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January 23, 2023

With No Announcement

By Sand Pilarski

He couldn't even wait until he got back to his own apartment to wash himself clean of me.

Listening to the sound of the water pounding hollowly on the sides of the shower stall, the last bit of patience disappeared from my heart.

In the beginning, when he and I had first become lovers, his after-love-making ablutions had become an excuse for encores as I slipped into the shower with him. Those crazy days -- I almost felt like I could start staying at his apartment with him. The lovely evenings with romantic music, the passionately needy sex, the comatose sleep. The rare mornings when neither of us had to be at work by seven, we'd make breakfast together, make love again, nap, wake in each other's arms, maybe see a movie together, or go for a walk ... and at the end part regretfully, looking forward to the next time, the next big date.

Back then, I'd fall asleep smiling, wishing he was there with me in my own bed, remembering the sound of his laughter lightening the atmosphere at the bar at Fifth Street, where he and his cronies and their girls all hung out. I'd become one of the regulars, and the barkeeps and the laddies and ladies all knew my name, because I was his girl. As I'd drift off, I'd savor how he used his hands and eloquent voice to tell his stories, a natural born bard, captivating his audience like a bunch of little kids hearing their first rendition of "Little Red Riding Hood."

Took me a while to figure out that I wasn't the center of his universe, except for the sex part. At least two years had passed before I noticed that when he held forth at Baby Hotcakes -- that was the bar, and I hated the name, but it was his hangout -- I had been sitting alone at our table while he'd stood and waved his hands and entwined the others into his personal web. And that when he was done with his tale-telling (of work dramas and traffic dramas and opinion pieces) -- only then had he sunk back into his chair and looked to me for that last little tidbit of accolade, not openly, but it had been, and still was there, Are you having a good time, Munchkin?

The answer was "Yes!" The answer had to be "Yes!" The only time that the answer hadn't been "Yes!" but instead had been, "God, no, I have such horrible cramps that I feel sick, can you just take me home" had been answered with five days of non-communication, him not answering his phone, me crying until my eyes were swollen for having said the wrong thing.

Why did I think I needed him so much? Lord, that one incident should have clued me in -- my biological exigencies shut him down like a slammed car trunk lid -- wasn't I allowed to be human, and female, even though it was the female part of me that attracted him?

Well, no, it wasn't, was it. It was the always-available recreation of sex.

He'd have been happy with any bimbo who paid him lip service if she included free sex-on-demand. And didn't mind that while she was menstruating, he didn't need to see her at all.

For a while I thought that he loved me. And maybe he did, maybe he does, or maybe he just was infatuated with my vagina, which accepted his need to relieve himself without any taint of immature masturbation. I do know that during sex, he never once whispered or moaned, "I love you."

Yes, and for a while I thought that the delicious smell of him, the sexual titillation and orgasms, the exclusive nature of our relationship would be enough, and we would soon declare our love and marry, and have children, and ...

He stepped out of my shower and scrubbed himself dry with two of my amber-colored towels, dropping them on the floor when he was done. He'd always done that, for as long as I could remember, no matter how many times I'd asked him to hang towels up so that they would dry. He'd laugh. "You have so many rules!"

Pick up your towels, don't treat me like I was your personal maid. Was that a rule, or an expectation of civility? Oh, wait. Surely mildew would never think of infesting a towel that had touched his hallowed body. I should have thought of that before, and had him rub himself with my kitchen dishcloths, too. Maybe I could have convinced him to roll around on the floor -- then I wouldn't have to dust mop, or scrub up the beer dribbles he left on the linoleum by the refrigerator.

I rolled over and pulled the covers closer around my neck. Beer dribbles. Wet towels on the floor. What else did I suddenly hate about him?

"Meet at Baby Hotcakes tomorrow after work?" he asked, pulling on his pants.

"No," I muttered.

"What?"

"No, the world's ending tomorrow and I don't plan on being here for it."

"What are you talking about?" His voice had found that little edge that suggested that I had made the wrong answer once again. Oh, I hated that, too.

"Nothing. I'll probably regret this conversation in two hours and wonder what on earth I was thinking."

"No shit! Have you been smoking dope, or what?" He took his jacket from the back of one of the chairs and shrugged it on. "What's this, now? You're not even going to see me to the door?"

At my silence he walked toward the bed, but I knew that if I looked at him, I'd scream and cry and make a scene, so I just rolled off the far side of the bed and hitched myself underneath it, to the darkest middle, leaving the blankets behind, feeling my sweaty naked skin pick up dustbunnies.

"Jenny, you want to stop with the crap? I have to go now, stop playing games." His face appeared beneath the dust ruffle of the mattress. I slithered back away from him, comforted that he couldn't see my face, which was contorting with anger, loathing, and sadness. "Look, I have to get up in the morning, I can't stay here and play hide and seek, what is up with you? You think acting like a child is going to make me stay here all night? Forget it, I have to work in the morning."

The dust ruffle dropped, and I listened to him coming around to the other side of the bed. Once again I slid on the dusty floor to stay out of his reach, out of his eyesight. This time he reached under the bed and fished for me, trying to grab me to pull me out. "Jenny! Come out of there, quit playing games! You're not funny, so knock it off!" At my continued silence he snorted with frustration. "Chick drama!" he exclaimed. "What's with this chick drama shit?" He had no answer from me. "Will you answer me? Jenny! You want me to call your parents and tell them you're having some kind of psychotic break? Because I'm not sticking around for it!"

Go ahead, asshole. My father hates you. I tried to make you palatable to my parents, but they saw right through my salad dressing. Call them. Maybe they'll tell you exactly what they think of you. Why did I think they were wrong?

He stood up, said, "Goddammit" under his breath, and stomped for the hallway. "See you when you straighten up, Jen," he said, and slammed the door.

I peeked out from under the bed and determined that he had in fact left, but I stayed underneath until I heard the front door of the building slam, and even then I waited a good half hour before edging out. I turned off the bedside light, and in the darkness, made sure that he was gone. I turned the bolt on the door, latched the chain.

Well, that went well, I thought, and then dove for my purse on the counter and made sure that my keys to my car and to my apartment hadn't been filched by the bastard.

They were there, where they should be, and after a sigh of relief, I went to the shower myself, but not before throwing out the cake of soap that was in there, and getting a new one from under the sink. Decontamination.

I hung my towel on the rack in the spare room by the radiator, then returned to the bedroom and stripped the bed. The towels he had used, the sheets, the pillowcases we'd slept on -- and wait, my own towel, too -- all of them went into the laundry basket, which I then toted downstairs to the building's pair of washers and driers.

By the time the load was done, I'd be packed, have cleaned out the refrigerator, and the garbage would be down in the dumpster in the parking lot.

In my heart was a burning desire to sit down and write a long letter enumerating his faults and insensitivities, so that he knew just what an asshole he was. Where would I begin? With our first date, during which he bought me margaritas that dizzied my head and convinced me that resting in the back seat of his car would help clear my head while he pawed my pants off? Really, in retrospect, I should have shown up with a shovel at his apartment the next morning and beat him senseless with it, but instead, when he called at 9am and "baby-baby'd" me, I'd listened to his praise of my beauty and attraction and just said to myself, Well, hell, it could have been worse, and it really hadn't been too bad, had it?

No, there was always an excuse for the way he was: That's just how guys are; I thought you wanted to do that; Why didn't you just say 'no' then; If you didn't want to do it with him, why were you in his car; Everyone does it, it doesn't mean anything; You have so many rules. I packed my suitcase instead, and took it to the car.

While I cleaned all the leftovers out of the fridge, I called my parents' home. Dad answered. "Dad, would you mind if I came and visited for the weekend? As in starting tonight?"

"Jen! You okay?"

"Yeah, Dad, I just came to my senses tonight, for some reason. I'm ditching Mr. Boyfriend. I kind of wanted to be some place where I can get a sensible perspective, and I thought of you and Mom. If you don't think it's a good idea, though, I can make other arrangements."

"Come on home, kid. We'll make bacon sandwiches for breakfast. You have your key? Good, we'll be in bed, but we'll be listening for you."

"Thanks, Dad. I'll be there before eleven."

My thermostat was turned off, all my plants were well-soaked, and I had read forty pages of Jane Eyre before the sheets and towels were dry. Great book for a new beginning.

As I folded the linens, I held their warmth close to my chest for a few seconds. I had acted like a nutcase, to be sure, but he had taken me sexually mere minutes before. Yet his concern for me was such that my phone didn't ring, no, not even once. That was the headstone placed on the grave. It was how he handled rejection of his plans, his world-view. The good old silent treatment.

Yep, I was learning. Let him figure this one out on his own, if he ever does, or if he ever wants to. I really didn't care, and the lack of words for him was an intriguing chasm into which I felt an intense desire to leap. Let it happen: no words for him, no conversation with him, no further sight of him.

With no announcement, I left some dumb rocks and concrete-brained assumptions behind on the other side of silence.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-03-28
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