The smell of roasting coffee mixed with the funk of old coffee shop swirled in the air, just underneath the tang of stale cigarette smoke. Classic diner music played overheard as the rubbery seats underneath my ass cried under my shifting, restless weight. With the exception of a few lost souls sitting solo at the bar, coffee cups wrapped intimately around their index fingers and cupped warmly in their palms, we were the only two people in the out of the way truck stop at three in the morning.
I watched her across the laminate tabletop, her eyes fixated on the cup she swirled between her hands. A cigarette rested effortlessly between her cracked lips, it’s pungent plume flowing effortlessly into the depths of her diseased lungs and then back out into the air between us. I never understood smoking, but drastic times call for drastic measures, I thought, as I slid my hand across the table and removed one from the pack for myself.
As the prickly smoke poured down my throat after the first drag, I looked at her again and thought to myself how serendipitous the circumstances, the two of us now sharing a table and a smoke after being brought together by a box of heavy flow tampons left under a man’s bathroom sink that we both happened to be frequenting. Surely a man of that prowess should have known that the blue and orange box was a dead giveaway that his place was shared with a female on at least a somewhat regular basis. The individually wrapped, tubed and strung cotton balls had been his undoing.
“What?” I repeated, unaware of what she was questioning.
“You snickered just now.”
“I was thinking about the box of tampons and how feministically perfect it is that they were his downfall.”
It was so karmically perfect. What better way for two women sleeping with the same man to discover and uncover the truth of their situation than through a series of communications left in the bottom of a box of tampons?
“I guess you’re right,” she snickered back. “I hadn’t thought about it that way.”
It was several weeks before there was any response to my initial note, and I almost removed it, thinking that maybe I had overreacted by putting it in there in the first place. Perhaps he was being chivalrous and had obtained the tampons for me, just in case. We had recently increased the number of times a week we were sleeping together – was this actually a sign that he cared or thought about me outside of his bed? Even the thought sounded foolish inside my own head.
I felt compelled to leave this note, after discovering this box, under this man’s sink. Obviously, you, whoever you are, are female and in some way involved with this man. Maybe you’re his sister or mother and you left these behind on a recent visit, I don’t know, I don’t know him all that well. If that’s the case, then you can stop reading this nonsensical note, the rest does not apply. But if not, then I’m sorry, but I thought you should know, I didn’t know about you. He never said anything about being involved with anyone else, although I didn’t really ask, but when you start sleeping with someone as passionate as he is with me, you don’t think that’s the type of thing that’s duplicated easily. What a dumb thought to have had.
How long have you been sleeping with him?
6 months or so, I’m not really sure. I’m really sorry, I don’t know what else to say. I’m realizing as I’m writing this, that you’ll realize that I’m still seeing him because you’re still getting my notes, but to be honest, I was more anxious to come back and see if someone’d seen my note than to see him again. I mean, sex with him is absolutely the most passionate connection I’ve ever had with a man, but he’s kind of an asshole outside of the bed. I really am sorry.
How do you know him?
We work together. Actually, it’s all kind of a crazy set of happenstance events. We started the exact same day, and there was an instant attraction and palpable sexual tension, but I was married at the time. Actually, I still am – well, separated. I don’t know, it’s complicated. Anyway – I was trying to leave my husband, he was recently divorced (is that even true?) and it all just kind of fell into place at some point. We were at a work-related meeting after hours one night and decided to get a drink afterword’s to help wash the day away and one thing just lead to another, and before I knew it we were back at his place and well –
How long have you been with him? Again, I’m really sorry.
We’ve been together for four years, almost five.
I’d be lying if I said you were the first, but what’s the point anymore.
Did he tell you that he loved you?
NO!!! This was just a physical thing – a means to an end. I am in no shape to be taking on another man at this point in my life. I still haven’t gotten rid of the last one. I just needed to feel something again, after god only knows how many years of feeling just – dead inside.
I need to make sure that you’re the last.
There’s a truck stop diner, south, down 17 from here, about 20 minutes.
Thursday, 10:00 pm.
Even in my attempt to be honest and do the right thing by leaving the first note in the box under his sink as a warning to whomever found it, I could not bring myself to be completely truthful. What was hidden between my words to her was the fact that he had claimed to have been falling for me, one night, in what had been the most emotional expression of love that I had ever been privy to.
He had kissed me softly so that our lips barely touched. I could feel him shaking his head ever so slightly in the darkness that surrounded us. I pulled away, inquiring in a whisper as to what the issue could be. He continued to shake his head in defiance. His breath quickened as he almost gasped, his eyes fluttering, not knowing where to rest them. I pulled him closer to my lips but held him at bay with my thighs. “Tell me,” I begged him foolishly. I begged him again and a third time. He half-heartedly tried to continue in the physical vein but my body rejected the attempt. I touched the side of his face tenderly and tickled the back of his neck as I tried to pull what I had hoped to be the truth from deep inside his guarded soul. I pulled him close and begged one last time, “please”. Defeated, he let out a sigh and admitted, “it’s just that I’m falling in love with you.” And I believed him; with every fiber of my being, I believed everything that was happening. I had finally found the one. There was no mistaking lingering lust for true love this time. I had paid my dues by being the good wife, the domesticated wife, the kept wife – the wife I had always rolled my eyes at before I became one – and now I was being rewarded with the love of my life. This was it.
How stupid did I feel then when I saw the box of tampons left underneath his sink by some other women; smirking at me, mocking my certainty of true love. The bathroom mirror managed to capture the moment in all its glory as I stood, naked and alone, in front of my own broken reflection. I don’t know what caught me more off guard; the depth in which I had let myself fall into this man that was still basically a stranger or the soullessness that he had to possess to be able to say and do the things we shared while proclaiming his love for another. The mirror left nothing to chance, exposing me for what he had made me, nothing more than a fool; he had made us both play the fool.
I looked across the table at my abettor again and noticed she was picking at blisters on her hands.
“I told you to wear gloves,” I muttered under my breath. “That rope’s a bitch to tie.”
I looked at my own hands and noticed the accumulation of dirt and grit under my nails, despite numerous trips to wash them in the diner bathroom. He had struggled more than we had anticipated, the aftermath of which was apparent in our disheveled state. I guess finding both your girlfriend and your, whatever I was to him, in your house, uninvited, might cause anyone to be a little panicked. Knowing what we knew of him and his affairs, we assumed that the anticipation of what outwardly appeared to be a threesome was the only way to get him to let his guard down; and it worked like a charm. He was so distracted by the skin flashed before his eyes, it never even occurred to him to ask how we came to find out about each other. It wasn’t until she was seemingly tying him up with rope as part of our playful romp while I stated to redress that it even occurred to him that something was amiss, but by then it was too late and the chloroform soaked rag rested against his tanned, pretty skin.
Giving up on the blisters that dotted her palms, she pulled in one last drag from her cigarette before smashing it into the ashtray. Motioning with a bob of her head as she began scooting out of the booth, she let me know it was time we make our grand exit, leaving everything that had happened between us in the empty coffee cups on the table to be cleared away.
We stood in the dark parking lot for a moment, listening to the cars on the nearby county road speed by. The night was brisk and the towering streetlights hummed above our heads.
“So,” I questioned, “what now?”
“Now nothing,” she responded curtly, obviously still tormented by the notion that the man she loved no longer existed – or perhaps it was the realization that he had never really existed in the first place and the love of her life was nothing more than a figment of her imagination.
She looked at me one last time before she turned to head toward her SUV at the other end of the parking lot; her eyes crying out in pain with a smile of relief pushing through the tears. Her role as the fool had finally come to an end but I questioned what role his disappearance from her life would lead her to.
“Do you think it was too much?” I called after her.
She stopped and turned, her profile backlit by the yellow street light in the distance – the remaining darkness exposing her for the villain he had reduced her to.
“No,” she chuckled, “the tampon up his nose was hilarious.”