Familiar Floors -- flash by Thomas Lu
The sex, I knew, would be like an old, familiar floor. Like walking through the hall of your childhood bedroom and remembering where the creaky spots were, but only after you’d stepped on them. I probably wouldn’t even look at him when we were finished.
When he opened the door the apartment unfolded in front of me, as if it hadn’t existed there before. I took off my shoes and asked to use the bathroom. He pointed it out like I hadn’t lived there just two years ago.
It was too familiar, the bathroom, and the absence of my things from it was well-defined. There was the same cup on the sink with just one toothbrush. There was the rack on the shower with just one towel. In the mirror--new, I noticed--I looked like shit. I stared at my reflection and he stared hatefully back. My eyes fell to the countertop, the toothpaste resting next to the sink. The tube was crinkled and the cap was caked with dried blue. A tiny oval of Dial soap lay in a dish, slowly whitening in its puddle of water. I felt some perverse satisfaction at these statements of carelessness. Here was proof I was doing better than him, fucking below my weight, so to speak.
From inside the bathroom I could hear him moving, a chair creaking, the sharp crumple of jeans being folded. I listened for a while before I pissed. I washed my hands and face, sniffed beneath my shirt for any odor.
Years ago we fucked in the shower to my right, water running down, everything slippery and yet full of friction. He liked it and I obliged, and I know now that it was a mistake to agree to things just because he wanted me to. I lost myself in the ideal of companionship, of compromise. When we lived together, the drain was occasionally clogged with his long hair and somehow this became a chore for both of us, not just him. I looked down to it now and saw it was clear. He’d worn his hair short for a while now, and I conceded it looked good on him.
I turned on the faucet again so it sounded like I was busy, and I opened the cabinet above it. Extra soap, towels, a bluetooth speaker tucked onto the top shelf. Pills, too, on the bottom shelf, Adderall and Zoloft. Don’t we all? Our only commonalities now, contained in his bathroom pharmacy. Then the cabinet beneath the sink: Lysol, sponges, Oxi-Clean, Swiffer, a toilet plunger. Typical. I closed it all, turned off the faucet. I took one last look at everything, the paint peeling in the same corner I remembered, the place on the faucet handle where the metal was rubbed dull, the brown stain on the ceiling we could never get off. I lingered with my hand on the doorknob, taking it all in.
When he knocked suddenly on the door, I felt the vibration in my palm. I opened it. Seeing him now was, for some reason, a shock, even though we’d just been face to face a few minutes ago. Perhaps because this was the person whose things I had just scrutinized, perhaps because I still had the image of him from two years ago stuck in my mind. Now he was before me again, as he was a few minutes ago, as he was years ago.
Seeing each other, we’d become unstuck from time; this could be our first date, our last hookup. It didn’t matter. So it was only easy to lean forward, only easy to place my hands on his back. As a few minutes ago, as a few years ago. I gave in to the lift. When we were bare before one another and he opened the shower curtain for me, I obliged. This was my familiar floor, here was the creak, and I remembered to step on it hard.
When I went home on the subway I didn’t get a text from him, as I knew I wouldn’t. We’d reconnected for only an afternoon, returned to each other just to show our lives off. That was all. I read what he’d texted me three days ago: wanna meet up? That casual, premeditated plea; it was all that was needed to draw my path across his. I clicked his contact, my thumb pausing over the delete button. Then I realized it wouldn’t matter, this tiny defiance. The doors slid open to my stop, and I knew I would still remember, would still come back, until he stopped being the last place I remember calling home.
Thomas Lu is a high school senior from Illinois. His prose has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and he is an alumni of the Iowa Young Writer's Studio. In his spare time, he is an avid quizbowl player, a lover of Wikipedia, and a math aficionado.