A Wasp With Her Wings Outstretched

She eyed him warily from across the bed. They were in various states of undress and a record skipped on the needle in the next room, distorting the only Beach Boys song  she actually liked. A cup of tea cooled in the kitchen; the tea bag left in. It would taste too strong now, and soon be cold. Neither of them had moved within the last five minutes, and it was almost comical how still they sat: a single sleeve of her blouse dangling loosely in front of her, his pants pulled halfway down. His shirt was unbuttoned except for one, the one at the very bottom, exposing his pale chest with its smattering of hair for all to see, except the only other eyes in the room were hers, and they were fixed on his.

“I can’t remember now,” he told her, “but I’m fairly certain they’re green.”

◊ ◊ ◊

It was three years ago that she had sunk into the mattress on the floor and pretended that her moans were coming from a place of joy. The afternoon had been sticky and hot, and the last lingering remnants of sunlight seeped through the slits of the blinds. A line of it fell along the right side of her face, burning with a tempered ferocity as she lay spread beneath the boy’s bony frame. Romance blossomed on their gin-soaked tongues, but in the end she had to pretend that she came.

He had picked her up that afternoon in his old battered van, a rusted whale carcass that should have been sold for scrap metal years ago, before someone like him could come along and get attached to such a hulking thing. He had pulled up outside her house, honked his horn twice and rolled down the passenger side window so he could see her coming down the front steps. She wore a new dress, the shade of blue that he liked, and when she slid into the van he leaned over, kissed her, and said: “babe, that dress matches your eyes.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Two years ago the mattress on the floor was upgraded to a bed and the weary van shuddered its final breath on the side of a highway out west. Her thighs stuck to the vinyl seat as they waited for the tow truck to pull up. He fiddled with the air-con vents to no success. It had been a sticky kind of day, much like the rest, but the air was growing cooler and she could hear the chirping of the cicadas and smell the petrichor of the road and she felt okay. He leaned over and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and said: “babe, I guess this is the end.” He meant for the van, but when she looked over his shoulder she saw a giant yellow billboard advertising erectile dysfunction, and she stopped feeling okay. It’s only a matter of time, it read.

◊ ◊ ◊

She eyed him warily from across the bed, and the record skittered in the next room, and angelic boys sang about “good good good good vibe vibe vibe-”, and the cup of tea grew cold but strong, and her blouse sleeve dangled, and his chest remained exposed, and his pants were halfway down but going nowhere else, and she kept her eyes fixed on his as she asked him a question she only just realised she should.

“You’ve put me on the spot,” he told her. “I can’t remember now, but I’m fairly certain they’re green”.

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