The wound on her hand looked like an open-mouthed slap. Kris had picked and squeezed at a large whitehead between her thumb and forefinger long past the creamy goodness, long past the thin watery puss phase, long past the watery blood phase, long past the straight-up blood phase, long past the wet scab, long past the dry scab, long past the bump phase back to the scab-less wound.
Fuck it, she thought, there’s no turning back now. Satisfied by her dexterity, her doctor-level steadiness, she used the small sword side of the cap on her plastic pen to push and dig the skin around the now friendly, approachable wound back over the skinless part like packing side dirt back into an empty grave. The digging, the prodding, the poking, the picking, the scratching, the rubbing calmed Kris. She was in control. Luckily, she found another zit, a bigger one, on her shoulder just when ritual of the hand pimple was ending.
On Monday, she wore bicycle gloves to work. She found the gloves in the back of a kitchen drawer, a reminder of the time she bought a stationary bike and the relief when she finally took the bike to Goodwill. Kris thought of going full Roarsach from the Watchmen and her last cosplay outing to explain the bicycle gloves. But that would just bring more questions.
Kris worked at Board Game Heaven, a game store, and while she could dress up as Roarschach. She’d be the only one. So, her second skin—polo, khakis, tennis socks and sneakers now added black bicycle gloves. Monday night, Kris noticed black fibers in the wound. She cleaned it with alcohol and put a band-aid on it. She still wore the bicycle gloves to work on Tuesday, because who wants to explain a band-aid?
Not that anyone brought up the gloves at work. She worked with all guys and the talk was all pop culture and board games which was fine with Kris. The guys never made eye-contact, but were always trying to sneak a peak at her breasts.
Kris described herself as curvy, a bit chubby and plain. Her looks were never a concern to her, her body just a place where her brain was. She was always in her head to the point that others thought she was spacey, but she was just
preoccupied with her own thoughts. She rarely wore make-up or a dress. Since she was a small girl, she never felt girly and was always called a tom- boy, but she once when she was six, she told her mom that she a person and not a boy. I’m a person was a common refrain in her head.
In her twenties, Kris decided she didn’t care if boys, and to be honest, most girls looked at her breasts when they talked to her, it also meant she didn’t have to make eye-contact either. She drew a cartoon once, when she was 23, about a superhero, Confidence Man, whose only superpower was the ability to maintain eye contact under any situation, defeating super villains with eye contact alone.
Noooooo, I’m wilting. I’m willlltting!!!, said supervillain Low Self-Esteem Man.
Surprisingly, she was rarely hit on or more accurately, she didn’t notice being hit on. At 35, Kris hadn’t had as many dates as her girlfriends, who were all married at this point. She’d only had sex a few times and didn’t see the fuss. Usually, the guy would spray his salty stick goo before anything had ever happened. On her hand, her stomach. Her face. Big Whoop. Blech. The three times sex went all the way, it was mostly uncomfortable and awkward and had darting eye-contact. Most guys were just apologies and no follow-up phone calls. At 30, she decided she was done with dating.
She was happy masturbating. So, much so, masturbation was meditation. Empty the mind. Let the rabbit run wild, relax, tension, tension, tension, release, endorphins and sleep. A thrice-weekly ritual better than church.
Also, she had a dog, a gorgeous blonde lab named Steve, so she told herself she knew true love, unselfish love. Dog love.
Over her lunch break, Kris would play the solo variant of a board game on an isolated table in the break room. For relaxation and to keep current on the latest games. Tuesday, she was playing Horrified, a game where you battle different Universal monsters. She reached for the rule book to refresh her memory, the game was already set-up from Monday, and under the rule book, there was a photo. The Dracula figure from the game was leaned against the Bride of Frankenstein figure with the note:
I Vant to Smooch Your Neck, Won’t You Play Games with Me? Love, An Admirer.
The photo was taken in the break room, probably with a cell phone. Kris didn’t know what to do, surely this wasn’t for her. Somebody checked out the game, set it up and took the picture. No, it was just somebody fucking with her. So Kris went to her three co-workers and her boss with the same question, “Did you do this?”
“No, get the fuck outta here!”
“Are you kidding? I have a girlfriend.”
“No, do you wanna make-out?” Jerry always took any interaction with a woman as a come-on.
“No, ew,” said Kris, shrinking and reaching for her coat.
“Not me, that would be inappropriate,” her boss said, “Three other business in this mini-mall share this break room, it could be any of them.”
No luck. Wednesday, a new picture. Dracula on top of The Bride of Frankenstein.
C’mon, just one nibble.
And at the bottom of the photo in a sans serif font,
I’m not trying to scare you and, yes, I’ve been watching you from afar. I know we have so much in common—board games, old movies, bicycling, being creative, cupcakes and a secret wild spirit. I hope to get the courage to introduce myself soon. An admirer.
Nothing to do but wait, Kris thought. That night, Kris masturbated to the thought of an anonymous stranger. It was difficult focusing on the unknown instead of nothing, but the rabbit powered through.
A week past, nothing. She went into the other shops in the mini-mall, but the employees just mostly smiled, treated her like a customer. Of course, her first thought was the bakery where she got her Friday cupcake, but the three women who ran it all seemed older and married. The utensil store had both a hipster man and hipster woman who flirted with everybody. Or it looked like flirting. Kris wasn’t too experienced with the subtle art of flirting. She always thought of the cartoon of the caveman clubbing the cavewoman as the only effective way to flirt. The bicycle shop, duh, the bicycle shop. Well, the three men who worked there couldn’t even be bother to give Kris the time of day. On four separate occasions.
Another two weeks past, the pimple on Kris’ hand was just a small red mark,
as was the shoulder pimple. She had moved on to playing Gloomhaven, a massive game that took up two tables of figures and dungeons tiles. Kris was on the third scenario out of ninety-seven.
Then, one afternoon in March, a woman sat down across the table from her, “I vant to smooch your neck, can I play as a ranger?” Strange, is this real, Kris thought.
“Um sure.” Kris said.
The woman looked a few years older than Kris, 40-ish with straight pixie-cut silver hair, like a stand-in for Tilda Swinson. She was the woman who gave Kris her red velvet cupcake with extra sour creme icing every Friday. Kris had never thought of her as anything but the cupcake lady. So……
Kris went into demo mode and explained the rules to Barb, the silver-haired pixie-cut hausfrau stand-in for Tilda Swinson. They kept the talk to the game and gameplay. Barb brushed against Kris’s shoulder as she went back to the cupcake shop. Kris could only think about the new pimple on her shoulder underneath her polo. Her mind erased by the encounter.
After work, Barb was waiting for Kris at Kris’ car. They went out for coffee. Barb was at once confident and relaxed and nervous and tentative. Barb told Kris about her marriage, her divorce, her seven-year old girl, her coming out, owning the cupcake shop, what old movies she liked, the board games she had, her first lesbian relationship and the inevitable break-up. Barb said leaving that photo was the most courageous she’s been since the divorce. Kris mostly stared into the creme of her coffee. She liked Barb and her energy and lord knows she needed more friends. But was she gay, Kris hadn’t given it much thought. She was not not gay. So why not, let’s try it, Kris thought.
The next three weeks were an old movie montage of love. Sunsets. Board Games. Walking Steve in the morning before work. Bicycling. Watching movies curled up in a blanket. Cooking, good God was Barb a great cook. Talking, mostly Barb talking, about hopes and dreams. Barb had a lot of hopes and dreams and plans to attain them.
But not much physical touch. Barb had held Kris’ hand a few times and kissed her on the cheek twice and Kris let it happen. Kris thought there should be some kind of passion feeling, but honestly didn’t know what that feeling was. She certainly liked her and felt a kind of muted love over time, but passion?
She did tell Barb about this, she didn’t use the word, this ambivalence toward
sexual relations. Barb suggested they get drunk and just do it. Rip the scab off, so to speak.
We’ve come this far, why not go all the way, Kris thought.
Sex was, as Kris feared, a disaster. She was too drunk. Barb was down there forever and it was just strange, awkward. Even the rabbit didn’t run wild. She tried so hard to clear her mind, but the act of clearing her mind only clouded it further. She came close to coming many times, but just couldn’t cross that bridge. Eventually, she told Barb it was good and rolled over in exhaustion. After a few minutes, Kris rolled over to return the favor. What a weird chore, Kris thought. Barb came quickly, like all the boys before her. Thank God, thought Kris, her tongue not even wet.
Kris went home, took a shower and passed out after a few more drinks. The next morning, a Saturday, Kris woke up and realized she was probably asexual. She popped a zit on the underside of her leg, left it alone and she and Steve slept peacefully the rest of the day.
Later that week, Kris told Barb she just wasn’t interested in sex at all. It was her, not Barb.
But, over time, they became friends. Awkward friends, but friends none-the- less.
Kris was a bridesmaid at Barb’s wedding two years later. Kris bought a tux for Steve and took him as her date.