THE CHALLENGE OF ACTING NORMAL
Dawn leaves his apartment building with her bra stuffed in her purse.
As she steps toward a taxi, she looks at her reflection in the half-open passenger window. The driver introduces herself as Charlene and invites Dawn to sit up front. Charlene has hair the color of butter, vanilla, and brown sugar, and a voice like gravel. She pulls a cassette from a bag on the floor, shoves it into the tape deck. I love this heavy 80s shit, Charlene says.
Here I am... The song is "Rock You Like a Hurricane." Dawn remembers it as one the so-called bad boys listened to in junior high. Dawn's eyes are smudged with last night's make-up. She tastes his toothpaste in her mouth. She has used his toothbrush.
Maybe the music, or her smudged eyes, bring the word slut to her mind. I look like a slut, she thinks to herself. She grins without meaning to. As metal blares through a speaker mounted in the back of the cab, Dawn makes a mental inventory of the moment:
--She has left his apartment in last night's dress and cardigan, her bra in her purse.
And hard as she tries, as exciting as it would be, she cannot feel like a slut.
I am a slut, she whispers. She gives the word another chance, tries it on again, but it won't hold. And Charlene, if she had heard Dawn's whisper over The Scorpions, would never believe it, even with Dawn's crumpled dress and whisker-burned cheeks and neck. Dawn's look, even today, is that of a responsible woman blossomed from a reasonably well-educated girl.
It is so damned annoying, she thinks, to have spent so much of thirty years meeting expectations, failing to stir things up. She wants to remain the woman she is at this very moment -- the one who somehow knows all the words to "Rock You Like a Hurricane," who has spermicide inside her.
When Dawn pays Charlene, she thanks her for the song.
As Dawn steps into Ally's shower, she feels steam against her face and thinks that last night was the reason she was put on Earth. She knows she's taking herself too seriously, that she'll laugh at herself for this later. Isn't that what critics say about The Scorpions -- that they took themselves way too seriously?
Here I am.
Ally's shower always holds some elegant surprise. This time it is a peach perfumed soap in the shape of a diaphragm. Dawn touches her nipples, still hard somehow, as if they'd had his tongue on them only moments ago. She thinks of flying home now, ending the story before craving the phone call that might continue it.
In her mind she has already labeled it a story, decided how she might start it for Ally.
When he finally kissed her, it was in an elevator and they were going up. When he moved toward her, she noticed his eyes, big and watery red from smoke, booze, and wanting. She cannot remember the time between the elevator and his apartment door.
When he finally kissed her, it was in an elevator and they were going up. She wanted her dress to explode.
When he finally kissed her, it was in an elevator and because she'd nearly given up on that kiss ever coming, it took her by surprise. For the rest of today she will see him in her mind.
A feeling knots together in her stomach. The water feels colder.
Slut, slut, slut, she sings to the showerhead, but the word still doesn't belong to her. Charlene has crossed town by now. Today, hanging out with Ally, Dawn will try to act normal. She stands in cool water now, shaking it off, breathing it in, becoming stranger.