Room No. 7

by Sarah Kobrinsky

On the bedside table: a glass of water, a bottle of pills, an open book called Aggression Between Lovers.

Daniel prepares for bed. He’s not sure if she’ll come. Somehow it doesn’t matter whether or not she actually arrives. He has felt her sweet presence, watched her strong figure walk across a room. This is enough. He is complete without her. But she does come and he is pleased. He opens the door and her body fills the entire frame. He takes a step back to look at her, to let her in.

She notes how he has spread himself across the hotel room, how he has taken up space. She enters the bathroom. She sees shampoo, soaps, dental floss, toothpaste. These treasures of intimacy terrify her. Looking at these bottles make her feel too close, like he’s already inside her. She holds her breath to keep from losing herself entirely in his scent. She steps back into the room and sees the book on the table.

“Have you ever hit a woman before?”

“Yes, once,” he looks away. “But it was reflexive. She slapped me first.”

He laughs, a mocking laugh that is almost self-congratulatory. She brings her palm to her cheek and imagines him slapping her.

“My husband hit me once,” she touches her upper lip. “Here.”

He clenches his fist as if to fight, as if to protect her. He sees her wince then relaxes his pose.

“I’m sorry,” he reaches over and strokes her cheek.

“No, it’s all right,” she says calmly. “Wanna know what scared me about it the most? When he was through he didn’t check to see if I was OK. He just stood there, fuming, his chest heaving like an animal. I asked him later if he had ever hit a woman before. You know what he said to me? Yes, once, but it was reflexive. She slapped me first.”

She laughs.

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Sarah Kobrinsky lives in California via London via Fargo via Winnipeg. Her poems and stories have appeared on both sides of the Atlantic and in the ether in between.
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