Routine stress motivated me to visit an old friend in Olympia. Kelly, once wild in her 20’s, was now settling down with a family, and the one thing she still loved to do was talk about sex. Everything from our husbands’ penises, sexual positions, past lovers, toys, and ultimately, back to our own vaginas. This entire conversation occurred in the hallway while we waited for her three-year-old to finish going potty.
“You seem tense, Ann. More than usual.”
“Life with three kids… it’s hectic.” But having said it sounded more like an excuse. “I just can’t seem to roll with the punches, you know?”
“Absolutely. Are you still having orgasms? They’re really good for your brain.”
“Hell, I don’t even have the energy to please myself.”
She winced. “You do need help. Here,” she pulled a bottle from her purse, “this will help you relax.” She dabbed a warm spot of oil on my neck.
“Shit, not lavender. I hate that stuff.” Using my sleeve, I wiped off as much of it as I could.
Kelly clicked her tongue. “It’s not that bad.”
“Maybe I just need Todd to bend me over the…” — Danny came out of the bathroom shaking his wet hands — “Do you need a towel?” Feigning wholesomeness, my voice arched.
“No,” Kelly said. “We let our hands air dry; otherwise, you just wipe off all the natural oils in your skin.”
I studied her. “I think you’re having too many O’s.”
“We’re meant for pleasure,” she whispered, and then leaned into me. “I have to have them, every morning like tea.”
So, we walked to a nearby café to get some tea. The restaurant was full, and we were about to leave when a woman sitting alone offered to share her booth. “Please, come sit. I’ll be leaving soon.”
The combination of her pleasant mannerisms and creepy expression naturally inspired skepticism in me, but Kelly sat next to her as if they were close friends. Some towns are just like that. The woman introduced herself, Summer, and then resumed reading her book, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.
Danny hopped up on Kelly’s lap. I hoped she wasn’t going to pull out a boob and start breastfeeding him. Maybe it’s me, but a three-year-old asking for his mother’s breast using a complete sentence is awkward.
Fortunately, Kelly kept her shirt on, and Danny gnawed on an animal cracker. After a few minutes, Summer stood to leave. We thanked her again, and she headed for the door, stopped abruptly, and then started chasing something in the air. It was a bee. It flew past me and landed on our windowsill.
“Try to get it,” a hippy-looking man, sitting behind us, said. He handed Summer an empty glass, and then turned fervent eyes on Kelly and me. “Bees are valuable workers in our circle of life. We must protect every one of them.”
I nodded silently, not because I disagreed, but because I’d never given much thought to the ‘life’ of a bee. It seemed so insignificant. I wondered then if my daily perspective correlated with my stress. I couldn’t live in the moment. I was always somewhere else, somewhere I didn’t even want to be — in a world of worry, mounting responsibilities, and obligations.
“Excuse me,” Summer said, leaning into our booth.
By now, half the cafe had turned their attention to the rescue of a little bumblebee. Summer attempted to trap the bee underneath the glass. It flew away, straight towards me. I swatted at it, out of instinct, much to the horror of the café’s patrons. The bee then landed directly on my left breast.
“Don’t move,” Kelly said.
Summer came at me with the glass. I stiffened in dread as she placed the cup over my boob and pushed gently, forcing my nipple to protrude into the glass. Like a prized specimen, for all to see.
The bee buzzed around again before stopping on the tippy-tip-top of my nipple.
I turned a frown on Kelly. There were many things I wanted to say to her, most centered on the obvious. “If you hadn’t rubbed all that damn lavender on me …,”
“I think I’ve got it,” Summer said.
“Yup. I would have to agree,” I replied.
“I’ll make this quick,” Summer said, as she gave the cup a jiggle to make my boob wiggle in order to get the bee off my nipple. The bee’s wings lifted (Yes!), and then it sprang up and flew toward the bottom of the glass.
Summer released the cup from by breast, placed her hand over the top of the glass, and ran towards the front door, already propped open by another customer. She set the glass down in front of a flower patch as if there were a fairy inside. The bee came out, and everyone started clapping, until it landed on a nearby, empty Pepsi can. Shrugs passed around — moans and groans about the downfalls of modernization — and then it was back to making espresso.
I smoothed my shirt down, trying to conceal my erection.
“That was so great,” the hippy man said, “how the two of you saved that bee. Without bees, we wouldn’t have any crops, and without crops, we would all starve.”
He had a good point. Kelly gave him a high-five and sat back down in the booth. She digested my frown. “Well, you did mention a lack of pleasure in your life,” she said, as if to justify the public molestation of my breast. “Say, there’s a bookstore down the street that has moths. Can you imagine?” She jigged her eyebrow at me.
“You’re sick.” But reflecting ‘in the moment’, I did feel better, a rolling-with-the-punches kind of better. I had escaped my own world, even if it were to a stranger one.
Danny tugged on Kelly’s sleeve. “Mama, can I suck on your boob?”
Good heavens. It must be the lavender.
Erin Cole has work published in various electronic and print publications, and is the author of Grave Echoes and the horror collection Of the Night. Last year, she won 10th place in Writer’s Digest 80th Annual Writing Competition in the Genre Short Story category and has since, refused to give up her cloud nine.