She rolled to the other side and stared at his back. She tried to remember how it was before. Before she made him wax it. At first, the hair on his back and shoulders didn't turn her off. It excited her and made her want to be with him. He was new. The sight of him was new. Not new now. His back was almost smooth. How she wished it was the way it was when she first saw him without a shirt. To remember and to feel what it was like in the beginning. The day she dragged him to the beauty salon it was also raining. Maybe that was when they started falling apart. He didn't want to go anywhere that day but she finally prevailed. She stayed in the room with him and held his hand while the beautician ripped the hair from his back, inflicting the torture most women know and willingly endure. He thought she was there for support. Right. She was there because it gave her pleasure to see the hot wax spread over the hair and muslin strips pressed against the skin. And she had to make sure he would go through with it. She could almost feel the warmth of the wax and the pain of the violent rip herself. He screamed. He wasn't the type to swallow his pain or to feign courage. He screamed loud. With every rip. Really loud. At this moment, her gaze was fixed on a couple of stray hairs in the back of his neck. She longed for tweezers.
He could feel her breath against his back and wondered if she was awake. He concentrated on the pattern the warm breath was making on his skin. He could always tell if she was asleep by the rhythm and length of each breath. If the breaths were slow and consistent it meant she was asleep. Why had he fucked her last night? He didn't really want to. Maybe it was that she asked for it, and that hardly ever happened, and why not. He thought about getting up before she did. But that meant he would have to make the coffee. Today, and especially after having sex last night, was not a day he could handle any misunderstandings. If he made coffee for the both of them, as he always did when he got up first, then she could possibly not take him seriously. It needed to be clear. What he was going to say to her needed to be clearly understood. He could not figure out why it was so important to him that it had to be clear. It never made any difference to him with the other women before her. He concluded that she was still asleep. He had to piss and he would have to get up soon.
She knew it had to be today because he never went anywhere when it was raining. Definitely, absolutely, without a doubt, today. She had already covered all bases just to be sure. Even having sex. If only he would turn around and look at her straight in the eye. That was the last sign she needed to be sure. She was waiting for him to get up. She really wanted to stay in bed all day, making up the hours she didn't sleep all night, but she had things to do and say. He will get up and make the coffee and then she would have to get up. She could never resist the smell of coffee. He used to bring her a cup to bed, but that stopped about a month ago.
The rain stopped. He got up and went to the bathroom. She rolled to the other side and concentrated on the sound of his urine falling inside the toilet bowl. She pictured the yellow urine mixing with the blue toilet water and turning green. She listened intently as he put the seat down and washed his hands. He made his way out of the bathroom, into the hallway, around the corner and into the kitchen. Then, silence. He had stopped in front of the refrigerator. He wasn't moving. She rolled on her back and stared at the ceiling, listening. Then, he moved. She heard the freezer door open. He took the bean bag. Then he poured some beans in the grinder. She noticed it was a short pour. Not enough beans for two. Then the grinder went off and she mouthed the count. Ten seconds. Not the usual twenty.out. She heard him shake the coffee
She dragged herself out of the warm covers and into the cold and unwelcoming atmosphere of the apartment. If she had been alone that day, and not in this predicament, she would have lounged on the couch all day, eating ice cream and watching Wong Kar Wai movies. She headed for the bedroom door, but stopped suddenly and turned around. She carefully surveyed her surroundings. Shit. She knew there would be some battles about the ownership of the artwork. She didn't care about the books or the CDs, but the artwork and the DVDs, that was another story. She had to be careful with the words she would choose to tell him, but right now she couldn't think. All she wanted was her morning coffee. She walked to the bathroom and checked her appearance in the mirror. She never went to bed without removing her make-up even is she was totally fucked up. But last night she didn't give a shit had not removed it. She started to tame her hair, but stopped, realizing it was better to leave it alone. Unruly hair went perfectly with raccoon eyes and sleep depravation. She looked like a glamorous character from one of those artsy movies about doomed drug addicts. Chrissie Hynde or Joan Jett after an all-nighter. It was romantic.
He opened the coffee bean grinder and proceeded to scoop out the coffee. He paused in mid-air and stared at the espresso machine. Yea, it was hers. But she hardly ever made the coffee. Shouldn't things belong to those who use them? Not only that, but she didn't give a shit about it and didn't treat it properly. The few times she used the machine, she left the coffee grind inside the filter basket, and he always had to wash it himself. It wasn't fair. The scoop, full of coffee, dangled from his fingers as he plotted the appropriation of the machine. He unscrewed the group handle from the shower head and saw the filter was clean. He smiled. Good. She hadn't used it yesterday. He put the contents of the coffee grinder in the filter, filling it half way. He packed the ground coffee in the filter, then placed it back on the portafilter. Enough for one shot. He stared at the contraption in his hand for a few seconds and then at the grinder.
Standing out of sight around the corner of the kitchen, she witnessed this new hesitation at his morning ritual. She remembered their first fight, almost two years ago. It was over the stupid coffee beans and whether it was better to put them in the freezer, refrigerator or the pantry. He insisted it was the freezer even after she told him she read in Gourmet magazine that it was a cool, dry place and not necessarily the refrigerator that was best for the beans. She showed him various articles and he retorted with articles of his own supporting his coffee-freezing modus operandum. They fought for a day and a half until she gave up. The following day she went to Williams Sonoma and bought him a fancy metal canister for the coffee as a peace offering. He used it for about two weeks, storing it in the pantry, but then he went back to storing the beans, in their bag, in the freezer. She stood there and watched him twist the lid and listened to the sound of the air vacuum as it gently exploded, then he filled the reservoir with water. The sound of the water falling into the reservoir mixed with the sound of the rain running down the gutters. He turned towards the window and saw her standing there. She turned to the window as well. It was raining again. "Hey," he said. He flipped the switch of the espresso machine and headed for the living room. She stood in the middle of the kitchen, disoriented and feeling out of place.
She had lived in that apartment for five years, but it felt as if she just had stepped into that small, cramped kitchen space. She could not make up her mind in which direction to turn. Two weeks ago, it would have been to the left and towards the cupboard containing the coffee cups. She would have taken out two espresso cups and spoons and placed each on their corresponding saucer. She felt lost, but strangely exhilarated and on the verge of tears. It was exhilaration at the possibility of something new. Of change. Again. The espresso maker was getting ready to start brewing. She looked at the machine, listening to the steam leak from under the gasket. The thick, brown substance started to make its way out, drop by drop, getting thinner and watery, until it became a thick stream of beige foam. Her favorite part. Then he came in and avoided eye contact. She stepped back and leaned against the sink to make room for him. She should have left, but she was unable to move. She wanted to watch and see what he would do next, he knowing she was watching him. He took one cup out of the cupboard, placed it on a saucer and poured his shot. She knew exactly what to do now.
"What is the most pathetic thing you have ever cooked and then eaten?" he asked her genuinely interested in her response. It was their first date and over the years she had learned, the hard way, never to be honest with a man at the beginning. “Be yourself” is the most erroneous dating advice ever given. So, at the moment, she could not disclose that she was culinarily impaired and that maybe the meaning of pathetic to him meant accomplished to her. Pathetic to most people was two pieces of white bread and a slice of ham, but to her it was slaving over a hot stove. Funny, she couldn't remember what she answered. Did she lie or did she embellish the truth? His pet name for her became la chef pathetique because her specialty was pathetic food, in particular white bread ham sandwiches, rice cakes with peanut butter, quesadillas, ground beef patties with cottage cheese, Lean Pockets, and tuna fish from a can.
They got along because they were willing to play along with each other's romantic and fantastic shenanigans. Hers were half-assed recreations of Godard film scenes, and his, annoying renditions of Tom Waits songs. After a little harmless stalking, he had plotted to meet her at a diner: “a melodramatic nocturnal scene” Tom would have said. Why did he pick her? Simple. The way she was dressed, her style, the way she moved. She was odd and it was obvious from the way she sported her trenchcoat and black beret that reality wasn't her thing and neither was it his.
There had their fun together and now it was over.
She made herself a simple breakfast. Not eggs and sausage and a side of toast, but a plain, white bread ham and cheese sandwich. He glanced over from the living room to the mirror on the wall that reflected what was going on in the kitchen. If she offered him a sandwich, what would he say? He was hungry, but how would she interpret him saying yes to the offer? He watched her diligently flatten the sandwich as if it were raw pastry dough and waited. The offer never came. Funny how the things that made him want to smother her with kisses now made him want to smash her face in. She went around to the living room and sat on the floor at the coffee table, right across from him. He drank his espresso and she ate her flat white bread sandwich. Their actions were mechanic and effortless despite each other's presence. They pretended the other wasn't there and strangled their emotions. Perhaps they didn't have to pretend. Their presence in relation to each other was no longer relevant to them. They no longer existed as a couple.