I held her. I took both of her breasts into my hands and I massaged them gently. I waited for her moan, but it did not come. So, I traced my fingers gently around her areolae. There was a sigh. A sigh left her lips but it was not a moan. She had her eyes closed as she laid beneath me. She seemed to be enjoying it, her red lips slightly parted, her hands above her head, and her legs parted for me. No moans and no return of a touch. No brushes of her lips against my own, no grabbing of my hair, no pinching or scratching, and no words. She was just there with me as I held her. I came into her and I felt her release me. I felt her release something, not an orgasm nor love, but perhaps what she had had for me.
The next day was a Monday. It was grey, cool, and late October. I was walking down the street, beneath a line of trees that were all shedding their orange and red leaves, when I heard a familiar laugh. It was her laugh. It was the laugh of the woman I loved. I was thinking of how I missed her as I walked. How she was in my life daily but so so far away. I searched for the source of the laugh. I looked out into the distance, to the end of the block and saw no one. I turned to look behind me and there was no one. Then I heard it again. I looked to the row of parked cars across the street, my ears directing my movements. And again, I saw no one. I waited to see if I heard her laugh again, to see if anyone else passed by. The streets were empty.
By then my heart was beating faster and I was getting frantic. When I heard nothing but the wind moving the fallen leaves , I began to walk. I had taken about five steps when I heard her laugh again. This time the sound of her beautiful voice was closer. I kept walking. I heard her yell out, "I know!" in that exaggerated tone she sometimes uses. And I kept walking, picking up pace, hearing the sound of another voice, feeling my heart pound in my chest, feeling my hands tremble, my legs weaken. Then there was silence and I held still. "I will! I promise!" followed by another laugh. I turned my head to the left and looked at the house beside me. A house of red brick with a white wooden door and open windows was the source of the noise. I stood behind tall bushes, hidden from the view of the living room window, trying to look into the darkened house. My eyes adjusted as well as they could but white sheer curtains kept me from seeing her. Then, suddenly and so swiftly that I would have missed it had I blinked, the wind moved the curtain into the room and I was able to see. She was sitting at a small round table by the window, glass of red wine in hand, across from a man. She was radiant, there was no need for a lamp in that house with her there. Her eyes beamed with happiness and they were focused on the other man. She lent forward, speaking in low tones, her red lips moving sensually. The man, the other man, was completely absorbed with her, his eyes and ears denied the existence of anything else but her. Then I saw them kiss.
I walked away. I made my way to the train station, pushed myself into the overly crowded train, and went into the city. I spent my day at work with my head in my hands, perching myself solemnly wherever I could, the image repeating itself in the back of my eyes. My coworkers talked to me, dropped folders on my desk, held whole conversations with me that I can't recall, my boss announced a pay raise, and I lived none of it. I was gone from the shell of my body. I was still standing by the bushes, beneath the dying trees, in front of a stranger's house, hearing the echoes of a once vibrant past. I returned home that evening at my usual hour, 7 o'clock. I thought the apartment would be empty. I didn't expect her to be there. She was in our living room, the T.V. was on, and she was arranging plates on our faux wood coffee table. I dropped my keys on our key basin by the door and she smiled without looking up at me, sitting on the floor, about to pour two glasses of soda. She had ordered my favorite, beef lo mien, and was now pulling out the steaming noodles onto my plate. It was strange, something nauseating, something I still can't explain, what I felt then. Everything seemed to be a movie I was watching, unreal, happening to another person, not me. We had sex that night. I no longer considered it making love. That week passed, gruesomely slow. I noticed her touches, rather the lack of them, how she didn't come up to hold me and how I was the one to go and hold her.