Originally published in the Drill Press’ Big Stupid Review
Copyright (c) 2010 by Anjoli Roy
She liked to think it was her body’s way of rejecting him. Each month, those wretched cramps. They came in waves. Water fled shore, laying traps of shells and sea creatures on the exposed underbelly of the ocean, crashing down on the eager beauty-seekers. With those cramps, she washed him away. She liked to think that.
But, each month, she also invited him back, let him part those waters, deposit himself, sully her.
Sometimes, he would push his way inside her even when she was in the midst of those fits of pain and fury. And he would laugh during—say it was like he was stabbing her. So much blood. He would have her on top, to feel it run down his pale hips. Her eyes would fix on the wall, watching the silhouette of her seventeen-year-old body, rolling and thrusting in smooth arcs. She was proud of the way she looked.
She would think of his mother, just a wall away. Did the crazy woman who he would bark at to stay in her room do his washing? Would she notice the splotches on these sheets, the kind worn thin from use, whose flower-print design had long since faded behind recognizable stains?
He would leave her afterward, to go smoke up outside in the courtyard of the apartment building, or to buy a beer she was too young to drink from the deli down the street. Safely alone, she’d lay on the bed without a stitch of clothing on her, smoking a cigarette or a Black and Mild, whichever she had on her, until she heard his mother yelling, Stop smoking cigarettes, you, it’s bad for all of us! She’d quickly snuff out the embers on the top of a soda bottle, watching the plastic blacken and crease. She would re-dress, feeling bad, right then, for them both: caged animals.
Once, though, she had gotten into the shower. He had opened the door and watched her from the frame, admiring her body, young and lithe, unaware. That had started him again, and she had allowed herself—still dripping, her hair slicked down her shivering back—to be carried back into the room. His pillow blotted the water from her hair. When finished, he left, as usual.
Forgetting her clothes, wilted on the bathmat, she lay on the mattress, without top sheet or blanket, and fiddled with her phone, thinking absentmindedly about how she would explain her absence to her father and his girlfriend, if they’d noticed that she’d been gone. “Not likely, though,” she thought, smiling. She thought too of the story she’d tell her friends, who were still concerned, though she’d told them more than once not to be. “It’s fun,” she had told them, “being with an older guy.”
She stretched her arms over her head; looked down at the limp tent of her belly, convex, and breathed in deeper to pull her belly button to her spine. She dozed.
The landline rang.
The only phone was in his room because he was the only one he wanted answering it. His mother called out once for him to get it. Then again. And then, she recognized too late, his mother was barging into the room. The girl, halfway to the door, dove by the closet in hopes of grabbing something—his basketball shorts, a tank top, anything—to shield the sight of her bare body, but she was too late. She stayed there, frozen, crouched down as if in a dream, and rounded her shoulders, wrapping hands around slim ankles. Staring at the floor, she thought, “I’m invisible. Invisible.” The tears were hot on her cheeks.
The mother, seeing her, almost laughed, but caught herself. She took the phone out of its cradle and left.