Without fail, every time, in the middle of going down on her, the men would always pause, say they needed to use the restroom, and they would vanish into thin air.
Sure, they’d turn up a day or two later, at the grocery or the Laundromat, remotely unscathed. Or so people would tell her. But she never followed up on such investigations. It was embarrassing, really. She’d always lie there, on their futon or on their bed or on their floor, staring at the chunk of light that crouched motionlessly beneath the door. She’d hold her breath, waiting for the sound of water displacing in the toilet by way of urine, or vomit, even, but no sound would come back to her.
She would wait. She would sit up. She would wipe her eyes. She would dress and leave and quietly shut the door behind her.
Did you ever consider maybe knocking on the door? Her therapist would ask her. Well, no, she’d reply. That thought had never crossed her mind.
And how often does this happen? Her therapist would ask her.
Every time, she’d reply.
How many times is every time? Her therapist would ask her.
I’m not some whore, you know, Sue would reply.
She preferred the double deck busses, but she wouldn’t sit on the upper level. Something about it didn’t seem right.
An attractive man got on and sat across from her. He smiled.
She went to the upper level.
The bus ride to the therapist took forty-three minutes, and after forty-three minutes of being inside her head, she had little left to say in the rocking chair. It had all been said.
There are a number of things that could explain this, her therapist would say.
She’d list them all, and it would be none of them, far as Sue could gather.
Does this happen when you go down on them? Her therapist would ask her.
I’m not some whore, you know, Sue would reply.
Leaving proved troublesome. Apartments were the worst, especially when it was hard to recall how she entered initially. Long, winding, dark corridors were the worst. Leaving was the worst.
There was always that subtle fear tickling her insides, an uncomfortable tickling, like when something brushes against your nipples but it’s not a finger or tongue so it just feels so wrong when they harden. What if they came out of the bathroom and caught her in the act of departure? Why are you leaving, Sue? I just had to use the toilet, I wasn’t in there but a second, I don’t understand. Why are you leaving? Don’t you love me?
I’m sorry, she would pretend to counter. I just thought, well, you weren’t coming out, so I should leave.
Don’t you love me, Sue?
I do love you, she would say. I do love you. Please come out of the bathroom.
Do the men disappear when they are at your house as well? Her therapist would ask.
Oh, I never bring men into my home, Sue would reply.
Why is that?
I think that would upset my roommate, Sue would reply.
Is your roommate male or female? Her therapist would ask.
I don’t follow.
It’s a dog, Sue would explain.
The dog would be bothered if you brought a man home? Her therapist would ask.
No, but the cat would, Sue would explain.
It’s not healthy to let your pets govern your sexual activities, her therapist would say.
I don’t have any pets, Sue would explain. I don’t have any pets. I live alone.
Alone. I am alone. I am so very alone.
She saw one of the men in line at Greggs. He was buying an iced cookie. A Santa cookie.
The queue snaked this way and that and he couldn’t see her but she could see him so she stared intently at him, mostly at his mouth, at the rest of him too, but mostly his mouth, the queue inched onward.
He paid the cashier and left.
She did not follow.
Have you been dating? Her therapist would ask her.
I’m not one much for dating, Sue would reply.
At our last session you mentioned that you were feeling lonely. It may be time for you to dip your toes back into the dating world.
I’m not ready, Sue would reply.
Sue, John has been gone for some time now.
I no longer think about John. I am over John, Sue would reply.
It’s okay to miss him, but it’s time to move on, her therapist would say.
I am over John, Sue would repeat.
John is fine, Sue would add.
John is dead, Sue, her therapist would say.
Oh, Sue would say. Then she would remember.
So what’re you feeling? The man asked, looking at the menu.
The chicken pecan salad sounds great, Sue would reply.
I agree. But I think I want a burger, the man said.
My husband killed himself, Sue said.
I beg your pardon? The man shifted uncomfortably.
Would you like to split an appetizer? Sue asked.
The man hesitated. Sure, the man said, slowly.
I’m torn between potato skins or the wings.
Hey, we could do both, even, the man said.
Actually, I think I just want fries, Sue said, adding, he bled out in the tub.
The man put the menu down. Excuse me, he said.
He backed away from the table and headed down the hall.
Above the hall was a sign that read, “Restrooms.”
Sue put down her menu, backed away from the table, quietly, and left.
Leaving was the worst.