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Lisa Michelle

September 2, 2015

Why We Love the Rain

 

We’ve come from the ocean. Swimming together. We’ve brought our love of swimming from our separate pasts. Hers Californian, the Pacific, the bright west coast sea. Mine Midwestern, Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes, where we could bring our long-haired German Shepard and, at dusk, light a bonfire in a hole dug in the sand. The lake with its silty mud against the soles of my feet and small silver fish flitting by and mild rhythmic waves, if any. Not like the salty, seaweed-strewn gray waves of the Atlantic that tumble you until you’re dizzy. We’d both been displaced as adolescents, but even if we’d never relocated, we’d have grown up dislocated.

She kisses me on the walk back, where no-one can see, our backs to the small dunes with their patches of long grass. Her tongue moves over mine. She presses it so close I can feel the rasp of her taste buds. She suggests a shower.

In the building that houses the showers, each shower has a separate stall. We take the corner one. We turn on the water. Mothers are bossing their kids and teenage girls are having inconsequential conversations just to hear themselves talk, so we need to make sure our feet can’t be seen. We squeeze into the corner of the corner shower.

Her mouth covers mine again, and then she squats, one of her hands reaching up to cover the inevitable sound I can’t stop, another tugging one of the red triangles of my bikini top. Her tongue does what it does. My knees give out and there’s no handhold, just slippery tile, the skinny neck of the showerhead. I don’t know where she finds the strength in her legs, to last for so long. When she stops, I’m wordless. My eyes are vulnerable and my heart is, too.

We stand under the running water, arms around each other. She rocks me back and forth asking if I’m okay.

*

She’s at my house. We’re drinking wine. We haven’t had sex in months. By her decision. This has happened before and I’m waiting for her to change her mind again. Now we’re not girlfriends, we’re best friends, and it’s as if all the pride that came with defining myself through her has no reason to exist anymore. I’m clearly a wife, and clearly a mom, obviously a hard-working woman who holds down two jobs, but no matter how she and I try to define ourselves with each other, the whole situation is always amorphous.

I don’t really know why or how it happens that she’s taking a shower and then I’m in the shower, too. My husband is one room over trying to get our daughter to sleep.  We need to be quiet about this. “Don’t get my hair wet,” I whisper.

She promptly pulls my head into the water raining down, so I smack her, and she smacks back. Our laughs are in whispers, but the wet smacks are loud and we’re relentless, backhands or full palms aimed at nipples and asses, faces, bellies, thighs. We’re saying “sshhhh,” and then winging a new smack across the small space. We’re stumbling against each other, slippery as salamanders, catching each other, laughing.

We get out and go downstairs to the pull out couch, where I sleep next to her when she sleeps over. We may not euphemistically sleep together these days but we still literally sleep together, taking turns spooning.

What started hasn’t ended and we’re rolling around in a girlfight on the mattress, slapping and pinning each other. She’s been winning from the start and finally I pin her. I work my knees, frog-like, towards her arms. I’m going to claim victory until she pulls an arm free and, in inspiration, sticks her finger up my nose.

Now there’s blood. It trickles down over my lips.

One night, over the summer, at the beach, we walked the wooden slats between the dunes and lay down to kiss. She rambled something about cutting me, to drink the blood. It was confessional, and she seemed exposed saying it. She tried to backtrack, like she’d said something too dark to share.

I work my knee back over her arm and now I have her pinned down. “You’re bleeding,” she says.

I laugh, and she echoes it.

I exhale hard, spraying the blood all over her face. Blood speckles the pillows and sheets, too. There’s a red spot of blood on her tongue.

*

She finally lands a full time job. I’m taking her to Wataba, for the lychee martinis as much as the sushi, to celebrate.

When I pull up at her place, there she is at the edge of the driveway doing something between pacing and bouncing as I park. A wide smile and wide-open arms. “I missed you,” she says. I’ve missed her, too. I’ve driven straight from work to see her without stopping home first, or even doing any of the errands I have to do. My kid is sleeping over my mom’s and, after a financially frustrating winter, my man is back to long hours of outdoor work.

At the restaurant, we lounge. A family sits at the table next to our booth. Then a couple replaces them. The lights dim, but like newts in the sun on a rock, we’re in our element, and not leaving anytime soon.

By the time we’re home to her place, I walk straight into her bathroom, wanting nothing so much as a shower.

I’m washing and conditioning my hair when she opens the bathroom door. I hear her taking a piss. She says, “You’re taking a shower?”

“I’ve been in work clothes since six-thirty this morning.” I’m rinsing my hair. “Come in.”

She does. Just like that. I know because I hear the shower curtain slide open and closed.

I turn around and the eye contact is intense, electric, like it was one night after months went by after another, earlier phase when she told me she wasn’t attracted to me anymore. We were in the car and we looked at each other like that and then we started kissing, deep. That night kick-started a ten-month phase of fucking and love-making and love-proclaiming that took me past where I’ve ever been with a woman before. I’m not sure how many months it’s been since she shifted our status back to best friends again. Late August? And now it’s March.

The eye contact is there, and we’re kissing. We kissed in December a few days after my car broke down, and again in February after she took me as her date to her cousin’s sweet sixteen. She asked to watch my husband and me together a week after our smackdown.

We’ve changed places and now she’s standing where I was when she stepped in. Our bodies are as wet and warm and pressed close as our mouths. The water washes down across our faces and shoulders. She draws back and says, “You can’t tell my boyfriend we took a shower together.”

“Why not?”

She answers me.

“Then we might as well kiss more,” I say, and we kiss more.

Our tongues are surfing the waves of our kisses.

She’s been with her boyfriend since November, as long as my husband’s been sober. Over six months. I haven’t told her how lately he’s been questioning me, uncharacteristically Socratic in his approach, to prove to me what he thinks I should realize about her. He’s rescinding the blessings he always gave freely. She hasn’t told me what her man says, or what she says to him, only that his first response was “That’s weird,” and that when she tries to talk about us, his face gets pink and he avoids eye contact and says very little. She’s texted me, “he knows that it’s you and me or no me,” and I’ve answered, “we stand our ground on that.” The ground we stand on is always shifting.

We’re thirsty for this. We kiss more with the water spilling down like false purity. It’s not washing away what’s happening. It can’t.

*

Her boyfriend breaks it off on a Tuesday night. “No explanation,” she texts me on Wednesday morning, “I made it easy for him.” She insists she’s fine. Maybe, I think, because she only convinced herself she was in love with him. Or because she has the capability of shutting off like that– a self-protective mechanism, a result of her father’s abandonment. Maybe because these days Celexa dulls what she feels.

On Thursday night, I let her know I’m doing work from home, so if she needs to talk she can call. We text back and forth a bit. Then hers just stop.

I’m upstairs in bed with stacks of papers, my husband is out and my daughter is watching t.v. downstairs, when series of loud knocks on the front door startles me. “Don’t answer it! Ask who it is,” I yell to my kid, and I dash down the stairs, looking out the window on the way down, asking, “Who is it?”

There she is. On my front porch. I open the door and my daughter hears her voice and comes running out to welcome her. They hug it up and dance around the living room. Then my kid runs back to her show.

We sit at the kitchen counter. I say, “You shouldn’t have driven.” She’s drinking tequila now, on top of whatever she drank before. “But I’m glad you’re here.” I’m drinking Barry’s Irish tea. The caffeine will keep me up all night so my work will get done. My husband comes home. He knows about the breakup already.  Silently puts his arms around her. She leans into him and finally cries tears. Says, “I just want to have what you two have.” Despite it all, he’s tender right now, so is she, and I’m in love with this moment, the two of them holding each other.

We sit on the front porch, she and I, feet on the railing, looking up to the night clouds. She smokes a cigarette. I drink more tea. She says, she feels spinny and sick. “Go to the side of the house,” I say.

She’s there for a while. When I go to check on her, she’s leaning one hand against the oak tree and still hurling. I rub her back feeling it spasm under my palm. “I peed myself,” she tells me.

“It happens,” I say. “You can take a shower and borrow pjs of mine.”

She holds my arms for balance up the stairs and as she takes off her clothes.  Under the threads of water, her hair becomes longer and darker. She tips her face to the water, eyes closed.

“Come in with me,” she says.

My husband is in the next room. He was none too pleased about our conduct in the shower last time. I side-stepped his complaints as I usually do, but I heard him. I still have to take my daughter up for stories and snuggles. I’ll read her Shel Silverstein poems and a paperback SkippyJon Jones. I’ll stay with her, forehead to forehead, until I can tell by her breathing she’s asleep. Then I’ll stay up most of the night, swimming through caffeinated hours toward my deadline while the three of them sleep. I’ll hear the night-time chirps of early summer froglets from the ‘creek,’ a huge water pipe, three blocks down. I’ll pause to stretch my legs and check on each one, dropping my face to each cheek for a kiss and a deep breath, breathing each one in. Having all three asleep, here, in my home, will give me more energy than any substance.

“Coming in?’ she asks.

I open the shower curtain. Open my arms. She leans forward. I hold her. Her warm face against my chest. My arms around her bare, slippery back. Water soaks my shirt. Here I am, half in and half out, my feet on dry tiles, and my face resting against her wet hair. I’m looking down at the water spreading across the thirsty cotton over my chest, wetting my skin. The air flutters with heat. The shower water slaps the tiles. We are as still as the moment, which will slither into a new summer in a matter of weeks. We close our eyes and listen to the shower water that sounds close enough to a rainstorm, but without the orgasms of thunderclouds. We feel the water on our skin, and the humid, sweet air in our lungs.

We’re amphibian, darting into the heat of the sun, skimming through water clear as glass, burrowed in the silt and sludge. We love the rain. We love the rain because we can’t choose between land or water.

 

 

 

Lisa Michelle is a writer from New York. Her previous publications include the feminist quarterly Fireweed and an anthology on body image edited by Jan Phillips entitled A Wake-Up Call.  She hold a Master’s in Creative Writing from Queens College and currently teaches English and Creative Writing.

 

 


 

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