“Lenard,” I said. “Run me a bath.” I could have done it myself, but I was limp like a dead rabbit, you see. My lungs were cold and without breath. It was obvious how miserable I was. How shattered I was. I was so furious at Lenard for not paying enough attention to me that my stomach ripped wide open. Laying my rats nest of disappointment spread about for all to see. But maybe he did notice how angry I was but was purposefully ignored me. How could he? I thought. My bones were cold and crumbled inside of me. Why couldn’t he feel that? I hated the lonely feeling of being cold. We’d been watching television since noon. Time the reaper was slowly assassinating us, but what did it matter. There was nobody left who cared. Everybody’s dead. Anybody of importance, at least.
At some point, I turned the sound down on the TV, maybe during a commercial break. The muffled sounds of the television projected secret messages to me, saying things like, “Why you so stupid Linda? Whose a little bitch today Linda? Why you so ugly Linda?” Things like that.
Lenard the lumpy dump had molded himself into his armchair. That awful chair! Crap-brown leather so old it was held together by spit and staples. Lenard was still wearing his sticky sweatpants and sweat-stained tee he’d played basketball in, early this morning. What a waste, I thought. A bunch of tired old fools, jumping up and down for nothing. He’d been slicked in that chair for hours now, drinking beer. A big glob of white foam had dried across his thick black mustache. A disgusting pig, I thought. A fucking pitiful excuse of a man. A waste of breath. I could kill him if he weren’t my husband. But maybe I should kill him. Perhaps I’m meant to kill that son of a bitch. But the trouble was that I love him. I couldn’t bear to live without him. (“Oh my teddy bear, don’t die - don’t ever die.”) The coo-coo clock that my mother had given us as a housewarming gift some 30 years ago, sat in the corner clucking away with its KAA KAA KAA. “Someone,” I said, “please fucking smash that thing before I god damn scream!” I hated that clock as much as I hated my mother.
I asked Lenard to run me a bath with no strings attached. I just wanted a bath. Just a hot bath. And he took his time peeling himself up and out of his armchair and then he dragged his big boat feet across the olive green shag carpet and into the bathroom. I didn’t understand why it took so long for him to walk from the living room, to the bathroom, just to turn on my bath. I mean, if he cared about me he would have walked faster. He was a selfish bastard at heart. Maybe he doesn’t love me after all, I thought. Oh my god, what if that’s true? I’ll kill myself if that’s true.
“Lenard,” I shouted from the couch. “Make me a nice hot bath. I want my skin to turn dark pink. I want my skin to burn like a Bermuda suntan.” Not that I’d know anything about Bermuda or a suntan. I’d always wanted to go to Bermuda. I always wanted a tan. But Lenard was too afraid, too superstitious, too dull, and too cheap.
"Boiling, Lenard." He didn’t reply. I heard the squeak of metal knobs turning and then the gush of bath water as it hit the bottom of the old porcelain tub like the magnificent Niagara Falls - reminding me again that I desperately wanted a vacation. I thought of Marilyn Monroe and how lucky she was. "God, Marilyn was such a pretty girl," I thought. “If only I had been pretty like Marilyn Monroe.”
“Lenard,” I said again, loudly from the couch. “I was just thinking about my sister Louisa-May.”
“Oh yeah, what about her,” he yelled back, half interested.
“You know Lenard," I yelled. "We were in a fight once, and I said to her ‘Louisa-May, you think you’re so pretty,' I said to her, ‘You think you’re so pretty. But you don’t think. But you don’t think,’ and then I laughed. Then I said to her, ‘Oh you don’t think I'm pretty. You don’t fucking think I'm pretty? Am I not pretty? Am I not pretty? You four-eyed little cunt.’ But then I said, ‘I am pretty you fucking little bitch. I am pretty you bitch liar!’ I said that to Louisa-fucking-May.”
Lenard didn’t reply, again. He didn’t say a thing. Just stood there sucking up all the air from our once charming 1950’s bungalow before returning to the dusty living room. I watched him slowly shift his weight from left to right as he stood in front of the liquor cabinet pouring himself a tall glass of Scotch. I could smell the fumes of the liquor 10 feet away. I could shut my eyes and breath in the smoke, and everything else could evaporate... but I didn’t.
“And then I shoved her.” I continued. “I shoved that little bitch. You know, I can remember Daddy saying, ‘I don’t love Louisa May.” I think he hated her really, but of course, that was no surprise to me. I didn’t love her either. I thought she was mean and square. Besides, I think Daddy only loved me. And I think, honestly, the only LOVE that Louisa-May has ever got was the kind that went between the legs. Did I ever tell you she that was a whore, Lenard? Did I ever tell you, Lenard, that she was the one who taught me how to masturbate? The first time I had an orgasm was because of that little bitch. That fucking little slut. She is the person who taught me how to rub myself. Do you want to see? Do you want to see the things she taught me?” I laughed. Lenard didn’t say a thing. He just stood there slowly sipping his scotch while looking out the window.
“Lenard,” I said, “Look at me.” He swirled the drink in his glass and ignored me. “Lenard, LOOK at me,” I said, his eyes fixed on a point outside the window as the light of the setting sun spilled onto the dried up Misty Green Continental parked in the driveway. She was a looker once. A real piece of ass. But now her paint cracked and her chrome bumper rusted out into pieces. Poor broad, she hadn’t run for years. "Used up and forgotten," I would say. She was once a budding starlet, the desired debutant who flashed with sophistication. Now her tires were shriveled and all sad like dead party balloons, or old tits, longing for another time, another place.
“Put down your god damn drink and look at me Lenard” I screamed. I had made up my mind; he was not going to continue treating me like this. Not again. Not this time. Not ever! “God damn it you son of a bitch I screamed! Just Look AT ME!”
Lenard finally looked over at me, his neck bending my way like a windsock. His once kind blue eyes faded to black-ice. “What now Linda,” he said.
"What now?” I thought to myself. I was so hurt. He may as well have stabbed my heart.
“Why do you have to be so cold, so hateful,” I said. “Why so cruel. Why do you punish me so?” And I screamed and cried and took my fists and pounded them into my skull as hard as I could. “Why do you hate me so,” I shouted, “I can’t bare your hatred,” I said pounding my fists, again and again, deeper and harder into my soul. And I wailed, “just kill me already, kill me already, just kill.”
Lenard rushed over to the couch, thank God, and held my arms tight and away from my face. “Oh good.” I thought, “Now he loves me again.” “My teddy bear, my teddy bear. He does love me after all” I could feel my body relax as I looked up into his grave blue eyes. I held my breath so the moment would last forever. My eyes were wet, and I could feel black mascara run across my cheeks. I curved a smile, soft as a petal.
And I asked him as nicely as I could “Lenard, Please carry me to the bath. Please carry me.”
Lenard reached down with his burly arms and scooped me up. I was a dead deer for him. Or maybe a wounded child unable to walk from a broken foot. Or perhaps a soldier in shock after a bloody war. Or maybe just a sack sea salt, just sack of salt. I’m nothing but a sack. I could smell the remnants of sweat stuck on him, thick and sour. And his dense breathe rich and sweetened by the taste of scotch. It intoxicated me. His scent was a drug. It captured me. It caged me and forced me to bury myself inside of him.
Lenard slowly placed me on the flat top of the toilet next to the tub. He twisted the metal knobs turning off the tub water. Hot steam filled the bathroom and wept into my skin.
“Will you undress me?” I asked, lifting my arms up like a child. Lenard obeyed and removed my green cashmere sweater. Under which heaved my white cotton shirt. “Unbutton my shirt too Lenard,” I begged, looking into his eyes. "His eyes are blue again." I thought. His big fingers were fumbling with the tiny pearl buttons.
“Leonard,” I said. “I need to know something. Do you think Louisa May is pretty?” I asked as he undressed me. “Do you? Do you?” I said. “You think she’s ugly, right? Ugly, right?”
“God damn, baby, What kinda ridiculous question is that?” He puffed as he peeled off my capris.
“It’s just a harmless, silly question,” I said baiting him. “I mean, you don’t think about fucking Louisa-May ever, or anything like that, do you? You’ve never thought about fucking her, right? Have you wanted to fuck her?”
Lenard threw his hands up and said. “God Linda, stop it. No. Don’t ask me things like that. It’s just; it’s not right.”
I was naked now, and still sitting on the flat top of the toilet. My toes shyly pointed together. I looked at the bath water. “It’s just that I need to know that you still find me the prettiest, that’s all. My teddy bear. That’s all I want Lenard, ” I desperately wanted to touch myself now. I wanted Lenard to see me touching myself. I wanted to show him everything I learned as a little girl, but I didn’t. I reached over to feel the temperature of the bath water instead. And it was hot. Very hot. I looked again at Lenard, his blue eyes forever lost. And I kept my hand in the water. I held my hand in there in the water, long enough for it to burn.
Cheyann Benedict received her BFA from The Experimental Theater Wing at NYU, and she is currently enrolled in UCLA's Certificate in Creative Writing Program.