Monday, May 11, 2009

The Old Sweater by Cait Wilder




I found the old blue sweater in the kitchen trash. The tarnished brass buttons brought back an instant memory, his kiss at the kitchen sink. The sweater clung to the faint odor of him, cheap spicy aftershave mixed with nicotine.


"What is this doing in the trash?" I yanked it out of the morning egg shells.


"What are you doing with an old thing like that, anyway?" Vinny crossed his arms.


"I like it," I said, "What else matters?"


It was my history not his. He didn't need to know how I came by it nor why I chose to keep it.


"You never wear it."


"Because, I couldn't find it.....obviously." Things were mixed up since Vinny moved in.


"It's been in your closet for ages."


"You haven't been here that long."


"Long enough, Monica." His dark eyes glared at me, "What is so damn special about that sweater?"


"It's..it's all I have left."


I told him all there was to know about Bo. It was one of those in between things, in between semesters, in between boyfriends, but it was special. We'd seen 311 together at the Ranch Bowl.

Back before May, last year. A chill of spring in the air. I suppose that's how I got the sweater and the memory that I wanted him to be my lover. The kind of thing I read about in English class. The kind of thing where thoughts are savored for that intense moment that you know the true meaning of love. It kind of made me sick now to think I thought like that once of a mere long haired moocher.


"Left of what?"


"I don't like this Vinny," I said, "We're going to have a fight, aren't we?"


"What do you mean? Like a boxing match? This is a discussion."


"There's nothing to discuss." I put the sweater in the wash.


"I think there's something you're not telling me."


Vinny was such a little boy at times. I liked that about him in the beginning. He amused me with his quaint cuteness. He was the child I wanted. I watched his lips pout. He could look quite pathetic when he wanted with those puppy eyes.


"It's just....


"Who's sweater is it, Monica?"


"It was a gift. All right."


I guess Bo forgot about it, but it seemed like a gift after all this time. He was not coming back for it. There was no reason too. He was a nomad by nature.


"An old sweater?" I heard him laugh. "Who gave you the sweater, Monica?"


"I wish you wouldn't make such a big deal out of this."


"A big deal? You're the one making a big deal, Monica."


It was Saturday. We were suppose to be in the car driving around town looking for garage sales, even a trip to a nearby state park. We were to be together.


"I am not."


"I'm your boyfriend, right?" Vinny said, "and...and..if this is something that's going to come between us..then...."


"Then what?"


"It's either the sweater, or me....has to go."


I'd never seen such distrust in those eyes before. What a baby.


"Oh...God...get real...PLEASE...don't make this such a stupid thing!"


But I could see his disgust. He paced in the kitchen until he went to the bathroom. I heard the clutter on the the bathroom counter hit the floor. He was getting his things together to leave.


I banged on the bathroom door.


"What are you doing?"


"What do you think I'm doing?"


There he was with his satchel filled with his basic essentials from the bathroom.


"C'mon, you can't be serious."


"You don't think I'm serious?" Vinny said, "I'm ready to walk out that door if you don't throw that sweater away!"


"It's just a sweater."


"Right, that's all it is, Monica....just a sweater."


"So forget about the sweater."


"No, you forget about the damn sweater."


Vinny cut past me to the bedroom. I followed, watching him find his suitcase in his organized closet. The man made me furious with all his energy to have everything in order. I thought I loved that about him since I was a dysfunctional clutter magnet. I could never find my reading glasses, and I'm not sure where my coffee mugs disappear too . Probably under the couch, but that was spotless, too.


"Do you realize what this would mean?" I asked, "We'd have to start dividing our stuff." I looked at the firm queen sized bed. The plaid, blue and white comforter creased neatly under the pillow. He loved that bed made to perfection. I wanted to jump on it to cause some kind of disorder, but I didn't. "Who'd get the bed?"


"I bought that bed."


"But we made love on that bed before we ever had a bed frame for it."


"We didn't have sheets on that bed."


He remembered. He knew that day when it wouldn't stop raining, and we couldn't get enough of each other. I remember the sweat, maybe the humidity. No, it was just us, and I knew then how it would be if we were together. It was fast. It was furious, foreplay, floor-play, anywhere it could happen, and it did. It was a craving. I smiled. How could he be mad over such a little thing, the old sweater.


"It's our bed." I told him, "You couldn't possibly go to bed with someone else in our bed."


"But it's okay if you keep some old lover's sweater?"


"A sweater can be washed."


"You don't ever think about him, do you when...when..when we're together, do you?"


I noticed he was hardly finding anything to pack in his empty suitcase.


"Of course not."


I pushed my fingers through my wavy hair. This was the headache from hell. This was not suppose to be happening. My parents were coming tomorrow for brunch. We were grownups. My parents were waiting patiently for a wedding date soon.


I closed his empty suit case, latched it and put it back in the closet. I looked at him then. Those dark eyes of his were crying.


If we looked at each other long enough, I knew it would happen. It did. He peeled my undershirt off before any second thoughts.


I'm not sure how we could undress quite that fast. I'd hate to see it on video. I'm sure it wouldn't be pretty. The trouble he had getting out of his underwear was sometimes enough cause for a laugh. Anyhow, it was fun in bed.


There was no time for foreplay just the kissing, a playful passion to get from plan A to plan B. Luckily, we stayed on the bed. The sweat dripped among other things, and the exercise always left me hungry. Only I didn't like to cook, and he laid there in exhaustion for the most part which generally left him in a deep sleep of snoring. It was like I knew what was going to happen before we got there on this Saturday romp.


But that's not what happened. Of course, he made his little jumps from here to there. At this rate, we'd need a new bed by the time we got married. Vinny was hard on furniture. I could only hope someday he might slow down, and I'd have half as much fun as he seemed to have in his vigor of hasty intercourse.


There were times when I might have asked, "Is it over already?"


Once when he had to be in class in fifteen minutes he left in a hurry then I heard the door unlock. I asked him if he forgot something. He shook his head, and we had a quickie in the living-room floor.


I remembered Regis was were on. I had watched the show upside down. I am sure I didn't appreciate all this as much as he did.


When we were done that was on my mind. My head hanging off the bed, looking upside down with the blood rushing to my brain. I was in a pool of sweat, famished and wondering why he wasn't in his corner snoring. No, he got up, found his underwear in a ball under the bed. He dressed quickly, and I wrapped myself up in the sheet, laying there wondering why this happened.


Nothing said, nothing broken. He was going. I felt bitter about this, and yet I knew there was no romance, not really. I didn't feel for him what I felt for Bo and the old sweater. Just the same, my body didn't believe me. It felt complete next to his. It found delight in his warmth, the sensation in his cool sweat. I wasn't sure I could go on without him.


But the door slammed shut. There was the old sweater. The trouble heaped on the bedroom floor. There was no nostalgia left in it.


I got up then to look through the dirty clothes. There it was. His favorite gray Red Dog T-shirt. I put it on. I wondered how long I'd have to wear it before I washed it.

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