Lucinda handed me off me to Nina. I had a crush on one of them, then the other.
I like that word "crush". I like it because it belittles everything that happened.
This was at the house I was sharing with Avner and them. Fine and Gene. Nina was supposed to be my like consolation prize. She did distract me for a while. Lucinda had no time for me then. No scruples either. I mean, she knew Nina only went with black men.
If your eternal state of mind is Greg's what's-his-face at the edge of the diving board, or a Zen archer's pulling back the bowstring, or a cobra's just before it strikes, you get to avoid the whole thing of scruples.
That's her. Lucinda's bright. I'm not fooling myself. Christ, she's running for Congress. But she does it all, let's say, without reflecting. Let's say she allows herself only convenient thoughts. Like, after a war.
Nina and I had this whole thing, I don't know what you would call it, since we never had any sex. That was months before this shit.
It was one of my ice cream nights. I roll in with the bike. It's uphill a whole half hour from the fucked up mall. It's a cool evening, July. I'm wearing a pullover with a hood. I smell sour milk on myself, on my arms, all the way up to my elbows. My arms hurt from scooping all day, my legs ache from the ride.
On the couch, I see bare shoulders and that curving back, hair hanging forward covering her face. Obviously Nina. TV on, as usual. Bicentennial yacht flotilla in New York Harbor.
I froze. Didn't know why she was here, or why she was naked. I didn't want her to see me and cover herself. I just wanted to look for a minute.
She's pushing down—arms straight, elbows locked, muscles furling and unfurling around her neck, sighs of work, sweat slicking her all over. Wavy underarm hair sticking to her sides, like rays of a black sun. The one breast, and the scar.
That scar was nothing. Innocent. Just an absence. Now I'm supposed to say: Nina was innocent too. Maybe, but she also was a witch. Bitch witch.
She caught me staring. I'm not sure, between the two of us, who was supposed to be abashed. She threw me this look. Delirious. They were high. I smelled their cunts. It was nauseating. I liked it.
I liked Nina's breast. Never knew how lively breasts are. It shivered when she moved. Like it had feelings.
Lucinda, she never looked up, her face buried in that pillow. But I know her. She was laughing. She was rolling here eyes down there and groaning at the ridiculousness of it all. Like, fine mess you got me into.
I don't know where Nina got that blackoid accent. Maybe they just talk that way in Newark. She said, "What you looking at?" The one long nipple like a kid with its tongue out.
I don't say a thing. She say, "I said, what are you looking at!" Her hair was shaking. It was Lucinda under there, laughing. Crying maybe, but I don't think so.
I walked in on a topless woman once. Actually, she walked in on me. She wasn't like Nina or Lucinda. They have realistic bodies. This was a Venus. Weightless breasts in moonlight. I wanted to run away, but she was blocking the door. She'd been crying. My best friend was asleep in the next room. I said "Excuse me" and turned to the wall.
All I needed was a dunce cap.
This time, I don't excuse myself. Nina and me have a staring contest. I win. She says, "Dang," pulls the comforter off the couch and wraps herself up. "Turn your face, boy," she says, "We don't need you peeping." This is a white girl. "Din your mama teach you to knock?" she says. Like I did with Venus, I turn my back and look at the wallpaper. Floral pattern, brown dry peels coming off.
She shoved me on her way out. I couldn't look at her. Touching her was like touching sparks. I heard her car turn over. I turned around and Lucinda was in a red towel, staring at the wall about an inch to the left of my head. In mourning, I suppose.
After a while she says in her smoky voice, "Willy. Willy Willy Willy."
I said, "Should I leave?"
She stands and drifts towards her bedroom. "Do you want to?" she says. Blond downy ass sashaying along under the edge of that towel.
I followed her like a dog on a leash. She went up to her grandma's bureau and looked in the mirror. Cool air, odor of patchouli oil. Tortoise-shell brush with blond hair in it on an old lace doily. A check from one of her customers tucked between the glass and the dark curved wood. Million dollars. Comment line says, "Services rendered."
I watched her in the mirror, her breasts holding up the towel, and I knew that, with only a tug, it might have been undone.
I said, "I can't take it any more."
She sighs. "I need you here," she says.
I said, "It has to stop."
"Let's talk tomorrow," she says.
On the other side of Lucinda's room was Joshua's playroom. The wall between them was just a plate glass window. It didn't have curtains, so I slept on the couch in the parlor.
I laid down in the dark. She shut the door. Light glowed along the edges. I saw the shadow of a doorstop. That was something new.
Usually the lights went out after that, but not tonight. She sighed again. She was sighing, sighing and sighing, as if she had a lover.
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson