He poured milk into a tin cup, confirming that it, by its thickness, was spoiled. He scoffed, dumping it down the disposal, sending it wherever expired foods were accepted. The hairy cat food from May, the stale cheese from last week, the warm soda from two nights ago. Some being consumed it somewhere.
He didn’t like milk all that much but he would have appreciated a reimbursement from that being.
It was ten-forty and Alicia hadn’t returned from whatever errand she wove up to dodge the bland morning. The semester was weeks away but she wouldn’t have registered until it turned into seconds. He was just gray to her. Gray and infectious. His dark brown eyes swelled, his dark brown hair withered, his dark brown voice grated. The only thing that was relatively appealing was his body and it wasn't exactly Calvin Klein spreadable. He was more of a layered type of guy. She only wanted him for his emotions. But he knew a fitted t-shirt about the size of Ponyboy’s would have been nice. Maybe a drizzle of water over the pectorals, too.
The main room was taken by the sounds of a late film he didn’t care to keep his attention on. The television spoke to itself and so did the radio in the bathroom. His bladder was heavy from dawn. Fortunately, it didn’t release on him, or under him, in his weakest state of slumber. He was itching for something to drink first. A can of carnation milk, its lid peeled upward, sat on the side door. He contemplated for a moment and, after finishing the pungency, ran to the bathroom where the duty was done.
He sighed with gratification and returned to the kitchen. Munchies, leftover pasta, microwave-convenient oatmeal. He chose the pasta, which would have been insipid without an extra pinch of pepper and an additional spoon of butter. There were half a container of cream cheese and five squares of Singles. He scoped the fridge. Garlic bread was the completion.
It was ten-forty seven.
He wondered what she was possibly doing. Dry cleaning, banking, the nice Jewish boy from the gym. The thought shook away when the microwave rang ready. He yanked the door open as if it was heeding his mind from overheating. The plate was hot as the weather. He waited a minute, the air conditioner cooling on his shoulders, his attention gazing aimlessly at the film.
“What’s your name?”
“Jerry Mulligan. What’s yours?”
“Yah, as in Venus Deux.”
No introduction was that typical. It was always a glance, a stare back, an interior smile until next time. And, even at the next time, the two parties were too cautious and awkward to cross those lines. But one evening, for reasons unnamed, a number was given and next thing he knew, he was living with the smack-talking clerk who took weekend shifts at the gas station.
He touched the plate as the characters spoke. Still torrid. He waited.
He always waited. Waited and allowed. But close enough so that she wasn’t overweening. She never strayed. He was tactfully intact. He was constantly reminding. The way he looked her in the eyes while they lied in bed together with only a slit of the moon peering through evoked her. She was drawn. She laughed with other men salivating over her right before his eyes, knowing in her heart that she needed him. She was attracted to his confidence. He stood with one hand placed on his bicep, the other twirling his beard, his face quiet and patient and humble.
She had to have him. It was all in his untampered with mentality. His stability. His grounded mind. It was all that made him mysterious and interesting. It surely wasn’t his dark eyes or his dark hair.
And she was a plexus so complex. He was in love with the idea of loving her. He was intrigued by her challenges. He was drawn to her mouth. He never expected what she would say next. She was new everyday. And he guessed he was settling a bit because, of all his trials and errors, she was the first who let him tolerate her. She understood that he wasn’t a pushover. She walked all over him but he was unaffected and, for some reason, he dominated her. He watched her carefully and strategically. He appeared internal, his thoughts radiating loudly through his face and striking her mid-laugh, arousing her until she was taken aback. And when she listened to what was going on in his mind, she couldn’t abstain from thinking about him.
She found herself seeing him at moments and feeling intense and magnetized and curious.
They were instinctively in love but that was it. They held no motive. No real reason. It was as if they were coexisting and indulging in each other’s qualities. There was no authentic passion. It was entirely superficial.
But he figured that mutuality was better than love because at least she was willing. It wasn't love when his exes were able to stand risking what they had by drifting away from him. They forwarded his phone calls; they ignored his emails. There was no better sign that it wasn't destiny. He deleted them from his heart, feeling hurt. He couldn't return to women cold enough to neglect him when he soothed them with security that they were beautiful enough. Yes, an accordance was better than love. Commitment took energy and that was something to be admired. And the comfort of seeing her face everyday was close enough to love, anyway.
“Oh, you mean the party’s just you and me.”
“Oh, I see. Well that’s kind of a little joke. Isn’t it?”
A joke it was, what with their lack of pickiness. They were so easy together, so diplomatic. They weren't like the ruins of a realistic relationship. There was no substance. No drugs, no alcohol. He preferred things that weren't diluted in his food but that was it. He enjoyed the surprise of her quips and being astonished by her language but that was it. They became contained eventually. Their relationship fell into the routine of traditional hugging and kissing and she forgot why they were together in the first place. And she found herself seeing him at moments and feeling certain of who he was. There was no challenge. He became mediocre and grey and infectious.
It was what was supposed to be to him. It was convenient.
She saw it depreciating.
His stomach grumbled in flustering rounds, mangling the milk in an attempt toward proper digestion. He held it stiffly as to control the turbulence. It passed and he touched the warm plate again.
Suddenly, the pasta wasn’t appetizing and he realized where Alicia, and the cat, was.
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