I heard her high heels clicking behind me on the walk up the stairs to the apartment.
“I hope to god you’re not some fucking creep.”
She held her fist up again and I saw her smile in the dark hallway.
“Couch. No fucking touching. Or I swear.”
Inside, I had left most of the lights on and the door was open to my bedroom, revealing the mess of clothes, books, notepads, and half-empty luggage bags that had been there since arriving two weeks before. I picked up a plate that was left on the coffee table, and brought it over to the sink. There were a few cups and dishes on the kitchen bar, and I placed them all into the sink and ran the tap.
“Thought you said you lived on the top floor?”
I turned to see her plop down on the couch. She flung off her heels then rested her naked feet on the glass coffee table.
“I could have sworn it was the top floor. I’m new here …
“So, what will it be? Pimms, pastis, vodka? ”
“You got soda?”
“Alors. Donnez moi un vodka juice, man.”
I poured the vodka and orange juice into wine glasses – the only clean glasses I had left – and brought them over to the coffee table. We said “santé,” then drank. I took out my e-cigarette, and we shared it, passing it back and forth, blowing out big clouds of vapor after every pull.
Her toenails were painted red. She had kept her hat on. I got up to turn the kitchen light off and flicked on the lamp near the couch, and took my seat back beside her. She wore a cream-colored bra, and it was impossible not to notice the freckle on her left breast, where the skin was exposed, and the light red burn along her cleavage, and the paleness everywhere else.
“I’m not going to fuck you.”
“I know. I’m OK with that.”
“I’m not fucking kidding around.”
“I know. You don’t have to worry about it. You are beautiful though …
“Why did he lock you out?”
“It’s too quiet in here. Why don’t you play some music.”
I walked over to the stereo, placed my phone in it, and picked a jazz playlist from online. The music came on with the gentle, lonely blow of a trumpet, like a wounded animal, howling for its comrades to come rescue it. The song was from Sketches of Spain.
How many times had we listened to this song together? How many red wines, how many meals, with friends at our round table, the one we built ourselves, with this same song playing on the stereo? The conversations stretching long into the night about jobs, gossip, the crazy story from the weekend before. The plates stacked and the friendly good bye, and the record still playing even as all the lights were turned off, the kitchen cleaned, the dishwasher burbling in the dark.
“You don’t have to talk about it.”
“Look man, it’s really simple. He’s a fucking asshole and now I’m here. If you want all the details go to the opera, or some shit.”
“He locked you out? But then he’s not home either.”
“He’s… I don’t know where the fuck he goes. He’s definitely not home.”
“Don’t be. It’s about fucking time. Five whole years in this city.”
She finished her glass and stood up.
“Nice place. But it’s filthy.”
She walked to the kitchen counter, and poured herself another vodka, filling half the glass with alcohol, then poured in the last drops of orange juice. She started looking around the apartment, with her glass in hand. She looked at the vitrola, wiping the dust off the bronze, tulip shaped speaker with an index finger, she squinted at the paintings on the wall, she brushed her palms along the leaves of the green plant in the corner.
“You’ve sure got a lot of stuff for someone who just moved here.”
I didn’t want to tell her it wasn’t my place. So I just kept silent. I had no idea if I’d ever see her again.
“I’m going to make the bed for you,” I said. “I’ll take the couch. You need something to sleep in?”
“No. I brought my pyjamas actually.”
She picked up her purse and removed a pair of silk pyjamas, brown plaid, to show me.
“That’s handy. OK I’ll be back in a second.”
I came into the bedroom and half closed the door behind me. I pushed all the clothes into the closet, and stacked the books and notepads on the bedside table. I closed the luggage bags and shoved them off to the side. I made the bed and smoothed the blanket, and fluffed up the pillows. Before leaving the room I grabbed a sheet from the closet and a pillow for myself.
As I was walking out the bedroom, I stopped. Out in the living room, near the bathroom, I could see Jane. She was already undressed. Her back turned to me. She had turned on the light in the bathroom, and the light fell onto her body from one side and left a shadow on the other. Her blonde hair, without the hat on, came to below her shoulders. First the bottoms, she bent down to place one leg in, then the other, slowly hiking up the pants. Then she removed her bra and threw it to the ground and bent over again to pick up the remaining top. She put it on and started to turn around. I rushed back from the half-open door, counted a few seconds, then walked back into the living room.
“How about one more drink,” she said.
This time she poured the drinks. There was no more juice so we ended up taking a shot from the wine glasses, standing beside each other near the sink.
“Are you even going to ask my name?”
“Fuck no. Who gives a shit about that shit?”
“Alright Jane Birkin. I like that. Cheers.”
She put down her empty glass, walked past me, without looking my way, over to the bedroom door. She turned to face me before going in.
After the door closed, I got my bed ready on the couch. I removed my clothes and lay in my underwear on top a white sheet. The music still played. Another quiet, moody jazz piece, with a trumpet, full of lonesomeness and pain. The cars outside passed, brushing their light and their echoes over the dark living room. I had images of Jane putting on her pyjamas dancing in my mind.
An hour later, maybe less, I walked over to the stereo to turn it off. The room was quiet. Just the sound of the cars outside could be heard. When the music stopped, the door to the bedroom slid open, and I could see Jane standing there, half lit from the street light pouring into the room.
“So you gonna come in here, or what?”
I nodded my head and walked into the room without saying anything. I placed my hands on her waist and we began to kiss, still standing up. The kiss was violent and hungry and she placed her tongue almost entirely in my mouth, and me back into hers. My hands were exploring her waist, her ass, her breasts, her lower back. Over to the bed and I removed her clothes, as she lay there looking at me, arms crossed over her chest, and then I removed my underwear. I was kissing her neck. I was taking in her smell with my nose as if she was vapor, as if I could swallow her into my lungs, and she would enter my blood. I would bite her lips, I would kiss her collarbones, I would explore every inch of her body, greedily, and find whatever it had to give me.
I remember her biting my finger in her mouth. I remember her waist and how it felt in my hands. I remember she looked me in the eyes almost the whole time. I remember all the bites, all the sounds, all the exaltation and the disbelief of me being there with her.
When it was over, I rolled over onto my back. We were both covered in sweat. I got up to get us a glass of water. When I returned, she was still nude on top of the sheets, and I saw her body in the light from the street lamp. She sat up and drank deeply. She wiped her lips and handed me back the glass. I drank the rest and came back into the bed.
We slept easily, with her head resting above my arm.