Sunlight woke me and I lay for a moment, eyes narrowed against the light. Christine was still sleeping, a strand of hair caught in her open mouth, one nipple dark under the sheet. I watched the rise and fall of her breath, the sheet outlining her form. Fay Wray slumbers in King Kong’s bed.
I pulled the strand out of her mouth and her eyes opened. She fixed on me for a moment, then looked around. I circled her hips and drew her to me. She pushed at my chest, then surrendered, one hand caught between us.
“C’mon, it’s nearly twelve. I’m going camping tomorrow and I have some things to do.”
“I thought we were going to do something. I took tomorrow off.”
“I haven’t been camping all summer. I thought I told you.”
You didn’t. “S’OK. You want some coffee?”
She swung her legs onto the floor. “I’ve got to go.” I watched her pull on jeans and a shirt, then fold her waitress dress and put it in her pack. The airplane lands. Kong watches Captain Jack Driscoll offer his hand and Fay climbs into the cabin.
“See you tonight.” She murmured something and she was gone.
I got up and made some coffee. King Kong lumbers into the jungle, grabs a vine, and is gone.
I remember one time, the year we met, Matisse was off somewhere and I was helping Henry Nisi and Barbara, his TA with a stoneware firing. We finished around 6 AM and Barbara and I went outside to stretch. It wasn’t really light yet, just a brightening of the dark. It had been snowing all night and the sky had that reddish glow that comes with snowstorms. It was quiet and hushed and we were watching the snow fall and the clouds of our breath.
“Danny. Barbara.” Matisse and Linda, Keith’s girlfriend, bareheaded in the snow and laughing joined us. Matisse came up and gave me kiss. She smiled at Barbara and fished in her pocket. “I have something for you.”
She pulled out an aspirin tin and opened it. There were five red barrels inside. “Sunshine,” she said. Linda and I were up all night. Some guy gave them to us. We can take one and go for a walk.” Barbara said goodbye and left. The three of us each swallowed a barrel. The snow had started again and the air was quiet. We wandered around the Fine Arts Center, looking at the Brancusi-style brass heads that lined one walkway. Each one looked more bestial than the last so I turned away. I tried to make the cast concrete itself look beautiful, but the flat concrete, the rough edges where the frames had been and the circles where the washers had held the frames together just looked bleak. The concrete was a dozen shades of dirty white and when it started moving on itself, I knew I was coming up. Matisse and Linda were laughing but I wasn’t following. I kept wondering who’d given her the acid and why, convinced she’d like him better. Who wouldn’t? Every now and then, Matisse would stop laughing and turn to me, a little hesitantly, a little smile then a larger one when I smiled back. Then I’d remember the red barrels and sink again. Matisse would be laughing with Linda and me lumbering behind them.
I never did find out who gave her the sunshine. And it was only now, drinking my coffee on the front porch that I realized that she was smiling because she was proud of herself for getting me a present.
“Why didn’t you call in sick, too, and really fuck things up?” said Marcie when I walked in at ten of five.
“What are you talking about?”
“I saw you two,” she says. “Tell me Christine wasn’t with you this afternoon.”
“I was home all day. Why?”
“I must have been mistaken. Go punch in before Bill gets here.”
“She really called in sick?”
“Why else would I be here on a Wednesday?”
I tore into my set-ups with a vengeance. It was busy through dinner, but Marcie and I could handle anything. I took the counter, she held off the impatient and together, we kicked the usual ass. I was cleaning up after the run when Marcie came by
“Hey, sorry about mouthing off,” she said, touching my shoulder.
“It’s ok. You really saw her?”
“I guess so. I thought it was you.” I told Marcie about tomorrow’s camping trip. “They probably left today.”
“Look, Danny, what Chris had in mind was a nice, simple affair. You know, friendship and sex. You wanted to be in love, so you tried to turn it all around. You don’t really love her. She doesn’t love you.”
“How do you know all this?” Marcie shrugged and went back to the dining room. I wiped down the counter, remembering Matisse. “You don’t know how to just fuck someone. You always have to fall in love.”
When I got home, there was a note to call John.
“Danny, my man. How’d you like to take a little road trip?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m going to Rockland in a half hour. I’m going to spend tomorrow in Rockland, drive back Friday morning.”
“Get me back in time for work on Friday?”
“Pick me up at my house at a quarter to three.”
When he picked me up at 3 A.M., John pulled out some speed and some joints smeared with hash oil. There was a new cassette player in his car and about 10 new cassettes. We snorted some speed, smoked a joint and headed off into the night.