By N. Shephard
The room had the ordered arrangement and cleanliness a good motel imposes between occupancies. The man said: “This will do.” He closed the door.
“I didn’t like that clerk’s attitude,” the woman said.
“Don’t let him spoil the occasion,” the man advised.
“Bastard,” the woman spat.
“Him or me,” the man said, his voice warmed by amusement.
“Him, of course,” the woman answered with asperity. She gazed at him thoughtfully. “Maybe you, too, at that. Maybe all men are bastards.”
“And maybe all women are bitches,” he countered without heat.
“I didn’t mean anything personal.”
“I know,” he answered. “It was a philosophical statement, like if you or I say all men or all women are mammals. No hate or love attached. Passionless.”
The woman yawned and stretched. “I don’t want to be passionless. I don’t want to be philosophical, either.”
He watched her flex, the spread of her rib cage under her blouse, the life and thrust of her breasts, the backward tilt of her head, the spring of her neck tendons into sharp relief, the flattening of her tummy. “Damn, you’re lovely.”
The woman ended her stretch and smiled. “You’re in the mood, aren’t you?” Her hands strayed to the top button of her blouse. “So am I.”
“Yes,” he said, “but we don’t have to hurry, do we? Delay heightens pleasure.”
She continued to unbutton her blouse. “For you, maybe. Me, I want to get on with it.”
“Be nice, honey.”
“I am being nice. I agreed to this, didn’t I.”
She kept disrobing while they talked. He sat on the edge of the bed to watch her. His hands dangled between his knees, his expression worried. “You really don’t care about sex, do you? It’s nothing to you, no more than spitting or pissing or shitting.”
By now she was down to panties and bra. She unhooked the one, peeled down the other. She moved close to him, grabbed a hank of his brown hair to raise his head. Deliberately, tauntingly, she brushed her nipples across his lips. “So what? It’s important enough to you. Why the concern about what I think or feel about sex? You never gave a damn about it before.”
“Because—” he started.
“Yeah,” she said, overriding his answer. “Well, it’s too late now. Just stop being so damn analytic, will you.”
She knelt and pulled at his belt buckle. His gaze followed the bowed head, the slope of her back to where it merged into the width of pelvis. There was a supplicant’s curve to her body but a demanding haste in the attack of her hands on his clothes. He didn’t assist, but neither did he resist.
Afterwards, she was the first to leave the bed. He listened to the water run from a bathroom tap and then the gush of a toilet being flushed. She came out unabashed in her nudity to begin restoring herself to a dressed state. He kept quiet until she said, “Satisfied?”
“You know I’m not.”
“Don’t be a jerk. This is what we agreed on.” She took up her purse, drew out a sheaf of stapled papers, and tossed them on the bed. “Go on, sign them.”
He let the paper remain where they landed. “I could refuse.”
“Yes, you could, and what would be the result? I’ll tell you. Something worse than if you do sign. Be fair, for God’s sake. You promised if we had sex one more time you would sign. I agreed and I’ve done my part of the bargain. Now do yours, damn you.”
“I’ll miss you.”
Her asperity lessened at this lament. “You’ll get over it. Come on, Paul, be fair. Let’s at least make the split cordial. I don’t want us hating each other. And neither do you, I bet.”
She left him alone to return to the bathroom to brush her hair. When she returned, the papers were at the foot of the bed. “I signed them,” he told her.
“Thanks,” she replied just as flatly. She took up the papers, tucked them in her purse, smiled and said again, ”Thanks.”
“Now get the hell out of here.”
The smile left her carmine lips. She nodded, then complied.
With her gone, the man continued for a while to lay in bed. He stared at the textured ceiling with its swirls and loops of dried white plaster. In the absence of movement and voice, the wall clock’s ticks gained a heavy percussion.