She had left Grizzly Bear playing softly as she got made up. Not rushing out, not really, but I could tell she was the type to always be five minutes behind. Tap out the wrinkles, check the stockings for runs, throw on whatever shades of black she can find.
It’s Sunday but she has to work today. She says she told me that when we met last night, but I can’t remember. I lie on my side; my hand props my head up. It must be the morning chill that makes me pull the covers tight against my skin. It’s always strange though, being naked with someone clothed. Like I’m in a doctor’s office, being examined. I’m going to run, you can shower, whatever. Just make sure to slam the door behind you so it locks. Words mumbled through a dangling cigarette are hard to read.
I get a kiss on the lips and a smile before she turns down the hallway, her exit declared with the front door closing. I guess she trusts me, leaving me all alone in her apartment.
I look around the room, learning more about her now than all last night’s conversations. Succulents on the windowsill reach toward any sliver of sun. Necklaces of different lengths rotate slowly in the air, shining once a turn as they hang from nails in the closet door. The kicked-over heels of Saturday night have joined the other pairs, their brands unidentified, men’s names erased as their soles wore away. It still smells a little like us, but the chill air in the room has all but extinguished the dried sweat and satisfaction on the bedspread.
I tell myself that it’s the fear of the cold floor that delays my getting out of bed. The sheets crinkle as I sit up and see myself in the bedroom mirror. Hair tousled, lips cracked and throbbing, a chest robbed of its color by the frigid air. Memories of last night come in flashes when I close my eyes.
I won’t shower here. She said I could, but I won’t. I’m sure of it when I take a piss and smell the shampoo she’d used before she left. To see a brand name on her scent, soap scum in the rack, somehow it would ruin the thing. Better to collect my clothes scattered around the floor. The condom wrappers are shiny and remind me of bright beetles — bound in tissue, preserved in my pocket sarcophagus. Better to return things to how they were before, to leave no trace. Almost like I was never here.
Her tiny bedside table is black and bears no attempt to hide its wear. I hesitate before finger-writing my number in the dust. But it doesn’t feel right, so I scuff it out and try again. A heart this time. No. Brush that away as well.
I walk out of the room, making sure not to look at the few family pictures on the walls. For a moment, I tense with the feeling that something of mine will forever remain in this apartment, but it passes. I leave only dead skin cells, a few hairs, an imprint on a bed. Paused in the apartment doorway, Ed Droste and her perfume are faint behind me. They’re cut off completely as I slam the door.
Ted Winston has lived all over the United States, but is currently based in New York City. He almost always remembers to slam the door.