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  • Sweat
  • LaToya Watkins (bio)

Lotrece woke up dripping sweat the night her marriage ended. The ceiling fan hummed above her, and she could feel the central air conditioning blowing full blast. The room was neither warm nor cold, which is why at first, she thought she was dripping blood. Thought she started her period, and then she remembered she no longer had a uterus from which blood could drip. That part of her was gone.

When she realized it was sweat, she looked over at her husband, Clayton. He'd kicked himself free from the covers, and the moonlight through their bedroom window allowed her just enough light to stare at the way the flesh around his center sagged over his underwear. It looked painful, and she almost felt sorry for him, until her eyes moved to the nightstand on his side. There was a half-eaten Twinkie, a tin container of flavored almonds, and what she guessed was a sandwich wrapped in a paper towel.

She scoffed and slid her leg off the bed. She was tired of lecturing him about eating in bed. About smoking cigarettes. About marijuana and how black it made his lips. How dingy all of those things made him look. Middle age ain't teenage, she'd told him. We got to be careful with ourselves. We real fragile. Don't keep as good. But really, she just meant him.

She used her palms to push herself from the mattress, closed her eyes, and gritted her teeth when the box spring let out a wooden groan. She didn't want to wake him and she did want to. She wanted to tell him about his sweat. How it encouraged hers. How she wasn't a night sweater a year ago. She wanted him to believe what she believed.

Clayton had always been a sweater, except for those few periods of time when it temporarily tapered off. Those periods of time when he was making the right choices. He was a hairy man, but that wasn't it. His eating habits were terrible, he was a smoker, and he was a cheater. Lotrece believed that all of those things became ghosts in the night [End Page 33] and came through his pores to haunt him and remind her of who he was. At the same time, she didn't want him to open his eyes, to open his mouth. She was tired of fighting. He would be who he was and she would be herself. And that was that.

When they were young and he always smelled of expensive cologne, he'd tell her their scents blended well together. She believed him because his sleepy eyes were beautiful and his lips were pink and full. All she could smell now was her own faint oniony musk and his powerful, almost corn chip, almost feet one.

She stood on her side of the bed, the side closest to the door, and looked down at him. It used to be his side of the bed, until two springs ago when the cockroaches invaded from the nest in the attic. The first ones came down and climbed into bed with them. Always on her side. Never on his. She'd been appalled and offended at how the bugs chose her when she kept no snacks or sweat on her side of the room.

He didn't offer to switch sides. In fact, he rolled his eyes and told her to quit being dramatic. It's not my fault this is happening, he whined. Don't take it out on me.

She moved out to the couch after he refused to trade places with her. She ignored him for three days and pretended that they were strangers passing through the same space. On the third night, he moved his things—his snacks and sweat—over to her side of the bed, and she moved back in. They never mentioned those three days and pretended that his side of the bed had always been hers.

And as she looked down at him, she thought about yelling and waking him. Telling him that she wanted her side back, but she didn...


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pp. 33-44
Launched on MUSE
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