Rose arrived at Carl’s house earlier than usual. She sat at the table with her coffee, the one she bought out of Race Trac every day. That room was a mess. As she took off her sandals, she thought about which part of the house to start with first: the kitchen had been piling up the dishes for four days and on one side of the refrigerator, several garbage bags were about to explode. She looked at his toenails and thought that the amber enamel had lasted her quite a bit, almost since Christmas; it was for the nails polish in the bathroom cabinet, and retouched them up sitting on the edge of the toilet. She let them dry a little before going back to work.
She opened the closet and put on a dress, which indecipherable arabesque pattern reminded her of the paintings that were shown in the interior design magazines that came to the house. She would have preferred that Carl had given it to her, but she was convinced that men almost never understood what women wanted, and it was generally not their fault, «we are very chaotic», she always repeated to herself.
She checked the pockets of his pants before washing them and found two business cards, fifty dollars, and a piece of stripped paper with a phone number; an unnamed phone number. Whoever had given it to him was sure he would remember who was. Rose put it all in a little box along with other forgotten objects: keys, lighters, pennies, and other business cards. She started the washing machine. And also the dishwasher. Then she sat at the table, which was a kind of ground zero in that spacious and open room, which allowed viewing the kitchen, living room and dining room from any angle. That day she couldn’t give herself the pleasure of contemplating the exuberant view of Manhattan: but she knew it by memory, and although the clouds kept the city submerged, she was still able to blindly name each of its buildings. She settled herself on the sofa accompanied by a glass of wine. The contact she had found in Carl’s pockets, and which she had memorized, echoed in her head. Rose forced herself to think of more trivial things like the weather, everything that was needed in the house and that had to be bought soon, and the unforgatteble altercation she had had in the supermarket that morning with a woman whose husband kept looking at her breasts. Rose ended up yelling at the woman to «learn to control your man!».
—How do you ask someone to do what I can’t do? Who controls Carl? —she thought—. She went to the kitchen, took another sip of wine and dialed the phone number she had found. While ringing the bell, she wished that no one got that call, or that it was the reception of a company, or a friend who wanted to meet with Carl because was visiting New York. But she knew it was the same story that repeated. She was tempted to hang up after the third ring, but she didn’t. «Hello» a woman’s voice answered. Rose had the sensation of that unknown breath hitting her cheek and could imagine what was the smell of the skin of that woman, who dared to slip her phone number into Carl’s pocket. Rose hung up right away as the smell began to make her nauseous. She couldn’t resist any perfume other than Carl’s. Sometimes she put a bit of his fragrance on and lay down for a while; it helped her to sleep.
She folded the clothes that had already been dried and arranged them in the drawers in an exceptional way. Then, she prepared delicious beef steaks, vegetables and got dinner ready. Rose decided to burn the troubling phone number and convinced herself that if it had remained in his pocket, it was because Carl wasn’t interested at all. She had felt him distant for a long time: there were no longer stories of their debauchery and past relationships, nor did Rose end up drawing a smile, the same one that had driven her crazy, that smile that had made her dream him every night.
She put on the record player and closed her eyes and didn’t wake up until to the sound of a car broke the quietness. She rushed to paint her lips and comb her hair. Carl walked into the apartment with a girl, Julia, who started pacing the living room examining everything. Rose from the kitchen saw them arrive. Carl went to meet Rose who remained following Julia’s movements. He opened two beers from the fridge.
—That is Julia. She is pretty, isn’t she?
Rose looked at Julia, who was comfortable on the sofa waiting for Carl. She was sure of smelling the same perfume that had disgusted her over the phone. «Why her, Carl?» she thought as he waited for her to answer the question.
—Yes, very pretty and young.
—And to think that I was about to lose her number! Thank god I saved it on my phone! I always lose them. This is the reason why I am still single! —Carl smiled and then he took a swig of beer, one of those to quench ones thirst.— Thanks for coming today, Rose, I know you had plans. I really didn’t want Julia to come and find all my mess. Oh, and I left the check in the same place.
—You know I’m here for what you need. —She frowned at him with a tender look and walked toward the living room in search of her bag that was abandoned in one of the black leather armchairs. Julia’s perfume was irritating. She held her breath and grabbed the check under the statue of Venus de Milo. Carl had gone to put on his perfume. Rose could smell it from there. She threw the Venus that ended up shattered into uncountable pieces, to which she shouted «Where’s your perfection now, huh?» Julia ran aghast looking for Carl. There was a thunderous slam.