“Look how much better my legs look like this,” she slapped his forearm with the back of her hand, a gesture that was at once familiar and rebellious, the words, “Don’t touch me while I’m driving,” hung in the air but were brushed aside .
“Hold on, Sally,” he said. He flipped on his turn signal and squinted past her into the side mirror for oncoming traffic. Her name was not Sally. There wasn’t any.
“Look, ba-bay!” she shouted and bopped around and shimmied her legs across the windshield the way any pretty girl on her way to the beach would do. Her hair was long and dark, wavy in ways that sometimes worked so well even she couldn’t believe it. She called him baby but pronounced it funny because then he would think it was a joke, an overflowing of her lightheartedness, maybe; of their ease. She cocked her head to the side and ran her hands up her thighs. Baby meant need, meant needing to stick around, meant whimpering late at night into his armpit and squeezing his shoulders and neck as she cried out under the weight of him. It was the word she kept hidden beneath her tongue, like a sneeze held in. It slipped out of her when she forgot to think about it.
Her toenails were bright blue and chipped, as they should be, her breasts swollen (as they should be, he nods) and under a bathing suit she hated but wore anyway. She pigeon-toed her feet and admired how perfect her legs looked hanging there like that. Looking good, whether she believed it would hold up when she got out of the car and walked around or not, always turned her on. See, there, she’d think, I’m pretty like this. If only she could guarantee that this was how men looked at her, that they forgave her everything else, if they forgave the tiny hairs on her upper thigh, above where she had stopped shaving, or the way her knees looked when she stood upright, all chubby and new. His brow was furrowed the way he let it do when he was wondering what the fuck she was talking about— when he was angry, annoyed at the lack of understanding; defensive. Men are always defensive about something, she’d tell her friends across tables at coffee shops, and this one, well, he’s no exception. She loved to make grand statements about men, to feel like she knew things. It never helped.
He looked down past her breasts and her cutoff jeans shorts and the hair on her upper thighs and to her knees which he longed to kiss as they bopped in time to the music.
“What the hell are you doing?” he smirked, softened after looking at her like that. This time she hit his thigh with the back of her hand (it felt like he was closer that way, always within smacking distance) and she laughed, her sunburned feet up on the dashboard. They had little half moons from where her high heels were, and she swayed them like windshield wipers, except it was sunny and they didn’t need them.
“I’m admiring how hot my legs look when I lift them up in the air like this. They look tall. And skinny. I look hot.”
“Long, you mean.”
“Huh.” She let her knees fall open.
“Long, legs are long they aren’t tall, you don’t say, Wow look at those tall legs, now there’s a tall-legged beauty,”
“Oh, blah, blah, BLAH. We get it. God I want to fuck you.”
“Yes, really. I want to fuck you on the beach in a lawn chair with an embarrassing umbrella, and I want to lift my legs up in the air and I want you to see how hot they look and I want you to congratulate yourself on what a fucking hot fucking girlfriend you have— I want you to yell Congratulations, Me, your fist pumping in the air like a frat boy as you blow your load, right into the sand, just to the left of me, so we cqn see what kind of shape it makes.”
“Oh, and what will you be doing during all this?”
“I’ll be laughing!” She laughed.
“Well, Jesus, Sally, what the fuck is wrong with you?” His face was the face of someone who did not love the person it was on the way to the beach with. She looked at him and did not hit him with the back of her hand. She bit her lip and laughed a little more like she couldn’t help it and, “Sorry, baby” escaped very slowly and sweetly; once she knew it was coming, she let every vowel count.
She touched her palm to his neck while he drove, squinting and laughing and trying to tuck the words back down under her tongue where they came from. They would not come back.
by Meaghan O’ Connell