by Jason Jordan
Matt is watching a man skin another man. It's a movie on TV, a movie with subtitles. From the couch, Matt can hear Julie getting ready in the bathroom. He glances toward the hallway when he hears her click the light off. She's wearing an airy green dress and a tasteful amount of makeup."I'll see you tonight, babe," she says on her way to the apartment door. She touches his shoulder.
"Where you going first?" he says.
"The Pink Leopard."
"Have a good time. See you later." He's heard of The Pink Leopard— is it a gay bar? he wonders—but hasn't been. He waits a few seconds, giving her time to reach her car, and approaches the window to watch her pull out of the parking lot. When she's gone, he turns the TV off and walks into the bedroom, where he changes from shorts and a T-shirt into a dark suit minus the tie. He thinks it's fine if she wants to spend the night clubbing with her girlfriends, but he's not about to take anything lying down.
In the parking garage, Matt sees Julie's car and parks a level above. He knows he'll have to avoid certain people—Julie's friends Carla and Whitney, along with any mutual friends who might be there unexpectedly. If he wants to spy, he needs to be invisible. At the entrance, Matt shows his ID to a tall beefy bouncer, a bald white guy, who lets him inside, where the techno is loud and the lightshow is in full swing. The place is packed, and Matt knifes his way through the crowd toward the bar. He orders a beer, a Miller Lite, and surveys the scene. When the male bartender says "Five dollars," he almost pulls out his debit card to start a tab, but thinks Julie will notice the charge on their joint checking account when she balances the checkbook, so he pulls out cash instead.
Before long, he sees Julie on the dance floor. Carla and Whitney are nearby. Julie is dancing with some clean-cut guy who's also in a suit without a tie. Her back is turned to him, her ass glued to his crotch as she gyrates while trying to keep her mixed drink from spilling. The guy's hand is on her side. Matt fantasizes about chopping off the guy's hand with a tomahawk.
But, he has to admit, the way Julie looks is what attracted him in the first place. As he watches, he notices that Julie's long straight black hair truly complements her brown eyes and tan complexion. She's short and petite, which he likes, but also has large natural breasts, which he also likes. She runs to keep in shape, and it shows.
"How's it going?" a male voice asks him from behind. Matt turns to see a clean-shaven guy with short brown hair in a V-neck. "Can I get you a drink?"
"Sorry, man. I'm kind of busy."
"It's just a drink," the man says. "No strings attached."
"Fine. I'll take another Miller Lite."
The man delivers his order to the bartender, waits a few minutes, then gives Matt his drink.
"If you feel like talking," the man says to Matt, "I'll be over there." He points to a table in the corner. "I'm Tim, by the way."
"Matt," he says, shaking hands with Tim. "Thanks for the drink." Tim walks back to his table, where a few other guys are hanging out, and Matt continues to watch Julie dance. That was weird, he thinks, but shrugs it off.
He spies on Julie during one more song. She dances with the same guy, his hand in the same place as if it's stuck and he couldn't remove it if he wanted to. Has Julie cheated on him tonight? Matt thinks that depends on the definition of cheating, how conservative or liberal the definition is. The guy's touching Julie consensually, but it's not quite sexual. There's been no kissing or petting. Nothing to get pissed about, necessarily, but he still doesn't like it.
Matt returns to the tomahawk fantasy, knowing he'd have to punish Julie, too, if she were ever caught in the act. After all, cheating is a two-way street. It takes two, like the tango. He thinks back to the movie he was watching earlier, how the man skinned another man alive. Would being skinned alive be a reasonable punishment for cheating? Matt decides probably not, but he knows he'd feel like killing if he caught her fucking around on him. It would pass, though, and he'd deal with it internally.
In her green dress, Julie looks sexy. In fact, Matt wants to fuck her now more than he has the last few times he actually did. He thinks about how guys get a bad rap for wanting sex all the time, yet, out of the three long-term girlfriends he's had, they all wanted sex more often than him. He's been a two or three times a week guy, while they've been five or six.
The song ends and despite the DJ starting a new one, Julie, Carla, and Whitney congregate on the dance floor and dart off to the bathroom, which is farther away from Matt's position. He decides he's seen enough, plus he needs to make sure he gets home before her. He'll change clothes and resume his spot on the couch.
On the way home, partly because their Internet service is on the fritz, Matt stops by the twenty-four-hour video store. There he describes the movie he's looking for.
"This Asian guy was skinning another Asian guy alive," Matt says to the clerk, a scrawny kid with pimples and glasses, likely another high school student working his first job. "It has subtitles, and I think they mentioned Mao a couple times."
Matt wants to see the rest of the movie, because he's curious. He's curious to know how it ends.
Jason Jordan holds an MFA from Chatham University. His forthcoming books are Cloud and Other Stories (Six Gallery Press, 2009) and Powering the Devil's Circus: Redux (Six Gallery Press, 2009). His prose has appeared online and in print in over forty literary magazines. Additionally, he's Editor-in-Chief of decomP, accessible at www.decompmagazine.com. You can visit him at his blog at poweringthedevilscircus.blogspot.com.