Peace! This is the revised version. I pray you all have enough patience to read what I did here and comment again. I tried to “humanize” the characters more and give background. Don’t worry, the woman/women get plenty of say as the story goes on. Remember that although I am a writer, creative writing is not my strong suit. Be very critical, please? Thank you!
It was clear he loved her most when they lay alongside each other. Their long bodies were lean and tanned. Her hair always smelled like some manner of flower. The hair on the nape of her neck was wispy and brown. Her breasts he appreciated the most yet she never liked them. She complained often that they sagged too far for a woman her age. He loved her feet and he appreciated her jaw line. She felt her feet were too big and her profile too mannish. He loved how throaty her laugh was when he told one of his jokes. She thought she sounded like a smoker when in a fit of hysterics. Her eyes were wide and bright and they would disappear into slits during the bright of the morning. He kept finding new things about her and he tried best to express it to her. She did an expert job of deflecting everything he tried to convey. She would always cover her body when he was simply admiring her. After some time, he would stop staring at her when she was nude. She would always say it made her feel soiled to be naked. It never ceased to amaze him that a woman this beautiful would think of herself in such a negative way.
It was in the distance and time away he discovered he loved her less. He tired of trying to convince her of how he cared for her. He was as genuine as he had ever been yet she did not seem to appreciate his efforts. She barely returned the verbal favor or loving adulation and he often wondered if she ever actually liked him. Her body language was both acceptance and avoidance that lead to a meandering dichotomy of confusion. He wanted badly to know precisely how she felt but knew she would never be as open. It had become a hopeless dance of defeat for him. What was he piecing together? What did they actually have? He did know how to make her respond physically and she loved when he would pick her up and hug her. She would laugh heartily and it was then he realized she was not as cold as many of his friends thought.
He positioned his stiffness to her lower back and she would reach back with coy obedience. He never could tell if she enjoyed this but it had become automatic as the hot and cold nature of their union. He had no true evidence of her pleasure except for muted orgasms or hushed moans and commanding the erection of her nipples with his mouth. She offered her body willingly and she accepted his releases wherever he wanted. It was always a spectacle when he arrived but he seemed to be the only one enjoying the moment while she seemingly focused on floating specs of dust and light. He left her navel sticky, her hands moist, her mouth full and he wanted the same in return. He wanted her to drag her sex and scent over his face, his beard, and his fingers. He just did not know what to do for her at times. She would respond most expressively when he was forceful with her. The sound she would make would be both pleasure and fear but it made him feel less connected to her. A nagging specter suggested he must snatch the pleasure out of her and he did not want that for himself.
Breakfast was the only time she spoke at length about herself and her feelings. She was passionate about languages and wine. Whenever he made breakfast for her, he finally saw inside the complexity that both intrigued and flustered him. She would chat with him exhaustively about the many varieties of wine. She loved to discuss the varying levels of dialect. She was always impressed that he could keep up, as she was the only properly educated one between them. He enjoyed how simply she answered his inquiries and she was delightfully patient. The woman simply had a gift for gab when it was about a subject she knew well. She was loquacious during the meals and present in both attentiveness and banter. She engaged him for that brief time and she was warm to him. There was a smile in her eyes and even girlish whimsy. It was why he kept falling back in love with her. He kept hoping it would last beyond that moment. It never seemed to.
“Antonio, I don’t like that sweater. It’s not flattering.”
“I don’t think I wear clothes because they flatter. I just can’t be nude at work, darling.”
“I don’t like the pet name darling. It reminds me of old people with flea-bitten cats.”
“I’m glad to know you’re not harsh in your disdain.”
“Tony, you’re so reactionary.”
“I don’t mind calling you Victoria. You tell me what you’d like best.”
“Darling is fine, I guess.”
“You don’t mean it. Say what you mean.”
“I want you to find what fits. I’ll accept what you choose.”
“That’s not staying true to the arc of the convo, Vic. You clearly don’t like darling”.
“Are we really doing this? Having an argument?”
“We’re not yelling. We’re civil and being adults.”
“Tony, I love your eyebrows. That was random as hell but I do.”
“Way to throw me off but I’m glad you love something.”
“Whoa. I don’t know what to do with that one”.
The morning was always like that. It was this routine of occasional sex, basking, food, an attempt at conversation. Antonio would find a way to express his frustration and Victoria would feign shock and amazement at his utterances. It would always begin amicably and end awkwardly then back again to the familiar place. Somehow, they would find their way back into favor with one another and seemingly be in accord. She would come close to him, touching his neck, he would pull her down to kiss him, and she met him with the passion. He sometimes felt as if she was assuaging him to keep the peace. This is where his mind went in the empty spaces. Those empty spaces had never been filled with hope however. The time away never moved him to longing as he thought it should. He felt resentment for his continued devotion to the very thought of her. There lacked a tangible thread of continuity for them when they did not speak. How do you create that space? He never knew how and he assumed she did not care either. He just wanted her to be genuine and he could never trust her actions. It led to him idealizing every little gesture from her and questioning with the same fervor. He began to worship her and dislike her. He was lost in promise and decided that concrete affirmation meant little to him but that conflicted with his true feelings. How did he come to this place of accepting the unraveling? He kept up with his end of the façade simply because he hoped she would drop her own guard. He was in love with a woman he was no longer sure loved him. He was spiraling into a deep unknown.
Antonio’s hands were long and scarred. His face was smooth and he did not look like many who shared his profession. He worked as a pipefitter in Roswell and did side work as a plumber in the city. He learned the trades from his mother’s boyfriend when he was in middle school and he was an apprentice while up until his high school graduation. He was not much of a student and did not have many aspirations but he had a gift for art and writing. He would draw perfect sketches of the town and the rivers as a child. He was able to draw anything you asked him to and it was the one consistent thing in his life. He was a good writer and loved to draft poems for his mother and grandparents. They always made a big fuss over his poems although he felt many of them were trash. He did not fancy sports although he was tall and athletic, even as a boy. Much of his time centered on his mother and sister, caring for his sibling while his mother worked nights. Roswell was a fine place to live but Antonio usually went south to Atlanta to entertain himself. His best friends lived there and most of the women he dated were from there as well. It was where he eventually met Victoria.
Victoria loved any manner of warm drink so it was fitting he met her outside of a coffee shop while trying to find change for a parking meter. She walked up to him and complimented him on his teeth, yet he did not smile. Antonio was baffled by her compliment. Nevertheless, he smiled broadly and she got her confirmation. Antonio could not tell if she was of Latino heritage as he but her hair was long and wavy but her skin was not as brown as his own was. She was tall but he towered over her as he did most people. He could see down her shirt and she noticed him doing so, a flirty glint in her eye solidified that. A customary exchange of information ensued and Antonio seemingly impressed her with his usual wordy retorts to her inquiries. He did not want to assume much too soon, but he knew that he would fall in love with her. He had never met anyone like her and he was hell-bent on making sure she would not slip away.
When Victoria was gone for days on end, he would touch himself as he showered and dreamt of the way she touched him, her hands long as his but far less bruised. He escaped this way often and hoped by some manner of osmosis that she would actually be doing the same with him in mind. He knew she would not be. Such a sad, pitiful circle and yet he could not let her go. Most men use these private moments of pleasure to focus primarily on the carnal aspect. Antonio did so as well but what gave rise to his arousal more so was the memory of their first encounter. He would find the highest pleasure in recanting mentally how he fell in love with her and hearing her tell him that she loved him for the first time. He was starved of the building of that connection. When they were together, Antonio and Victoria pleased each other until they were spent but it never connected save for a few times. He feared she had other lovers or she was pretending to enjoy Antonio sexually. The longer he pondered, the more agitated he would become.
Antonio first noticed Sylvia the exact same way he first noticed Victoria. He had been on a job run and stopped at this quirky teashop to wash his hands. The teashop was adorned with black and white photos from the 60s, Antonio assumed. The walls were smoked oak brown and the trim was an awful shade of pink. The owner was a short Trinidadian man with a foul sense of humor. Antonio would stop here and at one of the high stools because with his height, he could still see the whole shop panoramically. He did not even like tea but marveled at how eloquently the owner bragged about his passion. The actual space was small, not unlike a den in some large home. There was a bookshelf full of donated, dog-eared books. However, in the back end of store was a large garden with tables and benches. Antonio liked it out there because it reminded him of his backyard in Roswell when he was a boy. Two midsized trees provided some shade and there were small bushes along the fence. He would sit and steal away time with a sketch of the scene. He drew Victoria here once in this garden and he still draws her face the same way. He never draws her smiling although she smiles often when she is with him. He usually keeps her eyes blank. He did not do this with Sylvia. She did not smile or even speak to him yet he drew her dancing, picking flowers, walking a dog. He drew out what he imagined to be her life to – full, busy, and joyous. He would come here every day on his runs to draw her. He never spoke. He did not look her in the eyes. He only knew her name because the owner would often admonish her loudly about how long she steeped her green tea. When the owner finally took notice of Antonio’s drawing and silence, he inquired about his activity.
“I didn’t know plumbers could draw.”
“I’m not a plumber, Keith. I do pipefitting in Roswell and side jobs downtown that may have something to do with plumbing. But nah, I’m no plumber.”
“Ah yeah. I don’t know the fucking difference, man. Anyway, her name’s Sylvia.”
“The quiet student girl you’re always looking at. From what I know, she’s single.”
“I’m not. Well, at least I hope I’m not.”
“What? Oh never mind. Anyway, she’s friendly. Just go up and talk to her.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about but I’m gonna get going, man.”
Antonio was uncomfortable now. He never liked showing his art to strangers and he really did not want to appear like a stalker. He hurried out of the shop with his hands sweaty and his mouth dry. He was afraid Victoria would find out so he trashed all of the drawings of the girl. He never returned to the shop and he attempted to forget her although she remained on his mind for weeks. Victoria hardly called him, usually relying on text messages mostly. She usually called when she wanted to be in his bed or have his mouth on her. She would call when she wanted to try some new wine and would urge Antonio to pair the wine with whatever foods would compliment the bottle. Phone calls meant Victoria wanted to see him actually. They were becoming scarcer lately so Antonio made sure to pick up with immediacy.
“Tony The Tiger. How’s the laying of pipe? You have to laugh. I’ve been working on it.”
“I smiled. I’m ok but just toiling along as usual. Bored shitless while I’m at it.”
“Well I’m off now and if you need me to hand you a tool or two, I’m your girl Friday.”
“Bring it on. I could use your company. Wear something tight and low cut, please?”
“For you, Tony, I’ll promote my sexuality and lower my guard.”
“I’ll see you soon, Sylvia.”
“That’s different for a pet name.”