Three Ways To Say I Love You
by cheapmetaphor


This is near the beginning.

You are forty-two and three quarters. You have a mansion on Park Avenue and a husband you don't love. When you fight he calls you a whore and you tell him how much you want to fuck your boss.

It's not true, not really. Fighting with Stanley, or worse, making up, his sweaty palms hard against your stomach. You think about her then. It's hardly anything and it blinks away in a second.

But then, there you are one morning, the wrong side of town. In her clothes, on her couch. Not entirely sure what you might have said.

These are the things you remember:

Shots in the living room, swallowing hard and thinking about what it would be like to press her bony frame into the carpet. Shots in the kitchen where you see her splayed against the counter-top. One in the bathroom, where for a second you are absolutely sure she would taste like ivory, cold and sweet.

Later you say "Let's swap clothes," with your fingers crossed, your eyes shut. They don't fit. Too long in the leg, too tight in the chest. Grace makes lame jokes about ex-boyfriends and you are still mad at your husband and drunk enough to laugh. You maybe tell her about being forty-two and three quarters counting the nights you don't remember, and that some nights you don't remember any of it.

You're sure you said "Let's swap clothes," with your eyes shut, your fingers crossed. Then too quickly: "I want to feel a generic brand next to my skin." Grace had smiled and pulled the t-shirt over her head, ribs threatening to break through skin with the movement.

You blinked then counted every one, every one.


2) Vodka

This year has been the worst.

All your words have started to taste like metal, like the bottom of a badly mixed drink. In the tiny bathroom by the elevator you spend half an hour trying to sponge bile out of cashmere.

Jack helps the most. He keeps you busy, is distracting, exhausting. It's your favourite thing about him, worth all the money he leeches. You can take him back to the office for that last hour after lunch and watch him run in circles, round and round, and you forget to look at anything else.

You wear black to hide the weight. Lose yourself in every glass.

Once you thought to ask "Why do you let me drink at work?" but it was already too much. Your smile had become too big to work the words around, and you just stood there open-mouthed until Grace had started laughing.

And it's not about Grace, not at all, not really, except when your shoulders brush or fingers meet. Then everything is about the curve of Grace's throat and you think if you could just figure this out, even for a moment, everything would start to make sense again.

After work Driver takes you home in circles, there's never quite enough drink in you for the straight line to the door. Stan's kids stay away without being told. They never even come when you call them. Rosario carries you to bed one night out of three, sweeps you off the floor like crumpled paper.


3) Martini

You've become nothing but a caricature of yourself.

Still, things are easier this way, to say hello with perfect pitch like you down a shot without flinching. You can even walk in a straight line sometimes, miss the occasional pill. There's a method to it all. Take the voice up a few notches, think everything you say is funny. Grow to hate the sound of your own laugh.

You're so tired. So damn tired of everything.

Grace is perched on the edge of your desk, eating olives straight from the jar. You hear them crunch loudly under her teeth and remember all the things you hate about her. She leans towards you, long fingers taking an eyelash from your cheek, and you almost choke on your drink, almost blush under her fingerprints.

"I'm so taking this wish." She blows the eyelash into the air and grins at you. "I guess Stan is like your own frickin genie huh? Bet you had to rub more than his lamp!"

What you hate about her the most is that there are no questions in her dumb brown eyes. Nothing. She can't tell that one day, one day she's going to look at you and the world is going to crack.

She's still laughing at her own joke, pleased with herself. She'll probably repeat it to Will later, still laughing, still pleased. You forget why you're here, in this cramped office with this woman who laughs with her mouth full.

You drain your glass and make a face.

"What was that honey? I couldn't hear you over that blouse."

Grace rolls her eyes. You walk across the room to refill your drink. Your fingers ache and your stomach hurts and you smile and smile.


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