photo Tick Tock by Kalyan Chakravarthy
“Do you have any idea how lucky we are?” I said, locating Eva’s hand underneath the blanket, bringing it up to my mouth, kissing it twice, and biting it once.
“Some idea, yeah,” she responded, seizing my hand, and returning the two kisses and the one bite.
I laughed and hugged her tightly against my chest. I could see her neon green eyes flashing magically in the dark inches away from mine and I knew I was in love for the first time in nearly ten years.
“You’re the most affectionate man I’ve ever been with,” Eva said, offering each of her fingers in turn for five more kisses. “Jimmy or Evan or any of the other guys I’ve dated couldn’t hold a candle to you when it comes to affection.”
“Thank you,” I said, feeling a pocket knife-sized stab of jealousy in my gut at hearing the names of those ghosts spoken in a room where they’d once materialized. “But so are you. You’re the most affectionate woman I’ve ever met. Most of the women I’ve dated barely laid a hand on me.”
“Really? I can’t believe that. Everything about you inspires affection.”
“Well, I’ve dated a lot of cold women. Or at least women who turned out to be cold,” I said, careful as always not to cast myself as a bitter person, and plant the thought in Eva’s head that someday, while lying with another woman, I may describe her in similar terms.
“I’d like to give all your ex-girlfriends a good talking to,” Eva said.
“Thanks, but I’d rather you didn’t.”
She laughed and I found a few more favorite spots on her body to pepper with kisses. Her hipbones were sensitive and when I kissed them it always made her giggle and squirm and push my head away. So that’s where I focused my attention.
When I resurfaced from under the blanket, Eva said: “Jimmy once told me I was too affectionate. He said, ‘Give me some space please!’ one time when we were standing in the living room watching one of his political shows. The guy who talks too fast. Chris Mathews. We’d just gotten back from his parent’s house, and we walked in the door, and he turned on the TV, and I walked over to him and put my arms around him, and kissed him on the cheek—‘cause there’d been a lot of tension between him and his mother, and he pulled away from me and said, ‘Give me some space please!’ I knew in that moment that we were done, and I came in here, and shut the door.”
“I’d like to give Jimmy a good talking to,” I said.
“Thanks, but I’d rather you didn’t.”
We laughed, and turned over onto our backs, and let the air conditioner blow cool air down onto our smiling faces. It had been a smoldering August in Los Angeles and we were both glistening with sweat.
“These are good days,” I said.
“The best days of my life,” she responded.
“God, we’re lucky! Do you realize how lucky we are?!… Okay, I’ll stop saying that.”
“No. I love it when you say that. And I totally agree, we’re the lucky ones. Yep.”
“We really are perfect for each other, aren’t we?”
“Perfect. Two of a kind. Soulmates. Yep.”
“Soulmates? Soulmates! Yes we are!”
I kissed her on the cheek. She kissed me on the cheek. I kissed her on the hand. She kissed me on the hand. I grabbed her arm and squeezed it. She grabbed my arm and squeezed it. Reciprocal affection. That was Eva’s thing. She liked to distribute her affection at an equal rate to mine.
“I can’t picture us ever having a fight, can you?” she said.
“No. I can’t picture it,” I said. “Two months of dating and we’ve never had a quarrel. That’s pretty impressive.”
“Crazy, right? But, I guess it’ll happen eventually. We will fight eventually. One day you’ll do something — or I’ll-I’ll do something, probably, that you won’t like.”
“I wonder what our first fight will be about.”
“I can’t even imagine. What do you think it’ll be about?” she asked.
“Probably something stupid like me not listening to something you said. Like I give you a hat for your birthday, after you told me you hate wearing hats. Something like that.”
“I do hate wearing hats.”
“I know, see, I was listening when you told me that. I’m a great listener. Okay, so the fight probably won’t be about my poor listening skills…”
Eva laughed. “I’m trying to think what the first argument I had with Jimmy was about. Or any of my other boyfriends—Evan or Tiger or…”
“You don’t remember what your first argument with Jimmy was about?”
“No. But we were together for 7 years, so it’s hard to pinpoint any one particular argument. Especially the first one at the bottom of such a deep pile of arguments.”
“I remember my first argument with my college girlfriend,” I said, shifting one leg out from underneath the blanket. “Well, actually I don’t remember what it was about—it was probably about religion or something—she was Catholic, and I was, whatever the hell I was, but I do remember that while we were arguing I suddenly blurted out that I was falling in love with her…and that ended the argument.”
“Well, I guess it would,” Eva said with a short laugh.
Daylight was sneaking into the bedroom and we lay there quietly for a moment trying to fall back to sleep. Unable to doze off, I turned my head and looked around the brightening room. The décor was reminiscent of a college dorm. There was a sagging tapestry covering the wall above the dresser and dark clothing spewing out of the bureau drawers. The bed beneath us wasn’t a bed at all, but a formfitting mattress, lying on the floor in the corner, below the hissing air conditioner. Next to the mattress was a coffee table, also covered with a tapestry, on top of which were several pieces of quartz that Eva said brought good luck to those who rubbed them. Directly facing the mattress on the opposite side of the bedroom, by the closet’s sliding doors, was a 2 1/2 foot tall Buddha statue, sitting cross legged with his black eyes wide open and looking directly at me. As a child I’d always found statues threatening. I was convinced that if I stared too long into their eyes, their heads and bodies would break free from their marble cage, and there wouldn’t be anyone around later to charge with my murder. I guess at the age of 42, I hadn’t quite abandoned that fear.
Turning away from the Buddha’s piercing black eyes, I looked into Eva’s loving green ones and said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea, why don’t we have a fake argument right now and get it out of the way?”
“That’s a brilliant idea! A fake argument to break the ice! Okay, what are we going to argue about?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think we should plan it though. I think we should just start an argument and go with it.”
“Okay, but you have to go first. I’m not gonna start our first argument, even if it is a fake one.”
“Wait a second. Why do I have to start the argument? Why do you always get to set the rules?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about how I’m just now realizing how much you like wearing the pants in this relationship.”
“What?! Are you being serious right now?!”
“No, I’m starting the fake argument…”
“Oh, right, right! Sorry,” she said, laughing. I’m such a dork. Keep going, keep going… But to answer your question, the reason I said you have to start the argument is because it was your stupid idea to have a fake argument in the first place!”
“Hey—I just thought it would be a healthy way to move the relationship forward.”
“Yeah, if you wanna put the relationship on training wheels. Wow, I had no idea you were such a conflict a-phobe,” she said, laughing.
“I’m not a conflict a-phobe. I just have an envial ability to foresee potential disaster and side step it for the betterment of an otherwise healthy relationship.”
“Envial? I don’t even think that’s a word, is it?” she said, the derisive smirk on her face easily recognizable in the growing morning light.
“Of course it is. It’s derived from the word ‘envious’. I’m sure you’re familiar with the term. I’m sure you’ve been envious before.”
“Well, certainly not of your vocabulary.”
“Ha, ha, ha. Very Funny.”
“Enviable?! Is that the word you were looking for?”
“Enviable. Yes. And that’s the word I said.”
“No you didn’t. You said, envial.”
“Envial?! No, I didn’t!”
“Aaaaah, yeah, I think ya did.”
“I said: Enviable. I talk too fast, so you thought I said something else. You misheard me.”
“I didn’t mishear you. And you don’t talk too fast.”
Eva laughed. “Wait, can we take a timeout from the fake argument so I can ask you a question?” she said, sitting up straight, and leaning her back against the red-painted wall.
“My question is: were you being serious about enviable/envial or was that part of the fake argument?”
“What do you mean? That was part of the fake argument.”
“So you do admit that you said the word Envial?”
“Really? Because the way you said it, it seemed like you really thought it was a word.”
“Nope. It was just a joke meant to heighten the fake tension in our fake argument.”
“Hmm. Why don’t I believe you? Why do I think you made up a word, got caught, then insisted that you really said enviable, but that I misheard you due to your being a fast talker…which you’re not…and NOW you’re using the fake argument as an excuse to discount everything you said because you realize everything you said was bullshit.”
“Are you being serious or is this part of the fake argument? It feels kinda like we’re existing in two realities right now.”
“I’m being serious. We’re still in a timeout from the fake argument, remember? Now would you please just admit that you were using the fake argument as a way of covering up the fact that you used a word that doesn’t exist, and you got caught doing it by a woman who’s ten years younger than you, and has far fewer books on her bookshelves.”
“Eva, we were kidding around. We were having a fake argument. How can you take anything I said seriously? The whole premise of the fake argument was founded on it being exactly that: FAKE.”
“Okay, well, you believe what you wanna believe, and I’ll believe what I wanna believe.”
“Fine. Works for me.”
“Now, do you wanna resume the fake argument or not?”
“I’m not sure we ever stopped it.”
“Good, then let’s get back to it… Does it bother you that I’m a better arguer than you are, be it a fake argument or a real one?” she said.
“Hey—I’m not gonna argue with you that you’re a better arguer than I am. Because you made it abundantly clear that you argued with Jimmy for 7 straight years and no doubt became an expert at it.”
“Please don’t bring up my-ex boyfriend to try and win the fake argument. It’s really tacky.”
“Tacky?! You’re the one who brings Jimmy up every five minutes. You and all your other exes. It’s gotten to the point where I think we talk more about you and them than we talk about you and me!”
“Hey—don’t pin your jealousy issues on me!”
“Jealousy issues?! Oh now I have jealousy issues, too? Unbelievable. According to you I’m a conflict a-phobe with jealousy issues and a shitty vocabulary. Is that really what you think of me?!”
“Well, look how you’ve painted me…according to you, I’m some sort of pants wearing, castrating bitch, who’s obsessed with her past and unable to get over all her lost loves!”
“Look—I just think it would be nice if you wouldn’t torture me every five minutes by telling me stories about all your ex-boyfriends. Do you have any idea how painful it is to hear the names Jimmy, and Evan, and Tiger repeated over and over again? ESPECIALLY TIGER!”
“God, you’re so jealous! Get over it, dude! Those guys are long gone! Stop being such an insecure bitch about it!”
I sprang up off the mattress, reached down onto the floor, grabbed my underwear, and quickly slid them on.
“Oh my God. Are you being serious right now?” she asked.
I eyed my jeans mingling in a crumpled heap with Eva’s black dress. Pausing for a moment, I breathed in through my nose, and out through my mouth, as my high school baseball coach had instructed me to do to rid my body of tension. Standing with my back to Eva, I caught a glimpse of my angry face in the large mirror on the sliding closet door, and, making sure that Eva couldn’t see me, took a moment to stretch out the muscles around my mouth before changing my expression into a toothy smile. I then turned around and faced Eva, still lying in bed with the blanket I’d flung off of us tangled at her feet.
Seeing my expression she let out a big cackling laugh. “Oh my God! You were kidding?! I thought you were gone! I thought you were storming out of my life and I was never going to see you again! Okay, you win! You win the fake argument! I’ve had enough!”
I sat back down on the mattress next to her. “Come on, Eva, you haven’t known me that long, but I think you know me better than that.”
She laughed and I peeled off my underwear, grabbed the blanket at her feet, and lying back down on the mattress, flung it over our naked bodies.
“Can we please never have another fake argument?” she said.
“That’s fine with me,” I responded, locating her hand underneath the blanket, bringing it up to my mouth, kissing it twice, and biting it once.
She seized my hand and returned the affection, kissing it twice, and biting it once. A bite that was harder than the last one.
|Alexander Carver’s stories have been seen in ZYZZYVA, Foliate Oak, Dark Matter, and The Satirist, among others. A produced playwright and screenwriter, he is currently underway writing his first novel.|
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May 12, 2017
May 12, 2017
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