THE TWO OF THEM by Teddy Burnette

THE TWO OF THEM by Teddy Burnette

There’s the two of them on the bed, under the covers, having sex. J’s on top, and L’s below, and he’s saying, as she moves up and down on top of him, that he shaved his pubic hair today and does it feel like he’s bigger down there? And J says, what? And he says, does it seem like there’s more of me down there? She glances down, it’s all hidden though, and she says, because you shaved?

She’s not getting it, he thinks. L says, yes, because I shaved, at least it looks like there’s more of me and just visually, at the least, you have to say there’s more of me down there compared to before I shaved, don’t you? You must be able to see how big I look and I feel like it’s not unreasonable to think you’d be thinking about how big I feel probably, and are you really saying you’re not feeling or thinking anything along those lines?

She’s not getting it, he thinks. She says, no, and she says, I was enjoying what we were doing right now in this instant and why are you getting so obsessed on this point? L says, I know it’s silly but I hadn’t shaved in a while so it definitely, at the bare minimum, has to be acknowledged that I look bigger than I did before I shaved all the hair away.

Not getting it, just not getting it, he thinks. She says, I hadn’t noticed. L says, what’s that supposed to mean? J says, nothing, hold on, it was nothing, there’s no need for this. And L says, need for what? You know what I’m talking about, I don’t know how you can deny that there’s simply more of me visually available to the human eye now, and for that reason, and this is asking so little, you should be able to admit that or at least agree with me.

What more can he do? She says, I think I want to stop and go sit on the couch and I’ll make dinner for us like we planned but I’m not sure about anything else. L says, anything else? What’s that even mean? Like we’d come back in here? Give it another go? J says, no, I meant everything else, I guess. Hand holding, kissing, snuggling, that sort of stuff. We’ll sit and eat dinner and watch television maybe but only sit on the couch and I’ll be angry and you can be whatever you’d like.

This is getting away from him. L says, I didn’t mean to start all this, I was looking for a little agreement, a little acknowledgement, that’s all, and it’s, well it’s hard to describe but a little affirmation I guess too, because who doesn’t like that? And I’m sure you think it’s stupid or inane, I get that, that I would need you to say that I look bigger down there because a bunch of hair is gone. It’s like me being surprised someone’s got so much head and scalp when they get a haircut, so I get it! I get it, very silly, but c’mon, not asking for a lot here.

He tried his best, he thinks. Started rambling towards the end and lost his way but he got his idea across. J says, I don’t know what that means. But I’m making dinner and you can stay here and admire yourself.

Catastrophe, he thinks. Couldn’t have gone worse. Doesn’t even want to jack off or anything, so he goes in the bathroom and looks at himself in the mirror and looks at the skin now visible and thinks he does definitely look bigger, and he thinks he’ll give it one more shot, one more try at just convincing J on the principle of his argument, not even that they should then have sex, but only that he wants her to agree, to see what he was trying to say earlier really wasn’t totally wrong. He walks into the living room, nothing on, and says, okay look this once, just one more time, and try and tell me that it’s not at least visually, I’m only saying visually, that on paper, on principle, I do look bigger down there.

Here we go, he thinks. She looks him up and down, a couple of times, and then looks back up to his face, and shrugs her shoulders.

Can’t go on, he thinks. He falls to the floor, fakes his death, acts like blood is spilling out of him, weakly coughs a couple of times, gasps, gasps, reaches towards something invisible except to him high above, and then an astonished look comes across his face, a final breathe, and he relaxes into the carpet below.

Wait, he thinks. She laughs, small one. She says, get up.

Maybe, he thinks. He gets up, sits next to her on the couch, puts an arm around her and squeezes. She leans into him, and he turns on the television and they watch whatever’s on and neither say anything for a little while until they’re talking and laughing and agreeing and it’s another night like any other night, as they all are.

Teddy Burnette is a writer living in New York City. His novel, Heartfelt Anything, is available from Expat Press.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower