Thursday, May 15, 2014
She had scars protruding across her thighs. She told me they were self inflicted late one night while we were sitting on our used couch in our apartment living room. Her friend, Rebecca, wanted to get rid of the couch because she claimed they held too many bad memories. It was mauve and upholstered in a course vinyl fabric. I had my arm wrapped around her and her head was resting against my collarbone.
"In high school I use to cut myself." She paused for a moment, listening to my deep and steady breathing; feeling my chest rise up and down against her cheek. "It use to be the only thing that actually made me feel alive." She pressed her nose into my chest, bare at the neck between the collar of my button down shirt. She took several deep breaths.
If she had told me this in high school I would have been shocked, but somehow riveted by such an audacious act of self mutilation.
Sitting on our couch that night, alone in our new home, I only felt confusion in such an inexplicable act of blood proof. "Of course you are alive." I finally muttered, not quite knowing what else to say.
She took another deep breath. "Do you want to see the scars?" She asked quietly.
The first time we bathed together, I noticed the scars on her milky thighs blushed a bright pouting pink when they were immersed in the steaming hot water. They were only faint rippling contours on her legs before, no different in tone and girth than an elbow compared to a knee cap. In the hot water, they swelled to the color and impression of fair lashed flesh. She noticed I was staring at the scars. "I cut myself on our couch, once." She said quietly. "On Rebecca's couch." She was looking down into the steaming water in the cream colored claw footed tub. She folded her feet around my bare lower back, immersed in the same steaming water. "There was blood everywhere." She added in a low monotonous tone.
I stared at her from across the bathtub. Leaning forward, I grasped her hips, pulling her closer to me. A small wake trailed her body in the water as I moved her towards me. I kissed her neck, her cheeks, her lips, and her eyes. I heard the drizzling sound of the water pouring off her when I picked her up and laid her face down atop my naked and saturated body. Her wet hair draped across my forehead while our lips breathed in and out of syncopation, only a half an inch from each other. I grabbed the clef between her thigh and buttocks and pulled her even closer. I pressed every inch of her wet naked skin I could manage against mine.
"Thank God." She sighed.
I kissed and caressed her chest and neck with my face.
"Thank God." She said again. "The clean-ability rating of that couch is rated W." She said with a sudden distance in her voice. "Otherwise the blood would have never washed out."
"Steph?" I held her still against me. "Steph? Are you okay?"
Her body went limp against mine. I went limp too.
"What do you mean?" She asked. "Why wouldn't I be okay?"
"What?" I asked emphatically confused. "Are you happy?" I asked, suddenly desperate for words.
"What are you asking me, right now?"
I lay there in silence. Her head rose from the tub, and though I was looking away from her, I knew she was staring at me. I didn't know what to say; how to answer. I had asked genuinely if she was okay, wanting to hear her answer. All is farce unless you have someone to speak to, so why should it not be someone who loves and cares for you: your boyfriend, your friend, your roommate? I simplified the question when I was met with her confusion and boiled down my concern to a yes or no question: Are you happy? And I was met with a counter offense of a question: What are you even asking me, right now?
We heard from outside of the bathroom our roommate, Max, enter through the back door of the second story house apartment. He was with someone. The sound of their feet walking up the old wood stairs of the house. The sound of the painted red door clasping and closing in the jamb after they entered the kitchen. He had a girl with him who was obviously drunk due to the stumbling, yelling, laughing and barking noises being emitted through the walls and doorways. Steph and I laid still in the bathtub during the cacophony.
"Let's do a shot." in a muffled cadence.
"Do you think I'm pretty?" Could be translated in a faded timbre.
"This looks like my old couch." Were the last word I heard from her that night.
"Let's do another shot." Max said and then there was silence. After that, Steph and I listened as they entered Max's room. And finally, Rebecca's faint moaning.
Steph pushed herself away from me, plunging my head beneath the cooling bathwater. She reached for a towel and dried herself off. She put on a robe and laid down on our bed. A couple of minutes later, I climbed into bed with her and kissed her behind her earlobe. It smelled like vanilla; I could not smell her skin.
"Not tonight, Jed." She said in pained, but quiet frustration
"What?" I asked, still confused.
She pushed her body away from mine. "I want. To be. Alone." She spoke in metered exhaustion.
I laid there for awhile. Then finally found my sleeping bag in the closest and slept on the floor in front of our; her; Rebecca's couch.
Aaron C. Molden