Even before we can completely undress, I know that Katrina and I won’t work out.
For three summers we’ve worked at the IMAX together, and this summer I took her to the beach. I stared at the butterfly tattoo on her waist which bounced with her hips every time she dashed into the ocean. At dusk the sky bloomed purple and the air chilled.
Here we are.
Katrina fiddles with her bra strap. My skinny jeans slide just beyond my hips, and in her eyes I consider our mismatched pasts. I think of all the art history majors she’s dated, who wooed her into the sack over Pinot Noir and eloquent viewpoints on Sargent’s watercolors. I won’t match up at first, but that’s ok. Over coffee, she’ll tell me she’s so over how the pretentiousness of art history guys. She’ll say it’s nice to kiss a guy who doesn’t smell like clove cigarettes.
She’ll take me to meet her art friends and they’ll all marvel at how cute it is when I ask, “Who was the dude that painted the scream face?”
“Edvard Munch,” one friend will say, stroking my arm.
Munch. I’ll say it to myself every morning in the shower. Munch. Munch. Munch. Munch. Munch. Munch.
My jeans fall further, passing my bony and quivering knees. Katrina fingers the buttons of her flannel and I think about how our future sex will start out nervous and awkward, but eventually blossom into something out of Henry Miller. On most nights, we won’t even make it to the bed. Katrina will yank me onto a pile of unwashed jeans and band tees, and I’ll kiss her long pale thighs. We will perpetually taste of saltwater. She’ll pull my head up to her chest, and wrap her legs around my waist.
I think about how it will end. On a boring Autumn sunday, Katrina will check out an indie art gallery in Portland, and when I pick her up, she’ll introduce me to a guy with a strange name — something like Surge. Surge will be a painter, pianist, traveller, and something else which I’ll forget. Surge and Kat (he’ll call her Kat) will go to art shows and wine tastings — you know, as friends. I’ll develop the hobby of seeing movies alone. I’ll say Munch a lot more, too — in elevators, saunas, grocery stores. I’ll say Munch and Hopper and O’Keeffe and Cassatt, but Surge will always be one jab ahead of me over dinner me with a verbatim Steiglitz quote.
When Surge stands to have a smoke, I’ll tell Katrina I hate that quote. She’ll suggest we discuss it some place private. I’ll ask where. She’ll tell me I should pick, which of course is a test. If I say a kitschy place to have a double IPA and a hummus panini, then I’m in the clear. I’m hip, edgy. But just to establish myself as the antithesis of Surge, I’ll say I really have a hankering for spaghetti, meatballs, and salty breadsticks.
We’ll end up at the Olive Garden. We’ll twirl our pasta into coiled lumps as we discuss how we’ve changed since the summer.
“Listen Kat,” I’ll say. “I know you’re fucking Surge.”
She’ll shoot me a distraught look and toss her napkin onto her untouched pasta. She’ll fire off insults: paranoid, presumptuous, needy. She’ll contrast me to that walking turtle neck Surge, who seems to get her. I’ll say Munch, but the word will sound hollow. I’ll throw the word up again, rapid fire—Munch! Munch! Munch!—but she’ll know my lazy lunges at her passion amount to nothing but mockery.
Then she’ll give me a look as if to ask what comes next, which is the look she gives me now as her hands grasp her open belt. I move closer to her, slide an arm around her back. We press our lips together for the first time and I begin to remember the shift at the theater in which I began to fall for Katrina: The new Spiderman movie was playing. She said never to tell her art history friends, but she is a sucker for superhero movies — something to do with dual identities.
“I love the idea of the mask.”
In this moment, undressing in her apartment, we are mask-less and burning. We are at the mercy of our towering desires: our quickening pulses and fluttering insides. Then Katrina in her cigarette-charred voice says, “I want this, I want you,” and she pulls me closer.