Kim Chinquee

Physics

I sat there on the floor, read­ing about red cells for my the­sis. My cat Patches was curled at my feet.  My boyfriend William had come over, we were try­ing things again, and now I lis­tened as he talked to my son Jamie about his job as a reporter. Jamie nod­ded, more inter­est­ed in the TV, where some guy was smack­ing his gui­tar and dou­ble leap­ing.

My moth­er called.  It was almost Christmas.

Eileen,” my moth­er said.  “Come and see your step­dad.”

What should I say?”

He loves you, you know.”

Patches rubbed my leg.  She was cal­i­co.  I pet­ted her and she start­ed purring.  There was silence on my mom’s end.

I’m say­ing maybe you should come now,” she said.  “At least think about it.”

Her voice began to waver. She start­ed cry­ing, she said she wished it wasn’t such a dri­ve for me to see her. I mouthed to William it was my mom.  He was mak­ing faces at Jamie. Patches scur­ried to the bed­room.

When I hung up William told me about a girl he’d known since high school, a girl I’d met in Physics. She was leav­ing her hus­band.

Her prob­lems were that bad?”  I said to William.

One of those mar­riages that just look good,” he said.

Miles from next door came over, ask­ing if Jamie could play. He was an old­er kid who I relied on to babysit. I waved at Jamie as he head­ed for the door. I sat close to William.  He made me feel want­ed, just sit­ting with him.

Marriage sucks, huh?” he said.  He looked at me and start­ed going for some­thing between my teeth with a fin­ger­nail.

It’s my step­dad,” I said.

Your mom?”  He looked at his watch.  He was on his way to a din­ner par­ty with this woman. Her name was Anna.  He’d just come from the gym, said he should be get­ting ready.

Can I come?” I said.

What about your the­sis?” he said.

I can help,” I said. I knew about divorce.

I guess,” he said. “It’s your choice.”

I called Miles’ moth­er, asked if Miles could stay with Jamie. Then I got dressed and William came and watched, helped me pick an out­fit.

I stood there naked, going through my clos­et.  I pulled out a slinky shirt that was falling off a hang­er.

You wear­ing that?” he said.

I put the shirt back and he got off the bed, rub­bing against me.  I turned around and let him kiss me but told him the rest could wait.  I fil­tered through my rack, picked out a dress with an embroi­dered col­lar.

You’re ok with Shirley Temple?” he said.  He took it, put it back, and grabbed the sil­ver top.  He told me to show my stuff.

This one’s going to Salvation,” I said, tak­ing it from him.

He talked me into my low rid­er jeans, that top—the whole out­fit showed my naval and my cleav­age.  I wore boots.  All the time I was dress­ing he was touch­ing me.  It was hard to keep my mind on my busi­ness. I put on hoops, said, “You go for the sleazy look, huh?”

Whatever,” he said. “It’s you.”

He slapped my butt, said, “Some women would die to car­ry off this look.”

I tapped his cheek.  “Hands off until lat­er. You’re kind of remind­ing me of my dad.”

He put his arms around me and rocked, and though he didn’t always say the right things, I felt a lit­tle warm there.

As he show­ered, I found Jamie out­side, shoot­ing bas­kets with Miles and the neigh­bor boys.  I yelled to them that I was going out.

Man, with that dork?” Miles said. “You must be hard up.”

Just take care of my son,” I said.  I kissed Jamie and told him to be good.  I watched him try a free throw.

In the car, William put in a CD by Madonna, some­thing we lis­tened to when we were fuck­ing. “Bring back mem­o­ries?” he said.

We were the first ones at the par­ty. The table was set with fan­cy sil­ver dish­es and can­dles burn­ing in the cen­ter, the light­ing to match.  It looked nice in a TV soap opera way.

Other guests arrived.  There were about ten in all, and I’d met most of them before at oth­er times with William. They were his friends. I sat on the couch, William next to me, and I rubbed my hand along the cushions–soft, cov­ered in velour—as they all laughed about stuff.  I took off my boots, left them sit­ting on the hard­wood. I sat on my feet.

When the group broke up, William put his hand on my back and looked at me.

What’re you think­ing?” he said.

I’m going to stay here,” I said.

What, in this apart­ment?”

No, I mean in town. I’m not going north to see my step­dad.”

Oh,” he said, sip­ping his wine, look­ing toward the kitchen where three of the women were laugh­ing loud about some­thing.

When Anna got there, I gave her a hug.  “Hard times, huh?” I said.

She took a long swal­low.

She went into the kitchen.  I returned to the sofa.  William edged clos­er, his hand on my shoul­der.  He smelled like my sham­poo.

You know,” he said, drop­ping his hand to my leg.  “When I was in the show­er I promised myself I’m not touch­ing you tonight.  You look so hot.  It’s like sex cheap­ens our rela­tion­ship, or some­thing.”

You’re so sweet,” I said, star­ing down at some­thing.

You know what I mean,” he said. “You want to stop at my place?”

Dinner was all green, let­tuce just like grass, and veg­e­tar­i­an lasagna.  Red wine to match the green, as if it were Christmas.  William looked at my plate.  “Two serv­ings,” he said.

Of every­thing,” I said.

Like you’re Ethiopian.”

After a while, I excused myself, tak­ing my glass with me to the bath­room.

Everything was pink.  I looked at myself in the mir­ror and dabbed my lip­stick.  I looked for floss and did my teeth.  I arranged my hair. I looked in the cab­i­net for gel. Then I heard knock­ing.

Can I?” said the woman.

I opened the door and found Anna. I told her I was look­ing for some­thing for my hair.  She reached in her purse, gave me this wax thing.

I said, “Like a hair com­mer­cial.”

She shut the door. “Bill thought you were sick,” she said.

Paranoid?” I said, doing my hair.

He just cares,” she said.  She did what she need­ed, sat.  “You two look good togeth­er.”

After the meal, we all cleared the table. I sat next to William on the sofa.  I kept telling him that he looked real­ly tired.  He told me he was ener­getic, think­ing of us going back to his place.

Should we leave?” he said. I told him when­ev­er he was ready.

The host­ess was out of wine, and William had more at home, so he decid­ed we should get some.  Anna fol­lowed in her car, so she could bring the stuff back to the par­ty.

At William’s, I sat on the sofa, pet­ting his dog Baby.  Anna sat next to me.  William went to the kitchen and Anna talked about her hus­band.

He’ll fight?” I said.

For every­thing,” she said.

From the kitchen, William called for Baby.

What about the kids?” I said.

William came back with the bot­tle. He looked at Anna, asked her what it was now.  He sat next to her and put his hand on her, said that she could stay there.

You don’t have to go back,” he said, He went back to the kitchen with the wine, returned with three full glass­es and some tis­sues. Baby trailed behind him.  He sat between us, hand­ed out the wine and gave Anna his big tis­sues.

It’s just me,” she said.  She took off her glass­es. We all sipped our wine.  Baby got up and sat on the blan­ket in the cor­ner.

Is it time?” William said to her. “Are you ready to come out now?”

She put on her glass­es, sipped.

I took some of my own wine.

William put his arms around us.  “There’s some­thing she wants to tell you,” he said. He smiled a lit­tle.

He leaned over and he kissed her. I didn’t real­ly know what to do.  They kept on kiss­ing so I nudged him. That wasn’t help­ing.

Hey,” I said, final­ly get­ting up then.

I said to them, “Hello?”

They final­ly stopped and William looked at me, wip­ing his sali­va. His chin was red.  “A three­some would be nice,” he said.

Baby start­ed bark­ing.

I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

As William drove, he told me he’d been wait­ing to be alone with me.  I told him to just shut up about it.

I start­ed think­ing of my step­dad. If he was real­ly as sick as my moth­er made him sound then.

I told William that was a ter­ri­ble thing to do with Anna. I said, “She’s hav­ing a hard time already.”

We sat there at a stop­light. I talked about my step­dad. I said I had to go there.

Do what you want,” he said.  “How much longer does he have now?”

I looked out the win­dow at the street­lights, at a cat that lurked.

William grabbed my hand.  “Can you do that thing?” he said.

Fuck,” I said.

C’mon,” he said. “It’s fun.”

You have some nerve,” I said. “I was bring­ing up my fam­i­ly.”

He said, “Maybe you’ll feel bet­ter.”

I thought about the night we got back togeth­er, the night he said he missed me and want­ed more than some­thing sex­u­al.  I real­ly want­ed that, want­ed some­thing deep and last­ing, although I wasn’t des­per­ate.

I undid his belt, unzipped, reached under his box­ers.  I sucked on all his fin­gers, mov­ing in the way I knew to tease him.

He told me that he loved me. He said he was sor­ry. He said he just want­ed to be good to me.

Ok,” I said, as if I actu­al­ly believed him.

He pulled into the lot of my apart­ment, parked under a street­light.

It was after mid­night.  I thought about Jamie. Sometimes he wait­ed up.  I imag­ined him on the sofa, in his jeans and shoes, wear­ing one of my old Air Force sweat­shirts. His leg falling off the cush­ion, his head lean­ing crooked on the arm­rest.  An emp­ty car­ton of milk on the floor next to a box of cere­al or some­thing. The TV still on, blar­ing. Of course, he would be sleep­ing.

I might nudge him, say­ing, “Jamie.” I might stay there with him, watch­ing.

William had his hand around my neck. I knew what he was up to.

I slid down, moved my mouth over his box­ers. He eased the seat back and as I heard him groan, I began to nib­ble. I took him, mov­ing hard­er.  My eyes watered. My mouth got sore. I kept on, hear­ing him tell me how much he real­ly liked me.  I felt his hand on my head tug­ging. He yelled for me, say­ing yes and yes and fuck me. I moved low­er, into one thigh, then the oth­er.

He kept call­ing me his baby, yelling hard­er, loud­er, grunt­ing.  I bit him, teas­ing, deep­er. He kept ask­ing for more.

I bit again, as if I were a tiger.  I heard him scream. He yanked me.

I tast­ed some­thing salty.

Jesus fuck­ing Christ,” he said.

I sat back and put my hand on my mouth. It was drip­ping. I opened my door and spit on the con­crete. I wiped my face with his jack­et.

I took a clos­er look. “You’re bleed­ing,” I said.

There he was, with a wound like a gigan­tic peanut, the size and col­or of a plum. I told him it looked like a vagi­na.  He said it wasn’t fun­ny.

He sat there with his legs spread.

His blood was bright. I said, “Maybe you’re ane­mic.”

I start­ed think­ing of the morn­ing. I start­ed think­ing of my plans then. I pic­tured Jamie asleep. I tried not to look back. I thought about tomor­row.