A to S: Sweat

Craig had to climb five flights of stairs to reach Bonnie’s apartment. She buzzed him in, explained that she was cooking and couldn’t run down to get him. The door was unlocked.

Craig found the wooden stairs easily and began his trek. He was glad he decided to wear a simple button down and jeans instead of dressing nicer. He was excited to meet this Michael McClane she’s been crazy about. It’s the longest relationship Bonnie had ever had, and she seemed to be getting pretty serious with him. Coming on two years, they were, having met about the same time he met Michelle.

Michelle. Craig rubbed his sore neck. It was nice to get a break once in awhile. Besides, it had been ages since he’d visited Bonnie in New York, not since the beginning of last year, before he and Michelle were even official. When he told her he was visiting Bonnie she nearly lost her mind. Next time, he decided, he’d have to keep it secret.

Third floor. God, these are a lot of stairs. Bonnie must get a work out. She probably likes it, what without dance anymore. Or skateboarding. Craig could hardly imagine Bonnie skateboarding anymore, but maybe he’d be surprised.

Fouth floor…his legs were killing him. Maybe he needed to exercise more. Being in a play was far less physically straining than a musical. He’d have to take a dance class or something.

Finally. He knocked on her door, slightly out of breath.

“Hi!” Bright, bubbly Bonnie, her hair straight as needles, swung open the door. Craig blinked.

“Your hair!” he replied, snatching strands in his fingers before remembering they weren’t so close anymore. Was this strange? She was giggling, perhaps not. “It’s so straight!”

“You know I started straightening it last year. Come on in!”

Sure, but she never straightened her hair back home…the apartment was very collegey, with posters hung without frames, a recycling bin full of beer bottles and a run-down couch stuffed in a corner across from a tiny television. He sat on the couch, the only real chair, as Bonnie finished up in the kitchen.

“I figured we’d stay in,” she said. “I got real good at cooking. And you must be tired from your flight!”

She was wearing lipstick, Craig noticed. Red lipstick, purple shirt, khakis, and hot pink shoes. Some things never change.

They ate Bonnie’s fantastic shrimp scampi and caught up on life. Turns out Michael was busy until late at night, and her other roommates were all busy as well, so they had the apartment to themselves.

“How’s Michelle?”

“She’s…Michelle,” Craig answered, then laughed. “She’s a lot to handle sometimes, but she’s great. How’s Michael? I’ve never met him, what’s he like?”

“Oh, wonderful,” Bonnie said, her eyes twinkling. “He’s good. He’s the all-American boy, you know? Grew up on a farm, even.”

“People still grow up on farms?”

“Apparently!”

They laughed, ate more pasta.

“But, yes, he’s good,” Bonnie said. “Good, good.”

“Good.”

They were mainly finished, so they put their dishes in the sink and Bonnie took a handle of rum from the fridge, poured them both shots.

“Can’t believe we never discovered rum in high school,” Bonnie said.

“We took what we could get. And what we got was vodka. Got the job done, anyway,” he replied. Craig never was a fan of rum—more of a whiskey man—but he didn’t want to be rude and did the shot.

“God, remember the first time we drank? We poured about half a glass each, straight.”

“Crazy.”

They drank, chatted, laughed, drank, and then it began to drizzle outside.

“I love the rain,” Craig declared. “Hey…do you have a skateboard anymore?”

Bonnie giggled. “How drunk are you?”

“Like, a six.” More like an eight. “I’m just wondering.”

“…Yes, that orange one from home, and the longboard.”

“Want to take it for a spin?”

It took some convincing, what with the rain and the drunkenness and the fact that she hadn’t used it in months, but soon the two of them, twenty years old and drunk on nostalgia, dragged the skateboards out of the closet and ran down the stairs. They got out front, the rain leaving spots on their jackets.

“Can you help me?” Bonnie asked, smiling shyly. “I’m a little dizzy.”

Just like when they were learning, years ago, he held both her hands as she stepped on the board. She rocked back and forth and he kept her balanced, her fingers gripping tighter as she caught the feel of it. She gazed into Craig’s eyes, and he looked away.

They practiced their tricks for about half an hour on the empty sidewalk, competing and remembering and laughing and sparking up their old friendship, pulling out old friendly jabs. When the rain got too heavy, too cold, they went back inside, dripping wet, smiling wide.

Craig had kept his eyes quick all afternoon, even drunk as he was, but when she rubbed a towel over her hair it came out curly, and he stared. He stared at her long and hard, his eyes focusing and unfocusing but trained on her. It was her, alright. Bonnie, Bonnie…Craig’s stomach hummed. No.

Bonnie looked up, laughed, asked what was wrong to no answer. Her smile faded.

“Craig?” she asked, and her voice, God…no, Craig. Michelle, Michael, Michelle, not Bonnie. Come on, you had years, you had years, not Bonnie, no. Michelle. Michelle.

“I’m sorry,” he said, though he didn’t know what for. He couldn’t keep his eyes off of her, examining her mishmash of color, her messy hair, her clothes soaked in rain and sweat. “Can I hug you?”

“Sure.”

Craig crossed the room, wrapped his arms around her, and tried to make it subtle that he was smelling her hair. A different shampoo but still Bonnie, her sweat and skin, the smell of the summer, the smell of her.

“I’m so stupid, Bonnie,” Craig said, though again he wasn’t sure what for. He was stupid about a lot of things.

“No,” Bonnie said.

Craig pulled back and put his hands on her cheeks, brushing his thumbs across them. So beautiful. So stupid. Too old, he thought. We’re so old. Too old, so young.

He kissed her, before he could stop himself. Kissed her hard, passionately, his hands pulling her body to him with unquenchable thirst. Bonnie melted into him, into his emptying mind, into his flourishing chest, their limbs grabbing at each other with wild strength. The two of them landed on the too-small sofa, their legs over the edges as they attacked each other, barely stopping to breathe. Wet, rough kisses, sweaty bodies, sticking clothes.

The door buzzed not a minute into their kissing. They ignored it, but it buzzed again, and then a man’s voice said Bonnie’s name.

“Michael!” Bonnie said, and the spell was broken. She wiggled out from underneath Craig, leapt from the couch, adjusted the clothes that had never come off, and answered her boyfriend. Michael. He had forgotten the keys and needed to be buzzed in. She let him in and ran to the remote, turned on the television and flipped the channels until it landed on something that would make sense for them to be watching.

“Got out early,” Michael said as Bonnie let him in. He kissed her. Craig’s stomach churned. “Hi, you must be Craig?”

They went through the pleasantries, even had a drink and played a quick poker game together before Craig said it was late and that he should go. Michael offered their air mattress, but Craig refused.

Bonnie walked him out. The walk downstairs was silent. Both of them were sober enough to not know what to do.

“So, about what happened,” Craig said at the landing. “I guess, like. We were both drunk.”

“Sure,” Bonnie said, cutting him off. “Sure, Craig, I mean, why would you ever kiss me sober? I know that.” She crossed her arms.

“Are we okay?”

Bonnie shook her head. “Can’t you let me be happy, one way or another? I can’t keep sitting on this hook. You know I had feelings for you. This wasn’t cool.”

“I…I know.”

“We can talk about it at breakfast tomorrow.”

Hope. “Okay. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

There was no hug goodbye, which was unusual but expected. Craig walked to his hotel in the rain. The hotel was about fifteen blocks away, but even so when he got home his shirt smelled like Bonnie. He held it to his nose and inhaled deep breaths, watching cars splash in the puddles on the street. He punched the mattress. Stupid, stupid…

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5 thoughts on “A to S: Sweat

  1. Living with regrets is hard. The end conveys that well.
    Made me smile at ‘can’t believe we never discovered rum …” line.
    Well written.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These stories always grab my attention to the very end. I can’t wait to find out what happens with them!

    Like

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