Karen Wunsch

Can I Go Now?

When Ollie came home Friday after­noon Rosie had every­thing packed, includ­ing sev­er­al bot­tles of breast milk for four-mon­th-old Sarah. He was final­ly over the nasty flu that for weeks had kept him from help­ing much with child­care and house­hold chores. His cough had dis­rupt­ed Rosie’s few hours of sleep, mak­ing her tired, cranky, resent­ful and, the worst, guilty because of course it wasn’t his fault. Now he was tak­ing Sarah to his mother’s coun­try house so Rosie could have the week­end off.

They’d met in their mid-thir­ties. She was teach­ing lit­er­a­ture at Columbia, writ­ing a book about Leonard Cohen’s nov­els, and had final­ly bro­ken up with her mar­ried lover. Although she’d grown up in Manhattan in an upper mid­dle class fam­i­ly, she’d begun to feel that she no longer belonged in the city where every­one seemed eager to get her job, apart­ment, and seat at Starbucks. Another wom­an already had the man she’d want­ed to mar­ry. Ollie, nat­u­ral­ly pale, with thin­ning brown hair and gold-rimmed glass­es, was the IT per­son at a small firm that spe­cial­ized in estate law. They didn’t have a lot in common—he loved tech­nol­o­gy and shop­ping for gad­gets and rarely read nov­els. But there was some­thing about the unde­mand­ing and uncrit­i­cal way he loved her that made her feel bet­ter about her­self, espe­cial­ly after she didn’t get tenure.

As Rosie walked them to the car, she couldn’t stop look­ing at Sarah, with her big dark eyes and cloud of wispy dark hair. It was Halloween, and Rosie had bought her a sweater with smil­ing pump­kins all over it. Until the last min­ute, Rosie wasn’t sure that she’d be able to let her go.

But by the time she got back in her apart­ment, she was almost gid­dy at the prospect of two nights of unin­ter­rupt­ed sleep. When the friend she’d planned to have din­ner with can­celled, Rosie looked up times for a few movies, then decid­ed to go to a yoga class.

She changed into her exer­cise clothes, pleased that although her stom­ach wasn’t as flat as it had been, her pants were just a lit­tle tight. Her large breasts were even larg­er now that she was nurs­ing, so she wore one of Ollie’s old tee shirts. Standing before the full-length mir­ror, she pulled her dark hair back into a pony­tail, looked into her big dark eyes, and hoped that she was as attrac­tive as she had been. On her way to class she kept see­ing small chil­dren in cos­tumes and missed Sarah so much that she almost called Ollie to tell him to come home.

The yoga stu­dio was in a brown­stone on the Upper West Side. Perhaps because it was Halloween, the class wasn’t crowd­ed. There were main­ly wom­en Rosie’s age or younger, plus a young man with a pony­tail and an old­er wom­an. Someone had already tak­en Rosie’s favorite spot, by the win­dowed back door that over­looked a rock gar­den. The big white high-ceilinged room was bare except for piles of yoga equip­ment along the walls, but when the lights were dimmed, it seemed almost cozy. Although many of the stu­dents were stretch­ing, Rosie just lay on her back on her mat, her hands at her sides in corpse pose, her eyes open wide so she wouldn’t fall asleep. She hoped there wasn’t traf­fic and that Sarah was sleep­ing and that Ollie was okay—he tend­ed to catch what­ev­er flu or virus was going around. When they were first togeth­er she’d found this sort of appeal­ing. She remem­bered an after­noon when he was get­ting over some cold or flu, and she’d come home to find him sit­ting up in her bed, propped up again­st pil­lows, her flow­ered duvet half-cov­er­ing his sur­pris­ing­ly hairy chest. She’d thought that if she were a painter she’d paint his por­trait. She’d use water­col­ors, and it would be charm­ing, and she’d call it, “Ollie in Bed….” As if it were a mantra, Rosie kept think­ing that Sarah would only be three hours away. She heard the soft, bell-like and tune­less music that Jill, her favorite instruc­tor, always played as she dimmed the stu­dio lights.

Rosie had tak­en Jill’s pre­na­tal class, and she appre­ci­at­ed that unlike teach­ers who treat­ed yoga as a series of stretch­ing exer­cis­es, Jill—who used to be a lawyer—was at least some­what spir­i­tu­al. When at the end of class she’d say, “The light in me salutes the light in you, ” she’d sound as if she meant it. In her ear­ly for­ties, she was small and skin­ny, with small pointy breasts and short, gray­ish-blonde hair. There was a rumor that she was gay. She’d once men­tioned she was a lapsed Catholic and came from some­place rural in the Midwest. Rosie, who was Jewish, found it amus­ing that Jill would talk about schlep­ping and nosh­ing and kib­itz­ing, and she always said mazel tov when a new mom would bring in her infant for the still-preg­nant moms to ooh and aah over. Rosie won­dered if she had a Jewish part­ner.

For the first half of class they lay on their backs in var­i­ous pos­es. Although Rosie tried to con­cen­trate on her breath­ing, she’d imag­ine Ollie, in the rock­ing chair his moth­er had put in his old room, giv­ing Sarah a bot­tle. She hoped he’d be patient about burp­ing her, and that he’d remem­ber to use the oint­ment for her dia­per rash.

Just think­ing about Sarah made her breasts leak. Jill came over once to adjust Rosie’s posi­tion. Her touch was both gen­tle and firm. If she was aware of the wet spots on Rosie’s tee shirt, she gave no indi­ca­tion.

As soon as Jill had them turn onto their stom­achs, Rosie real­ized that her right breast was painful. Even through her shirt and bra, she could feel that it was hard and warmer than her left one. She felt hot, her skin prick­led, and she began to sweat. The oth­er stu­dents were on their hands and knees, hunch­ing over and then arch­ing their backs as they moved from cat to cow posi­tions. Rosie sat up.

Jill came right over. “Are you okay?” she asked soft­ly.

I’m not feel­ing great.” Although she knew that nurs­ing moth­ers could get infec­tions from clogged milk ducts, she wor­ried it was some­thing more seri­ous. She dread­ed going back to her emp­ty apart­ment, but she didn’t want Ollie to come back unnec­es­sar­i­ly. She was almost afraid to call her doc­tor. “Can I stay here for a while?”

Of course.”

For the rest of the class Rosie sat on her mat with­out mov­ing except to occa­sion­al­ly touch her sore breast. It was def­i­nite­ly warmer than the oth­er one and a lot hard­er. She was grate­ful that the oth­er stu­dents, focused on their own bod­ies, didn’t seem to notice that she was just sit­ting there.

After the final oms, Jill talked to a few stu­dents and then came over to Rosie. “This was the last class, so you’re wel­come to stay here and call your doc­tor or hus­band or just rest. I have lots of paper­work I can do.”

I guess I’ll call my doc­tor.” She start­ed to get up to get her phone, but Jill insist­ed on bring­ing over her purse.

I’ll be out in recep­tion if you need me,” Jill said. She turned up the stu­dio lights and closed the door.

Rosie’s doc­tor wasn’t there, but the doc­tor who called her back said it sound­ed like mas­ti­tis, wasn’t seri­ous, and that he’d phone in a pre­scrip­tion for an antibi­otic. “Don’t stop nurs­ing!”

When Rosie, embar­rassed, said that Sarah was away for the week­end, he asked if she had a breast pump. “Use it!”

Rosie sat there for a while, try­ing to decide whether to call Ollie.

Jill opened the door. “Is every­thing okay?”

He said it hap­pens to nurs­ing moth­ers. He doesn’t want me to stop nurs­ing, but Sarah—and my husband—are at my mother-in-law’s for the week­end.”

Do you have one of those pumps?”

I do, but I hate it.” Her eyes were fill­ing with tears. “I feel like I’m being pun­ished for let­ting them go.”

Not your fault, Mommy! And it’s going to be okay,” Jill said soft­ly. “I’ll tell you what. Lie down in corpse pose. I’ll get some blan­kets and then I’ll lie down too, and we’ll con­cen­trate on our breath­ing.” She went over and dimmed the lights. “I could use a break.”

Rosie knew that she should go to the drug­store, pump her breasts and tell Ollie to come home in the morn­ing. But she lay down again. Turning her head, she could see the moon above the rock gar­den.

Jill rolled up two blan­kets length­wise, put a bol­ster under Rosie’s neck, and anoth­er under her knees. She lay on the floor next to her. “Let’s focus on our breath,” she said.

Rosie tried to con­cen­trate. She’d nev­er gone so long with­out nurs­ing, though, and her nip­ples began to drib­ble milk again. “Shit!” she mut­tered. She couldn’t believe she’d said shit in the stu­dio. It seemed like a des­e­cra­tion. She start­ed cry­ing.

What is it?” Jill sat up.

Rosie pulled up her tee shirt. She unhooked her nurs­ing bra, her breasts tum­bled out, and milk trick­led down to her bel­ly.

My breast is sick,” she said, lift­ing her right breast. “Feel it.”

Jill hes­i­tat­ed, then touched it light­ly. “It’s warm…maybe a lit­tle hard.”

Would you suck it?” Rosie’s heart was pound­ing.

Jill, on her knees, had been lean­ing toward Rosie, but she drew back a lit­tle.

It doesn’t taste dis­gust­ing or any­thing. It’s sort of thin and almost sweet.” She saw the breast pump, her dark apart­ment. “Please,” she whis­pered.

Jill didn’t move.

It would be…a mitz­vah.” Reaching up, Rosie put her hand on Jill’s head and gen­tly but firm­ly pushed it towards her breast.

Jill took Rosie’s big nip­ple into her mouth and sucked it gen­tly.

It hurt a lit­tle. Rosie closed her eyes.

Is this okay?” Jill asked.

It’s fine.”

When her milk first came in she’d offered Ollie her breast, but he wor­ried that he was depriv­ing Sarah and bare­ly sucked it.

Is this okay?” Jill kept ask­ing.

I’m fine.” Sarah sucked in a more focused way…she would have already emp­tied it…Rosie almost smiled. “I think you got most of it,” she said after a while.

Jill sat up—her lips and chin were wet—but Rosie didn’t move. Her oth­er breast was drip­ping milk, and she want­ed Jill to suck it. Occasionally she’d feel aroused when Sarah nursed, but that was noth­ing like this. Her phone buzzed. Worried that it was Ollie and that there was a prob­lem with Sarah, Rosie sat up.

It was a text from one of her friends. Rosie put the phone back in her purse.

Jill was fold­ing the blan­kets.

I don’t know what to say,” Rosie mur­mured. “It seems so stu­pid to say, ‘Thank you.’”

I hope it helped.” Jill sound­ed the way she did when stu­dents thanked her after class. Her tee shirt had damp spots on it.

Rosie felt a kind of love for her.

Jill insist­ed on bring­ing Rosie her jack­et and hold­ing it for her to put on. She walked her to the door.

Thank you.” Rosie made a face to show how the words were inad­e­quate.

They hugged briefly, and then Jill went back inside.

By the time Rosie got to the drug­store, she was trem­bling. Like a lot of her teenage camp friends, she’d had occa­sion­al crush­es on some of the female counselors—it was part of the camp cul­ture. Before long, though, she began dat­ing boys, and until she met Ollie, she usu­al­ly had a boyfriend. Sometimes she wor­ried that she didn’t love Ollie as much as she’d loved her mar­ried boyfriend, but their sex had always been good, and as soon as she got preg­nant, she’d felt even more com­mit­ted to him. Occasionally she’d be drawn to a pret­ty wom­an who was dressed up and smelled good and whose fem­i­nin­i­ty was girlier than hers. But she’d nev­er been tempt­ed or come close to hav­ing sex with a wom­an.

By the time Ollie called, Rosie had tak­en an antibi­otic, drunk half a beer, and calmed down.

Telling him about her mas­ti­tis, she empha­sized that she felt bet­ter already. “See you Sunday,” she said. She thought about telling him what had hap­pened with Jill. She didn’t think he’d be angry or upset, but since she was pret­ty sure that he wasn’t the type who’d get horny just hear­ing about it, she decid­ed it would be her lit­tle secret.

______

The next morn­ing, Rosie’s phone woke her.

How are you?” Jill said.

Rosie touched her breast, which was no longer warm or as hard. She real­ized she’d slept through the night. “I’m def­i­nite­ly bet­ter.”

I’m sort of in your neigh­bor­hood,” Jill said.

Rosie real­ized that Jill must have gone back to the stu­dio for her num­ber. She hoped Jill hadn’t been aware of how she’d want­ed her to suck the oth­er breast. She real­ly hoped that Jill hadn’t been excit­ed, too. She wished that Ollie and Sarah were there.

I’d like to stop by. I won’t stay long.”

Rosie told her­self that it wasn’t as if Jill were some big sex-crazed man she’d be let­ting into her apartment…and she owed her some­thing. “Come on over,” she said hearti­ly.

She pumped her breasts. Although her moth­er and clos­est friend had each kept her com­pa­ny while she pumped—they’d laughed because the machine not only seemed to be talk­ing, but it said “Tina Fey”—she didn’t want to do it in front of Jill.

She’d just fin­ished and was putting on one of Ollie’s sweat­shirts when her door­bell rang.

The door­man didn’t call up to announce you,” Rosie said bright­ly. “You must look trust­wor­thy.” She thought that was a stu­pid thing to say. She remem­bered how she’d said “Shit!” in the stu­dio.

Jill wouldn’t take off her leather jack­et. She sat on the edge of the sofa. Rosie sat so there was a space between them.

Can I give you some cof­fee? I’d offer you tea, but I don’t have any.”

Jill didn’t want any­thing.

She was wear­ing the fad­ed black pants she wore to yoga and a tee shirt. Rosie had a feel­ing that when Jill was younger she’d been cute-cute, rather than pret­ty-cute. She was still sort of cute, but Rosie didn’t feel attract­ed to her. She tried not to think about how her shirt the night before had had milk stains. As she looked at a pic­ture of Sarah on the book­case, star­ing solemn­ly at the cam­era with her big dark eyes, her breasts start­ed leak­ing. Next to Sarah was a pic­ture of her­self and Ollie, smil­ing for the cam­era on their wed­ding day. She wait­ed for Jill to tell her what she want­ed, but Jill just sat there look­ing uncom­fort­able.

I real­ly hate the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of yoga,” Rosie final­ly said.

I’m not as again­st it as you’d think,” Jill said quick­ly. “It gets a lot of peo­ple to exer­cise.”

So you were a lawyer?”

I was a lawyer,” Jill said grim­ly. “Everyone told me I’d hate it, and of course they were right. I don’t miss the mon­ey. I own my apart­ment and basi­cal­ly just go to cheap­er restau­rants. I’m much hap­pier now.” She blew her nose into a big white hand­ker­chief that remind­ed Rosie of the ones her father used to use.

I feel uncom­fort­able about last night,” Jill said. “What con­cerns me is that I’m your teacher, and it hap­pened in my place of work.”

Rosie was relieved. “I already for­got about it,” she said. “Also, it nev­er hap­pened.” She smiled.

Jill bit her lip.

Listen,” Rosie said. “I’ll put what­ev­er you want in writ­ing. Just tell me what to say. We can go right out and get it nota­rized, if you want.” It was hard to believe she was sud­den­ly free to come and go as she pleased.

Actually, I’m a notary, too,” Jill said.

Rosie hes­i­tat­ed. “I can cer­tain­ly go to anoth­er stu­dio.”

Jill took a deep breath.

You’ll nev­er see me again. And I’ll nev­er tell any­one!”

I believe you.” Jill stood up. “I feel bet­ter.” She zipped up her jack­et. “You don’t have to go to anoth­er stu­dio, and you’re wel­come in my class any time. I mean it.”

Rosie believed her. “We’ll see,” she said. But she’d already decid­ed to try the new Pilates place or do karate or join a gym. It was the least she could do.

As soon as Jill left Rosie was tempt­ed to call a friend and tell her all about what had hap­pened, but remem­ber­ing her promise to Jill, she went out for a mani-pedi instead.

_____

During the next few weeks Rosie would think of some­thing about that night —like the way she’d pushed Jill’s head toward her breast, the way a man would push her own head toward his penis—and she’d feel her­self blush­ing. Sarah start­ed to go longer between feed­ings. Ollie got a raise, and they hired a part-time nan­ny. One day Rosie went to a movie, anoth­er day she had a mas­sage, and then, with­out plan­ning to, she start­ed work­ing again on her book about Leonard Cohen. She and Sarah joined a group of moms and their babies at a near­by Starbucks. Hearing the wom­en com­plain about their hus­bands, Rosie felt bet­ter about her mar­riage. Occasionally she’d see a pret­ty wom­an all dressed up as if she were going some­place excit­ing, and Rosie would enjoy look­ing at her, but that would be all.

______

On a sun­ny Saturday morn­ing short­ly after New Year’s, Rosie and Ollie took Sarah for a dri­ve along the Hudson.

In the car Ollie asked Rosie to play Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne.” Since she’d been turned down for tenure, his songs could make her feel bad about her­self, but now she want­ed to move on.

As Cohen sang, “And she feeds you tea and oranges/That come all the way from China,” Rosie thought about Jill and felt guilty she hadn’t tried any new class­es or joined a gym.

Sarah woke up, and she seemed to like “Suzanne.”

Ollie stopped at a quaint-look­ing town. They put Sarah in her stroller and walked around a small park, and then ate lunch in a cozy cof­fee shop. Sipping hot mulled cider, they dis­cussed sum­mer plans and decid­ed to stay in his mother’s coun­try house.

Rosie breast­fed Sarah, and Ollie flipped through a mag­a­zine. She thought about how he used to be embar­rassed when she nursed in pub­lic, but now he didn’t even seem to notice. He hadn’t been sick since before Halloween. He was wear­ing one of his sweat­shirts she’d wear when she first nursed Sarah. She took his hand.

He smiled almost shy­ly.

An old­er wom­an sit­ting a few tables away kept glanc­ing at them. She thinks we’re a hap­py fam­i­ly. Rosie remem­bered how when she’d go out with her mar­ried lover, she’d see fam­i­lies she envied.

They took a more direct and less scenic route back to the city. She saw a mall that had a Best Buy and asked if he want­ed to stop.

You’re ask­ing me to stop at a Best Buy?”

He looked at dish­wash­ers and speak­ers. After a while Rosie want­ed to say, as she always did, “Can we go now?” but she tried to be patient. Sarah was fas­ci­nat­ed by the rows of enor­mous TVs.

Ollie end­ed up with a print­er that was on sale. Standing with him on one of the long check­out lines Rosie noticed a pret­ty wom­an wear­ing patent leather heels, a red coat with a vel­vet col­lar and cuffs, and a fur hat with a rib­bon in the back. Rosie kept sniff­ing the flow­ery per­fume she assumed was hers.

Do you think she’s attrac­tive?” she whis­pered to Ollie.

Yes.”

Rosie laughed.

What’s so fun­ny?”

It’s not worth explain­ing.”

He let it go.

A few days lat­er he woke up with a cough that lin­gered and kept her up at night even when she slept on the sofa bed in the liv­ing room and turned up her new white noise machine. After a few days he seemed bet­ter, but in the mid­dle of oral sex he had a cough­ing fit. When it was over he was ready to go back to their love­mak­ing.

Sorry,” she said, “I’m not in the mood any more.”

It’s okay.”

She could tell he was annoyed.

He worked all week even though his cough per­sist­ed, but as soon as he got home, he’d go right to bed.

On Saturday he stayed in bed. Rosie had a drea­ry day with Sarah, who was get­ting her first tooth and cranky. In the late after­noon, Ollie final­ly came out of the bed­room. Rosie was sur­prised that he’d shaved and was dressed.

I’m bet­ter. Why don’t you get out.” He took Sarah from her arms. “Do some­thing for your­self. Go to yoga or some­thing.”

Sarah burst into tears.

Maybe I should stay….”

Go!”

She looked at the clock. Jill had just begun her last class of the day, but if Rosie rushed, she could catch her before she left. Although Rosie thought less and less about that night, Jill was the only oth­er per­son who knew what had hap­pened and Rosie sud­den­ly felt close to her. She won­dered if they could be friends.

______

Rosie was half a block away from the stu­dio when Jill came out. She wore a pea jack­et and a dark knit­ted hat.

I just fin­ished, but if you hur­ry you can still make Mark’s class,” Jill told her.

That’s not why I’m here.”

Oh?”

Are you free, may­be we can have din­ner.”

Tonight?”

I thought that may­be we could talk.”

Jill bit her lip. “Let’s go to my apart­ment,” she said. “It’s not too far.”

A few blocks from Jill’s build­ing, Rosie saw a wom­an who looked like her moth­er-in-law and felt ner­vous, but it wasn’t her.

Jill lived in a one-bed­room in an anony­mous-look­ing high-rise. Although her fur­ni­ture was non­de­script, a big chan­de­lier shaped like a hot air bal­loon hung in the small entry­way.

They sat on the sofa, not quite next to each oth­er. Jill wore a tee shirt and yoga pants. Rosie looked down at her cash­mere sweater that final­ly fit her again. She only nursed Sarah at bed­time now. She won­dered if Jill noticed how much small­er her breasts were.

I love your chan­de­lier,” she said. She was tempt­ed to ask where Jill had bought it, but she didn’t want to have that kind of con­ver­sa­tion.

It was Annie’s,” Jill said. “My ex’s.” Jill got her phone and showed Rosie a pic­ture of a wom­an in her thir­ties with freck­les and a lot of light brown hair. She was stand­ing in front of a tree. It seemed to be a very sun­ny day.

She lives in Brooklyn now. With the wom­an she left me for.”

That must be hard.”

In a few months, they’re going to have a baby.”

Rosie didn’t ask which wom­an was preg­nant. “That must be real­ly hard.”

Jill shrugged. “It’s eas­ier than it was.”

Rosie thought that Jill seemed lone­ly. She wished she hadn’t come.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hun­gry,” Jill said bright­ly. “How about some soup?”

Soup would be great.”

I haven’t shopped in a while, but I’ll see what I can do.”

She didn’t want any help. Rosie went to the liv­ing room and looked at the book­case. There didn’t seem to be many nov­els. On top was a pic­ture of an old­er cou­ple Rosie assumed were Jill’s par­ents. She texted Ollie that she was hav­ing din­ner with Jill, then texted again that Jill was her yoga teacher. She felt a lit­tle sad that she wouldn’t be putting Sarah to bed.

Jill brought out mugs of what looked like toma­to soup, and a bas­ket of rice crack­ers. “It’s sort of soup. I only had V8 juice, the kind with­out salt? But I added some veg­gies, and it’s not bad. I can give you salt, if you want.”

It was bland and watery, but Rosie didn’t ask for salt. “Do you have any wine?”

I stopped drink­ing when I stopped prac­tic­ing law, but I’ll look.”

She came back with a bot­tle of Manischewitz.

Rosie laughed. “I haven’t had Manischewitz Concord Wine since the Seders of my child­hood.”

Annie was Jewish…we broke up before our Seder.”

Maybe I’ll just have water,” Rosie said. She decid­ed it was the worst meal she’d ever had. “Actually, I’ll have the wine.” It was as sick­en­ing­ly sweet as she remem­bered.

Rosie was about to com­plain about the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of yoga, but she had a feel­ing she’d brought it up when Jill came to her apart­ment. She fin­ished her wine, poured her­self more, and alter­nat­ed a sip of soup with two sips of wine.

Why did you want to see me?” Jill asked her.

Rosie didn’t know what to say. “Let’s go to the liv­ing room.” Although she hadn’t quite fin­ished her soup, she start­ed to clear.

Leave the dish­es,” Jill said.

Rosie sat on the edge of the sofa. Jill sat so there was a fair­ly big space between them.

Rosie talked about Cohen’s nov­els.

I thought he only wrote songs.”

Do you like his songs?”

I don’t know a lot of them.”

Do you like ‘Suzanne’? The one about the tea and oranges?”

What do you want to talk to me about?”

Rosie looked at Jill’s tee shirt, then looked away. “Sometimes I think about that night in the stu­dio.”

Jill looked uncom­fort­able.

I wish I hadn’t said shit.”

I real­ly don’t remem­ber.”

She tried to focus on her breath­ing. “That night…did you swal­low it? Or spit it out.” She hadn’t planned to say it. She real­ized it was the kind of thing a man would want to know.

Jill looked relieved. “Your milk?” She smiled. “I can’t say for certain…maybe a lit­tle of both? It was thin, and almost sweet.”

Rosie was moved, but she decid­ed not to ask if it had felt like a kind of love.

______

When she got home Ollie was sit­ting up in bed, read­ing a mag­a­zine.

Are you feel­ing okay?” she asked him.

I’m fine.” He put down his mag­a­zine. “Sarah’s fine. Her rash is almost gone.”

Usually Rosie would want to hear every lit­tle detail about what he and Sarah had done, but some­thing was both­er­ing her. Ollie in bed. She felt drunk. “It’s prob­a­bly a good thing we’re going to your mom’s this sum­mer,” she said.

I guess.”

I mean, if you get sick, we won’t have to can­cel any plane or hotel reser­va­tions.”

I’ll be fine,” he said mild­ly.

Well, you don’t have a very good track record.”

I’ll be fine,” he said firm­ly. He picked up his mag­a­zine. “How was your din­ner with your teacher?”

Rosie took off her blouse. “It was the worst meal I ever had.”

That’s too bad.”

Did I tell you that Jill is gay?”

He was flip­ping through the mag­a­zine. “That’s nice.”

As she some­times did, Rosie undressed in stages, putting on her night­gown before tak­ing off her jeans and boots. Although Ollie rarely crit­i­cized her appear­ance, for some rea­son this always seemed to annoy him.

Are you com­ing or going?” he’d say.

Are you com­ing or going?” he said.

I’m not sure,” she said soft­ly.

What?”

Nothing.”

Well then, good night.” He turned off his light.

In the dark, she took off the rest of her clothes. And then, right before get­ting into bed, she took off her night­gown, too.

~

Karen Wunsch’s sto­ries and essays have appeared or are forth­com­ing in The Literary Review, the Beloit Fiction Journal, Hotel Amerika, Chautauqua, Willow Springs, catchandrelease.columbiajournal.org, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. A recent essay was select­ed as a Notable Essay of the Year in Best American Essays 2014.