He invited her over out of the blue, over the phone. They only spoke about once every two or three months, out of respect for the time they’d spent together. Out of politeness. Do you want to come over for tea, he’d asked, and she’d accepted.
They set a date. Almost a year since they’d last seen each other. She showed up at his place and they’re sitting, now, the table between them like bulletproof glass. He’s probably never made tea before; he threw the leaves right into the cups. They unfurl loosely in the hot water like black water lilies. He doesn’t drink it, but she does, in small sips, sliding her tongue over her teeth regularly to dislodge any flecks.
There’s this little twitch on his lips. A sign of his desire. She doesn’t really look at him. Neither of them says anything. The silence isn’t uncomfortable because it has remained their own—ample and enveloping.
He stands, walks around the table. He kisses her and she feels her body react out of habit. She half-opens her mouth, licks his lips. She understands he’s about to put his hands under the turtleneck sweater she’d purposefully chosen to be less desirable.
Listen, I didn’t want things to go this way, she says to him, smiling firmly, apologetically. I haven’t shaved my legs. Is that all? Yeah, yeah, that’s it. It’s mostly that, actually. She shrugs her shoulders, readjusts her clothing, straightens. Takes another sip of tea, pressing her lips against the rim of the cup to strain the liquid with her teeth. He tells her to wait, says he’ll be back. She shrugs her shoulders a second time. Of course she’ll wait. The tea has steeped too long, its bitterness grates her gums. She drinks it anyway.
He leaves. Returns a dozen minutes later, plastic bag in hand, from which he pulls a pack of multicoloured razors. Bics, the cheapest ones, the kind that cut the skin. There, now you’ve got lots. So she takes them, goes upstairs, runs a bath, undresses, stretches in the hot water. Soaps her legs, and extends them, pin-up style. Eliminates the spiky growth with precise gestures. And she hums, smiling, Palapalapalapam.
Her voice resonates against the porcelain tiles with the same echo as before.
“Retrouvailles,” from Des femmes savantes, first published by Tryptique in 2016. Re-edited by Alias, Nota Bene in 2018. Pages 15–17.