I’ve discovered something new: when you’re lying on top of a bed reading to someone with your knees up, in front of an air conditioner, your skirt gathered around your midsection, your crotch gets quite cold. I put the book aside and told Hamilton I’d had enough. He misunderstood. “Voice box grown hoarse?” “Yes, but that’s not the point.” He’d been lying there, damp cloth over his eyes, resting his right eye from some sort of irritation or infection or malfunction or whatever for half an hour while I read. As he had yesterday and the day before and the day before that. It was I who applied the eye drops, I who wetted the cloth with warm water, squeezed it dry and placed it over his eyes, I who arranged the back pillows and the neck pillow and the head pillow to allow for his utmost comfort, I who made the coffee and poured the cereal and sliced the bananas for the breakfast that preceded an act of reading which had grown highly predictable over the last few days. “Oh, you mean you’re planning not to read to me anymore?” “Wrong again,” I said. “I mean I’m leaving.” And just in case he still didn’t understand, I added, “for good.” At first, beyond being wide-eyed and following my movements with laser-like intensity when I unspooled my long legs and signaled resolution with a toss of my hair as I marched out of the bedroom, he said nothing. Later, after a chilly breakfast, which had been postponed when he’d suffered his “eye-attack,” he said, with deeply constrained and practiced patience, “Why, Melanie? For God’s sake, why?”
My sister! He’d banged my sister! I mean, goddamn, Sam! Some thing are sacred, right? A year ago she’d been visiting me from Ohio, where she’s an intern at a TV station. Low-level stuff right now but with ambitions to become a newscaster, locally at first, then who knows? Christ! My younger and hotter sister. I’d had several boyfriends when we were teenagers together, and was always admired for my beauty as well as brains, but Penny! She was the Queen Bee, the apple of my father’s eye and like honey in the hive to any buzzing male in the hunt. And over the ten years or so since, as she remained unattached, no let up that I’d heard about. And Hamilton had not only screwed my only sibling—in my own bed—but had admitted it to me with vastly insufficient contrition, a month later. Said his conscience was bothering him and he needed forgiveness. Fat chance! According to Hamilton’s story, he’d walked in on her as she lay sleeping on the day-bed in our apartment. When he closed the door and turned around—Hamilton’s account—he was turbo-shocked by the sight of her, lying atop the bed, still dressed in a blue suit she’d been wearing while she was out taking in Rockefeller Center and MOMA and shit while Ham and I worked at our very different jobs. When he closed the apartment door and turned to enter the window-paned door of our living room—Ham’s account—he was stunned by the sight of her lying there asleep on the bed, flat on her back, skirt up, her legs having fallen apart like the petals of an orchid when she relaxed into her nap, so that he found himself staring at her panty-covered crotch. (The panties were mine, by the way, a red thong I’d loaned her because she hadn’t packed enough before her trip.) His reaction, even in his telling of it, was, “God, Melanie! What could I do? It was like an early Christmas present!” He’d stolen into the room silently and awakened her with a few artfully applied strokes to her—well, you get the picture.
What could he do? Well, he’d done what he did. And now I’ll do what I’ll do. So long, sap.
Originally written: 10/16/2019