Shedwood and Clarissa by Eric Nunnally

...the doorbuzzer ripped Shedwood out of his dream so abruptly that he bumped his head against the wall waking up. He held his breath, feeling the pressure in his ears whisper a rhythm synonymous with his heartbeat, hoping the terrible sound of the buzzer was from inside his shattered dream. The scratching scream sounded again and Shedwood looked up from his pillow, drool collected in the right corner of his mouth, to look at the floating red numbers of his digital clock. He cussed inside his head when he saw that it wasnít even eleven oíclock yet, but decided to get out of bed anyway just in case it was his dad Ďjust dropping by.í

"I know iz some dummass cant read the names on the damn buzzers." Shedwood said to himself, irritably wondering if it might also be some Jehovahís Witnesses. It was Saturday. He rolled outta the bed and dragged himself to the front room to look out the window, hoping it wasnít for him. The sun was already warmin up the polished wooden floor when he pulled back the canvas blind and looked through the window, squinting through the sunlight, up and down the street for a car that looked familiar to him. The buzzer screamed again and Shedwood wrestled the window up with a screech to stick his head out and see who it was.

"Who is it?!" he shouted down on top of somebodyís head. They looked up and he woke up, recognizing the familiar face of his friend Clarissa partly shaded underneath one of her straw hats.

"I know you ainít got nobody up there!" she shouted up, acting, with her hands on her hips to give herself an attitude, and her head broke back to see who she was talking to.

Shedwoodís face beamed like the sun that was already near the top of the sky, shaking his head in amusement.

"Hold on a sec." he shouted down and disappeared through the window, almost catching his ear as it closed shut. He was thrilled that she was visiting him, but was pissed that she hadnít called cuz he hadnít been to the bathroom yet to brush his teeth or wash up or anything. He sighed and went back in the bedroom to find some shorts to put on.

He skipped down the stairs barefoot on his tip toes and opened the door for Clarissa.

"Tell that heifer she better get out faster next time!" she continued the act.

"I gotta go wash up. Third floor." Shedwood said smiling, rushing back upstairs to his apartment.

By the time Clarissa made it up to the third floor, Shedwood was already brushing his teeth and out of breath. He heard her close the door behind her and lock it, then walk past the bathroom into the living room.

"Iíll be out in a sec." Shedwood called out to her with a mouthful of toothpaste.

"Take all the time you need!"

"You bein funny?"

"Do I sound like Iím joking?" she said in a very serious voice.

"Right." Shedwood dismissed the subject.

When Shedwood made it out of the bathroom and stepped into the livingroom, Clarissa was sitting on the couch with one leg tucked under the other, looking through the pages of one of his photo albums.

"Youíre just a freak, huh?" she said, "How come Iím not in here?"

"Which album you lookin at?" Shedwood asked, frowning cuz he knew he had some pictures of her from the time he threw a Christmas party or something one year. She ignored answering him because he was coming over anyway, and when he saw which album she was looking through, he looked surprised.

"I donít see me..." she played.

"You know damn well I ainít got no pictures of you like that."

"Why not?" she asked, looking up at him from the page she was on, with a mischievous look on her face.

"Somebodyís in a peculiarly feisty mood this morning." he noted out loud.

"Why not?" she repeated herself, and he felt himself against the ropes.

"You serious?" he asked, his forehead wrinkled as he tried to guage where she was coming from.

"Why not? These are some very artistic shots. This one is really nice." she complimented, pointing out a picture.

"Well thanks, but shit, it aint like I be callin people an askin them to pose. Most of them girls are models or freaky or somethin."

"Iíd like to take some pictures like this." she said.

"With me? I mean, you want me to take them?" Shedwood asked.

"Yeah!" she smiled, looking at the pages, "These are really nice!"

"Its not as easy as it looks, now. Most of those girls are models." Shedwood explained.

"Sheís not." Clarissa said, pointing out one of Shedwoodís ex-girlfriends, "and I know this girl isnít with her ugly ass. I mean her body looks nice and everything but her face is through."

Shedwood sighed.

"I wanna do it." she insisted.

" When?" Shedwood asked in an embarrassed laugh.

"Whenever youíve got time. Iím free for the next two weeks."

"What made you come by?" genuinely curious but also trying to get off the immediate subject.

"I hadnít talked to you in a while and wanted to see how you were doing. Plus Iím on vacation and I thought that maybe we could have lunch or something today."

"I havenít even eaten breakfast yet."

"We can have brunch."

"They donít serve brunch on Saturdays."

"Iíd offer to cook if it wasnít such a beautiful day outside. Put on some clothes and come on. You donít have anything planned for today, do you?"

"If I did, I just changed my plans." Shedwood beamed.

Clarissa smiled affectionately and went back to looking through the photo album while Shedwood walked down the hall to his bedroom to find something to wear.

"Itís gonna be ninety degrees today. You better go put on some shorts!" Clarissa checked him when he walked back into the living room wearing some jeans, gym shoes, and a button-up long sleeve cotton shirt.

"I aint got no sandals..." Shedwood explained.

"And...?" Clarissa waited, not getting it.

"And I donít like wearing gymshoes with shorts." Shedwood continued rather weakly.

"Are you ashamed of your legs or something? Did you get in an accident since the last time we talked?" she fished.

"No!" Shedwood defended himself.

"Then quit being wierd and go put on some shorts. Itíll be hot enough without looking at you and burning up."

"Iíll take that as a compliment." he said sarcastically.

The telephone rang and the answering machine picked up. It was one of Shedwoodís exís. His most recent to be exact. She wanted to know, among other things, if she had left any clothes over because she was missing some things. The sound of her voice made him cringe and suddenly feel stifled. He was glad Clarissa had come by and that he was getting out of the house. He had been out of the sunlight for three days now - a symptom of the depression that always followed a breakup. He had to be careful not to repeat the same mistake he had already made twice - falling for somebody while on the rebound. Heíd have to be more careful. Clarissa would keep him out of trouble - she always used to.

"Howís this?" he asked, showcasing some linen shorts.

"Look at those sexy hairy legs. Come over here and let me touch Ďem!" she said setting the photo album down.

"Why you tryin to make me blush."

"Cuz you lookin good and you know it!"

"Awright, awright, chill out wit dat. You know my head aint on straight."

"We could fix that..." she flirted.

"Quit it, Clare." Shedwood said firmly.

"Was it something I said?" she smiled sarcastically, "Today is the day youíre gonna get over your heart troubles, baby. Youíre hanging out with me and the sun is shining; and what the sun canít cure, Iíll take care of..."

She stood up and set the photo album down on the couch.

"Are you ready to leave?"

"Yeah, let me get my keys."

She walked in front of him to the door and stopped suddenly, causing Shedwood to run into her. He knew she was smiling even though he couldnít see her face.

"Hurry up, Iím getting hot up here." she said.

Something about the way her hair smelled made Shedwood want to bite the side of her neck from behind, and slide his hands around her waist and up the front of her blouse, and bend her over the...

He stopped fantasizing, awakened by the sound of his own breathing. She turned and looked at him like he had a problem and then softened her expression,

"Get the keys and come on." she urged him.

Clarissa had always been one of the sexiest girls Shedwood had ever met and the fact that they were friends sometimes drove him crazy.

He hadnít noticed it before but when he got in her car and she was putting on her seat belt, he saw that she wasnít wearing a bra and that the way she wore her shirt kind of said that she didnít care if any one knew. He wondered if it was intentional, got horny, and felt like a pervert for thinking about it. Maybe she was just more liberated than most girls, he told himself. Maybe she was an exhibitionist. She was like one of those models in a magazine that is always intimating something sexy. He wondered if it was a call for attention though he couldnít imagine Clare starving for any attention, as many boyfriends as sheís had. But that kind of thinking, that psycho-analysis, put their relationship in danger once, a long time ago, so he ignored it. He loved the sexual tension in their relationship though he would swear it was only one sided. He never really thought of himself as being attractive in her eyes.

After a long lunch of pasta, seafood and soup and salad, the two did some window shopping in the neighborhood and even picked up a thing or two. Even though he really didnít have the money to spend, he went half on a jade hair comb for her. It was a fashionable piece of art that had caught her eye in one of the stores they went into. He realized that whenever he hung out with Clare, he wished he were a millionaire - it would take one to afford her tastes. And while he thoroughly enjoyed her company, the realization that he didnít have what it would take to keep her tainted each occasion with a drop of sadness.

When the two had come out of the store, both carrying her bags, the sun had gone down and Clarissa was disappointed that they had missed viewing it off the lake. They went by her place to drop off her bags and then went to Shedwoodís.

When they got upstairs to his apartment, Shedwood checked the answering machine and got his schedule of things to do written down for the next day. While he was doing that and sorting through his mail, Clarissa made use of the bathroom and then disappeared into the bedroom. When Shedwood came through the door, she was standing in the closet, with her back to him, sliding her arms through the sleeves of one of his tee shirts.

"Aint nobody tell you to go ramblin through my stuff."

"You have some boxer shorts?"

"You are a trip." he said as she looked through his drawers and found a pair of his favorite silk boxers with a pattern of Marylin Monroe sucking on a lolly-pop.

"These are cute." she commented, picking up a towel and walking to the door. "Are you coming?"

"Where?"

"To take a shower with me."

He watched her face closely with one eyebrow arched, to see if she would crack. She didnít. He opened his mouth to say something but only looked stupid for a second or two.

"Hope the waterís hot." she said, walking past him and down the hallway to the bathroom.

He looked after her until she closed the bathroom door shut. For a moment he couldnít bring his thoughts together and just stood in the doorway of his bedroom in a daze. Eventually he tackled the idea that a very close and incredibly attractive friend of his was in the shower waiting for him. What was he going to do? He felt like Adam after Eve had given him some fruit. Half his mind was telling him to handle the situation like she was just another girl, while the other was draining his libido. Too many questions crowded his head and he felt like vegetating on the bed until sunrise.

"Mind if I spend the night?" she asked, walking into the room with his tee shirt and boxers on.

"No." he said, feeling weird.

"Why are you frowning?"

"Am I?"

"Yes..." she said, focusing on his eyes.

He could only shrug his shoulders.

"You have some lotion?"

He walked over to his dresser and handed her a bottle.

"Could you put some on my back for me?"

He was yelling inside, terrified by his loss of control. He felt his feet off the ground, his head was stuffed and his arms were heavy; insecurities he hadnít known for years came rushing in on him. He wanted to die.

"Woody..." she smiled.

He felt himself losing it.

"Youíre gonna hurt the shit outta me if you donít stop..." he mumbled, a little choked up.

"What was that?" she asked, concern starting to etch itself on her face.

He tried to say something and a big fat tear dropped from his eye and splashed on her forearm. Her smile completely disappeared and she put her arms around him. Tears streamed from his eyes as he trembled, scared and fighting back his feelings. Embarrassed and overwrought, Shedwood fell to his knees crying with his hands covering his head.

"I canít handle this." he broke down.

"What, baby?" she asked, hurt in her voice.

"I love you too much and Iím scared." he said, calming his voice.

"Woody, look at me. Iím right here in front of you. I donít know what tomorrowíll be like and you donít either. Iíve been hiding it as much as you have, but I donít want to anymore. Not now. Not tonight. I want to know what its like to be with you. Look at me..." she said, touching his face.

He closed his eyes tighter, ashamed by his tears and afraid of her seeing into him.

"You gotta go."

"Woody..."

"Please, Clarissa. I already feel like a fool. Iím sorry." he said, struggling with his pride and humility to get off the floor. She walked out of the bedroom and into the livingroom and sat on the couch in the dark.

After what seemed like half an hour of sitting on the edge of the bed, regaining his composure, Shedwood got up and walked out of the bedroom to see where Clarissa was. He peeked into the bathroom, walking by it and called her name in a whisper because the lights were off. Listening to the darkness, he looked into the living room and saw her silhouette against the dim light from the window. He knelt in front of her and held her hand.

"Iím sorry, Clare. I donít want you to go. Its just that..."

"No. Itís okay, Iíll go." she said, cutting him off and wiping her face with her free hand.

"No. I..." he insisted.

"Iím gonna go." she interrupted him, starting to get up from the couch.

"Wait a minute, Clare. Sit down. Please."

Something made him reach out to her, to touch his fingers to her face, though he couldnít see in the dark, and gently caress her cheek. It was wet with tears.

"Iíve had you on a pedestal throughout most of our relationship, Clare, and once you set someone so high, its kinda hard to think... that youíre worthy... to..."

"What?!" she said angrily through tears.

"What do you want me to do?! How you gonna get mad at me cuz I love you so much? So much that you intimidate me - that Iím scared to be who I am; afraid thereís nothing about me thatís good enough for you..."

"Why...?"

"You want me to explain it?" he laughed nervously, his throat sore from uncried tears.

"Why do you want me to leave?"

This is getting silly, Shedwood thought to himself.

"Thereís nothing in the world I want more right now than for you to stay."

He sat on the couch next to her and the two of them hugged each other until the sun rose again.

Clarissa woke up first and slid from under Shedwoodís arms and went to the bathroom. As she brushed her teeth using his toothbrush, she wondered if she should just leave and knew if she did things would be back as they were before and they could go on playing the game they had played for years now. She thought to herself that if she left, she wouldnít have to feel the sadness of that love she wants to share with him; that love that brings bittersweet moments. She sighed and gargled. When she looked up from the facebowl, Shedwood was standing in the bathroom doorway.

They looked at each other for a few seconds that seemed like a lifetime and then she lifted the tee shirt over her head, standing in front of him half naked. She watched his eyes nervously and saw their surprise and desire. He was around her, his arms strong and loving, lifting her from the floor and cradling her. She caressed his face as she kissed him and could not help but feel a little unconfortable with the idea of what she wanted to happen. He too felt that twinge of hesitation, and suddenly he felt his arms get weak. He threw her on the bed to keep from dropping her on the floor which brought a shout of surprise and then laughter from Clarissaís mouth.

"You were gonna drop me." she laughed in disbelief, pulling the sheets over her. Her words sounded so good to him, not because of what they said, but that he was suffocating in what was a vacuum of silence.

"You gained some weight." he forced a laugh, knowing a smile would have hurt.

"Come here." she called to him, arms outstretched.

He climbed onto the bed and felt the tension melting away.

"Iíve been terrible towards you."

He started to interupt but she shushed him with a finger over his lips.

"Listen closely, Woody. I donít know how long Iíll be able to keep this up. I feel like thereís an angel in the room with us and I just feel so... open." she sat back against the headboard and crossed her legs ĎInjin style.í "Iíve been afraid to open up to you because of how much you mean to me. Youíve been a lot of things to me and lately Iíve begun to realize that choices we both have made as a consequence of our having to live our lives havenít done much to strengthen our relationship. We donít talk as much as we used to, donít write as much as we... as you used to. I miss your poems and your feelings. I miss you. And I know if I donít take a chance now, I may never have this chance again. I love you very much, as a friend and so much more. I donít know how realistic it is that we might have a future together, our lifesyles are still very different; but I do know that I want to feel that magic I always see behind your eyes, and I want you to have a part of me to keep..."

Before she could finish, his mouth covered hers, and even though his lips trembled, it wasnít fear or nervousness. He had written in a poem to her that he desperately longed to taste the warm honey of her kisses and touch her soul with the delicate whisper of his spirit. For the first time in his life he married with all his heart, mind, and soul and drank deeply the waters of her passion. And visions filled her head - of springtime and flowers, oceans and seashells, and all sorts of colors of happiness.

And when they tired, the sun was going down again and they cuddled in each otherís arms, knowing the other as a totally new person yet still the same somehow. And Shedwood found in her warmth something he never wanted to lose - a smile he had never seen her wear before - like that of an abused child resting safely in a most sublime state of peace. And Clarissa cried herself to sleep quietly, because she had never known love to feel so good.



December 12, 1995




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