Keeping Things Casual

Keeping Things Casual by J. Kuzmier --  photo by John B. at

After spending an entire Friday night into Saturday with Annalise in his bed, just like he had for the last four months, Greg was exhausted. The girl wore him out every time. He fell into a twilight state of drowsiness, the kind where he didn’t know for sure at any second if he was asleep or awake. But he could sense she wasn’t with him anymore, because his arms felt empty. Annalise was getting ready to leave, that meant. After four months, Greg had this pattern of hers memorized. Escape after the sex, so her conscience could pretend it never happened.

He woke up from his lazy slumber to the sound of his own shower turning off. Annalise was finished, that meant. He imagined her coming out of the shower, and smiled in anticipation as he turned his body to face the doorway she would soon be coming through. She was beautiful naked, he thought as she walked into the room with nothing but a towel on her head, desire sparking even after a night and a morning of lovemaking. Even, he continued, if all he had left to look forward to was a view. The shower she’d taken was her announcement that she was done with him. At least, for now.

Annalise sat on the bed that she’d shared with him up until a half hour ago as she dressed, as her towel sprawled on the floor. Lying under the covers and still naked himself, Greg watched her as she covered herself little by little. Annalise didn’t speak as she dressed. To Greg, this silence said more to him than if she had. It was like what had just happened between them before the shower was nothing. Well, why should he feel differently? Didn’t their rules of keeping things casual dictate that what went on between them was exactly that, nothing?

So he tried to pretend that he wasn’t bothered by her lack of words. There was no reason for him to protest, because if nothing happened, nothing could be wrong. If she didn’t find it worth it to tell him her feelings herself, he could do one better and not have any feelings at all. To distract himself from the silent game, Greg went for the easiest thing. He watched her dress, imagining the scene in reverse. Once she was fully clothed, he admired the curves that were even more sensual hidden (if that were possible) under the black shirt that hugged her torso, teasing with cleavage, and the tight jeans that wrapped the rest. If Annalise was trying to get him to ignore her with her silence, she really chose the wrong tactic.

“Can’t you get your mind out of the gutter?” she snapped, after she pulled her blue turtleneck sweater over her head to complete her transformation. In the sunlight that streamed through the windows, Greg could see her brown eyes blazing with wild fury as she met his gaze straight on, which sparked up the desire in him which had been quenched only minutes earlier. Annalise knew exactly where his mind was. An outsider might be inclined to think there was an awful lot of intimacy going on for something that was supposedly a lot of nothing. But Greg knew better. It was, after all, all about sex. They’d both been clear about that. There were rules in keeping things casual.

So he came back with his own counterpunch. “Why? What are you bothered about? Isn’t being in the gutter exactly what this is about?” He made a sweeping gesture of the bed.

“Oh stop it.” Annalise stomped towards the bathroom, which adjoined the bedroom. “I can’t believe I took a shower in such a pigsty. When the hell are you going to clean this place up?” The shards of her accusing voice stabbed through the air as she disappeared into the next room.

“Why should I? I hate cleaning,” Greg countered just loud enough that she could hear. “Why are you so concerned? Are you going to do it for me?”

Annalise shot her head out the doorway. “Are you nuts? What do you think I am, your girlfriend or something?”

“I do think you’re something.” Greg said truthfully. Annalise rolled her eyes and disappeared back into the bathroom. He heard things thumping and the crashing. She seemed to be making some kind of statement by slamming down mousse bottles, hair brushes, makeup and all things girly. It amused Greg. Seeing that she wasn’t there, he could afford some emotional expression. So he laughed. The pissed off drone of the blow dryer retaliated in some measly form of rebuttal. So there, it seemed to pout at him. Oh, so intimidated he felt, Greg laughed. So NOT.

The blow dryer stopped, and Annalise stood in the doorway with her pink cosmetic bag. “What’s so funny?” she demanded.

Whoops, Greg thought. He’d been a little too caught up in his own mind to keep track of things. So Greg did a mock frown to compensate. “Nothing at all, my dear,” he drawled.

“Oh, grow up.” She threw the bag on the bed and headed back to the bathroom.

“Why do I have to? Would it make a difference?” He countered.

“To do what?” Annalise was flaming with rage now, cheeks red.

God, Greg noticed. She was so hot when she was pissed. Take those damn clothes off, and I’ll tell you what it would, he thought smugly. True to form, she read him once more as her eyes narrowed with his reaction. The two of them were always on target when it came to communicating sexual innuendo. Well, wasn’t that what they specialized in?

“Goddamn it. Men. All you do is think about sex.”

Greg threw the covers off the bed, letting her get the full view of him as he stood up. “Why is that a problem for you when it comes to us? We’re keeping it casual, aren’t we? Live in the moment, that sort of thing?” He started walking to her, watching as she moved away from him.

“Stop flashing your junk. I don’t want any more sex today. I’ve had enough to keep me satisfied for the next week or so.”

“Okay, okay.” Greg threw his hands up like he was some thug surrendering to a cop. He sure felt like one with this lovely interchange. But it was part of the game, nothing new here. Time to keep it going, just like every time. “So if you had enough sex to keep you satisfied, why are you being so defensive? Not enough orgasms for you and too many for me?”

“Shut up.” Annalise was busy looking around the room, even though she’d gotten all of her crap out of the bathroom, was fully clothed, and her pocketbook was in the living room. She was looking everywhere, but at Greg and his body. So he felt no guilt as he circled in her periphery, ignoring her sighs and her rolling eyes. If she wanted to avoid him, she could leave. The way she always did.

“Can’t you just let it go?” She snapped. “It’s like this every time I try to leave. You can’t seem to let me go. Let me be.”

Greg laughed. “You’re in my apartment. Just like it is, every time. Why should I ‘let you be’?”

“What, are you saying that if you were in my apartment, you’d let me have my space?”

“Is that an invitation? I’ll take you up on it.”

She rolled her eyes. “I told you, when a guy comes to my apartment, it means something. Because then he’s— ”

“‘Gotten into my space’,” Greg finished. “I know. So sleeping with me for four months, then, means nothing.”

Annalise finally walked towards the bedroom door. “I told you. I can’t handle commitment right now. There’s too many complications for me to deal with.”

Greg laughed as she disappeared, shoving on a pair of boxers before slamming the bureau drawer to follow her. “And squabbling like this every time you sleep with me is a hallmark of simplicity? Are you kidding?”

“You know what I mean.” Her voice called from the living room. Greg followed the sound, standing in the bedroom doorway with his arms folded as she made a production of looking for the pocketbook that was sitting on the couch.

“I don’t get why you let yourself become so neurotic after we have sex like this.” He stated. “Do you know why? I mean, we both agreed in the beginning, it’s just sex.” She stopped for a moment, frozen, before she headed directly for the pocketbook. “So where are you going? Have special plans tonight?”

“God!” She whirled around. “How many people do you think I’m sleeping with? Do you think I’m some kind of slut?”

Gregory tilted his head slowly, watching her with a grin. “You were on the naughty side just an hour ago,” Annalise rolled her eyes. “What? The Catholic school girl in you can’t handle the downside of the casual sex she specifically wanted?”

“You’re such an asshole,” Annalise spat as she turned away from him, heading towards the front door before spinning around to face him again. “And for your information, it’s none of your business what I’m doing tonight. It’s not like we’re dating. I don’t owe you anything.”

“So I’ve heard,” Greg replied, walking towards the door and her. “Would you like to give me a kiss before you go, free bird?”

“Go to hell!” Her yell was barely out before she lunged away, slamming the door shut so violently that the frame shook. Greg stood at the door for a moment, before turning away. It was a shame, he thought. He would have liked to spend the day with Annalise today. Oh well. There was good and bad in everything. Maybe next time, he thought. And there would be. There always was.

Greg walked towards the bathroom, the steam from Annalise’s shower still pervasive. The scent of her apple conditioner and sticky sweetness of her mousse still hung in the air. Dear Annalise, he thought, remembering her body on his the night before. She was such a mass of contradictions, still trying to figure out her way at thirty-three. Well, at least he could give her a night or two of pleasure to take her mind off things. It was the minimum he could do for her. Who knows? If things were different, she might even be the one for him one day. Maybe.

He stripped off the boxers as he reached the shower stall, turning on the hot steaming water. Too bad he’d slept through Annalise’s shower. He would have liked to take one with her. She knew these things about him. It was too bad she was such a mess she wound up stealing her own pleasure away from herself.

As the water cascaded down him, he reached for the bar soap to lather himself with it. From the corner of his eye, he caught the image of a purple bottle in the far corner of the stall. Funny, it didn’t look like any shampoo he had ever used. What the hell was it?

Greg reached over to grab it. It was one of those special goopy mixtures that girls used for conditioner when they had color treated hair. Well, that was weird. Annalise wouldn’t use something like that. Fashion conscious as she was, she wasn’t one of those girls who colored her hair incessantly, so it would make no sense for her to use a shampoo like this one. But Debbi was one of those girls. After a night like he’d had with Annalise it was easy to forget Debbi and her hair hangups. But now, holding the purple bottle, he remembered her.

Debbi had big concerns. She never liked the fact that she wasn’t born platinum blonde, so she was constantly getting her hair done, or at least so she said. In fact, that was the main thing she talked to Greg about in the two weeks they’d known each other. Her hair. It was not enough bounce, so complained Debbi. Greg didn’t care about the bounce in her hair, so he tended to tune her out when she rambled on like that. Debbi had enough bounce in the right places for him not to care what was going on top of her head, or in it.

So, Debbi must have left it here when she stayed over on Wednesday night into Thursday. Today was Saturday. Backtracking, Greg remembered in some distant corner of his mind that he’d taken a shower at the gym on Friday morning, and Debbi had taken a shower after him on Thursday. That explained his overlooking the bottle. Examining it, Greg wondered if Annalise had noticed it. It sure would have explained why she was so edgy today, more so than usual after her Catholic conscience kicked in gear after a night of sexual ecstasy.

Greg almost felt bad. Almost felt guilty, just the way Annalise did but never admitted after being with him, like he was some kind of dirt she should be ashamed of. He almost felt a pang of conscience. He almost remembered that he could fall in love with her, if only she would let him. He thought of how he had wanted her to stay, just minutes ago. But then, he didn’t. Like she made it clear to him, she didn’t owe him anything. So, by that standard, neither did he. It was just sex. It was all about keeping things casual. Why should he care what she felt, if she was hurt? Had she ever cared that he was?

Another glance at the purple color-treated conditioner bottle compelled Greg to switch his mind to more pleasant things, the hot water conspiring as it made him feel drowsy with pleasure once again. He thought of Debbi, and the simple pleasure she gave to him just the other day. He should text her, see if she was busy tonight, he thought. It would be good to fill up the evening with pleasant things. He smiled, as the water and soap washed away any memory of the night before.

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