Thomas and I showered together after we made love. I was still in a dream-like haze, which felt reinforced by the steam in the shower. The snow was getting so crazy outside that I didn’t even know if we’d be able to check-out anytime soon. Not that I was in any hurry to leave.
“If the snow is really bad,” said Thomas, lathering soap over his chest, “our arrival in Aspen would understandably be delayed, wouldn’t it?”
I squirted some shampoo from the little complimentary bottle onto my hand and attempted to massage it into my hair, only to graze the stubble.
“So if we did talk to the police on Thursday or Friday,” Thomas continued, “it would be understandable that we were stuck in Redstone?”
“I suppose,” I replied. “Do you want to talk to the police now?”
After a brief pause he replied, “I don’t know. But I do know that I would like to use the remainder of today, tomorrow, and most of Thursday staying away from Aspen.”
“I don’t have a problem with that,” I said, rubbing some shampoo into my matted pubic hair.
“I don’t really want to talk to the police, but I will if I have to,” said Thomas. “Are you done with the water?”
I rinsed the last remaining soap from my body. “Yeah, sure.”
Thomas turned the shower off and pulled the shower curtain aside. “I still don’t want to go back,” he said, stepping over the side of the bath onto a towel. “I don’t want the return of normal.”
“Thomas,” I smiled. “We just had sex. There is no return of normal.”
The corner of his mouth pulled up into a weak smile and he turned his shoulder to me. My stomach sank and I knew Thomas was unsure of how our relationship would now proceed. But I didn’t know either, and I felt it would be better to see how things just played out. If a foundation was forming, I felt talking would only dilute the cement.
We dried off, slipped on our underwear and went to sit on the bed. Thomas ordered some pizza and a bottle of soda over the phone and then turned on the TV.
I found a cop show and put down the remote.
Thomas leaned back on the pillows and knitted his fingers across his waist. “Do you ever get mad at work?”
I chuckled. “Of course. Who doesn’t?”
“Sometimes, I get so mad that I start to get paranoid I’m writing my stream of consciousness into work e-mails and memos.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like. Okay. You know when Graham keeps talking about all the women he pulled at the clubs on Friday nights?”
Graham worked in accounts and I often had to chat with him over the budget for various projects. He was in his late thirties, always had a neck beard going on, and his physique closely resembled that of a light bulb. Graham was funny from time to time, but he reeked of loneliness and tried to make up for it by bragging about alleged sexual conquests.
“Yeah, yeah. You just have to tune him out.”
“Well, I might be writing him an e-mail, and in my head it’ll go something like this. ‘Graham, have you had time to take a look at the Milligram budget? It’s just that you’re a worm-like cretin and a poor excuse for a human being, and the company would now like to see monthly fiscal projections, and every time I listen to you I want to smash a full pot of hot coffee over your head. Looking forward to hearing from you. Thomas.’”
“Oh, mate,” I laughed. “That’s brutal.”
“But don’t you see? Sometimes he winds me up so bad that I’m worried I’ll lose my filter for writing professional e-mails.”
“He is annoying, I’ll give you that. But some people wonder about you. I mean, you’re not Mr. Social, exactly, are you?”
Thomas’ nostrils flared. “No, I’m not social,” he admitted. “I’m not antisocial, though, either. I’m a-social. Neutral. Switzerland. I’ll trade a monosyllabic greeting for a monosyllabic response. That’s all that’s needed to maintain a cordial work environment.”
“Unless somebody asks you a question?”
Thomas nodded. “I hate it when they do that. I feel like a fish on a hook.”
“Can’t you pretend that Graham is a character in a game that you just have to treat a certain way to achieve the objectives?”
“I try,” said Thomas. “The only trouble is if I’ve just seen him in the break room, he’s invaded my conscious thoughts. Simmering away in my frontal lobe like an obnoxious podgy Buddha-like demon, polluting my temple and spreading toxic and venomous vibes throughout my brain.” He leaned towards me. “A fleeting tumour, Matthew. That’s what he is.”
Thomas’ precise and vivid imagery never failed to amuse me.
The old black phone on the bedside table rang with a mechanical ting. Thomas picked up the handle. “Hello?” He chewed on his lip and glanced around the room. “No problem. Be there in a moment.”
“Yeah, it’s downstairs. I’ll go and get it.”
A few minutes later Thomas reappeared carrying three narrow boxes stacked one top of the other, and a bottle Coke. He heeled the door closed and put the boxes down on the bed.
I investigated. “Two pizzas and the New York City edition of Monopoly? I didn’t know you could order board games with your pizza.”
“I asked Chester if he had any games, given that we’ll be in this room the rest of the day.”
“Not a bad idea,” I said, lifting out a slice of cheese pizza.
We set the board up on the bed, lowered the volume of the TV, and began to play. Thomas had to be the banker, although I put up a mock-protest anyway, just to annoy him. The banker had to be organized and good at mathematics, something I could do if pushed, but I really wasn’t in the mood.
By the time Thomas and I each owned about half the properties, the sun had set and it was pitch black outside. I glanced across the board, ignoring the aches and cramps from holding myself in position around the game board. “You can’t really play this game with two people, can you?”
Thomas rolled the dice and moved his piece forward onto Tiffany & Co, which would’ve been Park Avenue on the London edition. I had two houses on there. “Not really,” he replied. “How much do I owe?”
“I can’t even be bothered to look. Why don’t we just call it a tenner and be done with it?”
Thomas grinned. “Have you ever been in a relationship,” he said, thumbing through his money, “and just been hanging out, not really doing anything, and wondered why you weren’t having sex?”
I dropped my cards. Thomas was gazing at me out of the corner of his eye, his mouth curled into a mischievous smirk worthy of the Grinch. My heart leapt forward and propelled me into his arms, and for the first and perhaps last time in my life, I made love on top of a game of Monopoly.
A couple of hours later, we huddled up together under the blanket in the dark, pleasantly exhausted. “I’m going to surprise you in the morning, Matthew,” said Thomas.
“You’ve already shaved my head while I was sleeping and put make-up on my face today. Let’s not go crazy.”
“I’m still going to surprise you.”
“Why?” I asked, half fearful, half excited.
“I just like surprising you.”