Autumn woke, and was slow to shake off the confusion that comes from waking. This is not where I sleep, she thought. What is this. Am I supposed to be at work, oh my God am I late for work? Have I been fired. Sunday. It is Sunday. There is no work to be done on Sunday: it is the Lord's day. She quickly became aware of the large, warm form next to her in the bed, and she knew what it was. It was not a dog, for sure. If it had been a dog she would not have felt anxious at all about reaching over and stroking his hair, because dogs had always been friendly to her. Still, she held her breath and reached out and touched his hair. It was a little oily, but soft. She could not object strongly.
Autumn sat up and took a cursory inventory of her strange surroundings, and suddenly felt oppressed by the tyranny of everything in the world that wasn't hers. She needed an anchor, a tether, something that would pull her back to her own planet. Phone. Where is my phone? Looking down at the floor she found it interesting that all of their clothes were touching, as if their Levis, like children imitating grown-ups, had decided they would sleep together too. She knew her phone to be in her pocket, but the difficulty lay in reaching over the warm dog next to her (she had started thinking of him this way, even though she knew it wasn't true) to retrieve it. She would have to lean on him and stretch out her arm to have even a chance of reaching it, and though she did this with all the caution she owned, this just made her hope even more that she would inadvertently wake him, knowing that she had done all she could not to disturb him. As she performed this stunt she found herself to be even more skillful than she had feared; she successfully laid as much as forty percent of her body weight against his back and he stirred but did not wake. Autumn considered being disappointed but decided instead to be pleased with her stealth; perhaps she should steal things.
Examining the prize won by her cunning, she pressed buttons with her thumb and let her eyes graze lazily on messages from her friends, chewing them with a sort of loving disregard. Though she had no right to expect anything more, she still pretended to horror when confronted with the next (and arguably most relevant) piece of information her phone had for her, which was that it was barely seven-thirty AM. Autumn felt both exhausted and resigned; no more sleep could possibly be coming to her. She could not have slept more than four hours.
She laid there for a moment and considered her nudity. She felt, as she always did in this situation, much less aware of it than was normal for her. Typically if the bottom of her t-shirt rose above the top of her jeans when she stretched out her arms she was mortified, but now she felt as though she'd be comfortable walking out the door, checking the mail, waving at passing children and their parents. For an instant she was tempted to perform another act of stealth, to carefully lift the covers and assess his nudity, but decided against it on the grounds that she would almost surely laugh out loud when she saw his butt. Instead she contented herself with wondering what it would be like if -- perhaps an enchanted lightning bolt struck in the night, or the bed had been built on an Indian burial ground -- if their brains had switched bodies. She imagined him inside her body, waking and seeing out of her eyes, feeling what her skin felt. He began a very tentative exploration of his new breasts before Autumn abandoned the exercise, judging it to be abnormal.
Momentarily left with nothing else to think about, Autumn took a moment to feel parched. Dehydration was setting in rapidly, and there was nothing to drink in the room that would not serve only to exacerbate the problem. Getting up for a glass of water would seem sensible, perhaps, to someone who had not given the problem enough thought; but Autumn had, and what if she got up and put her clothes back on and walked out to the kitchen and couldn't find where the glasses were kept? Waking someone to ask where to find a glass was obviously out of the question, and anyway, what if the water was tinny and gross? Would she just keep walking, out the door and back to her car? She didn't feel ready for that. Would she walk back to the bedroom, still parched? Would she take her clothes off again before climbing back into bed? That seemed weird, but so did getting into bed in her clothes. Autumn supposed she'd take her jeans off again but leave her underwear and t-shirt on, while simultaneously deciding it would be much easier to simply never get out of this bed.
Nearly an hour passed, and Autumn lie absently flipping the pages of a book she took from the nightstand. The book was called Judo: The Gentle Way. She was not as absorbed in it as she had initially hoped; having stared for several minutes at the photograph on the cover of the book, at the two men, looking graceful and dignified and profoundly silly all at once, their white uniforms immaculate, one man hurtling through the air, on a collision course with a blue mat, propelled by the will of the second man. The image was captivating, and she wondered if Judo might become her new passion, if she would spend hours watching videos on the internet, reading heated message board discussions about controversial rule changes, if she might herself take up this sport, become a martial artist. Judo: A New Life by Autumn Landry. This is a book that will never be written; Autumn found the manual to be fairly dry, although she took some satisfaction in repeating to herself the names of techniques, mouthing them breathlessly while making no attempt to understand their meaning. Ne Waza. Katame no kata.
Giving up on Judo for the time being, Autumn turned her attention to the idiot still sleeping soundly next to her in bed. You idiot, she even dared to think. Where do you get off sleeping like this. You are probably drooling, you shameful man, and then she covered her mouth with her hand to hold in her amusement at her own phrase. Shame on you. Suddenly feeling dangerous, she climbed over his bundled form, carelessly this time, and flopped down on the floor. He snorted and rolled over. Despite the sudden loss of her modesty, Autumn recognized the social need to clothe herself before adventuring out to the bathroom; she was not, however, ready to reapply her own clothes, and though she toyed with the idea of wearing his, she was given pause by the thought of his jeans failing to overcome her hips. She pulled her underwear and t-shirt on and decided she would make a break for it, she would dart from across the hallway; she would be fast, as fast as electricity leaving the light switch and arriving at the lamp; she would be quick, like a mouse, quick so that no one would ever know for sure what they saw, if they saw anything.
Inside the bathroom, the toilet welcomed Autumn, lid up but seat down. Inviting, asking nothing of her but to sit. She did so, with a dignity approaching the regal. As a guest she felt obliged to make a show of washing her hands, but arriving at the sink she surprised herself, the way she would sometimes surprise herself while driving by turning down a road leading in the exact opposite direction of where she was going. Kneeling down to where she knew the action to be, she opened the cabinet. Autumn was momentarily taken aback, wondering if she had blundered into someone else’s bathroom, a woman’s, perhaps in a different apartment entirely, and what would this woman say when she found her in there? She remembered quickly, though, that he’d recently had a girlfriend, and she had clearly made her presence felt under the sink.
Autumn surveyed the landscape: tampons, lotions, a jar of moisturizing facial wipes. She indulged herself, imagining that the poor girl had suffered from a deformative facial condition that was just barely kept in check by the use of these medicated pads; as she removed the lid and began to clean her face, though, Autumn forced herself to abandon this comfortable fantasy, to confront the certain truth: surely the woman cared for her immaculate face like the owner of a fine Italian automobile, carefully waxing and polishing in the manner befitting so elegant an object. The thought was like stepping into a hot bath: it stung, sharply, but after a few moments of forcing it on herself she found she could live with it, the same way she lived with everything else: that is, through familiarity. Anyway the thought of a fine Italian auto had brought to mind her Saturn, and the squealing sound of the brakes. Autumn didn’t mind the noise, but she knew that if she didn’t have them fixed soon the pads would give way and the rotors would be damaged, and she’d have to find a new shop to take her car to because she had already gotten a lecture about letting this happen from her old shop. At a new shop she could at least feign ignorance, but she was comfortable with her current mechanic, sure as she was that he was constantly ripping her off.
Dragging the cleansing pad across her face, she prepared to savor the feeling of satisfaction that would come when she finished and beheld the grime she’d removed from her face. When she finally looked, audible disappointment escaped her lips: the pad had not been soiled. She tossed it and made herself swear to have her brakes repaired in time, this time. She was forever making promises to herself without any expectation that they would be kept.