"Almost Like Love" - Paul Waldhart
Becca’s Sinatra CD blared from the kitchen as she washed last night’s dishes, scraping off crusted spaghetti sauce with her fingernails. Little roses garlanded the edges of the plate in her hands and looked up at her, their red buds clouded grey through the water. She ducked the plate down, lifted it up, wiped slow, soaking in the music as she sponged away.
Once when she was twelve Becca had stood in the doorway of her parents’ room to watch her mother toss old clothes—patched cardigans, ugly striped sweaters—from her closet onto the bed. Her mother had found a new job and they were moving. Again. When she had reached the end of the closet, Becca’s mother stopped and stared at her old wedding dress. When Becca had asked what was wrong, her mother smiled and said, “Just thought of that Sinatra song me and your dad danced to” then tunred her face away as her cheeks bloomed.
“Can’t you turn that down?” Jon asked from behind her.
Becca could feel him standing in the kitchen’s entryway and staring into her back.
“All you do is listen to this crap,” he said.
“Sorry, but I think I’ll take my Frank over your music any time.” She tried to laugh but didn’t face him. “Sounds like a bat being castrated, the crap you listen to.”
Jon hovered against the cream-colored refrigerator and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his faded-blue zip-up. “I’m just saying, you’re twenty going on sixty listening to this cheesy stuff.”
They paused as the song, set to repeat, started again: What a day this has been. What a rare mood I’m in.
Jon took a step forward and Becca winced at the sound of his shoes on the kitchen tiles.
“I mean, even I could write this,” Jon said. His lips slit a thin line in the dark five o’clock shadow of his face.
No, you couldn’t, Becca thought, but didn’t dare say it. She turned and gripped the sink counter behind her. “He had class, you know,” she said. “Style.” She turned around, letting a handful of forks plop in the water.
“Yeah, in bed with the mob and Cuban hookers. Real classy guy.” His eyes trailed back to the living room as he spoke.
Becca didn’t say anything, just slowly started rinsing again.
Jon leaned and dialed down the volume knob on her counter CD player and then glanced to Becca’s left at the broken dish washer, then to her. She could feel his eyes on her, his slow breaths deteriorating into sighs until he finally headed back to the cramped living room and lay on their checkered futon. The TV clicked in a barrage of changing stations before finally stopping as a booming, pristine voice announced the latest panacea for all the world’s bathroom and kitchen-tile ailments. The commercial's empty promises echoed through the thin drywall.
Becca tossed two glasses in the sink and scrubbed faster. After a moment she turned around and cranked the CD player’s volume knob back up.
“Christ!” Jon swore from the living room. “What did I say? Turn it down.” The futon wheezed as he stood up. He strode to the kitchen and reached for the powerchord when she slapped his wrist then grabbed his palm in hers as she stepped back.
“Hey!” Jon tried to turn, but she seized his other hand and forced it to her waist.
She led them backwards in an awkward box waltz, Jon stumbling toward the living room and knocking over a low stool. Becca smiled, her eyes meeting his, and forced him further back: stepping again, again, again.