Strawberry-scented lotion. It cost $10.83 at Sephora — money that could have bought steak, a bag of shrimp, or a box of chocolate. I knew better, yet here I was in the bedroom, slathering lotion on my legs. It felt like cold kisses. My skin became softer. I scolded myself for breaking my budget.
What would my husband say?
As the late-autumn sun lowered into the horizon, my husband came home. He entered the kitchen, his gas-station uniform smelling strong. He kissed me on my cheek, his lips raw, and he held my hips.
“You smell like a strawberry tart,” he said. “Making anything special?”
I pulled away and I stated that I was serving chicken stir-fry tonight. The kitchen’s light contrasted with the darkness of the living room. Since we had no TV, the house remained quiet — except for a car rolling down the street.
“Nope,” I replied. “Just homemade Chinese. Takeout is bad for you.” I laughed. “How was your day?”
“Pumping gas into car after car,” my husband said. “Forgetting that I want to be a writer.”
“Everybody wants to write,” I replied as I tossed cut-up chicken and veggies in the wok. “Publishers like to be choosy.” I looked at my husband’s blue eyes. They were so brilliant when I first met him, but tears and crow’s feet had overtaken their beauty. I urged him to get an MFA. However, my husband knew college friends who earned MFAs and worked at Starbucks and Target. He decided to write about working at a gas station. I had to stay on a strict budget.
My husband would eventually realize the truth.
After dinner, I retired to the living room with my copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. Philip Carey’s failed quest to be an artist led me to my situation. I still smelled the expensive lotion on my body. In the back of our one-story house, I heard the shower run. Hot water and soap washed grime off my husband’s strong and finely muscled body. I wanted another night with him, even if he couldn’t make it in New York City, London, or Paris.
I slipped in a bookmark and closed the pages. Water continued to peal on the tiles of the shower. I left the dimness of the living room. In the bedroom, I took my clothes off, reminding myself to be more frugal — for my husband’s sake. I walked into the bathroom. It was misty, like a spring morning. As I slipped into the shower, my husband smiled at me, his blue eyes bright again. He held me. He kissed me with his softened lips. With Castile soap, my husband washed the day off my breasts, my stomach, my cunt. In that moment, I wanted him to clean me until I was perfect.
I didn’t smell like a strawberry tart anymore.
Behlor Santi lives in New York City and works as a freelance writer. She’s published fiction and poetry in such magazines as Cortland Review, The Dead Mule, and The Sidewalk’s End.
Read an interview with Behlor here.