green eyes. Green with tiny flecks of gold. Darker green, now, it seems. And she finds some comfort in the fact that their bodies are so close together it is almost impossible for her to lower her gaze. If she looked down, or away, what would he think? But she doesn't know how to respond to this confession he has just made. She doesn't know what she is expected to say. Or do.
The air is cold and heavy and dry. And these are moments that feel like minutes that feel like hours. And now, he is seeing her eyes as four, as four times four, as sixteen times sixteen. And her exponentially multiplying eyes are looking at him. And he is waiting for her to begin her part of the game. This much, at least, she sees in his two eyes.
"One of the things I really liked about Ryan was his strong body," she begins. And she looks very carefully into his eyes to see if they will flicker. But there is nothing in the eyes. There is nothing in the face that is like a sheet of glass. She does feel his left leg shift slightly off of her right leg. But that is all. "His body was so muscular and so well-proportioned," she continues, "I used to call him David." She feels like some of the pressure has lifted. She feels like it is easier for her to open up to him and talk about these secrets that she has never talked about with anyone. He has made his confession, and she has started with hers. There is no point in stopping, now.
"You know Michelangelo's statue? That David."
"And what else?" he says, his voice giving nothing away. His eyes giving nothing away. Everything glassy and clean and neat. Even his left leg is now back to its old position.
"Well," she says. "He had the hottest body I'd ever seen, really."
"And what part of his body did you like best?"
"His legs," she says without a moment's pause. "I wanted his legs to just... well, you know." And then they are both silent. Silent in the semidarkness and in the afterglow of those last two words that hang above them in the cold, dry air. Hang. You know.
And she watches his eyes. And before she sees it, she feels it. The change. The transformation. The possession. And before anything else registers inside her head, he has jumped out of bed in one leap.
She sees his fingers roll into his palms. She sees the knuckles whiten and protrude. She sees his back stiffen and his shoulders square. She sees him roll up his hands into two fists. Two fists as hard as bowling balls. Two fists so hard if you hit them they'd break. She sees all of this in the semidarkness, and realizes that she shouldn't have...
And she watches, with her hand covering her mouth, as he drives both fists against the wall by the bathroom door. Drives them in and then explodes.
"Do you still love him?" He is screaming at the wall he has just killed his hands against, and he looks like a madman having it out with an invisible enemy.
And her eyes are crying, now. Crying as if they have been activated on their own, unattached to any emotional mechanism inside of her. "I don't love him," she says softly. "And you're the one who wanted to play this stupid game. You manipulated me."
"You didn't seem to need any goddamn encouragement to remember his sexy legs, did you? Do you still want him to fuck you with his goddamn legs? Do you want him to shove both his legs inside you up to his neck? Is that what you fucking want?" His rage is bubbling between his teeth. She can almost taste it in her mouth.
"How can you be jealous of someone who doesn't exist for me anymore?" she says quietly, trying to swallow her tears so he won't hear them.
"What the fuck do I have to be jealous about? He's a fucking has-been. And you're out of your mind if you think I give a shit about any of this."
And now, he knows he has said too much. Again. And said too hurtful. Again. He has punched and pulped and pulverized. And she has said nothing in return. And he wishes she would say something, wishes she would cuss him out and call him a bastard and a dirtbag and a jerk and an asshole. But he knows she won't. And he wishes he could take back those last couple of minutes that had started with an idea born of... what? Curiosity? Power? Or was it jealousy that had possessed him, like she'd said?
"Where do you see us five years from now?" he says with defeat, having switched off his rage as if he'd pressed a button. And he wants to believe that there is hope for some kind of future for them. And he wants her to know that he wants to believe.
"I would've wanted for us to be together," she says, her voice still damp with sadness and fear and confusion. "Married. Happy. With two beautiful children. A boy and a girl." And she stops for a moment to swallow the thoughts that have just rolled into her mouth. But these thoughts want to come out. "I'd even picked out names for them. Esmeralda and Sebastian." And she asks herself why she is telling him this, and why she is even still there, and why she had come back, again.
"Esmeralda and Sebastian. I guess most kids nowadays have really weird names. Esmeralda and Sebastian would be no exception."
"But our kids would've been so gentle and so beautiful. And they would've loved their names."
"You don't really believe that, do you?"
He turns around, now. And his lips are twisted in some kind of expression that she can't read.
"What names would you have picked for them?" she says. And she waits, thinking that it wouldn't matter what the names are because they would be the names of their two beautiful children.
But he is silent. For moments that feel like minutes that feel like hours. "I don't know," he finally says. "I hadn't thought about it."
"No. I didn't think you had."
He watches as she climbs out of bed. Just like every time. And pulls up her hair. Just like every time. But, this time, she does not bathe.
She is ready to leave inside of five minutes.
He would have liked to make love to her. Before she left. One last time. To inject her with something she could extract from between her legs every time another man touched her there. To impregnate her with a memory she could retrieve and smile about, secretly, in her head, while she smiled with fake love at her new lover. Or while she smiled with true love at her two children from another man. The man she would marry. The man who would father Esmeralda and Sebastian for her. The man she would be waiting for to come home every evening so she could serve him the dinner she had so dedicatedly prepared. The man he knew would never be him.