When he heard the knock at his door he knew who it was and what she wanted. She entered breathless, barefoot and panting. His digital clock glowed “3:36 A.M.”
“Hi”, was all she said as she brushed drunkenly past him down the narrow entryway into his bedroom. She fell into a heap upon his bed, lacking neither dignity nor grace.
“Should I get naked now?” she mumbled.
As hungry as he was for her touch, he couldn’t take advantage of her in this state. He covered her gently with his sheets and held her till she woke.
She opened her eyes the next morning, uncertain of where she was until she rolled over and saw his smile.
“Oh hey, you cut your hair” was all she said.
She was gone within minutes without sincerity or affection. Before leaving, she asked, “I didn’t say anything crazy last night, did I?”
He assured her that she hadn’t. The words she whispered to him as she tossed in her sleep had faded with the morning light.
She only came to him when she felt alone. A bad dream sent her running to his door, racing against a fear of the dark. He would answer her knocks, only to be discarded the next morning.
Things changed after the accident, her beautiful friends left, their plastic affection melted away like her silhouette. He still answered her knocks, but not as quickly as before. He knew she had nowhere else to go, so he would let her in through the back door.
She had been beautiful once. Despite her new appearance, she carried herself with the dignity and arrogance that a young beauty would. Still, no matter how much makeup she used, she could not hide the scars.
He missed her full lips, withered from the flames of the accident. When they kissed, he would close his eyes and ignores the rough skin at the corners of her mouth. He tried to be as careful as possible not to flinch, lest she noticed.
One night, as she lay sobbing on his pillow, lamenting her former life, he realized all his sympathy had dried up. He gently rubbed her back and silently hoped her tears would subside soon. He wanted her to leave before the sun’s rays shone fully on her face.
The previous morning, he woke up, and began to drink himself to sleep. She was simply an afterthought as the sun’s rays began to set. As they made love, he tried to place himself in the past. She whispered love to him, but he couldn’t believe her. She never loved him before, despite her words. Besides, he loved her old photo, not her new one.
The last time he saw her was at a Greyhound bus station, tears smearing her makeup, revealing what she wished was hidden. There wasn’t much left to say.
She looked at him with pleading eyes, and he looked away, staring instead at a Hispanic family boarding a coach outside.
“You don’t have to go”
“Yes, I do”
He couldn’t look at her anymore. He had to leave. He allowed her to hold his hand briefly, but still couldn’t meet her crying eyes. Few in the station noticed the scene.
“You could stay here with me”
“No, I can’t”
His mind drifted to a similar scene years earlier. It was before the accident, when her perfect beauty was still untouched. She had come to his house after a decided separation to collect her belongings. No item was essential; still she made a dramatic scene of gathering the items she could do without.
“Please,” was all he said as she placed her hand on the doorknob to leave. He reached for her, to pull her towards him for one final embrace. She pulled her arm away from him with heart breaking speed.
“I’m sorry, I can’t do this anymore.”
Then she walked out of the door.
His mind snapped back to the present as he heard his bus’ arrival announced on the crackling speakers. As he stood to leave, she began sobbing. He shouldered his pack, half embraced her with his free arm, and put his lips to her ear “shushing” her gently.
He had grown sick of the person he’d become with her. Night after night, he would lay with her, trying to picture the beauty of years past as he brushed her thin hair from her face. She meant nothing to him now; he realized it on their first reunion following the collision. She knocked on his door late one night. He hadn’t seen the accident on the news, or read the story in the newspapers. She stood breathless at his door, just as she’d done many times before. He couldn’t see her scars in the dark. He left the lights off and led her to his bed without a sound.
He was horrified by what he saw the next morning. Her cheeks and forehead had deep pocked marked scars from a shattered windshield and broken metal. Her left eye drooped, with a scar running across the edge of her eye lid tracing down her left cheek. He watched her sleep, and felt a tightening in his stomach. He pulled out an old photo of her from his bed stand, and reminded himself of the girl he once loved.
There was no love left. He could no longer picture whom she once was. He was leaving. He “shushed” her once more and brought her face to his chest one final time.
“Please,” was all she said as he pulled his arm away from her grasp and stepped away.