Marianne comes over to watch the Arsenal/Barcelona match. I know it is her in the entry by the way she presses the buzzer, impatiently and aggressively, four or five short blasts in a row. I’ve thought about giving her a key, but I like visioning her down there, index finger poking the button like she would my chest, like she would if I told her that I wanted Arsenal to win tonight. And I like her face when she makes it up the flights of stairs, her breathing still easy and even, when she looks at me and smiles although I know she hates that I wait for her, wait to see the top of her yellow head from four stories above.
She bounces, sprints up the first flight one step at a time. The second, slower, taking two steps at once. In my head I count them, knowing she’s doing the same. She alternates the sprinting with the muscle building. It annoys me when she does this, when she’s already half way to the door while I’m still waiting for the elevator.
“You should walk them. It’ll help strengthen your knees,” she’ll call down to me while I watch its slow descent to the lobby on the light board above its doors.
Tonight she is wearing a black pea coat and Adidas, blue jeans and a white shirt with light gray stripes and matching buttons. Across her chest is her bag’s strap. She holds on to it with both hands.
I am leaning against the stairwell’s railing. My hair is up, my watch is off. It’s midnight, so I am in my pajamas.
On the last step she stops, exhales, exhausted. She says, “Not for me today.”
I move toward her, kissing her instead of saying hello.
She slips a cold hand beneath my t-shirt, presses it to my stomach. I hold it firm instead of moving away, accelerating the transfer of my heat to her hand, and soon all I feel is Marianne, her short nails, her soft skin.
When I move my lips from hers, she says, “Mm. Do that again.”
This week she has been to Pennsylvania and North Carolina, away for matches that ended in ties. “Scoreless,” she told me from an airport, her cell phone dropping out with every third word. “The kind of ties Americans hate.”
“I think everyone hates the scoreless kind. They’re frustrating because there’s never a moment of satisfaction, that feeling of finally just getting it in.” I said, “Can you hear me?”
I heard her sigh and knew instantly that we were no longer talking soccer.
So in the stairwell I kiss her again, I kiss her for every time she sighed on the phone to me this week. I kiss her for the voice mail that she left, saying she was delayed in Charlotte and couldn’t wait for the season to be over, and would I like to go on a trip with her over winter break? Would I like to go skiing or snowboarding in New Hampshire, or maybe someplace warm where we wouldn’t have to layer? I kissed her for all of this, her tongue small, moving slowly in my mouth. My tongue wanting more of her, and maybe too much because I could feel her hand on my chest pushing me away and only then did I heard the footsteps.
She grabs my forearm and pulls me from behind back toward my apartment, like I need to be shown where I belong. When we pass my next-door neighbor, he keeps his eyes straight, off of us.