“Where’d you learn to kiss like that?” She tilts her head and looks down at the cuticles.
“Like how you do.”
“I learned it from another girl.”
“Ah ... Pity. I thought you taught yourself on your hand.”
He doesn't manage to think anything else. She shoves him brusquely into the room, though with a smile that exudes something else.
Shuts the door so the music and the hum disappear, and lies down on the bed. He doesn't lie down but walks around the room a little aimlessly, picks up a Barbie doll with its hair dyed red.
“Do you think she dyed the hair herself, or can you buy them this way? ”
“Come here for a minute, lie down instead and you can play with the dolls later.”
It’s going to haunt him, he understands that even now. The sweet, stuffy smell in the room, her blotchy face that melts into everything else.
She pulls up his shirt so his stomach shows, then does the same thing to herself and presses her bare midriff against his.
she says, scrunching her eyes and mouth into the middle of her face.
“I thought about you all day today. That I was going to meet you tonight. The expression you would have when you met me. The way I would open my mouth when we kissed, sort of half-open so you would switch in the middle of the kiss and turn it into a French kiss.
How we would walk down the street, which display windows we would stop in front of, and which ones we would just walk by. About all the people who would see us and wonder what fun place we were off to.”
Her stomach is wet with sweat, her belly button has turned into a little pool of water; he forms letters with his index finger.
“What are you doing?”
“What are you writing?”
“Morris was here.”
The sheets make a muffled, rustling noise when she sits up. What he wrote disappears into the folds of her stomach.
She wakes up because she laughed in her sleep.
It’s light and sunny out. It’s shining on his face, which looks a little younger when he’s asleep, more open and more relaxed. His mouth is pressed against the pillow, where there’s a little puddle of drool. Shaped like a little heart, she thinks. Under the covers it’s warm and smells like their bodies.
She rubs against him until he wakes up.
“Sometimes when you look into my eyes I have to look away because it feels like you can see what I’m thinking.”
“Well, I can. Right now you’re thinking about my stomach, here where there’s a little roll of fat.”
“No, I'm thinking that you're a chemist and that I'm your molecules, Morris molecules. You're trying to make a potion out of me, a love potion that you will give to people who don't have any love in their lives.”
“Now you're thinking that my hand is cool and feels nice against your throat.”
“Tell the one about when you punched in the code and you felt like you were melting.” He burrows his head into her armpit with his nose as far in as it will go.
This is how she smells, exactly like this.
“Yeah, I felt so in love, like a melted snowball. And when I went to punch in the code at the front door of your building, I thought about all the times your fingers pressed those numbers there and how those fingers were so lovely in me.”
“And then you stopped outside my door and wondered what you would say when I opened the door.”
“Yeah, even though I never said it.” She turns so they can look into each other’s eyes.
“What were you planning to say?”
“I was planning to say that I was a little nervous.”
They lie hidden on a flat rock on the north shore of Lake Brunnsviken. He looks at her feet submerged in the yellowish water. Her toes look like little cheese curls.
“I used to come here in middle school to sneak cigarettes.” He takes off his socks and dunks his feet in the water so they end up next to hers. “First I took off all my clothes so they wouldn't smell, smoked a cigarette in my underwear, and then went for a swim afterward.”
“Exactly what we're doing now, in other words.”
“Yeah, like now, only lonelier.”
The down that’s all fluffy right where the cheek turns into the throat. It’s almost like it falls off when he touches it; peach fuzz, she calls it. He takes one of her fingers, her index finger, and looks at the nail. The half-scraped-off red nail polish. With his front teeth he nibbles off small flakes that don’t taste like anything, it’s just nice to putz around a little.
“Have you been up in the Eiffel Tower?” he asks, drooling out little red bits.
“Yes, but you already knew that. So why are you asking?”
“What a view, huh? France, as far as the eye can see.”
“Are you making fun of me?”
“Now you’re in for it.” He rolls over on top of her, looks her seriously in the eye until her breathing changes.
“Do you remember what you were wearing when we met for the first time?”
“Was it my red-and-black-striped shirt?”
“Yeah, it was. Do you remember the pants?”
“My black cords?”
“Yeah, and you had your nice underwear on because you wanted to wear nice underwear the night you met the love of your life.”
“I don’t remember that.”
“Is that what I am, the love of your life?”
“I’ve only ever been in love with you and with a girl in nursery school named Saba. You win over her.”
She sits in the bay window with her back to the window and smokes a cigarette with her left hand, her other hand is inside her underwear. From the red leather sofa he can see the contours of the knuckles inside the white cotton like small tapered hills. She takes a puff, turns to face the window, and tosses the butt through the narrow opening.
Walks barefoot over the herringbone parquet to him on the sofa and puts the palm of her right hand over his face, pulls the hand over his face until her fingers reach his mouth and pushes them in. Her fingernails scratch the flesh on the inside of his cheek, and an acidy bitterness spreads through his mouth.
She’s lying in a puddle on the bathroom floor, wrapped in a black silk robe with a dragon embroidered on it in gold. Her toes and fingers are all curled up. He wants to say that he’s sorry, too, that he dies when he sees her like this. Instead he turns off the bathroom light and lies down next to her, becomes a part of their ball of yarn.
“You know that night we went swimming by City Hall?”
Her eyes twinkle. She’s speaking more straight out into space than to him specifically, as if she’s remembering something out loud.
“Yeah, what about it?”
“I snuck a peek at you while you were getting undressed. I thought, ‘Morris, he’s the only thing glowing in all this darkness.’”
“But there were probably thousands of lights on the other side of the water and over by the subway tracks.”
“I know, but I wasn’t looking in that direction.”
She sits down on his knee in the crowd, flicks her lighter, and holds the flame down toward thegrating.
“Do you see? There’s an old bus pass, one of those big ones with a picture on it. I wonder how long it’s been lying there.”
“Shouldn’t we put something in there, so that our grandchildren can come here and be amazed?“
“No, just a secret sign for the two of us, no grandchildren.” She digs around in her jacket pockets with both hands and pulls out a coin.“ We’ll throw this fifty-.re coin in; that symbolizes eternal love and happiness. We’ll kiss it so a little of each of us sticks to it.”