By Daniel Thompson
Sometimes I went to the bathroom to clench my fists. This got the blood rushing into my arms and if was alone I clenched some more in front of the mirror.
I used to clench for a girl named Summer. She had to have that name because she studied forestry and rolled her own cigarettes and wore Tevas. Summer came in with the other forestry students for happy hour. She liked Guinness poured over Woodchuck, a Black Velvet. She sat at the bar, rolling her papers. She asked me if we were hiring. She said she planned to go out to Montana after graduation. I said, sure.
The first time we made out she was drunk and I was drunk but maybe she was more drunk than me. She pulled me into the waiters station next to the ice machine and dumped ice down the back of my shirt.
She said, tell me something. I said, what. She said, how many damn shirts are you wearing? I don’t know, three, I think. I think you got on like five shirts, she said.
Winter was good for me. I could layer. Two t-shirts. One long sleeve t-shirt and then another long-sleeve shirt or sweatshirt. Dad used to say, damn boy’s going to get confused with one of those starving kids on the TV.
The night Summer came back to my apartment, I told her I needed to use the bathroom. It was a small bathroom, not long enough to lie down in. I put my feet in the tub and my arms on the toilet lid. I did twenty quick pushups and then I clenched in the mirror. With all the shirts on, I couldn’t see my arms. I couldn’t search for the narrow shadows running down from the elbows, telling me I’d produced flesh and pushed forth new growth.
Summer was already in the bed, the covers pulled up to her chin. Well, come on silly, she said with ease. Once, I told her she had a piece of lettuce stuck in her teeth and she just grinned and asked me to get it for her. Then there was a pimple on the back of my neck she tried to surprise pop. I jumped around and asked what the hell. She said, oh, I love popping zits, especially other people’s.
Come on, come on, come on, Summer said. I went over to the blinds and tried closing them tighter. I sat on the corner of the bed, removed my pants and then began pulling off my shirts. The sweat from the pushups tugged at the fabric.
I felt a cold hand land on my back and I fell from the bed.
Oh, April said.
What, I said.
I’m sorry, I was just touching you.
No, I’m sorry, I said. I don’t know. I’m drunk, I guess.
Can I touch you, she asked.
Summer held the cover against her chest while her other hand dropped down slowly across my ribs. She swooped in and out of every dip and rise.
I don’t much like my body either, she said.
I mean, I don’t like my breasts, she said. If you can even call them breasts, they’re so small. I laughed nervously while she dropped the cover from in front of her.
After, we laid there on top of the sheets, our naked bodies exposed to the ceiling and the world. Summer got up and opened the blinds and an orange glow from the streetlight filtered in. Even alone, I could never lay in such a manner. Our chests raised and dropped in unison and I listened to Summer’s heart thump. She reached for my hand as if we were about to go over a waterfall or drop down in a roller coaster. Just hold on, she said. Hold on for as long as you can, let everyone see us. My own heart thumped and for once, I didn’t have to clench alone. I held on until the next morning when we awoke, still naked, still open to the world.