I trust Nick. I really do. Like, innately. And, I think if Nick were to do something that involved another party, I mean that didn’t involve me, he would only do it if he felt like he had to. If it was important to him. I’m not sure I believe in monogamy at all, anyway. It seems outdated, outmoded—old fashioned, even. Though, before this I always sort of felt like Nick thought pretty highly of monogamy. He always seemed pretty committed to the idea. But, I could have misread all that. It’s possible. Maybe I’ve been carrying some unnecessary guilt around regarding a certain medical student and a certain ex-boyfriend-who-visited-from-out-of-town-when-Nick-was-back-in-Kansas-visiting-family. But, you know, if I can do it Nick can too, I guess. Not that either of those brief happenings were important to me at all. I love Nick. I do. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday night he goes to the park down off Kennedy Street and plays pickup basketball with a bunch of other twenty-somethings. They play about three hours those nights, and I think they’re probably the highlights of Nick’s week, every week. He moved here to follow me, and it’s been a tough transition. I won’t pretend like it hasn’t been.  We’d dated long distance for a year before he joined me here, and I already had some friends. I had kind of a social group. I don’t think that’s really an exaggeration. I’d hoped he’d jump right in with the people I knew, but he didn’t. He tried a little bit—I feel like he didn’t get much of a chance, though. People weren’t very open, and that made him less open. So, his basketball friends (although they never really did anything outside of basketball—at least I don’t think they did) were mostly all he had. I was glad he had them. I didn’t begrudge them him at all. It was a nice sort of reprieve, really. That was a time I could go hang out with my friends without feeling guilty about leaving him all alone at the house. No matter how my friends ridiculed me I always felt bad leaving him by himself. 

Then Friday he told me they were getting together on Saturday to play a game against an intermural team from the college. He’d be at the park all afternoon Saturday, and they’d probably get beers afterwards so don’t worry about him for dinner. I thought this was great. I’d been planning on taking it easy Saturday, maybe paying some of the bills, maybe calling a couple friends I hadn’t spoken to in a while, it seemed great that I could do all these things without neglecting Nick for an entire Saturday, it was great that he had something of his own to do. 

But here’s the thing:

Something very strange happened Saturday evening. When Nick came home he was in a great mood. He said they won the basketball game, he said they’d had some great craft IPAs that were just the right amount of hoppy, he said he’d had a torta more authentic than he thought possible outside of Mexico. It was later than I thought it’d be, it was getting close to ten o’clock, and he said he needed a shower, he said he’d been needing a shower for hours. 

Now, I was reading in bed, with a glass of wine. As Nick took off his shirt, his back to me, I noticed that his back was an electric, almost blistered, red. Before I could comment on how burned he was, he slipped off his athletic shorts and I saw the burn continued down his back down his buttocks all the way to his ankles. He jumped in the shower and I think I heard him yelp very quickly before he quieted himself as the hot water hit his backside. 

My initial, instant, reaction when I saw his back was that they’d played shirts and skins. But I’d never known anyone to play clothes and skins, to go all the way. 

Maybe he’d been to the tanning bed? His sister has a wedding next weekend. He wants to look good for it? No chance. He used to get upset when I still tanned, before he basically made me promise to stop. Anyway, it was only his back that was burned, I saw this as soon as he got out of the shower.  

And, he didn’t say anything about the burns. What could he say, I suppose? I sort of admire that he didn’t, I guess. I’d already poked holes in every logical explanation while he was in the shower. Perhaps he realized that. I wonder if he knew the extent of the damage before he felt the water in the shower? I wonder if he had to go through options and decide on the silent strategy all during the course of the seven or eight minute shower. 

I didn’t ask about the burns. He said he was beat and went to sleep fairly quickly. He slept on his side, of course, although he often does that anyway. 

I don’t know where I stand here. I don’t know what happens next. I don’t think I’m a jealous person, but I think it’s the deception that knots me up inside. The deception. I don’t know what’s going on. All I know is that somewhere, when he was supposed to be somewhere else, my boyfriend was lying, naked and prone, exposed and obviously quite vulnerable, to a bright, hot sun.  


About the Author: Scott Ray is from Mississippi. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and spends a lot of time watching the Cubs. He can be found at @tscottray on Twitter. 

Story Song: "Good Woman" by Cat Power