Thirst by Evelyn Ann Casey

A drop of sweat trickles between your breasts, an excuse to head for the office water cooler and scan for the occupant of the cubicle around the corner. You’ve chosen carefully, chatted casually, without being pushy, because you never know, you might have guessed wrong. The object of your desire might not see you beyond the doting aunt to her brother’s kids. Might not guess you once were a guilt-ridden teen sneaking your brother’s cell phone into the bathroom to watch videos of pretty girls baring a shoulder for him or popping a butterfly hip tattoo, dangling a bra, sometimes more.

Your secret was safe back then. You blended in, going with the flow, knowing that coming out would break your mother’s heart, cost eviction from your dad, embarrass your brother. But a few years after college, you packed up and moved to a more forgiving place where you wouldn’t have to hide your rainbow dream. The first incautious thing you did in the big city was paste a single iridescent sequin on the frame of your glasses. Settled in at an office in the Loop. 

And there she was. Bangs fringing skin the color of pale tawny port, her lower lip clinched by a golden ring you were sure would taste like liquid fire. Colette. When she sashayed toward your cubicle last Friday to share a slice of pepperoni pizza, her blue streaked dark hair waved in eddies you wanted to touch, sink into, ride. She leaned on the edge of your desk. Said she liked the sequin in your glasses. Said it matched your sapphire eyes. Called your eyes “sapphire”!

Today you will ask her out. Jazz on the Terrace after work. You hope she’ll be impressed when her plain Jane office mate suggests an outing high on the coolness quotient. You’re sporting new lipstick, creamy coral, extra glossy thanks to a quick slick of Bert’s Bees just before leaving your cubicle. You approach the water cooler. Colette’s perfume wafts from around the corner. It’s lovely. Roses and patchouli. You wonder if she’ll notice your peach plump breasts through the slightly see-through white linen blouse you chose for the occasion. But as drops of sweat meander down those breasts you worry perspiration stains will show through in the humid dog days of a Chicago summer.

Colette never sweats. She gleams. When she glances up from her cubicle, she sees you and lowers her eyes. Long curled lashes point to the merest whisper of a grin. When she looks up again, you are staring directly at her. Your mouth opens slightly but words stick in your throat. Colette holds back a giggle. She takes a Kleenex to her lips and indicates your lipstick is smudged. You break out in a cold sweat. 

Evelyn Ann Casey’s poetry and essays appear in Midwest Review, Creative Wisconsin Anthology, and She also reviews books for Windy City Reviews. Her current project is a women’s historical novel. Casey worked in public relations prior to managing outreach programs in healthcare for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When not exploring locales near and far, she enjoys sharing heirloom tomatoes and good conversation with family and friends, attending music and theatre venues as often as possible, and volunteering at food pantries and reading programs.