Rae Bryant

The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals, Relatives and Gin

She drinks his Tanqueray and ton­ic and envi­sions telling him that he real­ly isn’t take-home mate­r­i­al or the sort of guy who dress­es up ‘real well’ with all the nec­es­sary un-tuck­ing and scarf draping—he’s lost too much hair now—though he is sat­is­fac­to­ry for a stand-by hook-up—this can­not be denied—or an occa­sion­al at-home neck­ing, pos­si­bly a low-light­ed evening event with coworkers.

Enter, gin and ton­ic #2.

The pil­lows have pushed out between them. Knees touch­ing. He speaks deep and slow about high school foot­ball and stock options. She imag­ines him tight and angled, ignores the round­ed bel­ly. Pictures the thick­ness of his port­fo­lio instead. She downs the rest of her gin and sucks on the wedge of lime, lets it linger on her lip.

Gin and ton­ic #3.

Skin to skin. The bel­ly has turned out quite help­ful, a ful­crum of sorts, and wouldn’t you know it? The bel­ly hides the pri­vate parts of their sex so when she glances down to observe the grit­ty details—really, who can resist?—the mound of flesh will not let her.

Two min­utes in, the bel­ly sur­pris­es her. It proves to be more flex­i­ble than she would have imag­ined, tak­ing on geo­met­ric swing pat­terns akin to Spyro Gyro, a game she’d so loved as a child, and there in the chaos of bel­ly and breasts, the organs become art, flesh sculp­tures in motion. She names the penis Waldo and labors to locate its posi­tion in the gyrat­ing flesh­es between them, like find­ing the miss­ing char­ac­ter on the back of a cere­al box that your lit­tle broth­er waves in the air even though you’ve told him to Put it down! I’m try­ing to locate the penis!

It takes the bet­ter part of three min­utes to find it. The penis works behind a cam­ou­flage of gray pubic hair and a love trail. She stud­ies it like Dian Fossey study­ing apes or a math­e­mati­cian study­ing cir­cles and rec­tan­gles. She takes mea­sure­ments by rela­tion­ships. The arc of the penis equals the slope of the flut­ed glass. The girth equals the diam­e­ter of one in a half sushi rolls. She records the quan­ti­ta­tive fea­tures, the ded­i­ca­tion of it all, for tru­ly, the penis has heart and stick-to-it-ness. A sol­id ten points for length. Four for width. Bonus points for its dog­mat­ic work eth­ic. In the end, she awards the penis a hand­i­cap for dis­crep­an­cies between actu­al breast size and push-up pro­mo­tion­al dimensions.

Post-coital water.

Hydration is the sin­gle most impor­tant step toward anchor­ing into the real­i­ty of slop­py behav­ior. It is a wet­ting of the moral palate, a reju­ve­na­tion of the spir­it, a pause and oppor­tu­ni­ty to decide if the behav­ior should reg­is­ter in the grand scheme of life­long deci­sion mak­ings, or if the behav­ior is sim­ply a burp, an unan­tic­i­pat­ed flinch of gas­tric slut­ti­ness. She fin­ish­es the water, wish­es it was gin then pulls a pil­low into her bare lap. Slutty wins. Yes, it has been a slut­ty sort of evening.

They are both too worn and wast­ed and down­time to grab a tow­el, blan­ket, nap­kin, so they sit watch­ing the pieces of spicy salmon with cucum­ber left­overs on the cof­fee table, the near-dis­si­pat­ed pools of soy. They talk about the dis­tressed barn wood aes­thet­ic of the room and try to ignore the naked­ness of it all and the fact that the room has grown rather cold now and their sweat­ed skins are uncom­fort­ably slip­pery. Filthy slips. The kind of film one might scrub away with Clorox. When he leans back and offers his shoul­der, she near­ly cringes like a too old child expect­ed to sit in her grandfather’s lap. In min­utes, thank­ful­ly, he sleeps—it has been so long she’s lain still with shal­low breath. She hums, in her head, the theme song to Mission Impossible, slides from his arm and chest, away from the couch, col­lects wrin­kled clothes from the floor then car­ries them to the front door where she trips and slips over the skin­ny black skirt, the red bra that is real­ly too small and the blouse but­tons. Shit. She tip­toes back to couch, grabs purse, stops, drops, rolls when he snuf­fles in his sleep. Crawls back to door.


At the 7‑Eleven, around the cor­ner, she stands in a line, wait­ing to pay for cof­fee and the Styrofoam cup in her hand. She adjusts the hem of her skin­ny black skirt and tries to straight­en the twist in the red lace bra strap that irri­tates the mole on her shoul­der because the mole sticks out too far. She has made men­tal notes to have it removed many times. The lace and elas­tic are cut­ting into her skin now and she thinks she smells the aro­ma of ejac­u­la­tion and sperm swim­ming through her canal. She glances around the con­ve­nience store and won­ders if 7‑Elevens car­ry preg­nan­cy tests. The bra strap real­ly is too tight. She sips the luke­warm cof­fee and laments for the envi­ron­ment and for Styrofoam and the peo­ple who made Styrofoam because they didn’t know it would be so bad when they invent­ed it. They thought they were sav­ing trees.

What would cof­fee taste like with Tanqueray? Would it be bitter?

She tells her­self, Surely, he will call. How long will it take for him to call? The woman in the secu­ri­ty mir­ror is star­ing at her now. Her eyes are smudged with mas­cara and age, framed by a famil­iar arc in the brows. She used to be so much sex­i­er after sex. The mir­ror makes her nose con­vex­ly large.

Surely, he’ll call.

She con­sid­ers death. It is best served as a pre­emp­tive mea­sure. She vac­il­lates between great aunt and sec­ond cousin and read­ies the tears because they are more con­vinc­ing, a quick­er get­away. Men run away from women who cry too much. When her cell­phone vibrates, she tries to remem­ber which rel­a­tive she had used last time, not want­i­ng to kill the poor thing twice.