Monday, April 2, 2012

“His Hands Are Off Her Now” by Rachelle Mathis

On the morning of the day I killed my boyfriend, I woke up before the sun rose and snuggled closer to him in his bed. Sleepily, he turned his head toward me and brushed my cheek with his lips. He caressed my arm softly and then he was out again. I lay awake staring into the dark, not knowing why I felt so uneasy. At almost nine he rolled away from me and out of bed, saying,

"I'm gonna shower, baby, and then we can go to the farmer's market like you wanted."

I didn't reply, merely glanced at him, and then back down at the bed. He looked confused.

"What's the matter?"

I held my arms up and he laid down beside me again. Ignoring his question, I pressed my mouth to his. I felt his surprise, but he kissed me back eagerly. My hands ran up his bare back, my nails made welts on his skin.

Once we were done, after he had made a wet spot on the blue striped sheets, he left me to take that earlier intended shower. I dug into my backpack, pulled out the mini skirt and t-shirt I had selected at my own apartment the night before. The skirt slung low on my hips. I had lost weight since buying it, too much weight. He sometimes liked to gently slide his hands over my collarbone, my ribs, anything of mine that felt fragile.

"Baby, you're like a doll." he'd whisper in my ear, loosely gripping the base of my neck. "My little doll."

In just a few minutes he was out of the shower. He had always been quick like that, forever impatient at how long I took to get ready. That day I was done before him. I had just pulled my long hair back into a ponytail and skipped any make up, knowing I could opt to cover my face with sunglasses. I watched him dress. I studied the muscles in his back as he pulled a shirt over his head. I knew how good looking he was, how lucky I was that someone like him loved me.

His car was so clean it reminded me of a hospital, or some other sterile environment. My own vehicle was so messy that he refused to ride in it. As soon as we were on the road he reached over for my hand and held it tightly. Squeezing it now and then to get my attention, he would grin at me once I looked over and say something like,

"You're beautiful, Baby."

I'm still not really sure why I never fully believed him. I would glance into the side mirror and study myself, never satisfied with what I saw.

The farmer's market was crowded with other professional couples. It was the thing to do. We were all the same. We lived on the same Spanish-named streets. We shopped at the same IKEA. We drove the same route down the PCH. We all lived our lives for each other. He did most of the shopping, a little of everything here and there. Filling our trendy burlap sack with things our parents never worried about buying when we were growing up, like organic honey and heirloom tomatoes. It was my idea to get apricots. They looked so fresh and appealing. Tasty. I bought a bag full of them.

"You don't even like apricots." he told me. "You said the taste makes your mouth itch."

I ignored him. Instead I thought about being little, and always wanting spinach at the store because that's what Popeye ate. I would whine and cry until my father bought some for me, but when it came time for me to eat it I would throw an even bigger fit and he would have to toss it out. I wondered why Daddy kept buying it if he knew I was going to do that.

He wanted to take the scenic route home, through the canyon and wooded areas surrounding our suburban community. Singing along to the radio and holding my hand, he would take his eyes off the road to glance at me every now and then. I would smile slightly, and wish the heaviness in my heart would go away.

I had such perfection with him, a steady relationship with a loving man who had a great job. The things that scared me about him were my own problem. I was the abnormal one. The look in his eyes when he said "I love you" wouldn't make other girls uneasy. The way my skin crawled and stung when he put his hands on me wasn't his fault.

"Baby, why are you crying?"

I dropped his hand and traced a finger under my eye. I was crying. I couldn't answer him. What was wrong with me? I started to shake. I wrapped my arms around myself and leaned against the door. His concerned expression was making me angry.

"Did you take your meds today?"

I still didn't reply. I stared ahead at the road, at every curve the car approached, at every beautiful bit of scenery that was supposed to make me grateful for life. Without a word, I reached over and jerked the wheel as hard as I could. The impact felt better than his kisses.

Warmth was the sensation that caused me wake up. At first I thought it was just my crying, because I was crying harder than ever before. But my hand to my face brought back bright red. It hurt to turn my head to the left. What I saw hurt worse than that. I didn't have to check his pulse to know he was dead. Half of him was inside the car, half of him was outside. None of it looked human.

I unbuckled my seat belt and realized that as fastidious as he was about most things, he never wore his. I never did well enough in English to remember if that would be classified as irony, but I decided to call it so. The bag of apricots had broken open, and the smell of busted fruit mixed with that of copper and death. One rested in my lap, as pure and perfect as it had been when I bought it.

Cradling the apricot to my chest, I kicked at the passenger door until it opened. I crawled up the embankment and sat on the roadside. I knew I had a while to wait until someone drove by. Biting into the apricot, I noted that it was the best thing I had ever tasted.

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