My name is Sullivan Lee and shortly after I turned eighteen I became a man. Becoming a man had nothing to do with my age – that was just coincidence. It could have happened when I was younger or when I was older. It just so happened that when I became a man I’d just turned eighteen.
At the time I’d been working at O’Grady’s garage, the only garage in our small town of Two Creeks, for near on three years. I was a mechanic. Floyd O’Grady owned the garage where I worked and after who the garage was called. Some people thought the garage should have been called the Two Creeks garage after our town, to be civic like. But Floyd, the only adult I ever called by their first name, said O’Grady’s sounded just fine.
Floyd and I didn’t talk much and that suited me good. Since if he wasn’t talking to me that must’ve meant I wasn’t doing nothing wrong. I didn’t know much about him and almost never saw him outside the garage. Which was no mean thing in a town as small as ours. In three years we’d never mentioned anything but cars to each other.
It was just me and Floyd fixing the cars and pumping the gas. Mrs. Shaw came in every Friday to do the books. Sometimes on a Monday as well if she hadn’t finished what she was doing the Friday before. Floyd always said that Mrs. Shaw was a lifesaver since he’d never had no head for figures. Later I thought about that and laughed to myself since I couldn’t imagine Mrs. Shaw jumping in our creek to save no one.
Mrs. Shaw was married to Mr. Shaw the town councilor. Mr. Shaw and his wife were proper people. Attended church on Sundays and were always dressed in their best. Mrs. Shaw was a fine woman and Mr. Shaw was a fine man. That’s what people said and I saw no reason to disagree. They were the kind of people you called Sir and Mam even when you were older, like my Ma and Da always done.
Mrs. Shaw was right kind to me at work. She was what I reckoned our Reverend would have termed a charitable person. Always asked me how I was and how my mother was and how I was enjoying my work. I didn’t like work, never had and never would, although I was always careful not to let on to nobody about it. There was nothing much that could be done about not liking some things. It was just feelings you put away and didn’t think about much after you had em.
Ma only worked at the local guest house part-time, and she’d needed wages from me since the time my Da left when I was fifteen – left this earth that is. That’s what Ma always said at the time and afterwards – ‘Your Da’s left this earth’. I knew at the time it wasn’t true because there was no where else to go and nothing I’d learned since had changed my mind. I didn’t know where he’d gone but it was to no place else. Of that I was sure. I thought that people thinking there was somewhere else to go after you was gone was a product of fear. And I thought that fear was just something you had to learn to live with. It didn’t matter much since without Da’s wages Ma couldn’t pay the rent so something had to be done. The only job going was at the garage. So I left school and worked there. And I never complained about it. Didn’t really seem reason enough to in the end.
Ma and I lived together on the same street as Mr. and Mrs. Shaw tho’ no two houses could have been more unlike. Ma always told me to be polite to Mrs. Shaw since she deserved it – always having been kind to my Ma and because Ma said Mrs. Shaw never being able to have kids must have made her broken-hearted. Ma knew about things better than I did. So I was always polite to Mrs. Shaw.
I was thinking about what my Ma had said one Friday afternoon when Mrs. Shaw came up to me after work and asked me whether I’d mind coming around the next day to fix her back tree for her. Apparently it had some dead branches on its trunk that one day might fall on her or Mr. Shaw’s head. It wasn’t such a funny request since I’d done such like for Mrs. Shaw over the years. If I hadn’t been doing that I’d just have been penciling away somewhere on my own.
That’s what I did mostly when I didn’t work – draw. Drawing kept my head straight. I didn’t have no one I’d call a friend. So I had to find something to do on my own and drawing seemed just the thing. I had a mind for it to. Just like Floyd had a mind for fixing cars and Mrs. Shaw for numbers.
I walked home on that Friday as usual, thinking how strange that fixing cars never seemed to pay enough to have one. When I got home I found I didn’t have my key with me and that Ma had already left for work. It was only early and she wouldn’t get home til later.
So there was nothing much to do for it but sit there outside the house. There was no use breaking a window just so I could sit inside and there was no place else to go. When you couldn’t do nothing else you just did what could be done.
I’d barely sat down before Mrs. Shaw came past.
‘Lovely evening isn’t Sullivan,’ she said.
‘Yes Mam it is.’
‘A nice evening to be passing the time outside,’ she said as she lifted her head to look at the sky.
‘It is Mrs. Shaw, and Bayan Eskort that’s lucky for me, since I’ve got no choice in the matter right now.’
‘Why’s that Sullivan?’ ‘I’m locked out Mam. I forgot to take my key with me this morning and Ma’s away at work now. Which means I don’t have no choice but to be sitting out here. And that’s no bad thing as you said. Since being out here is alright on a night like tonight.’ I said it like those was the facts and I was happy with the facts the way they were.
‘I suppose you have not had any dinner,’ Mrs. Shaw said then with sympathy in her voice.
‘No Mam. But there’s bound to be tea inside for me and it won’t get any colder now.’
‘Well Mr. Shaw’s away at the moment. Why don’t you join me for something to eat?’
‘That doesn’t sound right Mam, you going to that trouble. I can wait. Seems right since I was the one who forgot my key.’
‘But you can’t sit out here on this porch all night. What would your mother think if I’d not invited you in? You might catch cold.’
It seemed there was no shaking Mrs. Shaw off.
‘Mam that’s very kind of you. I could do with wetting my whistle some. And it seems it wouldn’t be putting you to too much trouble if I just had a cup of coffee.’ A man’s job in life was to create as little trouble for others as was possible I thought.
‘No Sullivan it wouldn’t be any trouble at all.’
I’d never seen inside Mr. and Mrs. Shaw’s house, although I’d seen it near on every day of my life. Never seen what was behind the white front door with its black border and its fancy knocker. Plenty of people speculated mind. I knew that those who did hadn’t never been there though. That’s another thing that Ma taught me. Those who said things about people didn’t really know things about em because if they did know things they wouldn’t say em. She said those who said things about people were really in the end saying things about themselves, especially when they was saying things you shouldn’t say about nobody.
There was nothing much to tell about the inside of Mr. and Mrs. Shaw’s house. Nothing much that I could see anyway. Not that I saw all of it mind. In what Mrs. Shaw called the sitting room – the place where she told me to go while she was making the coffee – there was nothing much that seemed worth mentioning to others. It was different that was true and I’d never seen the like of it before but that didn’t mean it was worth telling no one about. Plenty of things that I’d never seen before that it weren’t worth wasting breath on. The sitting room had a low table in front of a set of matching double chairs. There was magazines on the table, pictures on the walls and a cabinet in the corner with all sorts of things in it – cups and glasses and plates. No. I’d never seen the like of it. But I’d never seen the like of much.
It was only after I’d been sat down on the sofa for a little – staring up a picture of horses with real long bodies and thin men sitting atop them – that I realized I probably shouldn’t be sitting here in the clothes I had on. True I’d changed out of my greasy overalls at the garage and put back on the clothes I came to work in each day. Still didn’t seem right to be sitting on such a lovely soft thing with my old pants on. Not that I had any other pants mind.
When Mrs. Shaw came back in the room with the coffee I was standing in front of the seat she’d told me to sit in. Standing there like I was out of place. Which I was. I didn’t no what to do with my hands or my legs – I didn’t want to stand still since that might mean I’d leave a sure print on Mrs. Shaw’s spongy carpet but not wanting to move around just in case I spread the dirt all over. In the end I just stood there not knowing what to do. Stock still like, with my mind racing in indecision like a moth round a light.
‘How rude of me Sullivan. I should have shown you the way to the bathroom so you could wash up.’ Mrs. Shaw quickly put down the tray with the coffee on it and walked out of the room talking all the while.
‘It’s through this way Sullivan. Just follow after me.’
I did. I followed even though my legs didn’t feel like going nowhere.
I made the most of me that could be done with some soap and a tap and then returned to the sitting room. Mrs. Shaw had just poured the coffee.
‘Sit Sullivan. Sit. We’ll have a talk and a cup of coffee.’
Just like everything else that Mrs. Shaw asked me to do – I did. Through the first cup of coffee we talked about work and about my Ma and about the town where we lived. It was what was called conversation that we had. Everyday things but said in such a way that wasn’t so much everyday as forced a bit. That’s what I reckon conversation was. Things you wouldn’t normally say about things that happened everyday in a way you didn’t ever say them.
Mrs. Shaw looked at me the whole time. That was another thing about conversation. Folks looked at you while they talked. That’s why me and Floyd never had conversation. He was mostly under cars or over bonnets with his head Anadolu Yakası Escort among carburetors and head gaskets when he spoke to me. As I was thinking the like and answering whatever it was Mrs. Shaw asked me – ‘Yes, Mam, my Ma is fine’ and ‘Yes, Mam work is fine’ – she asked me a question that no one had ever asked me before.
‘Do you have a sweetheart Sullivan?’ Mrs. Shaw said it in just the way she’d asked me whether I wanted another cup of coffee – I’d said no since one seemed enough trouble and two too much.
‘No I reckon not Mrs. Shaw. No I don’t have a sweetheart and I’ve never had one neither. There’s not much places…..’.
With no warning Mrs. Shaw got up from the sofa opposite me before I’d had a chance to finish. Maybe I’d said something wrong. She just stood there. I almost got up to go.
‘Sullivan have you ever seen a woman. I mean seen a woman without her clothes on,’ she said looking straight at me.
I didn’t know the right thing to say to that. I had seen pictures of women without any clothes on before of course. Addy Fitzsimmons had given me a magazine the year before I left school with pictures of women without their clothes on. Not that Addy was any friend of mine mind. I’d taken them all the same but I’d thrown them away on the walk home from school. I couldn’t fix on the idea of having them in the house what with Ma being there. I’d remembered those pictures though. Seen them in my mind times and times since. Before I could answer Mrs. Shaw said:
‘Would you like to see me without any clothes on Sullivan?
I didn’t know anything else to say but the truth.
‘Yes Mrs. Shaw I would.’ I didn’t say it out loud of course. I just sat there mute. I was too mixed up in my mind to say I felt something but I thought I did feel that. Thought I’d felt that before. Seeing her sat in her desk at the garage or seen her in her backyard when there was a job to be done. I’d felt that before even if no feelings were clear to me.
When she started to unbutton her blouse I felt a bolt of lightning go through me. But it was a good bolt. Not one that left you without any feeling at all. It went straight to my quick that feeling. Faster than any feeling I’d had before. I moved in my seat.
Mrs. Shaw continued to unbutton her blouse all the way down – at times looking at me and at times looking at her hands doing the unbuttoning. That look she gave – up and down and at me and then at her hands – that look sent shivers down my back. Shivers that didn’t stop there but went right on down below before they went out my feet. More shivers followed from where they came until I couldn’t tell when one started and when one went.
‘It’s alright to look Sullivan. I want you to look.’
I did too although it didn’t seem it was me who was doing it. I looked as she took off her blouse and I looked and saw her undershirt. It was like no undershirt I’d wore or ever seen worn. And I looked as she took off her skirt and I looked and saw her underskirt. It looked fine. Too fine to touch. She undressed in a way I didn’t undress. It seemed practiced and deliberate. Like at times I’d looked at my own reflection in a mirror and done something I wouldn’t normally do.
Mrs. Shaw took off her underskirt and undershirt and left them on the ground next to the rest of her clothes. She was now standing in front of me with just a bra on and her underwear. Though she had stockings on too. That wasn’t a detail I’d likely forget. She was still looking at me but didn’t stop undressing while she was doing it. She was smiling too. A nice smile but not the sort of smile you gave when you said hello to someone you knew in the street.
Her right foot was on the table now and she was rolling her stocking off down her leg. She did the same with the other. All that was left between her nude and me was her bra and her underwear. Shivers and bolts still came. They came harder and stronger with each thing she took off.
‘I’m going to turn around now Sullivan.’
As she turned around she said, ‘Do you like watching me doing this Sullivan? Do you like seeing me like this?’
Those shivers had my tongue and those bolts had shot my mouth shut.
Mrs. Shaw put her hands up behind her back to reach for the clip of her bra. The way she unclipped that bra will remain with me. I watched her put her arms forward and drop the hoops of her bra down the length of her arms. As she did that I could spy what came out the side of her chest.
And then Mrs. Shaw slowly took down her underwear.
She first lowered the back and then the front. Lowered them like that until I could see her naked and then she bent over to take them all the way off. As she did so her crack closed up tight and I could see the pink that was between her legs. That shaft of pink that stood out against the paleness of her thighs as her panties dropped to the floor. She rose up to stand out of her panties and the pink between her legs disappeared.
‘You want me to turn around don’t you? Tell me you want me to? Tell Pendik Escort me what you want to see? Be honest Sullivan. Say the things that you want to see?’ Even though she was talking with her back to me, there was a closeness and a vastness in her voice that I’d not heard spoken before.
Honesty was the only thing that came at the moment she said those things to me. I told her I wanted her to turn around so I could see her. I told her straight that I wanted to see the things that she normally hid behind her clothes. To see those things that normally jutted out from a woman’s chest. Those things that you knew were there behind her blouse but that you weren’t allowed to see or speak of. I wanted to see the flatness uncovered that was normally covered by her skirt and to see that flatness linked with her legs from top to bottom and I wanted to see how all those things joined up together. I’d never expressed nothing like that before. I’d thought but not spoken those things I said to Mrs. Shaw as she stood before me. Her back to me. As I said those things my eyes were fixed fast on her, roving – that was a word I’d heard used before that seemed to fit the movement of my eyes – across her nakedness from behind – fixed on her but within her limits roving all over.
‘Sullivan do you want to see my tits and my bush?
No words I’d heard a woman said is what she said to me. She asked me to say those words to her. She asked me to say exactly what it was I wanted to see of her. So I said them. Automatically. Cause and effect. Just like when you put your foot down on the pedal and the car goes forward.
‘I want to see your….’
Mind it wasn’t me who said those words right then. Someone else was seeing Mrs. Shaw and saying those things to her. Someone I didn’t know that well. Someone who’d not often before seen through my eyes and spoken through my mouth.
She turned around and I could see her front on. I would have liked to have drawn that. Her muscles flexed to turn but not yet turning. The viewer able to only imagine what might confront him had the drawer decided to capture the moment he drew only seconds later.
As she stood before me she smiled and asked whether I liked what I saw. I saw her all, front on. I saw what came out from her, those things rounded but flat and spread out across her chest like saucers come to three dimensional life. In the middle of those full-bodied saucers were two hard dark spots jutting out like bolts. She was shaped like the bell of our church. She was shaped in a way that made you want to stand before her and rub your hands down her outline. With your thumbs spread out to catch the bumps on the way.
From her middle her body moved out and downwards to the top of her legs. Cool and smooth – that’s the way I would have described them. And if you looked downwards from her belly button you came to a sweet bush of hair. Unlike any hair I’d seen before it seemed almost tender. It abruptly gave way to lips turned on their side that almost hid a pinkness of a kind I’d not seen before. It was a pinkness that gave off light inwardly. The light traveling backward into the darkness of her.
Looking back now I know that I couldn’t paint what I saw in that moment. I couldn’t capture the lights and the shades of her. The humps and bumps of the landscape of her body. Not if I tried could I make its likeness appear on paper. I could have drawn the basics. Her hair – dark, wavy, like the ribbons that hung outside our general store, trailing upwards at her shoulders. I could have drawn the shapes but I couldn’t have painted what I saw in her eyes when they looked on and through me. I couldn’t have captured what I saw as her beauty. And I couldn’t have drawn what she made me feel. What she made me feel in the pit of my stomach and downwards from there.
Still smiling she moved around to my side of the table which separated us and took my hand. Without saying a word she led me through the house to what was her bedroom – the one where she and Mr. Shaw lay down of an evening.
When she’d led me there she let go my hand and began to undress me. Removing my clothes one by one. Still she didn’t speak. It was as if I was asleep standing up. Except as a dead weight I didn’t resist any of her moves. I let her take off my shirt and undershirt and I let her undo the buckle on my belt and I lifted each leg as she drew down my pants and although I inwardly and outwardly trembled as she removed my under shorts I let her take them off to. She could see the way I felt. I wanted to place my hands over my nakedness but she’d already drawn them away from my side. Holding both of my hands she took me over to the bed. She let go and got onto the bed, motioning me with her right hand to lie down next to her.
Before I might have imagined Mrs. Shaw as a bad woman for what happened next. She was married after all. My Ma wouldn’t have done the like and she was the measure of all women as far as I was concerned. And I would have imagined me as a bad person too for doing what I did. Adulterer was about the worse kind of a person a person could be in our town and I was about to commit it with someone. In fact so bad were they that I’d never known one. Just like I’d never known no murderers. They was people you heard other folks talking about not people you knew. Seemed that way to me anyway.