by Alex Aro
She had beautiful milky skin and he had only kissed her for the taste, sweet and succulent, loving and unattached. He was married and yet he still kissed her, but only for the taste. He felt no emotions towards her, though she longed for him and he could feel her loneliness as if it seeped through her pores and wondered how her beauty had isolated her.
They walked together on the brightly lit strip of the city night, vibrant reds, blues and yellows reflecting in one another’s eyes and masking their faces in various colorful shades. In his company she still felt alone; desperate to touch him in the same manner he caressed her skin.
During their nightly escapades their bodies kept close but their shoulders never touched, their hands never met. His eyes were everywhere except on her as he scanned the crowds for a familiar face, someone that would recognize that she was not his wife. And while he was out his wife was home waiting as ice melted into cups of never ending soda and the same reruns blared on the TV.
“These damn meetings,” he lied.
“Another one?” his wife asked.
“Just that busy time of year,”
“Well goddamn, when is enough going to be enough? Does that company have any consideration for your actual life?”
“Honey, you know how it is.”
“I suppose,” she sighed. “But I don’t have to like it. Just once I’d like you to tell them no. Who has meetings at night anyway?”
“I’ll be home as soon as I can,” he said as he blew a kiss and shut the door lightly.
He left the apartment with his briefcase, which held a change of clothes rather than business forms, and met the woman with the beautiful skin around the corner. Out of sight from the windows of his apartment, they began their nightly routine.
First they stopped at a coffee shop where he used the restroom to change into more comfortable clothes. When he came out she had a hot cup of coffee ready for him and they exited back onto the street.
He watched her take out a cigarette and place it between her lips. She made smoking look so elegant. She pulled another cigarette out from her purse and handed it towards him but he shook his head. “No thanks,” he replied, certain his wife would pick up on the odor.
* * *
He remembered the first time they met, nearly three weeks ago. He had been standing under an umbrella at the bus stop as the rain poured down while she sat near him on a bench collecting water upon her delicate skin. “You’re soaked,” he said. “Care to join me?”
She strode over to him and smiled, ducking her head under. “Thanks.”
He took a careful look at her face and casually his eyes moved to her neck, shoulders, breasts and then arms. “You have such beautiful skin,” he remarked.
She flashed him another smile. “You can touch it.”
The idea warmed his insides. “How about we meet up later tonight?”
They met later that evening and he touched her skin. They sat on a park bench obscured by shadowy trees. The more he rubbed her shoulders and stroked her arms the more he felt like he would never desire any other woman’s skin. He smoothed it under his palms like soft butter; over and over, hoping to absorb a part of it to take home.
And then she had asked, “Do you touch her like you touch me?”
His hands stopped abruptly. “Touch who?”
“Your wife,” she replied. “I see the ring on your finger. Do you touch her like this? It feels nice.”
He thought for a moment. “No, she doesn’t have skin like yours.”
She smiled and said nothing in response as his hands continued to move once again. When he returned home and his wife reached over to hold him in bed, he imagined the woman’s skin rubbing up against his.
* * *
At work he had begun comparing the textures of things on his desk to the woman’s skin. Nothing was as soft and the more he touched the objects the rougher they became. The stapler was uncomfortable in his hands and he got frustrated trying to staple papers together. He started to notice the dryness of other co-workers’ hands when he shook them, the cracks and calluses. Even the small teddy bear his wife gave him last year for Valentine’s Day had turned to stone.
They had met on the street and their relationship remained there, but one night he broke the rules and invited her inside while his wife was at her mother’s. She tiptoed across the tile in the kitchen as he gallantly poured wine into sophisticated glasses and handed her one.
She took a big sip and then set the glass down on the table. “Delicious.”
“I want you to do something for me,” he said.
“What is that?”
He led her to the bedroom and she sat on the edge of the bed while he scoured the closet for the black dress. He pulled it out and held it up to himself and then pointed to her. “Please, wear it.”
He nodded. She stripped slowly, revealing more of her skin until she sported only her lacey lingerie and then began slipping the dress on. The black dress wasn’t particularly appealing against her skin and he rushed back to the closet in disappointment.
The night wore on and the moon peeked through the windows as he dressed her in his wife’s clothes. She danced and teased, shed layers of clothing only to put more on but none of the clothes pleased him enough and she left before his wife came home, slipping away into the dark streets.
He rearranged the clothes in the closet and dreaded his wife might feel the woman’s aura present in the room. Her skin was everywhere.
“You don’t look at me anymore,” his wife said at dinner a few nights later. His nighttime rendezvous with the smooth-skinned woman had gone on for over a month now. He was inhaling his food in a hurry, shoving in spoonfuls larger than his mouth allowed. His eyes darted up to look at her while his face remained tilted towards his plate. “What do you mean?” he asked with a mouthful of spaghetti. It was slightly hard and he wondered if his wife had undercooked it or if he was imagining it.
“Sure, you look at me physically but you don’t look at me. I used to know you loved me by the way you looked at me.”
“Well we may not be as romantic as we once were, but things change when you get married.”
“They don’t have to.” She choked back a tear. “I talked with my mother the other night, you know. I told her about us and your job, your stupid night time meetings. You know what she thinks? She thinks you’re cheating on me. You... better... not... Are you?”
He said nothing, had no idea what to say. She sniffled and he could see the tears forming, actually looked into her eyes and saw her fragility as though her bones and blood and organs were nothing but glass. He wanted to rise up from the chair and grab her, show her he could still be a good husband, but something kept him immobile.
After a minute of thick and heavy silence she threw her porcelain mug against the wall and fled to the bedroom to cry. Instead of chasing after her he snuck out to meet the woman with the nicotine skin.
She too was crying and he rubbed her arms to ease his own discomfort. She pushed his hands away.
“Do you love me?” she asked.
“That’s what I asked!”
“Oh,” he said and looked at the ground. “What a strong word...”
“Then how do you feel about me?”
He counted the Rorschach blots her tears left on the sidewalk and reached to put his hands on her shoulders but she slapped them. He thought of his wife crying on the bed, alone, her tears hitting her gravel skin.
“What do you see in me!?” she cried out.
His stomach churned, he couldn’t lie any longer. “I see nothing, nothing at all. You are simply beautiful skin.”
She knelt down on the curb and cried harder. He listened to her sobs for a moment and then, knowing he would never see her again, said “I... I love my wife.” It felt good to say and even nicer to hear and he repeated it before walking off. “I love my wife.”
As he became a shadow in the distance, she lit up a cigarette. She always looked elegant when she smoked cigarettes. Black mascara ran down her checks and she exhaled the smoke into a cloud around her. She stood up and began walking down the neon lit streets of the city night, a ghost amongst a sea of living strangers.
Copyright © 2012 by Alex Aro