Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chapter 13: Christmas in February


Emily's period always ends on a Tuesday, and since today is Tuesday, she could be sleeping with Doug anytime now.

I don't talk to Emily every single day, especially during the week, so it's important that I don't keep checking up on her now that I know what she's up to. But how the hell can I stop myself?

I sit at my desk for eons, the phone staring unringingly at me, the hands of my office clock frozen in place. I straighten the adding machine on my credenza, then straighten it again, praying for a huge pile of work to spontaneously appear in my in box and provide a few hours of distraction. But no such luck.

It's 10:22am. I can't possibly sit here for another 6 1/2 hours, torturing myself about her. For all I know, they're going to sneak off and fuck each other's brains out in a supply closet at lunchtime. Maybe she wore that short little black skirt and high heels for the occasion, the outfit she used to wear for me, and maybe she's thinking about his cock right now, making herself wet with horny anticipation, and maybe my face will flash in her mind the second he penetrates her, not because she feels guilty, but because she wonders why she ever wasted one moment of her time with me.

That's what it's all about, isn't it? The pulse-pounding excitement of being with a guy who's drowning in cash, who's careful never to leave the house in wrinkled pants or to drive a car more than two years old. Women are wired to seek out men like Doug, men who can take care of them. Several million years' worth of evolution is pushing Emily to him, forcing her to think of him constantly, to throw herself at him, to acquiesce to his every demand, and to strike me completely from her mind, to delete me like an unwanted file.

"Todd, I'm not feeling well. I'm gonna head home. I'll call you later."

"We need placements, Eric!"

"We're working on it."

* * *

Why did I come home? There's less to do here than there was at work.

I shuffle down the hall to the bedroom, then back to the kitchen for a glass of water, and finally back to the bedroom again, where I watch myself sit down at the computer.

I can't. Once I click on that link, I'll check back every five minutes until I crash from exhaustion. I need to find something else to do--

I turn around and look under the foot of the bed, where the corner of a box sticks out. stmas, it says.

I pull the box out and lift the lid. It's my holiday skater set, a scale model frozen pond with magnetic figurines that glide around on the fake ice while Christmas carols plink out as if played on a toy piano.

The skaters calm me. No matter what is happening in my life, I've always been able to put my problems on hold over Christmas and New Year's, and although it's February now, I'm able to forget Emily's cheating as long as the music is playing and the skaters are skating.

Emily and I had a great time two Christmases ago. Our relationship really clicked. A day was an eternity for us; we couldn't go for more than a few hours without texting or calling. We obsessed over each other's gifts, spending hundreds of dollars we didn't have just to see that look in one another's eyes on Christmas morning as the wrapping paper came off.

We had non-stop sex, hungrily ripping each other's clothes off whenever we had a free moment, only to do it all over again a few hours later. And "sleeping" in the same bed was a mere figure of speech.

When I look back now, I see that those were the best days of my life. Work was quiet; my relationship was stable; I had everything a man could have wanted. I know I can never bring those days back, but at least I can make the present feel a bit more like the past.

I put the Christmas song playlist back on my MP3 player and set it for "repeat all", and as I inhale the sugary smell of my Christmas Cookie jar candle, I can feel the stress leave my body. Most of it, anyway.

With "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Frosty the Snowman" wafting in the background, I actually manage to get a few small projects done. For one thing, I made a list of all the new construction projects downtown; with so many new buildings going up, someone is bound to need temporary workers.

It's 5:30 now, and I think I'll shut it down for the day. Maybe I'll treat myself to something nice for dinner.

The phone rings. It's probably Todd, wondering how much business we've brought in today. Things are very slow, but at least I have the construction project list to tell him about.

"I miss you," Emily says. She wants to make plans for this Friday.

My heart flutters. She's still thinking about me. I know she's let me down before, but what am I supposed to do, give up? She's pursuing me!

It was only a sliver of encouragement, I know, but between that and the Christmas stuff, I'm happier than a kid who just cracked open a pinata. The days fly by, and before I know it, it's Friday night.

The night is perfect. We lay on the couch, her nestled against me, the room completely dark except for the flickering TV screen. She provides a running commentary on the movie, cracking me up just like she used to.

The credits roll, and my stomach churns with anticipation. It's been a while since we've been together, and my heart pounds like a jackhammer as I picture her naked thighs pressed against mine.

I watch intently in the half-light of my bedroom, absorbing every detail as she unhooks her bra and unbuttons her jeans, her breathing just a bit heavier than usual.

She lays down next to me, flipping her silky hair out of the way to kiss me, and I run my hand gently down her back, delighting in her supple skin and the soft, round curve of her ass.

I slip a finger under the elastic of her panties and slide them slowly down her legs. She rolls onto her back and her eyes flicker up at me at she spreads her knees apart.

I stare for a long time before I let myself believe what I see. But yes, it is true: The inevitable has happened, and the horror I feel will never be gone from me.

She is completely shaved.

Next... Chapter 14: My fingers do the walking