“You’re mine, do you hear me?” Ted spit his deep voice into the cellular. “I’m so angry with you right now.”
“What did I do?” Her voice did not carry as strongly.
“You’ll do as I say and respect me.”
“I’ll always be loyal to you.”
“Good.” She provided the energy to stop his anger. He had her mind and that satisfied him enough. “I’ll see you at the apartment.” He hung up and hurried to catch his early flight to D.C.
Later that day, Ted took Metro’s Blue line subway from National Airport to Rosslyn where he transferred to the Orange line. At the Ballston stop, he climbed out of the underground station and into bright sunlight and cold winter air. Both slapped his face and slipped between the folds of his overcoat. The sudden chill felt good. He stood among tall glass buildings, mentioned with dull red brick on the ground floor, but rising in gray concrete to project wealth and power. Ted did not linger. Instead, he walked swiftly to an old bakery two blocks deeper into Arlington.
Inside the bakery’s worn brick walls, Ted escaped from the winter chill that hung outside. He stood near the counter as the aroma of sweet pastries and fresh bread rose in his face shocking his senses and increasing his anticipation. Further into the bakery’s cramped space, the warmth from rear ovens soaked his face with fragrant smells of floured dough, syrupy sugar, and rich blended spices. He resisted buying and buying and bought only a raspberry top over she would like, his favorite almond ring crusted in chocolate, and two rye bagels they would share in the morning with hot coffee.
“We need to talk about things,” she said two days ago.
“I don’t talk, I decide,” Ted said and left for his business trip.
Now, two days later, Ted stepped harder onto the gray concrete outside. Three buildings down, he entered a liquor store where he purchased a small bottle of cognac with a prussian blue and gold decoration. Holding the smooth glass decanter, he thought of her slim body and the attention he would demand. Ted hurried along bumping into people who got in his way.
Ted figured that the corporate jet he was originally booked on would not arrive until eight the next morning. He had until then to enjoy her soft wide hips and small round stomach, to crush her heavy breasts in his hands, and make her wince in pain when he grabbed and pulled back on her long, blonde hair. He told her to make it blonde and he decided he would make her cut it all off after they were done and dye it darker. He wished he could show her off to his associates before he ordered her to change her looks, she was certainly beautiful enough to be seen with, but that would compromise their secret. A short hair brunette could be safely shown off.
Two buildings down Ted stopped at a squat looking market. Trash blew across the pock marked sidewalks and the building needed painting. Inside, he stepped carefully on warped plank flooring past the dusty shelves and pantries. Efficient use of space attempted to show off basic food staples. He selected from cans of vegetables, a bin of fresh fruit, a station of packaged breads, loose baking potatoes, pasta shells, ricotta cheese, and a heavy jar of red pesto sauce. A merlot wine nestled itself on top of his basket.
Ted was glad he had taken an earlier flight. We won’t need to rush tonight. Yeah, we’ll take it slow, baby, he thought. I’ll make the dinner and you make me happy. She’ll do what I want. Everybody does what I want. People care about me and they should.
“My husband may suspect something,” she told him two days ago at the airport while dropping him off.
“That’s your problem,” Ted told her moving his bags into the terminal. He believed some women were turned on by roughness and cruelty to help control whatever lurked in their hormones.
“Do you understand how I’m feeling?” She called after him through the open window.
He turned abruptly and stomped toward the waiting car. “Do you understand? I’ve got everything taken care of. Haven’t I made things all right so far? Get over this suspicion about your husband. How could he suspect? I’m good at lying and manipulating things as I want it. Don’t you know that’s why I’m so successful?” Briefly, Ted thought he heard his father’s tone of voice echoing against her furrowed face.
Coming back to the present, Ted watched a man play a dented alto sax outside the store with a rusted coffee can at his feet. Ted dropped in the remainder of his change feeling good about helping someone with a sorry life. With my money and company position, I’ll never be that low, he thought. But, not everyone can be as good as me. All right, that’s enough compassion for the sorry poor-ass bum.
Ted hurried on his way impressed with himself and thinking how good he looked against the chipped sidewalk and buildings that needed painting. Fewer homeless people got in his way because there was no money to be given away by people living here. His only use for this section of the planet was a refurbished apartment one block further. Approaching the building’s chipped red bricks, Ted’s excitement fogged his mind with fetishes. He stepped up the sagging concrete steps ignoring the trash stacked up in tiny piles on both sides. Inside the foyer, dim lighting made it hard to focus and the wooden stairs he climbed should have been sturdier.
When Ted entered the overheated apartment, no one greeted him except an ant on the counter, a moth chasing the lamplight, and a fly buzzing the window. The window shades hung loose, an old newspaper sat unread on the table, and the air felt sticky. He briefly remembered that she asked about their future, but he said they would talk another time. He did not want to be bothered about planning for some further involvement that would not happen. Maybe I’ll get you a real job instead, he told her two days ago.
She would not be there and he would not see her that night, or so the stickem note read lying on the kitchen table like a yellow butterfly dying in the dirty dust. He smelled the faint jasmine perfume clinging onto his hands from off the yellow sticky. He figured there was no reason for him to turn on the lights as he threw his purchases into the trash. He focused on her absence and the lack of someone to make him feel good tonight. Only the cognac he left out on an end table near the window.
Ted sat in a leather recliner by the window, but he did not recline. Instead, he pulled the venetian blinds to the top. There was nothing to hide now. A swell of anger crashed into him leaving him to wonder who could do this to him, a man with his prominent position and money. He looked out the window and across at a brick wall. Three stories down led to a debris filled alley. An unused trashcan sat upright amid the rubbish.
“I’m surrounded by trash,” he shouted at the closed window. “I am a decision maker.
On the end table, Ted lit a candle with wooden matches then poured the cognac into a thin, high glass. He gently twirled the high glass over the hot candle warming the liquid and watching yellow and blue light flicker into rainbow colors. In the quiet of this world, he sipped the drink and evaluated his options against her.
Near the end of the second glass, Ted reclined and fell asleep not caring if he woke up. In his dreams, choices did not allow him peace. They might have been nightmares, if he had remembered them. Finally, at four in the morning he woke up, watched reruns of the Muppets; then Captain Kangaroo until the sun brightened the room, and he had to leave. The plane he should have been on would arrive soon at National Airport.
Ted washed the sleep from his eyes, shoved a toothbrush through his mouth, and stepped into a cold shower where he nicked himself with an old razor.
“You’re like a woman,” Ted’s father told him at twelve years old. “Your balls won’t ever drop and, if they do, I’ll kick them back inside.”
Ted did not sucker punch his father in his groin, but wiped the spit off his face. To make sure he would not ever be considered a woman, he promised that he would always put women in a place other than himself.
Two blocks before the Metro subway, he entered a small smoked encrusted café and ordered breakfast at the worn counter. The sweat of grease soaked the stale air and a sizzling griddle was like an AM radio with bad reception. He ignored her sitting in the corner booth where she had been all night. The dark circles under her eyes and stained coffee cup cradled in her long fingers told him that.
She had nowhere else to go. She was not due home until this morning. The time to talk with her about keeping commitments would come soon enough. He knew she would be tormented if he sat in front of her without making comments. So, Ted ordered eggs over easy, bacon, and wheat toast he would not eat. It gave him reason to sit in front of her and let her watch him.
By chance, a small TV rested on a high wooden shelf directly before him and it worked. On the false color screen, an energetic announcer explained the sudden crash of the corporate jet Ted should have been on that morning. She looked, too, and hurried out the door. Her husband and child would be waking up soon. The excuse she gave them probably had everything to do with landing safely. There was too much sunlight outside for him to chase after her and, besides, he got a twitching feeling in his stomach and bowels. Nervously, he threw a ten on the counter and left before his meal arrived.
Back at the Orange line Metro, Ted joined the crowd gathering along the edge of the hollow concrete platform. He stood dangerously past the bumpy caution strip as the electric trains stopped in his face. Other commuters joined him in the dare.
Although he was in front of an open door and people had to push past him, Ted did not get on the next train. Instead, he stood watching his train leave. Then the next one came and went. He continued to stand on the edge even when he knew he should get on one because a wife and two children waited for him at home watching the news.
Published on April 28, 2007, by Nebo