“Ugh,” said Rose. “Can’t you say you hate me instead?”
“What?” I asked. Her body was suddenly tense under mine.
“Don’t do that. Don’t you goddamn lie to yourself like that,” she said.
I brushed the hair away from her eyes, wanting to recapture the mood. “Well, then,” I said, gently, “I hate you so much.”
Rose didn’t say anything, but her upper lip twitched. Wrinkles formed around her nose. She went into the bathroom and slammed the door.
Rose had been wrapped around me all evening. During the movie, she’d pulled up my shirt and toyed with my nipple, saying “My god! I just love touching you.” I blushed in the dark of the theater and put my arm around her.
When she emerged from the bathroom, she looked annoyed to see me still there. I asked about the teddy bear on her dresser.
She said, “Do you really care about the crap my grandmother made me when I was little?”
“Well,” I said, “I’m curious.” And I was curious, but mostly I was afraid if we didn’t start talking that we’d be cast into uncomfortable silence.
“I should get some sleep,” she said.
We lay on opposite sides of the bed. I wondered if Rose would mind me curling up beside her, but I didn’t want to disturb her when she was upset with me. So I listened to her breathing and stared at the teddy bear on the dresser. The button eyes were blank and the stitching down the sides looked fragile. It was the sort of present a child might be given and then told to never touch.
* * *
I awoke to Rose straddling me. Her hair hung down in her eyes. I could see the freckles on her naked shoulders. She ground her pelvis against mine.
“Sex?” she said and ran her fingernails across my chest.
I nodded and yawned. I was exhausted. My sleep had been patchy. Mostly, I’d tried to figure out what I should say to Rose in the morning. I imagined us playfully saying “I hate you” back and forth. It would be adorable. Someday, we’d be an old couple sitting in rocking chairs, sweetly saying “I hate you so much” back and forth.
Rose unzipped my fly and tugged at my pants.
“I meant it,” I said.
From between my legs, she looked up at me and cocked her head to one side like she didn’t understand what I was talking about.
“Last night,” I said, prompting her.
Bitter recognition crossed her face. “God fucking dammit,” she said. She shook her head and clenched her hands.
“Rose,” I said.
“You don’t fucking get it, do you?” she said. “It’s like you’re a fucking wind-up robot. It’s…”
She trailed off. “This was a mistake.”
I left. I walked out into the street. My mind raced. I tried to figure out what had happened, what I could do to make things better.
That night I told my roommate the story. She said, “Fuck it. I don’t care how hot she is- it isn’t worth it.”
“But I think I’m in love with Rose,” I said.
She didn’t say anything else. I wanted to keep talking, but I felt ashamed. I felt annoyed at Rose, angry even, but, try as I might, I couldn’t feel hate.