I’m Not That Into Lucy
It should not have surprised me to discover that Lucy was decorated with tattoos from the base of her spine to her shoulders. It was mostly tribal characters in dark green ink. I did not ask their meaning. Her back was an emaciated collection of ridges and twitchy fibers beneath perfect skin, like a dirt road that hadn’t been driven over in several years, roots and rocky debris packed and hardened by unremitting winters and lack of human caretaking. The tattooed communications looked harsh; knowing her, they were probably the words to some classic poem about the ocean or everlasting love, but it would always look plain harsh on her skin, the way beauty just looks harsh on some people.
On the left side of her back, above the prominence of her ribs was a portrait of a longhaired man with angry eyes printed in jarring, asymmetrical streaks of orange, green and red. The image was not familiar, but looked like it might have been a historical figure that should look familiar, so I didn’t ask her about that one either. The coloration was such that the subject was wearing face paint to camouflage himself in hell.
Neither should it have surprised me when Lucy removed the last of her clothing. Most women change their posture when they’re naked — at least the first time they’re naked on behalf of my presence; a tensing of the heel or a contraction of the shoulders. Lucy’s body made no adjustments to the air or to my eyes.
She never smiled. This I found most agreeable. It is rare that a person chooses to wear her emotions elsewhere. Her face had a different agenda; vacancy was its attire when the truth was not. Or maybe there simply was not enough fat in her cheeks to smile without straining her neck tendons to the point of oxygen deprivation.
Lucy did not eat enough.
“What?” The question was a genuine what and not an affront. She was standing up, looking through her top dresser drawer for something she needed and kept digging through folded shirts and towels when I failed to reply. “I don’t mind if you stare at me. Just don’t act like it’s a privilege, ‘kay?”
I asked her what she was looking for.
“Nothing. I thought you wanted an excuse to study my ass.” She continued looking for nothing at the bottom of the drawer. I got to hand it to Lucy, she sure is thoughtful.
I kept my shorts on while we took a nap. She was fast asleep, I was not. Her body never assumed a quality of relaxation. Her legs were always slightly bent, but never touching each other and never facing the same direction, and maintaining this required a periodic change of position.
The longhaired man with the menacing eyes respired slowly on her upper left back; she dozed on her side with her back to me and her right arm draped over the side of the mattress. I tried to examine the orange, green and red portrait, visible in jigsaw slivers where the casserole of bed sheets vivisected what moonlight the window distributed to her skin. I wondered if instead of a historical figure — the anonymity of whom served to manifest my ignorance — it was a portrait of her father, or her brother. That is, if she had a brother. I did not recall her mentioning siblings, although I distinctly remember her asking me if I had any, and disclosing the fact that I have none.
The thought that the portrait on her back might be her father made me back away from her and retract my arms to beneath my hips to avoid shivering. I wondered if I should ask her when she woke up. And if it was indeed her father, I wondered if I would maintain any interest in sleeping with her. Lucy rolled over, groaning lazily in her sleep and nuzzled her forehead against the meat of my shoulder.
I never touched that part of her back. It was the colors, maybe. It seemed poisonous.
I did not intend to fall asleep, any more than I intended to wake up and find that Lucy wasn’t there. With a smile, I did not deem it pertinent to call for her. Then fear gripped me in the back of my stomach.
Lucy. Lucy, Lucy
I want to echo your name until your only option is to scream
I want to melt you like butter in my calloused hands
Trickle the liquid distillation of you down my torso
Slurp you off the floor with my tongue
I sat up. The room was still dark. The top dresser drawer was still open. The corners of the room were not discernible. The feeling in my stomach was of a bucket of rotten grapes compressed into a lesion the size and shape of a pinecone wedged between my bowels and the sensations that drove me here in the first place.
Place: Lucy’s bathroom
I woke up on account of the necessity to use her bathroom. It suddenly seemed important to be constantly aware of where I was and when I was doing what I was doing.
Her bathroom was as immaculate as I would have expected, except that the faucet did not turn off completely, and the water came out in an askew spray to the left. I doubt this has ever perturbed her. I did not look in her bathroom mirror. The feeling in my stomach did not allow me to.
Place: Lucy’s bedroom
Time: eighty-nine breaths previous
At the interim of time between which I lay awake beside Lucy and awoke without her, I lay in her bed and dreamt I stood at the top of a stairwell. In my physical and mental weariness — in this dream I had just come from a nonspecific place of toil from which I wore perspiration and dirt and a reduction in body fat — prior to taking the first step I peered down to see that there were no stairs and there was no basement floor. I yelled, pointing my voice downward where I could only see darkness, and my voice failed to fathom the architecture below. My arms did not feel as though they were stationary; my flesh swirled about my bones with a purposeful momentum. I wanted to scream, but was paralyzed by precautions of whom or what might be awoken from the dark expanse.
I look in her bathroom mirror with the light off. Then I tiptoe back to her bedroom.
Place: my mind when thinking thoughts of Lucy
Time: between breaths
Lucy and I met under circumstances that were not memorable. I’m pretty sure our first acquaintance was made in the grocery store. It also may have been in the park. It is impossible to say with certainty which interaction preceded which.
When I met Lucy, I could imagine nothing more compelling than her turning around and vehemently slapping me in the face. There’s something undeniably erotic about a devastating slap in the face from a stranger, followed immediately by a hug. My fantasies at the grocery line are usually of a different variety. Nobody has ever slapped me in the face, but the thought of it makes everything in the room suddenly seem so small I might fall right through the bed and plop into a watery cave deep in the earth where heartbeats echo and the air turns to ice if you hold it in your lungs.
Lucy is not kind to herself. I affirm this fact as I put on my shoes.
Place: the truth
I go outside quickly and stand on the porch with my shirt off and my arms folded. Lucy will not be coming back. It’s because her body was not constructed with the purpose of being kind to herself. If she was here again and naked again, I would drop to my knees and kiss the mouth of the tattoo of the angry longhaired man with the demon face paint and I would not close my eyes. And then I would wonder who I was kissing, and would never again stop to wonder:
Can this be love?
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Portland Fiction Project
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