Issue 2, Spring 2007


Your Places
By Jennifer Berney

When you were sad, you said, you liked the bathroom, though I didn’t want to let you. You said you liked the smallness of it all, the pristine curves of sink, toilet, tub. They made it okay to curl. When I came home to a quiet house, I would look for you there, in the bathtub, in your clothes, curled up and barely rocking. You said it made you happy.

Somehow it was different when we drank, when friends were over and everyone was settling into night, Mike nodding off on the sofa, Dan and O’Neil dealing a game of Rat Screw on the floor, you the only girl and mine. You’d whisper “time for a bath” and lead me to the bathroom, fingers woven into mine. The boys looked up from their cards, then quickly forgot us. The bathroom was small and bright. It felt like stepping inside a bubble.

You took off your shirt, and I watched your body, the way your elbows tried to poke through skin when you reached behind and unhooked your bra. I stayed dressed and got inside the tub. You rested in the space between my legs. The back of your head pressed into my shoulder. We just stayed there, and I touched every inch that you’d let me until I didn’t think I could bear it—but you made me. Finally, Dan pounded on our bathroom door saying “fuck, I gotta piss.”

And he didn’t look up until the stream was good and going and then he said “whoa” and looked again and we all started laughing, your shoulder blades rocking into my chest, Dan’s pee stopping and starting, which made us laugh even harder.

I felt it there that night, a knot inside your softness, but I was too busy wanting you to think.

You fell asleep on me and I let you stay until I could no longer stand to be sandwiched between porcelain and bone. Then I wrapped you in my bathrobe, the one you said was gross, and led you through the living room, cards shuffling in dim light, to bed.

Doesn’t it seem like, before we even knew, we knew? You never had the attitude of lasting.

Mornings, you dressed in my clean clothes, folding the elastic waist over on my boxers to keep them on your hips. You made breakfasts that involved tofu and served them in bowls. Afterwards, we ate cookies and kept refilling coffee.

When we found out, the drinking ended, and Mike and Dan and O’Neil only called when they remembered. The bathtub continued, and breakfasts, and now there were evening walks.

You wanted to go to New York. I got you a brand new credit card. Our hotel room had a claw foot tub that gleamed. This time you ran the water while I waited in bed, flipping through magazines, reading only sidebars. You came out in a swell of steam, smelling like coconut lotion. I wanted to get past the coconut, into you. You were all that mattered and yet you didn’t matter. Does that make any sense? I mean that I didn’t want anyone to have you, not even you; I wanted to lock you in that room all weekend and take until there was nothing left.

“Let’s go eat,” you said when I was finished.

And we walked through noise to get somewhere, me holding your hand through the crowded street. We turned a corner you knew and ducked into a restaurant that served white food on platters: blintzes, latkes, pierogis. Our platters came, and bowls of matzo ball soup, and we ate, item by item, until we were warm and full and comatose. When I think of you now, that’s where you are, leaning in your chair and pushing your plate away to punctuate the end of eating. (Okay, you’re in the bathroom, too.)

“Monday,” you said, and the word just hung there, teetering.

You wanted a nap and we walked back slower than we came, the noise of the street now shrill and awful. The air in our room held steam. The bed was a mess and you lay on your side in your clothes. I watched you. Your right hand curled against the mattress and your knuckles looked pink and bare. Your lips were parted so I could see just the edge of your teeth.

You breathed. I curled against you.

For a moment, that was all I needed.

Until the moment passed and again I wanted more.