Elizabeth Brei


My maroon lipstick leaves a mark on the rim of my wine glass, and he eyes it in a way that impresses me. He licks his lips, and the interest flees. I sip my drink. It’s sweet. I’ve never cared for wine; it leaves a tacky feeling in the back of my throat, but the warmth it leaves swimming in my chest makes it easier to handle.


My shoes lie like dead things on the rug under the table, and my legs drape over his lap, smooth like snakes with black nylons, the seam of my toes like little smiling mouths. No red tongue slithers out to taste. It annoys me, and my head thuds against the armrest of the couch. His hands crawl up my thigh, so I bend my legs slightly, wiggling further into his lap.


His fingers are thick like sausages, and it’s such a cliché, and it fits because he’s such a cliché. A spout of giggles leaves me at the thought of sausage euphemisms, and I wonder if I should tell him that his penis is like a sausage. I figure he’ll think I’m propositioning him, so I keep it to myself, especially when I see his half-nervous smile at my half-drunken laughter.


It only takes him a few moments to decide my gravitation toward him means something, and I feel his hand pressing against the small of my back, pulling me up toward him. My hair slides down to hang behind me, a curtain of black, and his fingers slide through it, tug my head to the side. His lips are cracked and dry, but his tongue is desperately wet against my neck.


He kisses, and I let him. His hand slides under my shirt, and his fingertips are cool, his nails needy, clawing at my bra, and I just turn my head to the side, tilt it onto his shoulder and let him touch me like he wants to. I make no move to help him but to press my mouth against his neck. His skin feels warm and almost damp, and tiny hairs tickle unbecomingly at my lips.


Eventually, he pops the button on his pants and guides my hand down. I ignore the feeling of hot skin beneath my fingers and focus on pulling his earlobe between my teeth, biting down until he lets out a little hiss with my name on the end. I let go then, satisfied by the fact that he at least knows who I am. He finishes with a groan, sticky and hot on my hand, and I unfold myself from him to saunter to the kitchen to wash it off.


I hear him breathing where he’s splayed on the couch, recovering, and then the creak of springs as he stands. In another moment, his hands are flat on my stomach, his fingertips edging under my skirt. I bump him with my hip and murmur that I need to get home. There’s a disappointment in the wrinkle of his forehead and the dip of his mouth that I recognize from nights before, and I touch my hand to his cheek before moving past him to collect my things.


He watches me from the doorway of the kitchen as I balance on first one foot and then the other to push my shoes on, and the click of heels on the wood floor of his foyer makes me happy. He helps me into my jacket at the door, and I kiss his cheek before he steps aside, and I walk down the steps toward the sidewalk. I walk dutifully in the direction of my car until he’s closed the door, at which point I stray toward the street.


My shoes come off again, and I hold one in each hand, my purse dangling from my shoulder. The road is slightly damp from an evening rain, and it feels nice, refreshing on my aching feet. I know my brand-new nylons will be more than ruined by the time I reach my destination two blocks away, but it seems much more worth it than attempting to walk in heels. And trying to drive while tipsy doesn’t seem either like a good idea or a possible one currently.


At least part of my brain is working, because I think my destination can be considered a bad idea as well. The apartment building is red brick, the kind you see on college campuses; the door is black, and I like how well my nails complement it. I buzz her number, and I hear her voice, and it’s so nice, so nice, even though she sounds so confused about why I’m here. I want to tell her that I miss her, that I love her, and maybe it’s something in the way I’m breathing, but she asks if it’s me.


I don’t answer. I don’t look up at her window. I know she’s probably trying to peer down to see who’s at the door. She tries a few more times to ask who it is before giving up, and I sit down on the stoop, my shoes hanging from the index finger of each hand. My head feels heavy, a bowling ball on a toothpick, and I let it hang, feel the cool night air on the back of my neck. The door opens behind me with a rush of warmth that tells me the heater is on in the building.


I feel her leg press against mine, and I think of sitting on park benches eating ice cream or cuddling on the couch watching bad horror movies or pressing together side-by-side in a restaurant booth eating greasy pizza. She brushes my hair behind my ear, pets my head gently before pulling it onto her shoulder, and she smells like an organic food store, at which I’m sure she’s recently shopped. She doesn’t ask any questions. She just sits beside me feeling warm.


“You don’t have to pretend, you know.” They’re the first words I’ve heard clearly all night, and her fingers drag across my scalp in a way that makes me feel at home. “You’re hurting yourself, and you know that. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?” I don’t answer. “You’ve been seeing him, haven’t you? You always said no because you were with me, but now that you left me, you have nothing to stop you from being with him. You have no reason or excuse not to be.”


“I don’t want to be alone.” I murmur. My eyes are closed, and I am disoriented. She is my anchor in the darkness, and I lean heavily against her. I have yet to look at her face. I don’t want to think about the expression she must have, the hurt or the anger or worse, the disappointment. “He makes me feel like I’m not alone. I feel wanted. Is that bad?”


“Yes.” She speaks against my hair, and both her arms curl around me, holding my head to her chest. “Because I want you. I love you, and I have loved you and if you would just admit that it’s okay to be with me, you would be happy too. We’re not doing anything wrong. You’re self-destructing right now, and is it really worth it?”


There’s a long silence. The crunch of cars rolling by fills the air accompanied by the horns of distant traffic, the shouts of partying college students, the immediate and ultimate rock of her breaths and heartbeats against my ear. I curl my arms around her waist, and she gives a sigh that makes me happier than I’ve been in a long time. I try to think of a time before her, and I know there wasn’t one, because she is my whole world.


“Come on.” She picks up my shoes with one hand, keeping her other arm tight around me, and I stand up with her on shaky legs, pressing close to her side. “You look pretty tonight.” She comments, and a smile quirks up my mouth. We step into the foyer in a way that would seem awkward if I didn’t feel like I’m falling apart without her holding me up. Tomorrow, I may wake up in her bed and want to run away again, might want to deny this ever happened.


But tonight her apartment is warm and draped in colors that complement her glow, and the smell of tea and candles and pomegranate perfume wraps me up. My shoes fall in a pile of hers by the door, and my purse sits on her kitchen counter like it used to when I was here all the time. I fall into her bed like a rag doll, and she holds me and tells me that even with my make-up smudged, I’m the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen.






Euphemism Campus Box 4240 Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4240