Trouble in Mind

It’s late in the evening and I’m lying in Bundee’s narrow bed while she makes peanut butter sandwiches in the kitchen. The sheets are damp and twisted from our athletic encounter and I am tired. Tired of the things I do for my body. Tired of watching myself implicated in these weird and indefinable crimes which take place between two people. 

When we met, she told me her first name. Bundy? I asked, Like Ted Bundy? No, she replied, Bun-DEE. (Sounding it out for me.) Oh, I replied. I discovered later that her real name is Olivia Schlesinger. But, I don’t let her know that I know.

She returns to the bedroom, trailing the belt of her over-sized chenille bathrobe, a mound of peanut butter sandwiches in her hand. Her hair falls in damp, red ringlets around her face and she actually looks kind of pretty. She drops into the bed on her back and I nearly bounce into the floor. Her bathrobe parts, revealing her bright pink nipples. She places the sandwiches on her chest between the nipples and they rise there like a misogynist modern art construct.

Bun-dee likes peanut butter sandwiches after sex. It’s a tradition with her which seems to have its origins somewhere in her first sexual experience, but I have only spotty information regarding this event and cannot adequately address the issue. She grabs a sandwich and holds it above her head, tearing the crust off in one unfolding line. She tosses it onto the bedside table. Then, she begins to eat.

“When are you going to come home with me? It would be fun. You could meet my family.”

“Haven’t I already met your family?” I ask. “I’m sure I’ve already met them. I remember it.”

“No,” she replies. “You haven’t met my family. You haven’t met anyone.”

I take a peanut butter sandwich so that I have something to do. I begin to chew. “I met someone,” I assert earnestly.

“That was Molly. She was in my drama class in high school. That’s the only one.” Bun-dee raises up on an elbow. An untouched peanut butter sandwich slides to rest against her left breast. She’s studying me now, her sandwich poised near her lips.

“I think it would be fun.” She repeats this phrase constantly, a newly-discovered mantra in the cult of commitment.

“I really don’t want to have this conversation,” I tell her gently. “It always ends up leading to an argument.”

“I don’t want to have an argument,” she answers and I know conflict is assured. “It’s just a small thing, going home with me for a weekend.”

“This conversation is not just about going home with you for the weekend,” I say. I have a half-eaten peanut butter sandwich in my hand and I don’t know what to do with it. The other half is presently glued to parts of my mouth and esophagus.

“You think everything is a conversation about something else,” she replies, falling back to the bed and picking up the last sandwich.

“Everything is a conversation about something else,” I tell her. I deposit my sandwich debris on the floor by the headboard. I lie down beside Bun-dee on the narrow bed and throw my arm over her bare stomach, pressing myself against her side as she finishes her sandwich.

Her pale skin is cool and her chest is littered with sandwich crumbs. I wet my finger and begin to pick them up, one by one, and put them in my mouth. Her body tremors slightly with the pressure of my finger and she laughs.

Bun-dee is fun to do things with. She enjoys good movies as well as bad ones, and she doesn’t gnaw on popcorn during films like some people do. She works at Video Satori part-time and goes to school. She’s getting a degree in Art History. Whatever that means. She has a giddy, liquid laugh and it bubbles out of her easily. With me, she can make the transition from serious abstract discussion to silliness or sex and back again.

I like her a lot. I even enjoy spending the night with her every once in a while. She always makes me peanut butter sandwiches and Ovaltine in the morning and it’s really kind of sweet. I bring her little presents. For Christmas, I gave her an original poster for One Eyed Jacks. Lobby cards and everything.

I just have to be careful. She wants a relationship. We argue about it sometimes.

I am making tight wet circles on her chest now. Occasionally I circle an insinuating nipple. Sometimes her navel, and the silver ring protruding there. My finger traces her body slowly. It has a mind of its own. 

My finger is enjoying the simple fact of skin beneath it. It likes the texture, the feel of this surface. It enjoys the way its slight pressure changes the contours of Bun-dee’s body almost imperceptibly, casting shadows. My finger is operating for my entire body now, like a scout sent out to secure the terrain. And it is thorough. My finger enjoys its job.

“You shouldn’t try to start a fight with me,” Bun-dee whispers. “Jesus, between the two of us we’re almost a whole person.”

I put my lips to her ear, the scent of peanut butter and dried sweat strong around her, and that other strange smell that she gets at the health food store. I don’t know what it is, but it always makes me think of tofu. I put my lips to her ear and kiss her gently. She turns her head to look at me and her face is close. Our lips are almost touching.

My lips are wired to my finger now. They are in this thing together. I can taste Bun-dee’s breath, even through the peanut butter. And suddenly, for just a moment, I think I love her. I don’t say a word. My lips touch hers and the hint is extremely gentle.

She opens her mouth to me and whispers softly, “I don’t think you love me enough.”

Prime Number Magazine
is a publication of 
Press 53
PO Box 30314,
Winston-Salem NC 27130

ISSN 2160-4207
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Issue 97, July – September  2016
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130

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Guest Short Fiction Editor
Issue 103, January – March 2017
Steve Mitchell’s work has been published in The Southeast Review, storySouth, The North Carolina Literary Review, Red Fez, and Contrary, among others. His short story collection, 
The Naming of Ghosts, is published by Press 53. He’s a winner of the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Prize. Steve has a deep belief in the primacy of doubt and an abiding conviction that great wisdom informs very bad movies. He’s co-owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, North Carolina.
"Trouble in Mind" by Steve Mitchell
from The Naming of Ghosts
Available from Press 53 at www.Press53.com