SOMETIMES SHE'LL SLAP IN SOCKLESS
Her feet floated, pressed against the window. Through the white smear of sleet on the glass there were no attached legs, just the smooth pale bottoms of curved feet and curled toes.
I walked around the house and unlocked the front door and stopped dead. My breath fogged the stormdoor's glass. I squeaked lines with my finger for maybe twenty minutes, then silently brought in the mail.
The air was stale and warm. The refrigerator moaned. Drops fell splat in the sink. I placed the mail on the kitchen table. I could not hear my footsteps.
A sock hung from the living room ceiling fan. One of hers. Clothes were scattered. Pants on the dining room table. A bra in the corner. A boot had knocked down the drapes. I gathered and folded them all into a neat pile. I kept her sock in my hand. I went down the hallway to our bedroom, holding it. The door was open.
Her man froze. She smiled. They were a peach blur on the bed.
"How was work?"
"I haven't been going."
"I'll make dinner. Okay?"
I shut the door.
I took a milk carton out and sat at the table. She screamed. I poured milk in her sock and giggled. He probably wasn't even interested in her feet. The sock darkened, stretched down. Mostly, the milk seeped onto my lap. I held some in and tilted up the sock. It ran slowly to my lips. I sucked it through the cotton. It tasted dry. Sour specks tickled my throat. I swallowed and coughed. I got a hard-on and stuffed her wet sock in my pants. The mail was all bills.
Her feet slapped on the hallway floorboards. She stopped, saw what I did with their clothes. She entered the kitchen in a robe and sat across from me.
"Sit on my lap."
"How come you haven't been going to work? Look at these. Bills!"
She held the letters up, dropped them.
"I don't feel like it."
He walked to his clothes, dressed. Waited. Finally, he came in. I studied her face. She looked at me. Behind her he went for the side door. She bent her head low to the side. He stopped. Walked over to us at the table. She rose halfway. He leaned, hesitated, chose her cheek, and kissed.
She mouthed, "bye," not turning.
He opened the door.
I saw him. He was bald and tall. He shut the door.
"Did he carry you?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"I actually came for the first time."
She smiled to herself.
"What's for dinner?"
"What's all over you?"
"Let's see a movie tonight."
"Look at me."
"Why are you crying? What did you do to yourself?"
"Why are you crying?" She held my hand. "Baby, we already talked about this. I thought you were okay. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me, baby."
I peered over my hand.
"I love you."
"I know. I'm not really crying. I'm faking it. See." I showed her no tears.
"But I know that bothered you."
She put both her hands on mine. "I love you."
"I love you too, dear."
"That sounded angry. You're angry at me."
"Yes, you are."
"You have every right to be."
"Well, I'm not."
"Angry at him. He knew. He knew you had me first."
"Don't be angry at him. It was my idea! You really need to learn how to express your feelings. Are you trying to be macho or something?"
"Then tell me how you feel. Express yourself for once. God! I'm sorry. It's just...okay, look at me."
"Tell me what you think about me fucking that guy."
"I'm glad you came. He seemed well-endowed."
I spread some papers and found the letter-opener. I lifted it level with her eyes and slit the gas bill open.
"What are you doing? Do you even care?" She sighed and stomped away. She reentered dressed and sat down again.
"I feel bad about what I did. You're making me feel worse. Please say something." She was upset.
I looked at the bill I could not afford. I looked at my hand. I set the opener down and looked at it. I looked at the table. Then, I looked at her. Her face. I pulled my chair closer, my elbows to the table's center. I reached my hand toward her. She closed her eyes to feel my embrace. I formed an O with my thumb and index fingers and flicked her across the nose, hard. She flinched and held her face. She scooted back, bending to her knees.
"I love you."
She trembled. "Okay." She went to the cupboard, hiding her face from me. "How about macaroni?"
I didn't say anything.
She rested against the open cupboard for a long time. She ran over to me, knelt and hugged my waist.
"You depend on me too much sometimes. I can't handle it. I'm not as good as you make me out to be. I can't be what you want me to be. I need space. I can't love as much as you can and you make me feel so selfish. I'm not. And I know you know that. And I know you still love me. Even after today I know you still always will. But it's going to be ok now between us because you hate me now. You can hate me and everything will be ok now. Oh, I feel like a weight's been lifted. Is this my sock in here?"
She pulled it out. I was shaking. She looked up. I burst with laughter. She smiled up into my face. I hunched, laughing hysterically, and fell on the floor. She laughed too and grew just as manic until we were screaming and couldn't breathe.
Sean Kilpatrick is a victim of Catholic schools. He has thirty-eight posable positions, goes to jail, and reads poetry -- not in that order. He lives in Detroit and hits the river with his forehead. It hurts. Contact Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org.