Wet Paint / by Charlotte Lait

The last time we talked was a Friday. I came back from work late and you had already started cooking dinner. I entered the kitchen, we greeted, and I asked for tea. I took to my usual chair, not really looking at anything because I felt a headache coming on. You mentioned Nick’s upcoming parent-teacher conference, and how you may not be able to make it because of your staff meeting. I saw Kate had been busy with her next masterpiece, because it lay drying on the table, shiny with wet paint and glue. Central to the painting was a mangled glittery mass, somewhat resembling a Shetland pony.


On the kitchen window, ivy vines I had forgotten to trim were growing right over the glass, searching for a hole to creep through. If I didn't cut them, their green feelers would slide under the window and spread inside the kitchen like a groping hand. I remember looking at you; you were washing a cabbage, quite occupied. The way you were standing I knew your back must have been hurting that day. You turned the kettle on, and the sound of water boiling made me uneasy.


And then I went to you. Like a dog ashamed of his shit, I went to you. I touched your back and you winced, saying how painful it felt. I didn’t take my hands away. I smoothed over your bent shoulder-blades, down to the rough, wet skin of your hands as your body tensed. I remember when you used to wear your hair down. The kettle threw steam into the room as you faced me. A moment passed when discomfort made way for submission. Your eyes relented, the breaking of a horse, and I couldn’t look.


You were on the table quickly, and, like a dog, I went. My hands felt your thighs, warm and shaking. The kettle was screaming, you gasped at its hot air. There was a desperate grip on my shirt. I remember your breasts, the hard table, Kate’s painting ruined beneath us. Everything was careless; you scratched me by accident. You moaned like a desperate widow.


When it was finished, I saw you had been crying. You smoothed your clothes out and I stood looking at the window. You wanted to be held, you asked me to hold you. Looking at your hair, half-thrown around your face, something like pity overcame me and I didn't move. As if knowing this, you went back to the sink and started to chop the cabbage. Something about God came into my head, and then I left you.



Charlotte Lait is a British journalist based in Chicago. She covers labor and youth issues at The Chicago Reporter and teaches Digital Journalism at Street-Level Youth Media.