Water thundered into the tub as the vanity's cold granite countertop began to sweat, and the small mirror fogged over. He tossed his shirt and underwear into the tub before cleaning out the pockets of his jeans. He wiped a dry spot on the countertop
with the edge of his hand and rubbed it against his chest. He tucked the empty, ripped condom wrapper into his wallet, behind his student ID card, and tossed it next to his phone on the dry spot on the counter.
A quarter slid out of the front pocket of the jeans and tinked off of the drain, as he hung his wet jeans over the curtain rod, next to his shirt and underwear. The small puddle of hot water burned the soles of his feet, his legs, and finally his back as he lowered himself into the tub. He pushed up the lever to plug the drain with his big toe, and he slid lower into the tub until the back of his head rested flatly on the floor inside the tub and his knees peaked out above the tub like a pair of buoys.
The tub filled quickly. He remembered the tub taking longer to fill years earlier, before he had switched to showers. He realized as the water began to pool around him that the majesty of the tub was gone as well. He thought of pulling the plastic box filled with his remaining action figures out of the floor of his closet, and dropping a chosen few into the tub with him as he had often done years earlier. The hot water stung as it inched over his face. He pinched his nostrils, but he let the water seep into his mouth, flicking his tongue as his mouth was filled. It was only after his lungs began to burn that he sat up and removed his fingers from his nose. Water sloshed over the side of the tub, and his knees burned as they were pushed under water. The flesh of his chest had turned different shades of pink under the water.
Before turning off the water, he looked his rose arms over,and he felt their gentle tingle. The last of the water spilled over softly as the water shut down. He could feel the water’s heat move through his hands when he had clinched his fingers
around the knob. He scraped the bottoms of his heels when they had wrinkled. The skin clumped under his fingernails as he raked. With every additional row that he dug the skin from the previous pass would work its way out from underneath his nails and
break apart in the cooling water. "Idiot," he muttered as he scraped.
That afternoon he had given her a ride home. He knew that for sure. He remembered how she had sorted through his CDs on as they drove. He remembered how his car had bumped gently into her driveway, but he could not remember how they had worked their way together under her comforter.
"Are you, um," he stumbled afterward.
"Yeah. I wanted to. Believe me. We both wanted to. Didn't we?"
"My mom's going to be home soon," she whispered, and she slid out from beneath the covers.
He took comfort in the weight of his clothes as they marched down the stairs. Putting his shirt and pants on made him feel that he was the same person he had always been, that what had happened had been staved off for the time being, but outside in the sun, he had felt naked. He wanted to touch her, so that she might let him know that she felt like she was naked too. Slowly, he tested her hand with his index finger in the driveway.
"Hey," she jumped as soon as he had touched her hand and turned to face him. "Bring a couple of those over here for me."
He watched as her fist unclenched, and she wedged the condom in between the fresh pieces wood he had set inside the chiminea.
Asking if they should keep the condom briefly passed through his head when she snapped the seal on the bottle of lighter fluid, but she had tossed in a match before he could ask. They watched quietly, and apart from one another, as the smoke slowly began to rise from the neck of the chiminea. She sat down, crossed legged, on the pea gravel patio, in front of the chiminea's wide mouth and wiped her hand on the inside of her shorts. He rested against the open door of his car, waiting for her to make a move. She did not look away from the flames until he finally shut his door. He started his car, and she waved goodbye from the patio as he backed out of her driveway.
He could feel all of his body’s weight on his skull on the floor of the empty tub and strained to push himself up. He had grown sleepy in the tub, and the skin on his arms and hands had lost its redness. The shower nozzle spurted icy water in his face, and he tossed his clothes onto the floor as he pulled the shower curtain toward the nozzle. With the worry that her perfume would never come out of his hair still in his mind, he filled his palm with shampoo and lathered intensely just out of the cold water’s reach.
Her back came into his head as he rinsed. While his eyes were pressed tight, he could, again, almost see the faint outline of her spine as she sat doubled over on the edge of the bed as they dressed. He saw clearly the mole in the middle of her back which had kept him hypnotized as he had stepped into his jeans. Again, he watched her pull her shirt down and crush the condom in her hand before opening his eyes under the cold streams.
His foot pressed more of the water from his shirt onto the slippery floor as he stretched for his phone. Its pulse on the granite had startled him. He stared at the harsh white screen that held her question.
"What did we do?" the message read.
Water ran down his nose and dripped onto the screen. He snapped the phone shut and held it in his hand. He wanted to tell her that he was unsure of what had happened himself. He thought of asking again if she was okay. But, he put the phone down, stepped back under the cold water, and scrubbed with a washcloth until the shades of red returned to his arms and chest.