by David Sokolowski
Coffee. Bacon. A summer day gaining strength as people wake to its heat, its determination; “Oh, it’s gonna be a warm one today,” they say, “you can just smell it.”
Casual entrance. Ben notes empty wine bottles; spent candles; a pyramid of cigarette butts; scattered chairs; how time slows mid-embrace to carry on — just so the memory is crystal clear the morning after — into a whole new light, some path never imagined, regardless of her standing so close for so long, exposing shared loneliness when deep inside it could have been anyone but right now it’s her and her eyes close slowly and her hand puts the wine glass to her lips and they separate for a moment and each lipstick-coated line begs for something different and then the tongue backs the lips by flicking between the teeth, her head tilts and her lips open to receive — now it’s morning. Now it begins.
He pads shoelessly across the kitchen into the kind of day that starts in a t-shirt and cut-offs and ends in thrown-back sheets of inescapable heat; embracing, enveloping, plunging into its source, forcing its hand, revealing its commitment to the seasons — that it too will pass. After that, it surrenders to touch, control — take the heat, distribute it freely.
Sliding up behind her, arms around her waist, his head against hers he inhales, sensing, somewhere between four packs of Marlboro Reds and her waking to make his favorite breakfast, himself only hours past — that point of night when everything clings: detergent from the Laundromat vending machine, the first weekend of every year when even couch potatoes watching Jenny Jones say “guess summer’s here,” red wine spilt over a tumbling glass smashed, like years of denial, to the kitchen floor as limbs grasp frantically at a beginning.
A kiss to her cheek. “Hi,” she says, “there’s coffee,” and flips pancakes, blots hot bacon between paper towels. Grease turns paisley patterns clear. One hand digs through pasta-crusted dinner plates and accident-stained towels to find a clean mug; his other hand works open her faded baby-blue robe, creeps in to find naked stomach, hips, back. He pours steaming black liquid and brushes the curve of her bare ass.
She turns and puts both hands on his smooth face, lifts her nose, pulls their faces until they touch. She breaths him in deep, holds him, smells the shower, the shave, the fresh start to a day that will soon make clean clothes useless, heating everyone, everywhere, until every last one sighs, sits on the porch, drinks lemonade, and watches the kids play in the street.
She runs her lips over his. He pulls her closer with one hand while the other fumbles through the air until placing the coffee on the counter. Then both hands hold the small of her back, hold her tight. He tastes the flame, her tongue flicks briefly over his — she pushes him away.
“Here,” she says and hands him the coffee. “Sit and eat.” He stacks dishes aside, sits at the table, leans back in the chair. He is hungry. He looks at her bare legs, toned and tanned and firm to the touch, remembers her playing volleyball at the family picnic, bouncing and laughing in her tight top and cut-offs until Chip got mean drunk and threw empty and full beer bottles at her from his lawn chair that he wouldn’t move from even when Uncle Warren knelt next to him and begged him to go to the car and cool off ‘cause no one wanted the picnic ruined but Chip just sat in the chair and yelled “Slut!” and “Whore!” until she left, got into the minivan without her cooler or rainbow umbrella and just cried. Everyone avoided her and Chip, tried to play out the day without them, and Ben sat at the picnic bench with his Oly tallboy, swatted mosquitoes, didn’t say anything because he knew he’d sort everything out later.
Pancakes and bacon to his plate, coffee to his mug, “Thanks,” from him, she leans over the table exposing naked breasts dangling with gravity. He looks in her eyes for the first time since…
“So what do we tell Chip?” he asks squirting sticky syrup over everything.
She sets the glass coffee pot hard on the ceramic countertop.
“Nothing.” Bacon into the pan, grease splatters out, onto her hand, and so she turns on the faucet, runs her hand under clear, cool water.