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Courting Disaster
Lisa Alvarado

I'm washing the dishes and I hear the key turning in the lock, her footsteps coming toward me. I'm at the sink and I'm in no hurry to finish; it's not like I don't know why she's here. Besides, she's early, and she can just be a good girl and wait. But she's not a good girl and neither am I.

We're up to twice a week now and have been for the last month. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but somehow, we've got the keys to each other's apartment. It's not to be confused with access to each other's lives. The rules are: a brief phone call in the morning, yes or no, where and when, and then it's just a matter of time. We don't want to know each other really, it's how we like it. We both work in jobs where we focus all our attention on what someone else wants, what someone else needs, and the last thing that appeals to us is "a close personal connection." I am the intake coordinator at a battered women's shelter, she's a psychiatric nurse. Despite what we do for a living, we are brittle, insular people. I think that's the real basis of our attraction; there is a certain coldness, a shell, that resurfaces when we're on our own time. That, and we like fucking. Yes we do.

The water is finally coiling its way down the drain and I wring out the dishrag and sponge. She doesn't ask me how I am or say hello. But I feel her close behind me, and then her hands rest on my shoulders, and her mouth latches onto the nape of my neck, her mouth hot on my skin. I lean back a little and her hands slide down my arms and trail their way to my waist. She licks at me, working her way to my earlobe. Taking the flesh between her teeth, she bites down. I manage to stay still until then, but that bright, little pain pushes me over the edge. "You," I breathe, ""

I turn around and unbutton her shirt, shove up her bra and begin to thumb her nipples around and around like time passing, like time chasing its tail. I feel them harden and now I want to touch her somewhere else, make her hard somewhere else, make time turn in on itself, start and stop and dissolve.

The kitchen stays silent. She is always quiet, no matter what. She only talks to me this way, with flesh, with skin answering skin. My hands find the zipper of her pants, make it move, find their way between her legs where I am allowed to know her wet, hard secret--the only secret she will ever tell me. My fingertips trace time's unraveling against her clit. Slowly, around and around, then just for a minute I stop to look at her face, softer and younger than mine. My eyes travel their way to hers -- they're dark, sullen, deep. I think I can see myself in them, but then she blinks and says, "Hurry, I'm close now."

My fingers move again, simple, simple circle--the circle erasing everything, blotting out the minutes, collapsing the hours. She starts to shake against me, close her legs against my hand. She shatters and I feel the waves of it, draw it into myself through the tips of my fingers. When she's finished, I slowly take my hand away and lick away the taste of her, honey-sweet, salty as tears, bitter as ash. We say nothing as she gathers herself, smoothing her clothes into place again.

"Now you," she says, and reaches under my shirt. I put my hand over hers, "No," I whisper. "Not here. Come lie down with me," and I lead the way toward the bedroom. We're silent again, no sound except our footsteps, the sound of our breath. Then I hear her.

"What I wouldn't do for you," she sighs.

"Don't," I say, "don't ruin it for me."



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