He Did the Opposite
Christy Crutchfield

He spoke before he thought, before he even knew he had a thought, and now it is silent in the car, but not completely silent because of the intrusive winding of the tape player, which gets louder as the day gets hotter. He's not entirely sure when the playlist ended, but now it's just the angry wheeling of the adapter in his tape player. He can't look at her because he's driving, because this was a mini-road-trip on a Sunday to the organic farm where you can meet the cows that supply your ice cream, and in this season they even have asparagus ice cream. This was supposed to be fun and have nothing to do with the future.

He would turn to her, if it weren't for these unfamiliar winding roads, and tell her that it's not like he's even thought about their future, and, of course, not of children or anything, just a vague scenario where they both pay rent for the same bedroom.

She is probably watching him, and her breath must be overly sweet and somehow sour. How had he let the future sneak out of his mouth? And worse, how had he immediately retracted it: "I mean, it's not like that's what I want or anything"? Now, he's scared her, and his eyes are stuck on the road. Or, he's disappointed her. Or at least proven he is too wishy-washy to be considered eligible for the future.

When the road finally changes names to one he knows, he looks over. She's scraping her spoon along the side of her ice cream cup, gathering the last remains of her hot fudge, which sounded disgusting when she ordered it on top of asparagus, though the ice cream was actually quite bland and had almonds in it.

He slides the iPod over to her. "You pick."

Tonight he will pull her close to him and hold her the way she likes, the way that, yes, he likes too, but that hurts his back if he sleeps that way. He'll tell her exactly the process that his mind went through, and she'll explain what happened in her head, play with his chest hair in that weird way, and then they'll laugh at the ridiculousness of communication and know they've bested it, and tomorrow morning the relationship will have the not-quite-a-year freshness it technically should.

She takes a long shower. Are they always this long? He pictures her face gathering, like the first time he'd yelled at her last month. What if she's the kind of girlfriend who waits until she's alone to cry and then one day leaves because you don't understand me? What if she's still mad and thinking of leaving first thing in the morning, maybe before he wakes up? Or after her shower? That would be worse.

She comes out in her towel and ruffles his hair, says, "Dusty," yawns.

He washes any trace of cow off him.

Tonight, he will find a way to explain everything so calmly and eloquently that she'll know he's the kind of guy to consider when considering the future, if that's something they decide they want to consider, way down the road, the kind of guy who will eventually have a grown-up adapter for his iPod, one that plugs into the car lighter instead of the tape deck—he won't even have a tape deck. He'll be the kind of guy who has a one of those electrical outlets instead of a lighter.

He rinses twice with mouthwash.

She is asleep. The towel is a damp turban on her head. Her skin is a soft he hasn't experienced yet, freshly washed under the blankets. She inhales when he gets in bed, blinks a few times at him.

"Hi," she says.


"Even in ice cream form, it makes your pee smell."

And she is already asleep. Her body stays distant from his on the bed. Her hand is firmly on his chest.

Christy Crutchfield writes and teaches in Western Massachusetts. She has stories in or coming from The Collagist, PANK, Mississippi Review and others. The Five Lost Senses of Carl, an ebook she co-wrote with fellow contributor Mel Bosworth, is just out from Deckfight Press.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of Vector Hugo.

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