They are out of shots. They got in the car and drove out of the stunned city on Tuesday, thinking that this way at least they wouldn’t get anyone else sick. The baby is quiet, breathing deep, ragged, seldom, and last night as they zipped up the tent against the wind (it’s early autumn, they can live like this for a couple of months at least but what about winter?) she thought she wouldn’t be able to bear having to find a vein again. But now–because she miscalculated, because she panicked, because she did not bring enough–she won’t have to find a vein. The smooth and tiny face won’t redden and split apart with screams as she pricks and pushes. Now the breathing will stay deep and ragged. Soon it will be more seldom, and then, probably, impossibly, it will be no more. She coughs a little, nothing to be worried about, and looks at the triangle of sky she can see through the opening in the Gore-tex shell of the tent. The city is straight back down the 5 for three hours, and she doesn’t know if she has enough gas, enough time, to make it there and back. The baby tosses and sighs and she coughs and looks out again at the triangle of cool blue sky, listens to the mountain breeze. They are out of shots.
Out of the shower, and into the red striped towel. She’s ten minutes late already, she should be in the car by now. She’s a blur in the steamed up mirror as she rummages around the middle drawer for my lotion and deodorant, and her hand hits the bottle of grapefruit-geranium almond oil she chucked in there months ago, after realizing that the possibility of giving a sensual massage to anyone with it was pretty much zero. This guy tonight, he’s not going to want a sensual massage. “Sensual” sounds really weird when you say it over and over again. Sensual. Sensual. Sen-shooooooo-uuuuuullll. Ugh. Sensual. She doesn’t even know this guy, why is she thinking about massaging him with her nice grapefruit-geranium almond oil? The legs, however, have been shaved, not a moment ago, and moisturizing is really never wasted, especially once you pass thirty, so she rolls her eyes at herself and glugs a healthy squirt of the oil—she’s barely used any at all—into her hand and smoothes it on her legs. It smells good. Not too girly, not too much like food. It smells like a farmer’s market, like a light coat thrown over jeans and a cute striped ballet-neck t-shirt, after they’ve woken up late and lazed in bed tickling and giggling and finally got up to make French toast for breakfast . It smells like a golden retriever puppy named Max or Bailey or Cameron. She upends the bottle again, twenty minutes late now, she should be getting in to the restaurant and craning her neck to see if he’s there yet. Her elbows feel rough so she puts a little of the oil on them too and thinks about the Craftsman-style house they’ll buy, a year or so after the wedding when they’ve decided that they want a garden…she’ll grow organic heirloom tomatoes and maybe their own jack-o-lantern pumpkins, and definitely Gerbera daisies or cosmos or something. The cute downtown condo they’ve been sharing is not quite big enough for both their offices and, well, let’s face it, a baby’s room. Not now, not yet…they’re both very invested in their careers…but yes, they’d like children. She thinks about the beautiful French mother-to-be cupcakes she saw in an old issue of Martha, what, ten years ago now, smoothing half the bottle’s worth over her hips and stomach. She will wear a soft linen dress with pintucks to the baby shower and will sit down with a wry ooof when they bring around the virgin mimosas. He’ll have vested by then and she won’t have to work anymore. They’re thinking about going to Vietnam or Laos for their fifth anniversary because who goes to Tuscany anymore? Thirty, thirty-five minutes late and if she were him she wouldn’t wait around for someone who wasn’t going to show up, so she makes a toasted cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup and eats it at the stove, in the red striped towel. Her still-soft, still-fragrant body slides lushly into bed and she falls asleep dreaming of the very high threadcount of the sheets on her wedding registry.
He’s heard about people who stay awake at night to watch their beloveds sleep, like that’s supposed to be the most romantic thing ever. He stays awake, yes, but it’s because she won’t stop kicking and turning and flailing and mumbling and whispering in her own undisturbed dreams. She must do the equivalent of at least a half-marathon every night, he thinks, jealously tugging the covers back from her, from where she’s turned her back to him and clutched them tight in her fists, underneath her chin. She twitches and gyrates and shudders and he flips over, trying to just tune it out. He pictures, just for a moment, his own bed at his own place, where he has not slept in months because he’s been not-sleeping over here. The plain white sheets, the firm mattress, the dark cool of the walls, bare except for a note she wrote him, in the early days, pinned above where his head would rest. “Can’t wait to see you tonight,” says the note, in her thick short handwriting, “and the night after that, and the night after that…” She grunts and heaves, elbowing him in the small of the back. He imagines that if he were to go home, right now, just get up and get out of the bed and the apartment and get in the car and go home, he’d sleep silently all night long. He would wake up in the same position in which he fell asleep, having created only a single indentation in the vast calm of his solitude.