Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Days of Wine and Toothpaste

Oh,things were hot, back then. John had a hot car with a bass speaker that throbbed like the very heart of lust. Mary thought he had sexy hair. She wore shirts that made people blush or stare, depending on their up-bringing. When they walked into a club together, everyone else could only imagine what it must be like to be "that couple."

They were playmates, John and Mary. They talked on the phone and saw each other a few times a week for vertigo-inspiring trysts. They drove home thinking: Wow. When each was alone at home, they thought about marriage. This was the one.

On the weekends, they went to dinner. She'd raise an eyebrow, he'd raise an eyebrow. They'd sip red wine. She'd take a saucy bite from her fork and then lick the tip of her finger, dangerously. He'd give her a "naughty girl" look and shake his head, feigning that the boyish embarrassment that made her think he looked so insufferably cute -- so deeply desirable. She'd move her foot under the table, drop off a strappy shoe and run a toe up his jeans leg. He'd cough and blot at his mouth with a napkin. "Check!" he'd say out loud to a waiter who wasn't there and they would laugh at his cleverness.

Crazy kids.
"Seriously," she'd say when the laughter died. "Let's go . . . home." She'd drop her register on "home" and she would elongate the "o," turning it into "oh . . ." (They never did seem to make it to a movie.) He'd lock eyes with her and sign the check without looking, having no idea what he had tipped the waiter (who, between you and me, was going to have a serious party after work that night).

They'd walk to the car, leaning heavily on each other, saying things in superlatives; sometimes, audible, sometimes full of adjectives composed of mere breath. They would kiss deeply as he tried to find the the keyhole on the door of his shining, perfectly buffed Mustang. They would mutter saucy things and then drive off into the electric night.

Then, they got married.

And one night, three years in, they locked eyes again, only this time, it was in their ladybug-themed bathroom (her idea), not in a restaurant. And they didn't look at each other over the rims of crystal glasses that glowed with pungent red wine, but over toothbrushes, pungent only with a mushy spearmint bouquet. Mary brushed and John brushed, giving adequate time to each toothy quadrant. Mary took note of the trace of fluoride fortified foam in the corner of John's mouth. John looked at Mary's hair, up in the nightly haphazard bun, which bobbed as she brushed. They grinned benignly at each other with their eyes. Mary touched John's shoulder affectionately. He patted her elbow.

Mary spat and rinsed. John spat and rinsed.

Mary blotted with a towel and kissed John on the cheek and walked down the hall to the bedroom. John looked in the mirror, checking his hair -- moving it over where the scalp showed a little. "I'm definitely going bald," he yelled down the hall to her. Then, with a sigh, he followed Mary into the bedroom.

"Oh, sweet mystery of life . . ."
"At least you're not obese," she said to him, lifting her big sleeping shirt and squeezing her belly into a dimpled bulge. "Look."

"I want you now," he said flatly, laying his watch on the nightstand, and they both laughed.

He climbed into bed next to her. The smiled at each other. "Goodnight, baldy," she she said, and turned out the light. They snuggled closer to each other.

If you believe the cliche, the story ends one way. If you believe that no common belief is beyond revision, the story ends in quite another.

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