We ignore each other all morning. We glance at each other from opposite rooms, never making full eye contact. I get on the Peloton; you look at me, I point to the cat, you don’t react. You leave the room. Eventually, I take off my glasses because they slip down my face when I sweat. You come back into the room. You motion toward something, I think. I can’t see you, I say, trying not to yell, because I have loud music and a motivational instructor yelling in my ears through the Peloton-brand ear buds. I look ahead of me. I see a cat. Are you pointing to the cat? I ask. You nod, I think. You turn your back in your chair. I finish my ride, wipe my face, put on my glasses, and walk to the other room to stretch. I realize I will want a protein shake but there aren’t any in the fridge, so I walk to the kitchen, put three in the fridge and one in the freezer, and then walk back to my room. I don’t see my AirPods, so I walk out to the foyer and grab them from my purse. I make a face at you; you give me a blank stare. In my room, I foam roll as I follow a foam-rolling instructor, realizing I’ve never truly known how to foam roll before. I grunt and cry softly as she tells me to do things like balance on one shin muscle on the foam, my entire body weight bearing down on the spot that simultaneously feels the best and the worst to roll. I cry out. Jazz blares behind her voice. Then I’m doing the last stretch, which happens to be downward dog, and I’m really pushing my heels into the mat. It feels good. I bend my knees and walk my hands up to my feet and look up to find you standing there, silent, and I startle and gasp and say, Fuck. Jazz still blares in my AirPods. I follow the instructor’s lead and put the foam roller vertical and sit in front of it, draping my body long-ways over its cylindrical shape. I can’t hear her anymore, though, because I’m giggling. I opened my eyes, and you were right there, right above me. It’s a wonder I didn’t slam my face into yours with surprise. You aren’t inches away; you are right here, touching me. I can’t quite tell with what. Your nose, perhaps, or maybe it’s my nose on your forehead. Yes, my nose. You trace your glasses with my nose, and I worry about smudging the lenses, but I don’t say this, partly because I don’t want to ruin it but also I don’t want to scream in your face. You put your mouth near mine, and I can’t tell if you’re trying to kiss me or not, so I kind of kiss you but it’s awkward. You’re upside down. I decide you weren’t trying to kiss me; it didn’t seem like you were after all. Then you do kiss me. But I’m giggling, and I can’t stop. It’s because I’m balancing on a foam roller. It’s because I have jazz and Hannah Corbin blaring in my ears, telling me something about wings and W shapes, but I have no fucking clue what she means, and I can’t see the screen anymore. It’s because you never do anything like this. Ever. I say out loud, I don’t know what she’s talking about. I’m still laughing. You try to kiss me again, but my giggling is uncontrollable. You get up and walk briskly from my room. I sit up and take out my AirPods; the class has ended anyway. Where are you going? I call after you. I stop giggling. You don’t answer. I sigh and go back about my stretching, but after a couple more minutes, I think, that’s probably enough. What I don’t think, but what I feel, is that I am now deflated. I roll up my yoga mat and put my mat, my foam roller, and my little bag of balls and things behind my TV. I walk out into the kitchen and take the chocolate pea protein shake from the freezer, checking to see that it’s cold, and then remove the outer hard plastic seal from the bottle. I unscrew the cap and remove the inner foil seal, then replace the cap and shake the bottle. As I’m about to take a sip, I realize I never took my Omeprazole. I think about skipping it, but then I remember that I haven’t been nauseated in weeks, and I’d rather keep that streak. What’s another thirty minutes before eating? I look at the clock; 10:40. I put the cap back and put the bottle in the fridge. I don’t know what to do with myself; I stand around in the kitchen, then in my room. I feel like you’re watching me, even though you aren’t. You probably aren’t thinking about me at all. I adjust the bottom edge of my sports bra so that it doesn’t emphasize my stomach more than it does naturally. I see myself, passing by a mirror, and decide to take a photo. For whom, I don’t know. For me, maybe. I look good. You’ll never tell me that. I don’t know if you even notice. I decide to take a shower to pass the time and because I clearly need it. From my room, I hear you walk into the kitchen to grab a garbage bag. From the sound of it, I know it’s one of the black heavy-duty contractor bags. I know you’re about to clean the litter boxes, like I asked. We pass each other between rooms, not glancing up through doorways. I go into the bedroom and start to strip. I throw my sweat-soaked clothes on the floor, knowing I’ll need to pick them up later. I have accumulated a mess of a pile throughout the week. I place my Apple Watch on its charge and take my phone with me into the bathroom. I think about leaving it out; I agonize over what’s worse: you seeing it left on my vanity, or you thinking I’ve taken it into the bathroom to hide something. I always worry about what you think about me, about what I’m doing. Even when I’m not hiding anything. I turn on the space heater built into the wall and sit on the toilet for a while, scrolling on my phone. I wonder if you think about how long I’m sitting in there, doing seemingly nothing. I shake my head at myself, knowing that you sit in the bathroom for three times as long and I never think anything bad, so why would you? I close my phone and set it on the towel rack over the toilet, then I put my scrunchie on top of it. Absently, I wonder if you would ever check my phone if you came into the bathroom while I was in the shower. I don’t think so. And you certainly wouldn’t unlock the screen. Just as I would never unlock yours. I think about the time six years ago when you did check my phone one morning, up before me, and saw texts from my friend Nico on the lock screen, and it set you off, and you told me I needed too much attention. I told you there wasn’t anything to be upset about, but it didn’t matter. I wondered if you were right. I think about all these things in the shower, going over them in my mind. I wonder about why you came to kiss me, why you stormed away. I know it’s because you—for whatever reason—cannot stand my giddiness. This happens every time, no matter how much you deny it. I become giggly, and it puts you off, and your mood sours, and then my mood sours, and then we’re both sullen. After I’m done washing my hair and my body, I stand in the shower for several more minutes, not thinking. I back up so that my head is fully submerged under the pressure of the water, and my ears plug, and I relish the internal silence that engulfs me. I reach my hand up behind me and slowly, every ten seconds or so, turn the nob a little farther toward off, a little turn toward the cold, until my body is surrounded by chilled rushing water, and I think of nothing, except that I don’t want to get out. But I do. I scrunch my wet hair, upside down, with a microfiber towel and then dry off my body. Keeping my head upside down, I scrunch in some leave-in conditioner, followed by a nickel-sized squirt of gel mixed with three generous pumps of curl cream. I scrunch until I have barely any product left on my hands, and then I wash my hands, trying not to get my still-upside-down hair in the sink. I turn my turban inside out, put it flat on a surface, plop my hair on it, and then tie everything up. I open the bathroom door and quickly apply moisturizer to my face, neck, and chest. I stop to look in the full-length mirror and survey my body. I can hear you moving sound gear around, loading the car for your gig later. I wonder what you think of me, of how I look. You never tell me. I put on sweats and a random t-shirt; I don’t feel motivated for anything more today. From my growing pile of dirty clothes on the floor, I grab the socks I’d worn earlier instead of picking a clean pair. I only had them on for an hour or two. You move swiftly in and out of the house until you’ve loaded everything out of our apartment into the entryway, then you close our door. I grab my protein shake and sit on the couch, listening to the movements of you carrying things down the stairs to the car, then walking back up, then down, repeating a number of times. You come back in and don’t look at me, moving briskly around the house. I finish my drink and get up. I walk aimlessly, looking for my sweatshirt, which I realize was next to me on the couch the whole time. I put it on and walk over toward your room. I ask if you want Tatte before you have to leave, and you say yeah. I ask if you want it soon or later, and you say soon. I say okay, that I’ll order it after I put my clothes in the wash. You glance in my direction. I walk away and push open the back door to carry my clothes down the stairs—the stairs I fell down last year that almost ruined my leg and subsequently my life—and my knee starts to buckle from the pain. Fuck, I say. I try to bend it less, where possible. I think about nothing as I put my clothes in the wash, add the detergent, check the settings. Briefly, I think about how last time my underwear didn’t get cleaned all the way, probably because I used the silk wash and had things on delicate. This time, I use regular detergent and set it to light. I would prefer clean underwear. I consider leaving the detergent downstairs, as if I’m going to wash more loads today, but I know I won’t. I carry it upstairs and put it on top of the cabinet. I take my phone from my pocket and lean against the door jamb of the kitchen, looking at you. I ask if you want the same thing as usual. You say yes. I order your espresso, your breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs, my gluten-free BLAT. I pocket my phone and look at you again. You haven’t really said anything to me all day, and you’ve hardly looked at me since the giggling. Is something wrong with you? I ask. You shake your head no. I walk away to exchange my pink turban for my black turban because my hair is still wet and simply going without one will ruin any chance I have for curls. I sit down by the door to put on my shoes. I walk back over to where you still sit and say, ready when you are. You look up at me, still blank-faced, put away your drumsticks, and get up. I don’t remember how the topic comes up again; probably, I ask if you’re sure you’re okay or if you’re sure nothing’s wrong. I should have just left it. You seem tense, terse. I’m hot, you say. Hot. I repeat the word out loud, slowly. Yeah. I just loaded the car up and a bunch of other stuff, you say. You sound defensive and irritated. I want to point out that you’re usually not irritated just because you’re hot. I don’t say this. I just stare straight ahead, my mouth a little bit open, because of how ridiculous that sounds, and I’d bet you know it. We walk to Tatte in silence to pick up our lunch. Complete silence. In my head, I just keep saying, you’re hot. Hot. You’re hot. I’m incredulous. I put on my mask to go inside and grab the food, although I’m not sure it’s required anymore. I come out, removing my mask, and hand you your espresso. You say thank you. I say nothing. You drink it right away and throw the cup in the waste bin by the door before we start to walk back. Halfway home, you say, You didn’t get a drink. Yeah, I say. I don’t really care for their chai anymore. After a slight pause, I add, And I don’t need a soda, referring to the cascara soda I get sometimes. After another pause, I say, And I don’t really like coffee. Anymore. You ask if it’s the caffeine, and I say no, it’s the taste. Every time I make a cup, I end up pouring it out, and it’s just a waste. It’s not like the beans we get are cheap, either. We walk a little ways, and you say, Yeah, it’s an acquired taste. And I say yeah, except I’ve been drinking it basically my whole life. Not really, you say. Off and on, I say. That’s not the same thing, you say, sounding pretentious. Maybe I’m imagining the tone, but I don’t think so. Uh, disagree, I say. I decide not to point out that we get those specific beans because I found them and liked them more than yours, and, as it turned out, so did you. We walk the rest of the way in silence. I think about how I worked for Starbucks for three years and drank coffee every day as a teen. I think about college, when I would drink French press after French press to calm me down, long before I knew I had ADHD. I think about France, two years ago, when the espresso was so good it was like dessert. I think about six months ago, when I drank coffee every day to help with my digestion. We get home and I walk up the stairs first, pushing open the front door. You unlock the door beyond that and hold it open for me. I walk through and push open the door to our apartment, which you never lock anymore. I hate that. We walk in and sit at our tiny square dining room table. We eat in silence. Neither of us says a single word. You eat half your sandwich, which is almost twice as big as mine in full, wrap the second half, and put it in the fridge. You sit at your desk, turned away from me. I get up and go to my room, deciding to read, but I notice every step you take, every action. You finish getting your suit together, stocking your backpack, packing final things in the car. Eventually, you come into my room, a totally different person. Perky, animated. We talk about the gig today, about where it is, how you’ll load in, what the venue might be like. We talk about the musicians. We talk about all aspects of your work, one of the only things we ever talk about. At 1:00 on the dot, you say you have to go. Yup, I say. You’re just dying for me to leave, you say. Just saying yup, I say. Well, you’re just dying for me to leave, you say. What if I didn’t want to leave? you ask. Then don’t leave, I say. Sit back down. We were having a nice time talking about your work. But I really do have to leave, you say. Uh huh, I say. You walk out of the room, gather your final things together, open the front door, and close it behind you without saying goodbye.
About The Author
Adrienne Marie Barrios
Adrienne Marie Barrios has work forthcoming in superfroot mag, Autofocus Lit, Sledgehammer Lit, and trampset. She is editor-in-chief of Reservoir Road Literary Review and edits short stories, poetry collections, and award-winning novels. Find her online at adriennemariebarrios.com.