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The Sweetness

The Sweetness

by Patricia Quintana Bidar

I’m dancing with my best friend’s husband, under the influence of his jaw and thighs. “I love this song,” I say. We’re barely in motion. My mouth is close to his ear. We are two couples, vacationing together. We’ve left the kids, the snow, our work behind. This Baja resort is a step up for us, a step down for them.

“Remember setting a record to play on repeat?” he says.

“Yeah. I could do that with this one.” I’ve always found him handsome but remote. Here on vacation, he’s loosened up. Something in me has loosened, too, watching him rub sunscreen on my best friend’s back today at snorkeling. The breeze is just enough to cool our shoulders. The flaming torches illuminate the loose, shampooed hair of women in our lightweight dresses.

His hand is firm on the small of my back. By far my favorite part of my body. It has occurred to me numerous times that if I got a tattoo there, my husband would never see it.

My best friend’s husband inhales deeply and his chest swells against mine. Our spouses are sitting a few feet away, engaged in conversation. They were likely talking about work. They both hold high level jobs at the refinery. Or they might be talking about our children. Their schools. They have one kid, Lisa, who is a senior in high school.

They have dishes of ice cream in front of them. They are at ease. You can tell by the way they sit. The matter-of-factness in their legs’ splay. They are the good guys here.

“I wish it could be like this more. More often. There’s an ease,” my best friend’s husband is saying.

“Here? Dancing?” I say.

“Easy like Sunday morning.” There is an undercurrent in his voice I’d never heard before. He smells like Coppertone. My muscles feel not quite up to their jobs. As though I not only want but require him to keep me standing. My cheek is softly abraded by his five o’clock shadow. I’ve had maybe three fruity rum drinks. Plus, a glass of wine in our room before my husband and I came down.

“I’m not sure I should say, but I feel very aware of our pelvises—I mean the bones of them—bumping up together. Like football helmets,” I say. Probing boundaries before the spar.

“Helmets?” I feel his abdomen tighten as he laughs. “I do feel free. Not in my life, not in my real life at home. I mean, it’s fine. But. Now. Here, with you,” he says.

“I do feel … lighter, I guess.”

“Free-er?” He is absolutely smelling my hair. Decades have passed without me feeling this kind of attraction. But how mild a word. Attraction is like a magnet pull. What I feel is insistent. Primal.

I make myself pull away. “No, not free.”

Now he is looking me full in the face. “But you think you’ll feel free sometime?”

I think about that. “When the kids are older? My sister; her kids are finally grown. They don’t call her. She can barely get out of bed.” The future seems to me a glimpse into roaring black space.

“Lisa told my wife she needed to wean herself of her, of Lisa.” His voice was flirty. It is terrible to hear him mocking my friend. “She flinched like she’d been slapped.”

“And then what?”

“It’s growing pains. Mothers and daughters.” So, their daughter had said this, and he’d said nothing? He hadn’t helped. I already have one like him at home.

He is still riffing. “Maybe when I die, I’ll finally be free. As ash, I’ll fly?”

But his mournfulness only seems foolish to me now. Or at least self-pitying in the most mundane of ways. He has everything.

The band launches into the next song, and I break from him, from his springy cock and transporting aroma. I sit close beside my friend. Her name is Araceli. Oh, that such a one should be in this world! I push a tiny spoon of her coffee ice cream into my mouth. I almost swoon, it is so sweet.

Patricia Quintana Bidar is a writer from the Port of Los Angeles area, with family roots in Southern Arizona, Northern New Mexico, and the Great Salt Lake. She is an alum of the U.C. Davis Graduate Writing Program, and also holds a BA in Filmmaking. Her work has been included in numerous journals and anthologies including Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton, 2023) and Best Microfiction (Pelekinesis Press, 2023). She lives with her family and unusual dog outside of Oakland, CA.