He imagined the red that was spidering out on her cheek underneath her clutching palm gradually darkening into a purple bruise with a disease-y yellow border. And her having to put makeup over it so that it’d end up looking kind of gray, or like a blemish in a wall that’s been painted over, but is still pretty visibly—if not more noticeably and embarrassingly, because self-consciously—a blemish.
As she lay broken on the tan carpet by the rounded window alcove—his slap having apparently had the brute force to send the weight of her body—not to mention her ring—a distance of a few feet—an arm strung awkwardly over a pile of books, he noticed that a blurry face looked good when it was upset. That it somehow cohered when anguish-ridden in a way that it did not when just peering out at you in blank expectation. He stared pointedly at her, wondering how she could have visible ribs on her sides and even in that space above and between her non-existent cleavage—because outside of the supportive grasp of a bra— while still sporting some impressive padding around her hips and ass. It was strange how women’s bodies worked: How a sunken valley in one area didn’t preclude the existence of a prominence in another. How a clavicle could be so very delicate, so delicate that every time he was with a woman—in an intimate way, that is—he thought seriously about sliding his hands under the wings of her shoulders and lifting her torso up this way and then pressing his thumbs down hard into that center area, into those bones that always faced the world, and cracking her in two, right through the middle, so that she’d have almost a hinge now, right up and down the line that her belly button created. And if he wanted, he could even fold one side—the right arm and the right breast and the right hip and the right lip and the right leg, say—onto the other side. Folding her in on herself. Even her face, if he wanted to be consistent. So then her eyes would just be staring into each other—not even blinking, because her eyelashes would get tangled in each other being as close as they were—for as long as he decided they would be.
He wondered if she were embarrassed by her fleshiness—or her selective fleshiness—those parts that weren’t the delicate facing-the-world bones. And if she wore clothes to try to hide it. It dawned upon him recently, though, that whenever girls tried to hide something, they actually just ended up drawing attention to that thing. A baggy outfit, for example, just made it impossible for you to see the curves underneath, which were presumably at least a tiny bit sleeker than the clothes that covered them.
But maybe she was one of those girls who “owned” it, as they say. Who wore whatever she wanted and even things she really shouldn’t have been wearing simply to tell the world that she didn’t give a damn; that she recognized the feminine beauty ideal and she fucking rejected it. Which was pretty sexy in itself, if you thought about it. Which was pretty ironic and twisted, if you thought about that: That consciously going against that which was generally accepted as beautiful and sexy was itself beautiful and sexy. So that maybe you could always just do the opposite of what was expected of you, as long as you did it consciously. As long as you did it willfully.
But maybe it didn’t always work. And how could you tell beforehand without risking your whole life and reputation? It was definitely too risky a move, he decided.
He didn’t think she was that kind of girl anyway. The two times he had seen her, at least; she wore a tightish top, to accentuate her dancerly upper half, and then sort of dark, nebulous pants so you really couldn’t tell what was going on down there.
Even now, when she stood hands on hips, one knee bent. Pointing towards the door. Telling him to get the fuck out. Because he didn’t hit her. He didn’t even touch her. He respected her decision. He respected women’s choices. That was a fact. He never went against a woman’s wishes. That was a point of pride.
Even now, even though he still really couldn’t tell what was going on. And not just because she was staring straight at him and he couldn't focus her face into one form, squeeze those fuzzy outlines into the boundaries of her. Not just because he felt he really should have been the one yelling “fuck” or something to that effect since he sure had the right to be pretty mad about her claiming—presuming, more like it—to be carrying his child—his!—and so it didn't make any sense at all for her to be yelling at him. Because he couldn't quite fit the outlines of what had just happened into the boundaries of his mind. Could she actually be pregnant? Did it make sense that she would be kneeling on her bed, rocking back and forth, reading the Bible? Did they have sex? He didn’t feel like they did. His body felt the same as it did just a few moments ago. None of the familiar postcoital soreness and pleasant calm after exertion.
But something told him he had done something shameful. Something green and sinister whispered over his nerves and made him shiver. Did he go over to her at the bar and spout some kind of transparent—but also effective—sleaze that somehow convinced her that he wasn’t like every other guy she had ever gone out with? Persuaded her—in her infinite discernment—that he wouldn’t take advantage of her? That he wasn’t even interested in her in a sexual or crass way? But simply as a friend, as someone he could share his most intimate thoughts with and with whom she could share hers? And did she buy it?
It was like trying to fit something a little too large into something a little bit smaller. Or maybe something of indeterminate size into something quite determinate.