So Very Necessary
The pill bottles have fallen over. Tiny pink tablets spill into the sink, vanishing down the drain before my slow fingers can stop them. Rowena watches. Her face not quite blank. I watch, too, unsure about what to do. The pills are so very necessary.
I remember when the first full bottle came here, how afraid we were. How wary about the changes the pills it contained might bring. We put them in the medicine cabinet and discussed how we would make them an orderly part of our orderly lives. Now, they are as necessary as food and water.
Rowena is a waif, a sylph, a vague thin shape in green cotton panties. Her face is too white, too thin, too expressionless, and all I can do is lead her to her favorite rocking chair while I fret inside about the pills.
“Thank you, Roger.”
“Love, I’m not Roger.”
“I’m not love.”
We lock eyes for a moment, then I get her a glass of water before I search the cupboards for more pills. She rocks quietly, not seeing me, dark messy hair hiding her skinny cheekbones, harsh ceiling light painting phantoms along her rib cage like a shadowy ghost-ladder against a white padded wall.
We laughed in Old Montreal once; I remember it well: the boutiques, the street musicians, Old Montreal Port, the architecture, and Chez Queux restaurant where we agreed to finally marry. How giddy she was, how happy to be alive. I remember laughing at everything, especially each other.
We don’t go out now. She takes her clothes off because she can’t stand fabric against her skin. She will disrobe wherever the spirit moves her: restaurants, markets, hardware stores. Her face is placid when she does this, her heart innocent, but shoppers with small children don’t like it. I don’t like it, either. Men stare at her with lustful eyes and lewd smiles, even though she’s thin, and women say cruel things about her behind their hands. Sometimes, the police are called.
So, I keep her at home, where there are always pills, unless they tumble down the drain.
“Randy, will you sit with me?”
“I’m not Randy, darling. I need to find the pills.”
“I know.” And when she smiles—such a child—light shines from her and turns my knees to jelly. “You’re not Randy, you’re Raphael. You came to me in a dream. I invited you to stay. You did. Remember?”
“I’m not Rowena. Call me Jade,” she says, softly. “I so love Jade.”
I nod and search the cabinet over the refrigerator, moving aside bug dope and sixty-watt bulbs. Rowena begins to hum. In her voice, I hear magic and music and so much elusive laughter. I come across the spare fuses I couldn’t find last fall when Rowena shorted out her hair dryer. I’d had no choice but to hide it from her after that, which broke my heart, but she’d left it running for hours, dancing naked in the warm bathroom. A dangerous situation.
I quit my job shortly thereafter.
There are no pills in the cabinet over the refrigerator. Why must they be so very necessary?
When I turn back to her, there is a blue plastic hairbrush sticking from her body in the place where green panties were a moment before. The black bristles look so dark beside her white skin; she is ecstatic, thrusting, oblivious.
I watch, and I don’t know if I should. I begin to harden, and I don’t think I should. But I can’t stop watching her. Her expression, usually so bland, enchants me.
Rowena puts things inside herself because she hungers for pleasure, but she can’t bear to touch her own skin, and I, weak creature that I am, can’t take my eyes away from her.
She moves slow at first, perhaps without joy, but her brown eyes begin to shine, her body tenses, and she climaxes hard. Staggering, I go to her on legs that barely support me and put my head near her lap, careful not to touch without approval, inhaling her sweetness right from the source.
“Ronald,” she says, “can we do it? Is it all right?”
“Yes, honey, if that’s what you want. But I’m not Ronald, and what about the pills?”
“I know, and I’m not Jade now. I’ll be Ruby for a while. The letter is right, isn’t it, Romeo…R?”
I nod, my eyes wet, and I think about how I should find the pills. Almost coquettish now—helpless, hungry, hazy—the look in her eyes makes me forget pills. For a moment, anyway.
Only when I am inside her, can I believe it is as it should be, but even then, it is clearly not. She lies in the chair unmoving, the only clue to her pleasure the disconnected rhythm of her breath against my throat and the brace of her body urging me to hurry. I feel her sharp bones beneath me. Her helplessness. Her breakability. These are the only times I’m allowed to be this close to her. She endures for the pleasure; she forgets she must endure because of the pleasure.
I grasp her hips carefully, pull her to the edge of the seat, and slip inside. The passage is exquisite. She gasps, bottom lip clenched between tiny white teeth, her fingernails scratching at the finish on the rocker. And me? I am encased in the tightest sheath, friction undefined already working against me, sucking me deeper into the chasm that is her, Rowena. I want to die inside her; I want to be here forever.
I’m crying, and fucking, and loving, and her gentle mewls are guttural groans. Very slightly, so slight that it’s difficult to be sure, she moves from the inside out. Clutching, releasing, sucking, relaxing – her small hips working, her nearly concave belly rippling like a dancer, and me, drowning in her feel, her smell, her heat, her utter unreachableness.
She feels this, goddamn it. She fucking feels this. She feels this…this…feels it…she fucking feels….
Lost, found, confused, I try to kiss her but she jerks away as though I am diseased and, well, maybe I am. The sudden despair in my voice is louder than her moans, but I fuck her hard anyway, helpless against the way I feel. I haven’t kissed her lips for so long, but I can remember exactly how sweet she is.
Spin up…spiral down…almost there…almost.
I’m surprised when she comes because she touches me. Sometimes Rowena forgets she hates skin and grabs me with both hands, hissing between clenched teeth, pulling me closer. Like right now.
Oh my God, oh my God, so good.
In a world without touch, this moment eclipses my orgasm, just her small hands on my bare skin. Ejaculation continues, regardless, but my elation lies elsewhere, rejoicing in bony fingers scrabbling at my arms and neck, and a pretty face whose paleness is eaten by color.
I’m still now, spent and ashamed, my head against her chest as she catches her breath. And I weep, knowing that once again I couldn’t fuck it all away for her. The valleys between each of her ribs are so deep that pools form if I cry for long. I try not to, because it disturbs me, and she doesn’t like to see me cry. Impatient to be left alone again, she squirms. I pull out, reluctantly, letting my fingertips trail the softness of her thigh in order to absorb the last feel of her into my skin.
My beautiful baby.
A warm wet cloth is about all she can take against flesh that just felt so much so fast, and I clean her gently before I resume my search for pills. Her eyes have less of that faraway look but she still sits naked and mute, tapping a song from the 70s, “Billy, Don’t be a Hero,” I think, onto the wood of the rocking chair.
I cannot find the pills, and it is bedtime, so I lead her to our room. She lies down on her special flannel sheet without a blanket, curled like a fetus. I notice gooseflesh along her arms and turn up the furnace, and then I slip in beside her.
“Goodnight, Rodney,” she says.
“Not Rowena…someone else…whoever you want me to be.”
I just want her to be Rowena.
Where are those fucking pills?
Rowena used to be bigger, her beautiful body curvy and soft. I used to be bigger, too, in many ways, but the years have taken their toll. I think about our honeymoon, two weeks in a cabin near Wasilla, two blissful weeks of fucking in the snow, stewed wild rabbit, a fireplace, and oh dear God, Rowena’s giggle. There were no pink pills.
I don’t know whom the pills are for. The doctor says they are so very necessary, but when darkness covers the house and Rowena breathes deep beside me, I wonder.
I want to hurry into sleep because I’m afraid of the interim; I will my eyes still and regulate my heartbeat. There is peace, and Rowena’s steady breathing lulls me.
A sound nearby, a rustle, brings me back. I sense a shape by the bed, or perhaps it is a waking dream. Unsure, I try to pull my eyes away from sleep’s grasp. It is Rowena and she is not naked. She is beautiful, soft and curvy, in flannel pajamas printed with lavender flowers.
A name falls from her lips, “Robert.” It is I; I am Robert. She tries to stroke my forehead, but her hand slides through me and touches only a cold pillow. My heart beats faster, faster, and I’m shivering through a wave of chills as I sweat out my fear.
Sleep quietly reaches for me, intent on its purpose.
My eyes are opening, closing, and opening again. Through leaden lids, I see a bottle on my night stand. Maybe I’ve found them at last. The bottle has fallen over and is empty, a cap by its side, and right before I slip into total, dead sleep, I notice the name on the label. The room is dark, I can’t be sure, but I think I see an R and an O and is that a…?
Rowena is crying; I hear her. She says my name, Robert, again and again and again.
The pills. They’re so very necessary.
Stacy Taylor fills her days writing fiction and co-editing HeavyGlow: a journal of flash fiction and Chick Flicks Ezine. Her fiction has recently appeared, or is scheduled to appear, in: The Danforth Review, Spoiled Ink, Outsider Ink, Edifice Wrecked, Scifaikuest, and The Orphan Leaf Review. Her nonfiction has appeared in Associated Content, Life in Alaska Publications, and Lost in the Dark.
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