The water lapped gently at the side of the tub as Aubrey eased back into her arms. The alcohol that had an hour ago impregnated his thoughts with lust and wonder had now subsided into a dull sedation. The lit candle in the bathroom smelt like a dewy grove. Steam and mossy-fingers played with Aubrey’s senses as he submitted to the woman’s cradle.
With his head pressed against her bosom Aubrey listened to the irregular beat of the lady’s heart. Aubrey knew that she was much older than he; he could feel that her skin had been coerced by gravity. The bath water full of oil and Epsom salts suspended their bodies in time. Aubrey thought, for a moment, that he saw the lady and himself for what they really were — meaty parts crackled together by electricity.
‘Do you do this often?’ asked Aubrey.
‘Do I do what?’
‘Take younger boys home.’
The lady smiled. Her hand travelled from Aubrey’s chest, down.
‘Sometimes, when I see one I like.’
Her hand’s descent paused; a gold ring on one finger glinted a warning.
‘Are you married?’ asked Aubrey.
‘I was, yes.’
‘Why do you still wear the ring?’
He turned to the lady’s face; her eyelids were heavy and purple, barely open.
‘For many reasons,’ she said. ‘The main one being it’s a sort of guise. Whenever I was mean as a child my Grandma would always tell me to hide my claws. “Hide your claws girly, hide your claws!” she’d say.’
The woman pressed her red nails into Aubrey’s side. White light filtered in from the half-cup moon that had just managed to peek above the clouds. Aubrey’s penis swelled from schoolboy habit.
‘My Grandma loved my Pop very much. They were funny together. But they were also funny apart. I remember Mum was so often annoyed with Grandma because she always told the story about how she woke up to a dead Pop.’
Aubrey bent his head backwards to meet the lady’s face; her eyes were now closed.
‘After family dinners the kids always scattered off, except for me. I used to stay at the table while my elders sipped coffee and spoke — the more coffee that was sipped, the more they spoke. Grandma would always keep two sugar cubes in her hand. She’d plop one into her mouth instead of dropping it into the coffee, then she’d gulp a quarter. What irked my mother so much was the story she’d always tell: “I turned over and to my surprise your father was dead! So, without thinking, I grabbed his scrotum,”– she’d thrust her arm out dramatically at this point in the story –“because I was once told that it was the last place heat leaves a man’s body,” she’d finish.’
The lady brushed Aubrey’s balls under the water.
‘It was the most important thing I learnt from Grandma, you know. When things once loved die, grab them by the balls and see the humour in it. And annoy guests at supper.’
Nathan Pashley is a 22-year-old Communications student at The University of Technology, Sydney.
Caitlin Fraser is a 26-year-old student from Brisbane. She likes taking photos of her cat and the 5pm sunlight. See more of Caitlin’s work here.