“Jesus woman!” Mark gasped. “Are you trying to maim me?”
“Oh baby, I’m sorry!” she shushed. She wanted to hear the dialogue from the DVD.
“Honey, let me up.” He leaked his request through his clenched lips.
She reached over and pushed the pause. “What-da-ya need?” She swung her legs and sat upright and stood up.
“Nothing.” He echoed her actions. “I just want to sit over there.” He pointed to a chair that sat on the side. He adjusted his shorts and straightened his shirt, bent over and picked up his bottle, and walked over to recline.
“Oh baby, I won’t kick you again!” she groaned. “I was trying to pull the blanket over my feet with my foot!”
“No. It’s okay.” Mark sat down in his new seat and pulled the pedestal out and up. “It’s cool, start it again.” He pointed to the television.
“You know, I don’t understand you at all.” She sat back down on the sofa and balanced herself by bracing an arm at each side. She looked like a pyramid as she began her query. “Mark, you make no sense.” She shook her head. “You’re a very sexual man. But outside of sex, you hate to be touched.”
“That’s not true.” He sat straightforward in the chair. As he spoke he thought about his posture, her posture, and the way the recliner made him feel like he was in a dental chair. “I shake hands. I love shaking hands. You know that. Everyone knows that.”
“Shaking hands isn’t touching, Mark.” She leaned forward and picked up her bottled water and took a sip.
“Yes, it is,” he admonished her. “Okay look. I just don’t like to be pawed. I don’t do hugs. You know that. I hate hugs. Hugs make me uncomfortable. If I hug a woman it’s too dicey. You have to hug them yet keep far enough away from her breasts. And you have to keep your hips away from hers. It’s too much work just for a hug I didn’t want to give anyway.” He picked up his Diet Coke and took a drink.
“Who thinks of things like that?”
“All guys think that.” He set his bottle back on the end table. “And hugging another man? Why? Why would I? A handshake is friendly enough.”
“Shut up.” She shook her head. “You've forgotten that I know you. So don’t try to take this conversation somewhere else.”
“I know where you want to take this conversation.” He picked up the bottle to hold but not to bring to his lips. “I don’t want to have the conversation. Why can’t we just be? Huh? Why is everything a scab that has to be picked? Let’s just watch the movie. It’s all good kid. All of it. Just start the film again. We’re at a good part.” He took a sip.
“Did it occur to you that I might want to have this conversation? Did it?” She sighed with exasperation. “So why? Why did you pull away from me?” She bent over and picked up her pack and pulled out one cigarette and lit it.
“Jesus, do you hear yourself?” He pushed the pedestal back beneath the chair with his feet and sat upright. “You talk just like me now!” he laughed. “We have the same pattern and rhythm. What’s with that? Did we always? I don’t remember that.”
“Mark. Talk to me.” She braced herself against the back of the sofa.
“Look, I know what you’re talking about.” He raised the bottle to his lips and took a gulp. “Okay, fine. We’ll talk. But if you start that psychobabble bullshit where each word has to be examined and dissected, I’ll end this conversation before it gets past three sentences each.”
“There’s no rules here, you ass!” Brady put her head back against the back of the sofa. “We’re going to talk without rules. And oh my God! You are so rich! I've never known a human being who held a person to one word and examined every word more than you do!” She exhaled. “No one does that more than you do!”
“Okay fine. Yeah, I do that.”
“Back on topic. Why?”
“I don’t know why it’s such a big deal to you.” He started to discuss it with her when the pause on the DVD player paused its pause and began again. The sound blared. She reached down and picked up the remote and turned it all off. “Why did you have to maul me while I was making pancakes anyway?” He asked his question with more than a hint of accusation.
“I touched you.” Brady took a puff and spoke through the smoke, “We made love this morning and you didn’t mind when I touched you then, so how was I to know you didn’t want me to touch you later?” She took another puff.
“You make me sound like a fucking freak.” He eyed her cigarette with more than covert coveting.
“Well, no. But that’s what I don’t understand. You like sex.” She raised her eyebrows and smirked. “So I don’t understand why you pulled away from me this morning.”
“Okay, you know what?” He leaned to the side and put his bottle on the table. “Let’s just get the facts straight here or we can’t have a real conversation. You came up from behind me and you put your hands down my shorts. Which okay - let’s go for it. A nice thing. I vote yea. But from now on, let’s go with the verb fondle instead of grab. That’s all I’m saying.”
“No sir!” She shook her head and then leaned forward and stubbed out the butt. “Don’t even go there. Don’t you pretend that this had anything to do with me. No way buster. No!”
“Fine - you want to have the conversation?” He leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees.
“We are having the conversation Mark.” She leaned back and put her feet up on the edge of the coffee table. “Why do you have to announce each transition in a conversation? Never mind. Forget that. I’ll ask you that later. I want to stay on topic.”
“No. You’re remembering this whole thing wrong Brady.” He glanced at her pack of cigarettes and resisted the urge. “So, I’m making pancakes and you came behind me and grabbed me. And then what?”
“I kissed your back and said I loved you,” she sighed. “I remember. I was there.”
“Yeah, and?” He urged her recollections.
“And you leaned back and said, ‘I love you too baby.’” Her eyes bore into him.
“Yeah, that’s right. And then what?” He didn’t blink as he held her gaze.
“And then you pulled away from me.”
“Nooo. No ma’am.” He shook his head. “That is so not what happened. I said I loved you too. And I was getting into it. We had a nice vibe going there for a split-second and you said what?”
“I asked you if you loved me more than you used to, and you pulled away from me and said ‘I said I loved you, get off me'.” She took her feet off the edge of the table and placed them on the floor. “And I don’t get it. Are you saying you didn’t like the touching or you didn’t like my asking?”
“All right, no man on earth doesn’t like the touching. So get that, because that’s like a fundamental rule of earth.” He repeated the rule from rote and marched it with a militaristic meter: “No man on earth doesn’t like the touching unless there’s medical issues involved.”
“So what are you saying?” She picked up her pack. “And if you repeat that sentence to me again, well I’m warning you, don’t treat me like I’m a fool.”
“I’m saying don’t hold me in your hands and ask me to lie.” He watched her and waited for her to pull out a cigarette. Her hands remained still; her eyes dashed and danced and dribbled tears.
“Are you saying you don’t love me anymore?” She pulled out a cigarette.
“No, I’m saying I don’t love you more than I did.” His voice didn’t vacillate. The stream was staid.
“Do you love me less than you used to?” she asked with suppressed volume. She lit the cigarette.
“Yes,” he whispered, “I do.”
“Why?” Her questioned seeped at the same speed as her tears. She took a puff.
“Because you've quit. You don’t try as hard anymore.”
She exhaled. “Morally?”
“Yes, I know.”
“Do you love me at all?” She refused to look beyond the tip of her cigarette.
“Yeah, Brady I’m crazy about you,” he confessed. “I love you until I can hardly breathe. But I can breathe. With or without you, I can breathe. I love you enough not to lie to you and pretend I can’t.”
“I can live with that.” She exhaled. “You love me and you’re here today. That’s enough for me.”
“That’s not enough. You deserve more. I never said you didn’t.” He stood up and sat beside her.
“Shut up Mark,” she whispered. “I get to decide my proportion. Not you. I get to decide what’s enough.”
“You sound like me.” He put his arm around her. “We talk alike.”
“Yes well maybe I want to be more like you.” She took a drag from her cigarette and stubbed out the rest.
“No you don’t.” He settled their backs against the back of the sofa. “I suck baby.”
“Shut up Mark.” She kissed him to quiet his mouth. “Do you love me more than you love anyone else right now?”
“Yes.” He returned her kisses. He couldn't lie while she held him in her hands.
“Then it’s enough,” she sighed.