For You
Jeff Landon

It’s like the ninth grade only more naked. You feed each other popcorn at the movies and then, hand job in the back row. Later, you return the favor, in the woods, in a clearing in the woods, and when you unsnap her jeans it’s the only sound in the world, until the birds join in, here, away from the world. World, go away.

* * *

Some mornings, you wake up trembling, you wake up hard. You peek under the covers. Your wife is in the shower. Your children are waking up with radio music.

“Hey, boner,” you tell your boner. “I need to go to work now.”

* * *

And: this. Kissing hard, kissing with numb lips on the ninth floor of a hotel in New York City. Braced against a wall, fumbling out of clothes, her breath wine-oaky and warm, her hands pressing your chest, your thighs, her small breasts, the curve of them, her hands pressing and her skin is so soft, and her body, like yours, a middle-aged body. You kiss every imperfection and her hands move in your hair, against your soft belly, and she will moan, and so will you, you can’t stop, and you cup her ass and pull her tighter against you, tighter, and she unbuckles you, her tongue sliding against yours, her hair, her hands guiding you inside her, match her rhythm, hips rocking, lock in, look at her face, look at her face, and she will say your name over and over, and you’ve forgotten how it sounds, like this, you’ve forgotten this sound, the beauty of every fucking word that she says.

* * *

She will call you. It is Against the Rules, but, one day or night, she will call. She will call you at work. She’s had a bad day. She wants to meet you.

“I’m wearing a blue summer dress,” she says, too many cigarettes in her voice. “I’m not wearing anything under my dress,” she says. “Let’s meet at the park. I’ll bring egg salad sandwiches from Feldman’s.”

* * *

A bad weekend. A bad weekend away. Three days of snipping, mean silences, too many drinks, and sad, cold sex. It’s not even fucking. It’s just rote, hair and movement, an outline, a memory to blot out, later.

Driving home, of course, a snowstorm. You can’t see anything, and she is pretending to be asleep beside you. You should: pull the car over and let the storm pass. You should: tell her the truth and tell her goodbye. She doesn’t need you anymore. You don’t need her anymore.

You drive too fast in the snow, but you make it home alive.

She is ducking into her little red car. Watch her drive away. Don’t wave. If you cry, believe this—it’s not for her. So: don’t.

* * *

She’s gone. She left. You left. It doesn’t matter. Be tender, for a few days, to your wife. Promise to be a better man. There is so much room for improvement here.

One night, she will find you, in a dream, in a fantasy, and you will hurt, and you will touch yourself but that won’t help, and you will stare at the ceiling in the dark, and your wife snores softly beside you, but it’s just you. All along, it’s always been you, just you.

And: You.

“This story is fiction, made up, a made-up fictional story. I wanted to capture the sadness and guilt of betrayal—but also the seductive pull of it. This guy, he understands himself well enough to know that the only person he truly feels bad for is himself, but of course self-awareness is not an excuse for hurting people.”

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