Chafed by Jan Parker

blue star motel

Untitled by Justin Hamm

I.       Sunday noon, they go two different ways: the lovers’ reluctant conclusion. No patron sitting inside the greasy spoon can possibly miss the couple’s desperate kissing in the front seat of his close-parked car. The customers do not mistake the turning red of her chin by the sandpaper stubble of his beard. They do not fail to notice how his car windows fog. Only the couple, fresh-arrived from church and bumbling out of their own sedan, catches a glimpse of her rubbing his crotch, there where his tiger paces, already chafed like her chin, but wild.

II.      Monday early, she awakens slow-filled and dreamy, her nose buried in her long wavy hair, arms crooked at right angles, legs tucked easy. She hasn’t bathed since Saturday night, wanting the smell of him, the musk of him to stay on her skin. She works up a disciplined Kegel and the sensation of it ratchets her. She remembers the length of him, the girth of him and how he tilts his pelvis. The deficit of his presence brings her tears.

III.      Monday afternoon, on his way back from running errands, he stops at a red light and waits. While he waits with his foot on the brake and his hands on the wheel, his eyes fall to the seat beside him, from where she last leaned over to kiss him, last reached out to touch him, and he spots a silver hair. It is hers, long and wavy. It is hers. He lifts the strand to the light then pockets it. His eyes become dark and hooded. The light turns green. He pushes the accelerator and heads back to the house and his waiting wife.

IV.      Tuesday, she answers the phone, and he says, “Well hey, is this my darlin’ girl?” His laugh is gentle and she says, “Depends on if this is my fella asking,” and he says, “Well you know it is,” and suddenly the world tilts right, true on its axis again. Every human on Earth touches the one beside them sweetly. Butterflies land on orchids in South America. Timber wolves mate and make babies. Orcas push out of the oceans in arcs as high as the moon and she says, “Then, yes, this is your girl.” Silence falls heavy between them as they curtain off the distance of their miles.

V.      Wednesday late afternoon, she meets with her new money man. He tells her the options on her IRA and presents the latest news on her ESOPS. He talks about next year’s taxes and gripes about the god-damned high cost of health insurance. It appears that she is listening. She twirls the silver band on her right ring finger and thinks about her lover, far away. Money man wonders about her sudden girlish grin.

VI.      Wednesday night, he takes Benadryl for sleep and is out by quarter to nine. He dreams of running to fight something dreadful. Then he dreams of running away in retreat. He dreams of always running and in his dreams, he becomes exhausted. All the while he maintains a huge erection. His wife looks over and wonders what the hell for.

VII.     Miles away, on Thursday morning, she checks the mail and finds a card from him. She loves his script and opens it with hurry. Inside she finds his note: I love you…I love you…I love you… She holds it to her chest and tries to breathe steady.

VIII.    Friday morning, he answers his cell phone on the way to the gym. He knows it’s her, but he wants to play. He says, “Freddie’s Fish Market,” and she says, “Is this Freddie?” and he says, “No, it’s Hong Won,” and they laugh. The snicks and snacks of their joy fill the void, and they talk and carry on and make plans for two weeks later. They say things about love, say lots of lovey things. He parks the car and glances to the left where the windows of the car beside him have fogged completely over. He considers things through the blur and sees the couple inside kissing passionately. Funny he thinks. From this angle, that woman looks just like my wife.

IX.      Friday evening, curled on the couch, grumpy in a funk about the distance they must maintain, she thinks back on her strong words used—not in an argument with him, per se, but a conversation, one in which she attempted to push the understanding into his brain that she is not a jealous fool, never has been a jealous fool, and never will consider becoming one, when she stops dead still with the realization that she is not just plain jealous of her man, but super jealous (if not globally jealous, universally jealous, infinitely jealous) of his occasional but highly exquisite naiveté—she does in truth want this blind innocence for herself, and so she hard-presses thumbs into her eyes and makes herself see stars, but since this doesn’t work as intended, and she doesn’t go fucking blind after all, she knuckles her temples and makes that searing pain do. Innocence is such a thing of the past, such a god-damn ancient thing.

X.      Friday, past the late news and nearing Saturday morning, he looks at the space on either side of him, there on the leather couch, the cold dead-cow leather couch. He cannot go to the bed, where satin sheets cocoon his legally-papered wife, where the 800-thread count sheets make her feel better about herself, where she slides in and out of kissing-fucking dreams, thoughts of that other man she’s seeing. He couldn’t make himself go to bed with her if he’d wanted to. Hell, she told him about her other man last night, how she now belonged to her other man and how very good her other man was. He hated his wife, and the news confirmed it. It sealed the deal for him. He will never bed her again—ever, ever—again. How convenient he thinks. Now I can do whatever the hell I want to. He tries conjuring a picture of his platinum-haired lover, but fails. What the fuck is wrong with me he wonders.

VI.      Early-early Saturday, naked in the bed, her fingers circle the stem of her rose. She imagines her fingers to be his. She becomes wet and wetter. Her fingers move rapidly. She comes, but to her fingers only. She can’t remember the smell of him. She can’t remember his kiss. The dark surrounding her sends her better sense reeling. She stays in bed till noon, gets up for a little while, eats, takes her sleepy pills and hits the sack again. She makes sure to sleep another twelve.

XII.     Sunday morning, he calls her on the cell and she answers, “Hello.” Her voice is silken, sleepy. He says, “Is this my darling girl?” and she hesitates. He is crushed by her silence. After a few seconds, she says, “Depends on if this’s my true love asking.” He hesitates. The silence kills her. “Look,” he says. “I’m sorry for being …” He does not say “Being so god-damned fucked up right now.” But she already knows he is and he knows she knows, so he lets it slide. She is the one who actually takes the hit. She says, “I’m sorry too. For being so god-damn fucked up right now,” and he says, “Yeah, me too.” He knew she knew and he is somewhat pleased by his accuracy. At least that’s something. Not monumental, but something. Anyway he says, “I am sorry.” She sighs and says, “Yeah, I know.” Her belly and hips begin remembering the touch of his fingers. The scent of his sweaty neck comes to mind: musky. The taste of his salty collar bone brings water to her mouth. She says, “You doing anything special later on?” and he says, “No, I’m free.” She says, “I wish.” He says, “No, really. I’m free—as in, I left this morning. I moved out already. Asked her for the big D. She agreed. We’re the happiest we’ve ever been.” He waits for her reply. She holds the cell away from her face and says, “You’re pulling my leg.” His quietness captures her. He says, “Not kidding.” She says, “Oh.” He says, “Can I come see you?” and she so nearly says, “Are you fucking crazy—I’ve been dying over here without you,” but she does not. Instead she says, “Maaaybe. What do you want to do?” And he says, “I want to hold you.” She melts in the belief he might mean it for keeps this time. She says, “When?” and no matter how he tries to fight it, the rims of his eyes redden. He blinks hard and says, “Right now would be good.” She tilts her chin to the ceiling. Her thoughts go straight through it and through the rafters above and the asphalt roof shingles higher still, to the sky she calls cornflower and the sound of her long sigh does not chafe him. “Ok then,” she says. He can tell she is smiling. “You should come right on.” Relieved, he looks at the floor and finally breathes.

Jan B. Parker


Artist/writer Jan B. Parker lives and works just south of Raleigh, NC, with favorite feline, Sophie. Her work can be found in the following publications: South Writ Large, Broad River Review, GERM Magazine, Voices From the Porch, and Pear Noir! to name a few. She is a Trustee of the NC Writers’ Network and the founding co-host of Third Thursday Open Mic Night, the longest running open mic for poets and writers in the Triangle Area.

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