On a winter’s day

It was the third time she was asking me to come by her place. I did not want to see her, but I have always felt… inadequate when refusing people. It feels wrong, that’s all. Nevertheless, I told her that I didn’t have the money to pay for the cab fare to her place. No other means of transportation. It was in the dead of winter, I couldn’t just walk ten miles. She said she’d pay my cab fare.

“Just give me a ring when you get there and I’ll come down,” she said.

I feel I should apologize. This isn’t one of those stories where something extraordinary happens. The kind of things that are stranger than life itself. No. I am sorry. Also, there’s not even the kind of dialogue that would make you smile because it was just that clever. No witty remarks, no sarcastic comebacks. I haven’t been blessed with remarkable people in my life, so my stories tend to be about folks who aren’t good at conversation.

She was no exception, even though she pretended to be a writer when she was bored.

I called her when the cab was pulling up on her street. By the time it got there, she was already in front of the apartment building. She gave me the money, I paid. She told me to keep the change. To pay for the fare on the way back.

We took the elevator to her apartment, went inside. The dogs greeted me, the cats ignored me as usual. She took a seat on the couch and began to watch TV. I fumbled idly with a cigarette before lighting it, took a seat next to her. Minutes passed in silence. The TV was on mute, playing some god-awful reality show that was far removed from the realities of the day to day lives of normal folks.

“So, what do you want to talk about?” I asked her.

“Why the fuck do you think I want to talk? Can’t we just watch TV as normal people do?”

Spend some time together, she said.

Like normal people do.

I shrugged and lit myself another cigarette. She stood up and went to the kitchen and returned with two cups of coffee.

I thanked her and we returned to watching TV.

An hour passed like that. Maybe more. My veins were filled with restless resignation. Silence. Only the wind of January blowing outside the windows.

“How’s the novel going?” she asked me.

I wanted to tell her that with people like her in my life I’d never be able to finish that goddamn novel. I sighed. “I’m stuck.”

“How so?” she inquired, still watching TV.

“I don’t know.”

She smiled emptily.

“How about you? Have you been writing?”

“Don’t ask me that. I don’t want you to ask me that.”

“Why not?”

“Because you always act like a jerk.”

“A jerk? How?”

“Telling me I should write. I know I should. You don’t have to tell me.”

“Well, you should write. It’s the only way to get better. Only way to finish something.”

She didn’t answer. Instead, she walked over to the dining table and opened her laptop. “I am writing now, okay?” she said.

I lit myself another cigarette, watched her as she punched the damn keys, truly punched them. I was curious to know what she was writing about. Maybe it was something about me being a jerk. Maybe it was some philosophical bullshit that had nothing to do with real life. You know, about virtue or courage or whatever.

I stood up and walked over to her. She didn’t bother to even look up at me. I wasn’t even worth a millisecond glance, let alone a smile to acknowledge my presence. I had become invisible.

The invisible wannabe novelist.

I wondered…

Between her and the back of the chair was enough space for me to fit. I was invisible after all. So I did just that. It felt like riding a motorcycle. She still didn’t do or say anything. She kept punching the keys as if wishing to knock them the fuck out. I put a hand on her waist, and slowly moved up and down and in circles. I kissed her neck..My right hand slid under her pants, my left hand playing inside her blouse. She kept typing on her laptop.

Time suddenly regained its importance. I wondered if she could feel the level of my arousal grinding against her ass. She tried to turn her face over to me.

“No, no,” I said. “Keep writing.”

She began to breathe brokenly, to moan… she grabbed my right hand and gently began to motion it inside her at an ever increasing rhythm.

There was no poetry to be found here, that is why a graceless affair that lasted about half an hour or even less took place on the table.

It could have been funny. The animals kept playing around the living room. The snow kept falling undisturbed…

After it was over, we got dressed, our backs against each other, and she cleaned the table and then sat on the couch next to me.

I would have meant the world if she would have directed a smile at me. She did not.

“There’s soup if you’re hungry,” she said.

I politely declined. She insisted. I declined once more. She insisted again. I accepted. She brought me soup and bread and salt and pepper while I watched one of the dogs run around the living room after one of the cats. I ate in silence while she watched some more of that god-awful reality show.

“I have to go home,” I said, glancing down at my wristwatch. “Got some e-mails to send.”

“Okay,” she said. “Let me get dressed. I’ll take the dogs for a walk.”

She got dressed quite fast. The dogs were jumping up and down and barking with joy. She tried to put the leash on one of them, but he wouldn’t sit still. She sweared. “Stay still, damn you,” she said. Then I heard her cry out and hit the dog over the head with the palm of her hand. “Stupid dog,” she shouted. “He bit me,” she explained.

This made me feel terribly uncomfortable. I had been reduced to the scrawny kid I had been born to be. Sickly child, spending most of winter in hospitals and stuff like that. A kid whose parents never loved each other, never loved him, but pretended to anyway, which only meant buying him anything he ever asked for. Never telling him “no.”

For lack of a better thing to do I decided to stare down at the floor. It felt like the best idea ever. No eye contact, no nothing. I waited for her to put the leashes on the dogs, and then we walked out into the freezing cold. It was all ice and darkness and snowflakes falling down from the sky. We walked for a long, silent time, the dogs running around, testing the limits of their leashes and their owner’s patience.

We saw a bunch of cabs lined up at the far end of the street.

“Good bye,” I said.

“Take care.”

With people like her in my life I was certain I would never be able to finish writing my novel.

***

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