I put on my best shirt quietly and studied the marks on her translucent skin from the underwear and the crush of the sheets. A wisp of brown hair stuck to her lip and lifted with each breath. A shiny camisole lay dormant on an old backless chair beside the mattress. Her drunken flung shoes were somewhere. She struck softly at an assailant in a dream and moaned her husband’s name.
I wanted her for a while. She didn’t want an affair and I agreed but I never imagined she would be so lovely. A trite memory told me that the day was breaking soon. I wanted to hold her once more but not wake her but lust got in the way and she stirred, tussled and yawning and reached out.
‘You look like you’re going somewhere. Why don’t you stay?’ she said.
‘You’r twisting my arm but I need to work.’
Outside, the only light came from a single street lamp flickering insanely. A woman in a short skirt stood there, smoking. She rubbed her bare thighs with a free hand to keep warm and when she saw me looking, she waved as she got into a car.
A red neon sign in a window illuminated the dew like blood on the pavement. A newspaper blew along dancing in the light-show. and as far as I knew it was only me now watching the small silent things. Rejoicing in the clarity of my life, I guessed she didn’t love the guy.
The night was hot and the sweat ran down to the small of her back. She reached the pedestrian street where people jostled each other. The smart, the young, deformed, old and eccentric. Close to the city only a few convenience shops were still open with immigrants working the twilight hours.
Her dog pulled and became tangled with a passer-by. It would be tethered behind the gate where she knocked lightly and it opened ajar. Her lover stood half naked at the bottom of the stair and took her hand. Pulling her up to his room with no words said, and the sex was urgent.
The room was spartan and she looked up at the bare yellow bulb. The bed smelled of old sweat and her lover. There was no one to help clean and fetch and choose eye catching decor. There was a laundry basket overflowing and a stained sink. She washed herself and remembered how her lovers had been. When they could stay in a room for days, only leaving for food or for wine and cigarettes. Before time was short and dreams had turned to shadows.
She was tempted to stay, to help out, to call her husband and call it all off but she left. The children still needed her and what could she do? No job, no income, no ideas. Directionless. She left alone with her dog to hide at a cafe, enjoying some wine, avoiding her gossiping friends. Her fellow inmates, trapped, obsessed with their dogs and their lovers.
She counted the days since she saw her lover and she counted the years of her marriage to the stranger she had loved.
She didn’t care for her lover and he didn’t ask for her help or anything. He didn’t know her fears or her loves, but only her sex and its wants because that was all she was willing to give.
The stranger took his toll. He expected food and someone to care for the children. They rarely said more that a few words and she wondered if he suspected and she doubted he would care. He seemed content in not knowing.
She caught him watching porn once and was surprised that he still had an interest. They fucked occasionally but she was alone while he rode on top, crushing her, grunting then rolled away and went back to his television. She read books, about distant places and dreamed but doubted she would ever leave.
Her lover asked if she would go with him to Melbourne for a weekend and she wondered how. She didn’t wish to push her luck, yet she yearned to go. It would be exiting and her sister could take care of the children. But she couldn’t invent a convincing lie so she declined and went back to the stranger.
He stepped over a crack in the threshold she waited wanting him to stay but hating herself for her weakness. They made love, she needed it filled an empty space that needed filling, for him it wasn’t the love that he needed but to hold on to life, to stop it from slipping away, but of course it already had.
He felt owned not by this beauty who needed him but by his wife, his family, his kids, his boss, society, they all took pieces and it was difficult to find himself divided and plastered over so many walls. Sheila held him between her thighs mightily and he wanted to stay. He felt whole for a brief moment. He owned this stolen secret moment and he was himself for this time but not completely. His conscience wouldn’t let him own it. Sheila treated him like a man he hoped to be, Something not real because the real man was splintered and owned by many others. Its why he ran in the brief time he was alone without possessions, without an overseer. Sheila gave him that and not more.
She walked home in red heels wobbling on the cobbles. A silent tram in a far bend between the terraces. Her husband working late in his bar with his mates with another sheila. If he was home already, he didn’t ask. A forced acknowledgement. He just thought who his Shiela was. If he was jealous she would feel something but he barely noticed her. He had his wine in a dark room, the tele lighting up the walls. She went to bed, she washed the smell of her lover away.