Sleep With (Insert Author Name Here)

The first floor hallway is dark, dank.

From a blackened corner, we hear a scratch; sharp claws on worn wood.

The hallway is dark because the lone hanging lightbulb is broken.

Slender shards of glass crinkle underfoot, reminding me at once of childhood walks on the beach and poverty. Reaching for the floor, a brass chain hangs limply past the broken bulb.

I fumble with the keys to my front door. From behind, my study mate steps forward to bump my shoulder. “So… this is your place, huh?” she asks. “Smells kinda funky.”

Betsey’s right. The shared entryway smells of accumulated dust and pee (some mine, I confess) and the hard-to-remove stench of vomit. And garbage; the guys on the second floor throw their garbage bags down the stairs into the hallway when they’re drunk. It’s not uncommon for the bag to tear open, contributing new scents to the front hallway. When that happens I throw the garbage on the stairs leading to their apartment. In turn, they kick the garbage down the stairs.

Turning to Betsey, I act serious. “Yeah. It’s amazing what you can get for $245 a month.”

She can’t tell whether I’m joking or not so she nods. She purses lips over perfect white teeth.

Unlocking two deadbolts, I hold the door open for my new friend. “Here, come in. It’s nicer inside.”

I place my hand on her shoulder, “Promise.”

She brushes past me to enter my apartment’s narrow front hall. At six feet she’s nearly as tall as me. Thick blond curls, seemingly uncombed, pour off the top of her head. She smells of strawberries and Pantene shampoo. And Bazooka gum. She wears Sassoon jeans and a tight sleeveless shirt, exposing shoulders chiseled to perfection years before yoga- shoulders were in style. The shirt complements a flat stomach and teardrop breasts, resting upon a rower’s strong chest. Her shoulders are broad. Her hips, slender.

As she brushes by she’s so close I can count the scattering of freckles sprinkled over the bridge of her nose.

She enters and looks around. “Big man on campus with his own apartment, huh?”

I shrug. “Either that or my parents wouldn’t help me pay for a dorm room so I had to get my own place.”

That stops her. She nods solemnly before taking my wrist, “Come on; show me where we’re studying. You gotta help me ace physics.”

I walk her to the kitchen table. A round wooden slab balanced atop of a brass pedestal, the table weighs in at over five stone. Secured at a price of $0, the table has made its way from Paramus Park Shopping Mall. Absconded via a large rolling garbage container and tossed in the back of my parents’ 1976 Impala station wagon the table rested comfortably for years in my high school home in New Jersey before being moved to its final resting spot in a Lowell apartment in Lowell’s worst neighborhood. Two years from now, the table will be destroyed in a large fight as it spills from a garbage-filled front hallway, through the front door and into our kitchen. But of course, today, I don’t know what the future might hold so today I simply see the table and smile.

I place my books upon the wooden slab. Betsey follows suit. She looks around. With the windows shut tight the air is thick and musty. Her freckled nose crinkles. Noting her reaction I open the window above the sink. From outside we hear a child crying.

Betsey watches me shrug.

She shrugs back.

Our kitchen is long, stretching from the right side of the apartment to the center of the unit, where it ends with a paneled wall consumed by two doors; one an entry to the living room, the second an entry to the bathroom.

Anchoring the apartment, the for now unbroken table stands in the center of the kitchen, resting comfortably under a swaying lightbulb. Toward the rear of the kitchen, along with the open window, stands the sink, the fridge and whitewashed cabinets. Filling the space between the kitchen table and the entrance to the bathroom rests a weight bench, dozens of dumbbells and piles of steel plates. Ranging from 2 ½ pounds to 50 pounds the “Brooklyn Made” plates are well-worn and tinged with a coating of rust.

Betsey approaches the weight bench. “So this is where you get your muscles, huh?”

Again, I shrug, “Yeah. Me and my roommate Jeffrey work out pretty much every day. We…”

She spreads arms wide before cutting me off, “Split sessions?”

Without waiting for an answer she bends over and picks up a 20 pound dumbbell. With perfect form she bangs out three curls.

I cross my arms, “Whoa, look at you, Ms. Hard Body. I guess that’s where you get your muscles.”

I cock an eyebrow. “Looking quite tight I may add. Oh, and to answer your question – you know the one you asked before you started showing off – yes , split sessions. Chest and arms, then back and shoulders and then, finally, legs.”

I extend a skinny leg. “I really hate legs.”

Returning the dumbbell to its resting spot Betsey stands and extends arms in a cat-like stretch. Her smooth stomach pulls tight below an arching chest. She wiggles long fingers, brushing them against the low hung ceiling.

She’s good looking. And she knows it.

Betsey stares as I work diligently to keep my eyes from drifting down toward those little breasts. I succeed, and seeing me succeed, she retreats from her stretch. She nods a thoughtful nod before returning to the table.

I pull out a chair, “Here sit.” She pops out her bum as she takes a seat. As she sits, her shirt rises, exposing a smooth lower back. Two taut muscles bracket her lower spine.

“A gentleman. Thank you.”

I turn away from the table, “We don’t have much but we have some iced tea. It’s Lipton. Can I make you some?”

She nods. She watches as I make two little drinks, stirring them in jelly glasses imprinted with images of the Flintstones. In short order I join her at the table.

Her fingers touched mine as she retrieves the drink from my hand. She holds her glass to the bulb above. “I love Pepples Flintstone!”

I crack open a physics book. “OK Pepples, let’s get to work.”

We study for an hour or so, sharing smiles, harmless flirts and a variety of approaches to six of the eight questions in our problem set. We laugh at the random hollers and childhood wails pouring through the open kitchen window. We make good progress as we work together to learn physics.

“We’re gonna ace this test,” I suggest.

She nods in agreement.

Pushing back from the table, she yawns and stretches. Again she watches me watch her.

I focus on her eyes. They’re blue and set wide, resting under thin blond eyebrows.

I jut my chin toward Betsey, “I like your freckles.”

She laughs and shakes her head. “Hey, I have to pee. Where’s your bathroom?”

I point over her shoulder and past the weight bench. “Right behind you.”

Before making her way the bathroom Betsey leans forward and smiles. “We’re a pretty good team, aren’t we?”

I return the smile, “Time will tell.”

She nods, then smirks.

Hopping up, she turns and marches toward the bathroom.

She enters the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. I hear her fumbling with the chain to secure the door.

And alone at the table I consider our bathroom.

Subliminally speaking, I consider the bathroom to be a work of art, recreated with a $25 budget a few weeks following move-in.

When searching for an affordable apartment we hadn’t really noticed the state of this place’s bathroom. Upon move-in, though, the festering decay was apparent.

The bathroom was more of an animal’s stall than a room fit for human toiletry.

Measuring 96 inches by 60 inches, the room was just big enough for a greyed and stained claw tub, a cracked sink, and a circa 1900 toilet. Lots of poop had passed through that toilet.

And when we moved in some of it was still in there.

When first trying out the hopper I was overcome by the scent of urine and feces and mildew.

Sitting on the toilet, I stuffed tissue paper up my nostrils. In front of me, the wooden floor was worn and stained. The room’s walls were peppered with holes, peeling paint, and cracks and fingerprints and multi-colored stains and squashed bugs.

Finishing my first official poop in our new apartment, I thought to myself, ‘No girl is ever going to sit here on this toilet and think they want to sleep with me.’

‘No one.’

As I washed my hands I shivered. I imagined a parade of revolted visitors, each one choking back dry heaves while trying to pee or poop and then fleeing out the front door in search of a clean shower.

Action was required. However, after doling out first month’s rent, the apartment’s security deposit and the $60 initial phone payment to Ma Bell I had $50 to my name.

$50.

Wholesale change was not an option. I cast about for ideas.

Exiting that wretched room I decided to allocate half my net worth to the bathroom.

Simply put, sometimes you just have to make do with the resources available.
Like in the case of our bathroom; I decided to chip away and do what I could.
Each day, for days on end, I scraped peeling paint and Crazy-Glued cracked tiles.
Every evening, I’d slog home from school or work and apply a $25 fix-it budget.
Proudly, I covered pee-stained floor boards with a $12 roll of linoleum.

With a toileted engineered sometime before World War Two, options were limited.
It rocked to and fro. And when it rocked about, brackish water leaked and seeped.
The water pooled about the unit’s base before dripping through a crack in the floor.
Heading into the fieldstone cellar I located the dripping water and set a bucket.

Good intentions though are often not enough, as the bucket quickly overflowed.
Linoleum only hid the leaking pee and poop water as it pooled under the new floor.
Evidence of the pooling pee, in the form of a pungent stench, still filled the air.
Now, the appropriate remedy might have been to fix the toilet, but we were poor.
Not one to dither, I found a screwdriver and hammer and pulled up my $12 floor.

With hammer and screwdriver in hand and the new floor momentarily removed, I pounded away, piecing the floor with four dime-sized holes, one at each corner of the toilet.

With four new holes strategically installed I returned my $12 floor to its rightful place. The linoleum hid the brackish water as it drained toward the holes and dripped quietly into the basement below.

With my drainage system in place and the floor reinstalled I splurged on a new shower curtain, replacing the moldy plastic sheet we’d inherited from the apartment’s previous tenants. To round out the effort I visited the local paint store and purchased a gallon of dark green paint, a $.99 drop cloth, a brush, a roller, and a can of spackle.

Proud of my purchases I unloaded a box of home painting supplies across the kitchen table. Gingerly, I removed the can of paint. I held it high for my roommate to see. “I’m gonna paint the bathroom.”

Jeffrey blanched. “Frog green? Are you a moron? It’s a swamp in there and that (he pointed disgustedly at the can of paint) is just a reminder that we live in a cesspool.”

He threw up his hands, “Besides that stuff looks like phlegm; like some shit you’d spit up after hockey practice.” Resigned, Jeffrey shook his head, “Come on man, what were you thinking?”

I shrugged, “Dude, I was thinking the good paint started at $8 a gallon and I couldn’t afford any of the bright or flowery stuff. This was $4. And besides, it’s not frog green. It’s ‘Deep Jungle’ so it goes with the moisture vibe of the bathroom.”

Jeffrey turned away from the table. He waived a hand before calling over his shoulder. “Well, I guess we know why they priced it at $4. So maybe a poor moron would buy it.”

I prepped and painted the bathroom alone.

After filling the largest of the walls’ many holes with crumbled newspaper and spackling over 100 cracks and holes (yes, I counted) I laid the drop cloth down to protect my treasured linoleum.

Before starting, I sat on the toilet to observe the room. Our bathroom was tiny; like a closet.

The toilet was positioned at the far end of the little room, facing a brown door with a chain and a lone window. Directly to the right of the hopper was the sink, the corner of which was broken off, exposing a blackened underbelly and allowing water to easily spill onto the floor. I liked to think the spilling sink water diluted the leaking toilet water as it found its way to the basement. On the other side of the sink was the tub and shower.

And seated on the toilet I stared straight ahead toward the door and window, smeared and greyed from years of neglect. To keep locals from breaking into the apartment, black metal bars were bolted over the dirty window.

Separating the door from the barred window was a vertical strip of wall, about eight inches wide, presently unpainted and peppered with fingerprints and spackled holes of various sizes. The vertical strip brought to mind an abandoned billboard; a vacant space waiting to be made whole with words of wisdom.

And realizing any girl entering this bathroom would sit where I’m sitting and would stare at the same slice of wall, it occurred to me that little eight inch strip was valuable real estate.

Grabbing my $4 can of paint I approached the slender piece of wall facing the toilet. Dipping my paintbrush into the can of ‘Deep Jungle’ I carefully held the brush at eye level.

And rather than paint the strip with graceful vertical strokes I took my time to paint the words “Sleep with Glenn” down the vertical strip; one big block letter at a time.

From an “e” and a “G” little coils of green paint dripped lazily toward the floor. Gingerly, I removed the dripping paint with a wad of toilet paper. With focused effort I applied the paint; smooth and thick. Turning my back on the sliver of wall I rested the paintbrush across the top of the paint can and returned to the toilet.

Sitting down I observed the message. It flowed from top to bottom, concluding a foot above the floor. It looked good.

As the first coat of my simple suggestion dried I applied paint to the remainder of the bathroom. As I painted the area above and behind the toilet paint dripped on the toilet’s tank, forcing me to scramble with more wads of toilet paper.

With the rear wall finished and the area over the grey tub nearly wrapped up I returned to the eight inch strip facing the toilet. With great care I traced the letters with additional paint, applying a second layer to my message.

“Sleep with Glenn”

This time, I did so without dripping paint.

“I’m getting good at this,” I suggested to myself.

As I finished painting the wall above tub the letters in my message grew tacky. I applied a third and final coat, softly painting over the words “Sleep with Glenn”.

I turned attention elsewhere, finishing the largest wall, the space to the right of the toilet, in short order with the roller. And upon finishing the last wall I dipped my brush into the remaining store of ‘Deep Jungle’ and cautiously applied long vertical strokes over my three-layered suggestion. Spreading the paint smoothly over the letters I stroked the brush up and down. I took my time.

And applying a second wispy layer of vertical strokes I tucked my suggestion under a smooth coating of “Deep Jungle” green.

During the evening the paint dried. The next morning I hung a new shower curtain adorned with cartoonish fish figures.

After installing the curtain I sat on the hopper and pooped. And as I sat there I closed my eyes and enjoyed the scent of newly applied paint.

The smell of pee was nowhere to be found. “I’ll get a candle too,” I told myself.

Then I remembered.

Opening my eyes I spied the eight inch strip of wall separating door from window. The words “Sleep with Glenn” were barely – if at all – visible, floating just below the surface of two coats of ‘Deep Jungle’. I smiled at my handwork.

And now, weeks later, Betsey opens the bathroom door.

Before exiting the bathroom she eyes me.

Her sneakers squeak as she shimmies over $12 of linoleum. She steps past the weight bench and pauses.

Hip cocked, she bites her lip. Then, with deliberate care, she steps forward. She walks past her seat at the table.

The last few steps of her return from the bathroom are completed with a saunter.

From my chair I watch her approach until, finally, she stands directly above me.

Standing over me she smirks. Extending a slender arm, she runs long fingers through my hair. “Mr. Big Man on Campus,” she purrs.

I shift my chair, mindful not to untangle long fingers from their resting spot atop my head. Her flat stomach sways before me. She moves closer. As she does I raise my hand and place it along the side of her waist. As I trace the contour of a slender hip she shakes her head, amused.

Without a word she sits on my lap.

And as the weight of an athletic body presses across my thighs the scent of strawberries and shampoo conspire to overwhelm me.

Betsey reaches up and playfully taps the end of my nose with an index finger. “And I like your freckles too.”

Big blue eyes dart back and forth.

Ever so slightly she tilts her head.

She leans forward, tossing blond curls across my cheek.

My heart races as she cups my face with both hands.

Slowly, her eyes close.

Quietly, she kisses me.

 

Posted in Adult Things | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Sleep With (Insert Author Name Here)