Too Much Fabric, Too Much Color

Photo by  Antony Sastre  on  Unsplash

Photo by Antony Sastre on Unsplash

He sits on the edge of his daughter’s bed and stares out the window at the distant pond where he used to skinny-dip with her mother. Oh, the fun they used to have. Down there. Up here. Up here, in this very room, back when it was his.

With his big toe, he traces the contour of a deep knot in the old hardwood floor. Alison scratched her ass up on this very spot, once upon a time. She bled so much that, when they were done, he accused her of being on the rag without telling him. Truth be told, she told him, she hadn’t even noticed the wound until the end. He’d been hitting the spot so good, it was like the whole damned world had disappeared.

His other foot catches on something as he slides it absentmindedly across the floor, and he stops what he’s doing to see what he’s found. He pinches the piece of fabric between his toes and hoists it upward, his knee and hip creaking in protest at his middle-aged attempt at flexibility.

It’s a bikini bottom, he sees now. He runs his fingers along the synthetic fabric, dust flaking off of the forgotten thing, and he wonders whether it belonged to Rory. Old Occam would say so—all things being equal, the simplest solution is the right one—but Rory had so many girlfriends up here back then. It could have belonged to any one of them.

Truth is, this was probably too much fabric for his daughter. This, right here, was more Ashley’s style. Ashley—at least that’s what he thought her name was. Cute little brunette. Shy, but always so nice. He remembered how she sat with him once, waiting for Rory to come home from a night out with Wally, the same Wally who was now—he checked his watch—Rory’s husband. It was just after Alison left him for good. They sat at the bar in the kitchen, he and Ashley, eating Jello out of the little single-serving cups that Rory lived on during the summers, and they talked about the Sox. Ashley had no idea what she was talking about, but she tried, and that counted for more than he dared say.

He takes the bikini bottom with him as he leaves, not sure if he is audacious enough to do with it what he is imagining doing with it. The computer in his den is still on, his Web browser still opened to the same site. With just enough hesitation to make himself feel better about himself, he heads that way. He clutches the fabric in his fist, trying to remember which color it was that Rory wore all the time, and which color was Ashley’s. As he steps into the den, locking the door behind him, he hopes—prays—that Rory’s color was not purple.

Originally published in 2010 in Device as part of their “She Was Gelatin” exquisite corpse project