I’m still thinking about the lipstick as I start taking my clothes off for him.
It goes clothes, hair, mascara, lipstick, perfume, every time he brings me down to his place. The cottage, he calls it. “Like in Beatrix Potter. You ever read that?”
He always does that, the thing with the references.
He calls my lipstick Monroe Red. “Like in Some Like it Hot. You ever watch that?”
“Um, yeah, probably?”
“Hmm.” He smirks like he can already feel Monroe staining his dick. “Hot.”
And from then my lips were riper than cherries, every time we met.
I’ve started keeping the lipstick in my bag. You know. Just in case.
She’s recently been joined by a ruby ring.
Which, by some coincidence, had appeared in my tote two days after someone lost a g-stringsomewhere on campus.
Good thing a different someone found it.
Lipstick must be my lucky charm.
This time, though, I am sans bag. My lips are bare. I’ve never felt more naked in my life.
Clothes, hair, mascara, lipstick, perfume. Simplicity in itself. But I got my Kant paper back with a B minus, and it’s been harder, keeping my bank account steady, and at lecture this morning-
My bra snaps off with a click and he groans in appreciation from under me. “Goddamn.”
It’s hard not to be repulsed by him.
My friends don’t get it. Well, they don’t know that he’s Him. Because I just call him Him.
“He gave me a book today.”
My friends look at me with That Look, and it makes me want to bring bulimia back in vogue. I fucking hate That Look, that look that girls give each other when they think they know.
Know what, I don’t know.
They don’t know. They don’t know that the book was Gibran.
That’s what the whole problem was. He had tossed it on my desk like he did that all day long, just tossed poetry in front of hot girls and asked questions later. “For you.”
“I had liked it. You’re Lebanese, aren’t you?”
And then I got it. He wasn’t just white, he was spicy white. White with Terms and Conditions.
I had smiled back. “The Prophet.”
He hadn’t looked at me as he left. “Let me know if you like it.”
And three weeks later he fucked me like my pussy was Plato’s cave.
He nibbles on the bare edge of my lip, and I taste the bite of tobacco.
I had thought the smoking was hot, the first time he brought me over. Now all I can think of is that gray blob of tissue he calls lungs.
And the ashtray. Okay, that fucking ashtray by his bed is never not full. He once mentioned that it was made of pure Romanian crystal. One of its kind.
All I wanted was to crack it over his head, right in the bald spot.
Clothes, hair, mascara, lipstick, perfume. I should get it tattooed on my forehead.
He had taught me that flirting is a balancing act. “Queen.”
“Hmm?” Class was over, and my headphones were halfway to my head.
“That’s what Rani means.”
Thank you, White Man. Thank you for your service. Is that Google Translate in your pocket, or are you just horny to see me?
He smiled at me, and I realized why feminazis are a thing. “How was the Gibran?”
I hadn’t got past the first ten pages. “Enlightening.”
My eyes wander as he paws at me. They settle on his wallet.
It could finally be time to test my stealing kink.
“…don’t you think?” Abruptly, I realize he’s been talking. Each time he opens his mouth now it’s like God reaches right out my vagina and slams those pearly gates closed.
“What was that?”
“Your lips, doll. They’re different this time.”
Doll. Bulimia could be the next fentanyl. “Yeah.”
“I like them like this.” He rests the pad of his thumb against my lip. His wedding ring rubs against my chin.
The first time he fingered me, I couldn’t come until I felt the ring.
He tilts his head back, takes me in. “Bareness makes you… younger.”
“Um, if I was younger, you would be in prison.”
“Shush.” He slides his finger into my mouth, and I taste ash.
“I was never a big fan of the red lips, to be honest.” My thighs ache with the force of him. “Lipstick stains, and we wouldn’t…want…that.”
He smiles, and I see silver fillings.
And okay, well, fuck him most of all because of Ruth.
“That’s an old woman’s name.”
“Why does that matter? She isn’t an old woman. She’s a cat.”
“Does she have a middle name?”
We’re Pandora’s box and every time he puts his dick in me I realize the lid’s been opened. “Joan.”
He looks at her as if I gave him permission to look at her in that way. “Ruth Joan.”
He goes by his first name, in class. I knew this. We both knew this.
“Here’s my final portfolio.”
“Oh. Thank you. Have, um, have a good summer.”
“You too, Professor.”
This time I was the one who didn’t look back. I knew I didn’t need to.
His hand slides around my neck. “Mhm. Rani.”
My mother calls me Rainy. It’s her private nickname for me.
My mother’s name is Joyce.
She doesn’t have a nickname.
“Gonna make me fucking come, Ran-”
If you’re a philosophy major with tits and you go to public college, you kinda only have two options- you have no friends, or you become a Philosophy Girl. Philosophy Girls have all sorts of skills, but have one uniting factor- we hate the cliché. We hate the red lipstick wearing, no bra-d gigglers of men. Because we just know we’re better than that.
And now being the cliché is the only thing that still gets me wet.
Before I’m fully aware of what I’m doing, I slap him.
My palm connects with his worn cheek in a dizzying bloom of warmth. The pain’s orgasmic.
I’m ready to be kicked out the door with a gold-capped boot, but all he does is sink back down into the bed. “Oh, God.”
“I… I’m so sorry. God, I-”
“Oh,” he repeats, and his voice catches. “Fuck, do that again. Please.”
My fingers curl into themselves. “What?”
“I need it. Again.” His eyes are halfway between open and shut.
My arm doesn’t seem to be a part of me as I lift it up. Hollowly, I slap him.
“Ungh.” He lets out a groan as if it was pulled out of him, and I feel cold wetness pool at my waist. It reeks of him.
I wretch myself off him. “Fuck you, Jay. Fuck you to hell.”
I pull on my dress, not bothering with the underwear. I bought it using his cash, anyways.
My mother bought me the dress for graduation.
He’s unresponsive, still floating in that sweet limbo. Limbo. Maybe that’s what my senior thesis should be on, on how to fuck God in every which way. Fuck him, fuck Him, fuck him.
I grab the ashtray off the table and for the most glorious second of my life I’m actually about to bring it down on his face till I see blood.
I shove it down my dress, ash and all.
I glance back down at him. His eyes are shut, mouth open.
His wallet smells like ash, too. I pull out a hundred dollar bill, and I’m about to spit in the card holder when I notice that where the ID should be there’s a picture of his wife.
Sharon, that’s what her name is.
He told us on the first day of class.
I can see a stain of us through the sheets. It’s vaguely in the shape of Sri Lanka.
I take another hundred before I leave. Sharon would want me to.
I don’t hear her enter the house, but the doors fly open and Sharon’s marching into our bedroom.
“Hey.” She doesn’t look up from her phone. The black earpiece screwed into her is as permanent as a heartbeat.
“So-so.” Beneath the sheets, my bare legs are still sticky. Under it all I smell like her, like day-old roses and butterscotch and youngness.
“Hmm. Today was hell.”
If I was the sort of Husband who had Husband Friends, now would be when I turn to them. “See, that’s what it is, folks. That’s the great divide. Wives hmm, and nineteen-year-olds who don’t wear bras under Theta tank tops don’t.”
And the Husbands would clap me on the back and guffaw like I had sucked every one of them off at the same time, and I wouldn’t even have needed Rani in the first place.
The Mobïus Loop of Clits, that’s the title of my next poem.
Sharon pulls off her cardigan, and I see the robin tattoo.
She had got that the day we graduated. The only time she had opened her eyes was when I had held her hand.
“I’m closing the Lichtenstein merger tomorrow,” she says, as if she’s talking to herself. “The one I was telling you about last week?” She always ends her statements in questions, always a silent challenge in her words.
“Yes,” I say, “I remember.”
“It was a toughie, but I think we’ve got it. There’s a bonus coming my way if I do.” She glances at the table as she pulls on one of my old sweatshirts. “Where’s your ashtray gone?”
“Oh. Oh, I threw it away. Didn’t really feel like it anymore, I guess.”
She screws up her face, and I wonder what she would look like if she let her hair grow out white. “Never liked that ashtray. It was a bit too… flouncy, you know?”
“Yeah.” She thinks for a second, then pulls out her earpiece. “I’m thinking of opening a bottle of the Zweigelt?”
We can both hear the question mark.
“Could you give me a minute, please?”
“Oh,” she says, and then she glances down. Sees fucking Sri Lanka. “Did you-hmm.”
Champagne Kiss, that’s what our sheets are called. A wedding present from her mother.
“Hmm. I’ll just… I’ll just clean up.”
“Okay.” She screws the earpiece back in, and she looks normal again.
Sharon closes the door, and the freedom has me trapped.
My finger has teeth marks on it, just above the wedding band.