She promised not to smoke if I just came over. When I got there, she stank of mouthwash, and she didn’t know what to do with her hands.
You could always tell the state of Amanda’s life by the state of her lips. As she moved in to kiss my cheek, I saw that those absurdly plump lips were bitten, chapped, and raw.
“I broke up with him,” she said, walking to the window as I sat on the squeaky futon.
“Him” being Jimmy, who was an asshole. But he was tall and crooked and supposedly some fascinatingly morbid musician. I thought his band sucked. I shrugged and asked if she was okay. She didn’t answer.
Most of the furniture was his, though the lease was in her name. A week before, when she threw him out, he paid some friends in cheap beer to move his stuff to his mother’s place in Jersey.
What was left was a bare but lived in New York apartment. A hundred layers of white paint, cracked and peeling on the walls, softening the corners, blocking outlets, misshaping moldings. A radiator that spit and banged all winter. And looking as lonely and as miserable as she did, a futon sat sadly on the scratched hardwood floor. Against the wall were an array of unopened boxes from Ikea.
She had done the only reasonable thing to do after breaking up with a tall guitarist with beautiful hair; she bought a Malm and an Oddvald.
She didn’t turn to watch me as I took inventory of her life. She just stared out at the cloudy evening sky, her silhouette haunting. A cardigan, open, dangled precariously from her shoulders. Under that were a cut-off white t-shirt with some faded logo of a band I never heard of, a pair of too large boxer shorts, and tube socks that were pulled up to her mid-calf. They were white topped with three lines of red, completing her mourning attire.
I ached for her silhouette. Her thin waist, little tits, wonderfully thick thighs, and a round ass. She seemed to have a love-hate relationship with her hips and thighs. She often hid them under skirts or tried to tame them under jeans. But at that moment, her body was just barely hidden by a few thin threadbare scraps of cotton, and it was killing me.
She called me whenever she broke up with somebody. I mean, we were friends, we hung out all the time, but always at a bar or a show or at other people’s apartments. We had some unspoken rule that said we couldn’t be trusted alone together.
This was partly because I was obsessed with her lips. She knew it. She teased me about it, but it was always there.
“Make me tea and take care of me?” she asked the window.
I should have. My heart was suddenly racing as I eyed her, and my stomach tightened with vague panicky feelings. The clever bits of my head told my body that I wasn’t a good friend, I wasn’t a good person, that instead of helping her, I just wanted her. I wanted her lips and her thick thighs. I wanted her for all the reasons we were friends and for all the reasons we didn’t trust ourselves to be alone.
I walked over to the window and stood behind her. I looked out with her at the rooftops and water towers.
Her hair was shorter than I had seen it in years. Dirty and messy and coming down parallel to the bottoms of her earlobes. Wild strands and split ends glowed like a halo in what little sunlight found its way in through the clouds.
I slipped my arms around her, and she put her arms on top of mine and sighed into me.
“You’re not going to make me tea?” she asked softly.
“I can. I should,” I whispered into her neck.
I pulled away, towards the kitchen, but she held on tight to my arms.
It had been almost three years since we last kissed. She turned, and I saw it happening in slow motion. Those lips, which had always hypnotized me, huge, soft, perfect, even in their dire state, made my heart well up.
Sometimes a kiss is more potent than touching or fucking. At that point, I didn’t know, but I couldn’t imagine anything more powerful.
Somewhere inside, a little ping went off. That maybe I wasn’t good enough to be a real lover. I was called over when she needed tea and sympathy. I wasn’t even her type. She liked them tall and older and world-wise.
I felt like an impostor. I wanted to leave. When I pulled away, she dug her nails into my arms. She kissed me again, and it made the world around me warp and spin. It made me scared, it felt so good.
I probably fell in love with her the first time we fucked, which was, frighteningly, a decade before. She was happier then. Nineteen and still in college. Talking about politics with me into the night and showing me her photographs and then pulling off her clothes and crawling on top of me.
I don’t know what that love mutated into after all the cycles of watching her fall in love and then out of love and then sending for me to patch up her heart. And honestly, under the friendship and caring, it was the lust that kept me coming back—her lips and her thighs and the rough and hungry animal that hid under the mopey poetess demeanor.
Her nipples were just barely visible through her shirt, hardening into points under cotton. She pushed back against me, and more of our bodies connected, and I was lost in her. My face in her hair, lips on her ear, her back against my chest, her feet between mine, her ass against my cock.
“I really did love him,” she said with a sniffle. Which killed my erection.
Her cardigan had fallen off at some point.
“Should I put together your furniture?” She put her head on my shoulder.
“That’s not why I called you over. You know the drill,” she said, her fingers hooking around my belt and pulling me towards her.
Saying it, putting it into the stale air of the empty room, made me depressed.
“I’m making you tea,” I announced.
She smiled weakly. “No business as usual?”
“No. But I’ll put together your Ikea.”
She looked at the boxes and tilted her head to the side.
“That’s almost as good as sex,” she said to the floor.
What I wanted to say was that I knew I wasn’t the skinny brooding rebel with the leather jacket or even the bearded professor with the elbow patches. I was in the middle and living in my head. But I was better than any man who ever laid their greedy hands on her and probably half the women.
I wanted to say I felt like a jerk because I was obsessed with her lips, and I came over with an erection that I tried to hide on the subway because I knew what her break-up texts meant.
But I didn’t. I made tea. Lady Grey with milk and honey, and I sat with her and let her talk it all out and put together her Malm and her Oddvald.
I was a good man. I was a good friend, if just for that moment.
We ended up fucking in the morning anyhow.