Some Kind of Erotic
A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Normal"
Originally featured on 08-25-2008
As part of our series "The Ancient Trappings of Humanity’s Endless Summer (Age-Old Traps)"

Love is quite like a disease. And before you think me hackneyed or clichéd, think about this: When you love somebody who doesn’t love you, they don’t want you to touch them or talk to them or to be in the same room with them. They act afraid. It’s as though every look or even brushing arms is a chance that they’ll catch it. Or if they’re not worried about catching it, then they feel guilty because they have to look at you, and know they got you sick, and that they worsen your symptoms.

When two people have been in love and one isn’t in love anymore, cured of the disease, it’s that same guilt.

“I’m well now. We were sick together. But, I’m well now, so I’ll be on my way. Sorry you’re still sick. Get well soon. Call me then.”

Some people feel so guilty that they pretend to still be sick. They go through the motions and try to display the symptoms. But a healthy person can’t convincingly act sick for long without the sick person noticing. Because to be sick like that all the time, well, you know the symptoms and you can damn well tell when someone else isn’t exhibiting them. Sometimes these healthy fakers will do extreme things to distract the still sick from this fact. They’ll get married or have children or spend every second with their sick companion. It’s as if they think that they can catch the disease again if they stay close enough to the sick. Unfortunately, the antibodies are severe in their own way, some say worse than the disease, and let nothing grow. Additionally, to be forced to pretend is exhausting and as our faker weakens the antibodies reproduce more and more until our faker feels only numbness.

The antibodies neutralize all the environments in which Love likes to grow. Once in control, the antibodies block out long walks, sabotage vacations, jaundice nostalgia, complicate dinner plans and depersonalize sex. Eventually the antibodies eradicate these activities in their subject. However, certain activities, such as television watching, heated discussions and eating leftovers are left unabated. Heated discussions, sometimes mistaken for a cure to the antibodies, or more accurately put, a cure for the cure, have been found to only temporarily re-create symptoms in the well. But once an immunity has been established, the disease of Love can easily be put back into remission.

 

Nora had bagged up all of Mel’s things. The plastic bags lined the wall with tightly tied knots keeping air tight seals. Sunlight came through the windows of their — no herher second floor apartment.

On the wall were her paintings, her candle holders, her Fijian masks — her things. This is how it would be now. Parts of the wall revealed blank spots where her things used to be. These things had been removed because Nora felt them tainted. Only sterile, untainted things would remain so that Nora could remain healthy.

The phone was ringing. After a sigh, she put down the pile of photos she was sorting and walked across the living room.

“Hi, whats up?”

“I need to grab my Tennis racket from the storage unit.”

The storage unit. Damn! Nora glanced at the small silver key hanging from the brass hook on a red ribbon. She looked out the window.

“You’re playing tennis on Tuesday?! It’s not even that nice out.”

“Yeah, tell me about it. Maybe I can swing by and get it? I’ll only be a minute, I’m not trying to invade your space.” Although she listened closely. She couldn’t decipher how he had said ‘your.’ “I know we’re on a break. I’ll just grab my racket and go.”

Nora pictured Mel strolling up to her in his tennis outfit. His hairy Jewish legs reaching down from his shorts. His Burt Reynolds mustache freshly waxed. His sparkling blue eyes. Nora pictured him saying "Thanks" and after a pause, “So, how are you?” then reaching for the racket. She pictured a fountain of blood spurting from his head after a forehand smash. Mel gurgling blood, blind with an outstretched hand pleading for his life. “That’s how. Motherfucker.” An overhead coup de grace.

“Okay Mel. Were you planning to drive or bike? Why don’t you take your truck? I’ve got some other things you can take too.”

The pause on the other end brought Nora momentary pleasure.

“You…you do? You do. Okay that sounds good. How much stuff?”

Nora looked at the wall.

“I’ve got a few bags worth.” Nora grinned. “Yeah, now that I look at it all, you should probably take your golf bags out of the flatbed so there’s room.”

“Um. Sure baby, er, uh, Nora. Say in an hour?”

“Yeah, whenever.”

She put the phone down on the receiver without saying goodbye.

She had one hour. She would scour and find everything. Nora would take a stand — here and now — and would cut out all leftover cancer, tumor after tumor, and she would send it off with him to deal with. Let him be sick with it all. But before drastic surgery like this, she would need a numbing agent. She rushed to the cabinet next to the empty entertainment center and pulled out a local anesthetic. Kentucky Bourbon.

After only five swigs, she felt ready to perform.

 

“Okay, See you-“ Mel reflexively pulled the dial tone away from his ear.

Two months of waiting and preparation now boiled down to an hour. He threw some athletic wear and sneakers into a knapsack. As he walked through the bare room, his towel fell to the floor. He reached into the closet and grabbed his freshly pressed black jeans. He grabbed the black silk shirt with the embroidered dragon that she had bought him for his fortieth birthday. He grabbed his snake skin cowboy boots. He spread generous amounts of pomade on his hands and then began plying it into his scalp. He glanced at the mirror and then the “Smoky and the Bandit” poster and then returned to the mirror. He applied mustache wax to his mustache comb.

As he buttoned the shirt, he debated the issue in his mind. Then, with utmost confidence he winked at himself and left the top three buttons open. Bushes of black and silver hair flourished in the background of his silk dragon.

He looked at himself. “I’m coming for you baby,” he said.

When he got in his truck, his best friend for the past week, Paul Simon, was there to loudly greet him.

Together they rode towards Midtown.

At stoplights, “Still crazy!…after all these years,” is what they screamed.

 

The neat row of bags had become pile a few feet from the apartment door. The knock came as a terrible surprise to Nora, who had gotten so involved in finding the tainted goods, she’d neglected to bath or put on fresh clothes. The once full bottle of Bourbon now stood at a quarter capacity.

“Ohhhhhhhshiit,” Nora grumbled under her breath.

Another knock. Nora got up and walked to the mirror. She looked at the blurred image of herself in a messy perm flowing over a baby blue silk robe held together by handful of fake red nails.

When she opened it, Nora hid behind the door and beckoned Mel in. His eyes never sparkled so blue. Mel’s heels clacked on the hardwood floor. Nora seemed as surprised as Mel to see the size of the pile.

“GotcarriedawayIgess,” she managed.

“Oh wow, Nora.” He said from behind sparkled eyes.

“Yep.”

“Do you have my racket?”

She didn’t. And to avoid any more embarrassment she offered Mel, or rather insisted, Mel drink some bourbon too.

Nora plopped down on her black leather couch after handing Mel the glass. The “neat” whiskey Nora prepared for Mel ended up making quite a mess. Nora attempted to use the small ice tongs. Two ice cubes ended up in the rug. As she bent to pick them up, Mel imagined the body beneath her robe. When she handed him the drink, their fingers grazed. Mel let the touch, and then first real eye contact in three months, linger for longer than necessary. Nora plopped down next to Mel, splashing some of her drink on his pants. They sat on the black leather couch in silence.

He looked over the missing posters and at the pile, at her legs, and at the bathroom—when trying to not look at the missing posters and the pile. She looked out the window at the setting sun, at his bushes and fields of chest hair, and at the bathroom when she pretended not to look at his fields.

“How’s your mother?” he said. A safe subject.

“Still sick. Mad at me again.” she said. And though he’d never admit it, this made him sad.

“How about Angela?” he said.

“Better. Still with the arthritis.” she said. And secretly this made him happy.

“Oh. Tough stuff, dar-I mean, Nora.”

There was a moment where she tried not to smile and he tried not to smile seeing it.

Then, there was a moment where he looked uncomfortable and she tried not to look uncomfortable noticing it.

“Can you help me look through the stuff in the bedroom? There might be some stuff in there.” she said.

“Yeah, I can help you in there” he said, mustache lifted, head nodding, eyes sparkling.

There wasn’t any stuff in there. Mel stood at the foot of the bed as Nora stooped and crawled on the hardwood floor, looking for a charm bracelet he’d given her for her fortieth birthday. After a minute, he sat on the bed, her still on her knees.

After an exhaustive search of one nightstand area, Nora used Mel’s knee to get up. She held her robe closed with other hand as she sat next to Mel on the bed. Mel noticed himself nodding again and stopped himself. Together, they stared at the space on the wall where their 5x7 print of Henri Silberman’s Brooklyn Bridge had hung. Then, Nora took her hand off of Mel’s knee and lay back.

"So, tell me about yourself, Mel." she managed before closing her eyes.

He heard her exhale, but didn’t look. A moment later, he heard her familiar snore. Mel kept looking at the wall. Then he laid back. The skin of his bald spot rested on the soft silk of her robe. The wooden blades of the ceiling fan whirred and Mel watched them as he listened to Nora.

Mel entertained the idea of going down to the storage unit, bringing back his racket, waking her in his chest and then softly kissing her until a ‘racket spanking’ would be once again appropriate.

But, ten minutes later, Mel got up slowly from the bed. He closed her robe and then knelt and kissed her dirty knee. The note he left on the dresser said, Don’t worry about the racket. I’ll get it when you’re feeling better.

He hit stop on the elevator twice during trip down. When he turned the key in the ignition, Paul began to scream “Still Cra-” but Mel clicked the knob off.

Read More By Doug Dean

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Portland Fiction Project

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