Distance
by Terry Dalrymple

 

Youíre alone, he says and pauses by her table.

Not anymore, she smiles and sips her gin and tonic.

The buzz and hum of bar conversation fills the space between them. He takes the chair across from her, leans into the space, feels warmth from the dim candle beneath his chin. Your paper, he says, this afternoon, I enjoyed it very much.

She sips again, ice clinking in her glass. What is it, she asks and smiles wryly, that you enjoyed so very much.

Your voice, he says, and the dress you wore and your wrist when you turned the pages.

An honest man, she says, the first Iíve met this weekend. She too leans into the space, her elbow on the table, her chin upon her palm.

These people, he says, networking, building resumes, making careers. Theyíre young, theyíre eager, they have no time for honesty.

She taps one red fingernail against her glass, looks down into the gin, then back at him. And you? she says and purses her lips.

Older, he says, with no delusions and no time for lies. He slides his hand across the table, through the distance, and feels the cool dampness of her fingers where theyíve touched her glass.

Okay, she says and rises.

###


Youíre no one I can love, she says and he says ditto. Itís not because of him, she says and fingers her wedding band. Iím trying but itís never because of him.

No problem, he says. No strings, no names, no guilt. He runs his palm over the smooth curve of her hip.

Iíve married twice before, she says and finds a memory in the space between them that makes her smile.

Iíve known lust, he says, desire, even affection. Disgust, too, and hatred that manifests itself as sex. Theyíre enough, I guess, he says and with a fingertip traces her smile.

No strings, she says, no names, no guilt.

The hum of humanity twelve floors below is silenced by the hum of the air conditioner and by the plate glass window and by the distance in between.

When I met you in the bar downstairs, he says, I wanted you more than I do right now.

So, she says, why are we here?

Curiosity, he says, or habit. Youíre not the first.

And she says ditto.

###

He smells the coffee first and then her flesh, or the spot where her flesh has lain. I started your coffee, she says, and unhooks the chain on the door.

He blinks to unblur her. Iím wondering, he says, but she says no and closes the door between them.

At the window, he lights a cigarette and feels the cool plate glass against his forehead. Conditioned air stirs his loose tee-shirt, his morning hair, the tobacco smoke snaking toward the ceiling. He spots her, the red skirt, twelve floors below, tries to gauge the distance between them. Twelve floors, a hundred and twenty feet, perhaps, or a hundred and twenty miles. Itís a ways, thatís all, and itís the same, and itís always the same. He follows the skirt into the shadows of the parking garage, and he sees, or imagines he sees, the soft sway of her hips. He feels their warmth beneath his hands. He smells the brewed coffee, turns from the window, wonders whether the aroma entices or sickens him.

No strings, he thinks. No names. No guilt.

 

Please send us your comments, including the name of the work you are commenting on.

Don't want to miss out? Contact us and we'll send you an e-mail message announcing each new issue. (Be sure to see our Privacy Policy.)

Copyright © 1999-2005 by Amarillo Bay. All rights reserved.
Individual works are copyrighted by their authors.