Playing in the Rain - a short story

The lip of the bath feels cold against her bare skin, its rounded edges pushing into her flesh. The hotel bathroom’s walls are made of mirrors, reflecting her body back to her over and over again so that it is like she is staring back at herself, the visual version of an echo. She lets the stiff whiteness of the barely-big-enough terry cloth towel slip to the tiled floor and looks at herself as she is; sitting on the lip of the tub while Jonathan waits for her in the next room. Her stomach folds over onto itself in a way that she knows it’s not supposed to, it’s not the way a real person should look. She is slightly engorged, she is part way to being elephantine, she is imperfect. This is what Jonathan had whispered to her that night in the club, when he’d slipped his hands around her head, her neck, and forced her lips to his so that he could kiss her, drink her in.

“You are imperfect, flawed,” and then his tongue had slipped past her own. She hears the TV click on out in the bedroom and stretches the skin on her upper thigh out with her thumb and forefinger like it’s made of spandex, suddenly nervous. She can almost see him stretched out on the bed, half-way to naked, legs stretched wide, head lolling back, his nose upturned - waiting to be serviced.

She looks at herself again, tearing her eyes away from the flush of red bumps that skid up her calves - razor burn from her hurried shave that morning. Her brown eyes are wide in her face, her cheeks look almost sunken outlined on the top by the purple swoops that swing down under her lower lids. Her hair, straight at the beginning of the night is beginning to curl into thick brown ringlets with the humidity.
“You,” he’d whispered, and then cupped her face in his hands again, tilting it up, letting the kiss finish the sentence for him, moving her body along with his, as the music had pulsated around them, the lights flashing, dancing with the crowd.

She wished that he had finished the sentence. Said you are beautiful, you are amazing, even repeated you are imperfect, flawed, in that voice that made it all sound like the ultimate compliment, smooth, soft, like wind whispering through leaves.

“You okay in there?” his voice penetrates the calm of the bathroom and she jumps, the top back of her thigh bone crashing into the hard white of the tub. She sucks in a breath, rubbing the heel of her hand in tight circles around the area that has just hit the bath.

“Yes,” she calls back, in a voice that she hopes sounds sultry, excited, not like a virgin. She waits, but he doesn’t say anything else. She feels her body relax, sink in and down, so that her back curves up against the wall of the bath, so that she is sitting inside of it, curled up like a baby in its mother’s womb. If she pulls her head down a few more inches she will completely disappear from the mirrors around the room, it will be like she does not exist.

She had never danced with anyone like that before, never had someone stare her down, eyes looking through her, into her. She’d never been held like that, hands gripping her ass, cupping, helping her hips to swivel, while her hands twined together slipping on the sweaty beads that dotted the back of his neck. She’d never been kissed like that, her own mouth being brushed up against, forced open, his stubble rubbing her soft skin raw in a way that felt incredibly grown up and naive all at once.

Maybe it had been the alcohol - the sudden exhilaration of being allowed to drink, the way she’d felt gripping the thick glass in her hand, sloshing the ice and pink liquid around as she bobbed her head, letting all faculties go, not caring how she looked to the world, to herself, for the first time in her life. Like she’d been free.

He’d laced his fingers through hers and made to lead her from the club. She’d felt pulls on her, the eyes of the friends she’d come here with, but she ignored them, she’d liked the way she’d felt. Someone wanted her, and she could go with him, she could do any goddamn thing she wanted to. She’d stumbled as he pulled her through the double doors, black, with windows high enough up in them that she could barely see through, up the stairs that made a sharp right, with their metal tipped edges and grimy paint splattered wooden railing, and out into the biting air of a not quite summer night.

The walk to here, to wherever “here” was, consisted of blurred outlines of grey buildings and neon signs and crooked street lights as her eyes closed and opened again and again like the shutter of a camera. Her feet, in the black high heels she had borrowed from her roommate, had scraped along the grey cement, scuffing the shining surface so that her reflection, when she hung her head down, was distorted - marred by opaque scratches.

“In here,” he’d whispered and pulled her into the hotel lobby, bright lights, somehow bustling even though empty, like the very presence of fluorescence indicated life.

He’d pulled her close again on the elevator ride, grabbing her around the back, hooking his arms below her ass and lifting her up so that he didn’t have to bend down to attach his lips to hers. She let it happen, though she’d felt disconnected. She’d opened her eyes during the kiss to look over his shoulder into the warped reflecting walls of the old elevator. The once clean mirrored glass had been rusted over. Her reflection swirled back at her, her mouth suctioned onto someone else’s, her body straddling his leg. This wasn’t her.

In the other room the noise of the TV swells, fake laughter filling the air, but she doesn’t move from her curled up position on the floor of the bath. She is trapped, she realizes, she has trapped herself in this bathroom, in this hotel room, and she cannot think of a way to get out. If she walks out he will smile at her, he will beckon her with those eyes and she does not know that she will be able to resist, to keep walking, to find her way home through this strange city.

He had pushed her down on the bed, or rather indicated with the palms of his hands against her shoulders that this was what she should do, sit down, lay down, so that his hands could find the mountains and crevices of her body. Sneak under her shirt, her bra, find the button of her jeans, creep down to the line of her underwear, the floral thong she had chosen specifically for the occasion. She had felt hot, too hot. His fingers had been like ice against her flushed skin and she had pushed him away, had gasped, “I - I need a minute,” and found her way to the bathroom where she had wrenched the shower on, watching as water cascaded from the shower-head. Watching as water pooled on the floor of the bath-shower, watching as water ran in rivulets towards the edges, creeping towards the other side of the lip of the bath, where she’d let her clothes puddle on the floor as she’d stripped them off like excess skin. She’d let her arm swing out to catch the drops, as if she were playing in the rain, had jumped - jolted at the heat, the scalding tones of the water, which had looked so harmless, and had slammed the faucet off. She did not like the way that the condensed heat fogged over the world around her. She had looked at her bare feet, at her toes gripping the tiled floor like it might give way and had sat down on the lip of the bath.

From her position in the tub she can’t see anything but white stretching up on all sides giving way to the reflection of more white. Her palms are beginning to bead with sweat, she watches it form, rising from the cracks in her skin, she wipes it on the porcelain edges of the tub, listening to the squeak it makes against the hard surface. Her stomach is busy tying itself in knots, writhing around, pushing at her bowels.
There is a knock on the door, “Seriously, you all right?” he asks, the TV has gone mute.
She tries to answer but her throat has gone dry. She can hear her heart pumping blood through her body, speeding up with every moment that she lies there in the bottom of the tub, feel it pounding against its bone cage. She wonders if he would think she had gone if he opened the door and saw no one looking back at him but himself, reflected in all of the mirrors with her hidden down in the tub like a stow away.
He knocks on the door again.

She can’t seem to find a way out, she’s trapped herself in this room of reflections, of echoes, and the only way out is through that door, through him. She reaches an arm out and fishes around on the tiled bathroom floor until she feels the rough cloth of her towel scraping against her skin. She scoops it up and wraps it around her naked body as she stands, tucking the loose end beneath her armpit, feeling the frayed edge cut into the flesh above her breasts.

“I’m coming she says,” and unlocks the door.

He stares at her, at the rows of her staring back at him from the mirrored bathroom walls and then he reaches forward and raises her arms in the air with his, so that the towel drifts down to puddle against her legs on the floor.

“There you are,” he says, and as he reaches down to cup her chin in his hands again, to push her face up to his so that he can swallow it, she uses her foot to close the bathroom door on the reflections and echoes that she’s left trapped inside.