“When did you know you wanted to make Kristine your fiancé?” Cheney whispered while staring down at her Corona bottle, her voice barely audible above the hum of the central air conditioning in my North Austin townhome and Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque shooting from the stereo speakers…shoegazer music straight outta Scotland.
“It’s so cool you still listen to CD’s,” she grabbed the jewel case and used it as a makeshift beer coaster. The condensation from the bottle quickly created a water ring on it. We were sitting on the living room floor, waiting for the 101-degree sun to set so we could sit on the patio.
I leaned back on my elbows. “One day…I woke-up and Kristine was putting on her morning makeup in the bathroom…leaning over the sink into the mirror, naked from the waist up. Her iPhone was propped-up on the counter and she was listening to a podcast interview of Deathcab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. I loved Deathcab long before I met her, and she loved Deathcab long before she met me. That’s the second I knew I would marry her.”
“Oh,” Cheney replied, not looking up from the Corona, jewel case or water ring. She was visiting from Minneapolis on a one-way ticket and staying at my place. Kristine isn’t moving in until after the wedding, so Cheney was enjoying the spare bedroom and having the swimming pool to herself during the day when other tenants are at work.
“But what made Kristine different than Jessica or your other girlfriends?” She tilted back her head for a swig from the Corona and rested her eyes on me for an answer. Her blue two-piece swim suit was slightly visible under her long, white v-neck t-shirt. In the eight days she’s been here, her skin has gone from Minnesota pale to an attractive light bronze, more suited to her surfer girl frame.
I turned my butt 45-degrees and put my legs on the couch and lied back on the floor. Cheney’s knees were next to my head. She smelled like chlorine and suntan oil, her hair still wet from her swim. As long as I’ve known Cheney, she’s always had a smell to her…never an odor, but always a smell and always feminine.
“Timing, I think,” I said looking at the whiter than white ceiling. “It had gotten to the point where I wanted that commitment more than anything I’ve ever wanted. And I was at the point in life where I was almost ashamed of not being married. On airplanes, in line at the grocery store…I would tuck my bare ring finger beneath my phone or a magazine.” I grabbed Cheney’s Corona for a drink, most of it falling on my chin as I lay on my back.
Cheney sat straight up, reached both hands behind her head and removed the small band that had been holding up her damp, dark hair. Her hair fell and created a black curtain around her head. She handed the little elastic band to me, and I put it around my wrist. It smelled like her.
I got up and walked to the kitchen to grab a Corona for myself. Looking around my place, Cheney’s presence was unmistakable…Zippo lighter on the kitchen counter, stray cigarette butts on the patio, two Piccadilly writing journals next to the Keurig, guitar pick necklace hanging from the pantry doorknob, dirty pair of blue Vans classics inexplicably in the middle of the kitchen floor, a small pile of clean but unfolded underwear at the bottom of the staircase and the empty Corona bottles slowly amassing on the counter next to the fridge.
“Why? I thought you loved your single life,” I asked her while grabbing a Corona by the neck at the back of the fridge. My townhome felt colder than the inside of the fridge.
“Yeah, but I need companionship and love like that. I want that, I think…I don’t fuckin’ know, I guess.” She reached her right arm around the back of her head, grabbed all of her hair and set it over her right shoulder, so that it rested over her right boob. “I don’t even want it just for the sex like I used to. I need someone to talk to and laugh with, so that I don’t spend so much fuckin’ time inside my head. My thoughts aren’t always the kindest to me.”
“Or I’d settle for being that chick from Gospel Gossip. Do you still have their CD?” She asked while looking into the milk crates that I’ve used to store CD’s since college.
She found the CD in the milk crate before she even finished asking me if I still had it and placed it in the disc changer.
I laid flat on my back on the floor with my head between the speakers, holding the Corona atop my sternum with my hands. Cheney lay right next to me and did the same with her Corona. We must’ve looked like two corpses impaled with glass bottles. We listened to the Gospel Gossip EP from start to finish without saying a word. There was the bitter after-taste of beer in my mouth, a wall of warm fuzzy dream pop in my ears and the satisfying scent of chlorine and suntan oil to my right.