Odessa didn’t even like wine.
Wasn’t it expected of her, though? A journalist and professor at Sarah Lawrence College enjoying a glass of wine and relaxing before going to bed in her house in Bronxville. She lived thirty minutes away from Manhattan, and yet she was spending another Saturday night alone in her house. What was she supposed to do, go to a bar and get hammered, risk seeing her students and feeling sorry for herself?
She poured herself a glass of wine. She read an article, watched an episode of Mindhunter then took a bubble bath. Take care of yourself, a colleague had told her. She put on some relaxing music – she didn’t even know what it was. She googled ‘relaxing playlist’ and tried not to feel guilty about losing her old self. As she finished her wine and the playlist came to an end, Odessa unplugged the bathtub. As the foam vanished, she looked between her legs. Violet stretch marks ran along her inner thighs like canyons on the dry deserts that she had seen on TV. She had shaved a few days earlier, after her last menstruation, just to feel pure and clean again.
Pure and clean my ass, she thought, as she saw the rash left by the razor, the short, coarse hairs coming up again.
She lay in the bathtub, only her nose emerging from the water, and she closed her eyes.
She missed sex.
She was thirty-eight. She wasn’t old. Not yet. A friend told her that Jack was having a ball with twenty-two-year-old girls at the Irish bar in town. His blondish hair hadn’t turned out grey yet, and he still had lively eyes.
Odessa felt the water getting tepid on her skin. She got up and grabbed a towel, wrapping herself before her gaze could fall on the cellulite of her upper thighs. She didn’t even look at herself in the mirror – she couldn’t stand it.
She wasn’t even that bad. She was still moderately thin, she knew it. But she wasn’t the same anymore.
Women who care about cellulite and stretch marks and makeup are not feminists, she told herself as she put on her lacy nightgown, then she looked at the clock on the wall. Nine thirty. She didn’t want to go to bed yet. It was Saturday night.
She walked to the kitchen, her feet bare against the cold marble, and poured herself another glass of red wine. As she brought it to her lips, she shivered. She didn’t like it. She sat on the sofa, watching the clock’s hands ticking. Nine thirty-two.
Jack would be with her on the good Saturday nights. He would come out of the shower, putting his undershirt on, telling her he was going to get a few beers with his buddies. He looked a little like Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, rough and constantly chewing a cigarette butt or a gum. Then he would see her, her legs open and stretched on the sofa, wearing her bra with no cups, the one that was just made of fishnet and would show the roundness of her breasts and the dark pearls of her nipples.
Jack’s gaze would fall from her breast to her legs and he would stop struggling to put on his undershirt. He knew he had to shower again later anyway.
Odessa shook her head. Nine thirty-three. She leaned to put the glass on the coffee table before her, then snuggled on the sofa, feeling the stretch marks between her legs rubbing against each other. She listened to the silence of her house.
She had wanted it. She had made the right decision.
On the last few Saturdays, Jack would not even look at her. He would wear his undershirt, put a cigarette in his mouth and walk out the door, without pretending he didn’t have condoms in the back pocket of his jeans.
It was on one of those Saturday nights alone on the sofa, as she waited for him to come back, that she started noticing her stretch marks, purple and swollen on her pale skin.
You should treat them before they turn white, her best friend told her as Odessa cried on the phone. She wanted to tell her about Jack, but she couldn’t. Talking about stretch marks was easier. The sooner you try to solve the problem, the better, her friend went on.
Odessa had bought a cream. The label said you would start seeing the results of the treatment only after six weeks. She spread it on her legs on another Saturday night, sitting on the sofa, waiting for Jack.
The stretch marks never disappeared.
Six weeks later she was divorced.
Rachele Salvini is an Italian Creative Writing PhD candidate at Oklahoma State University. She writes in both Italian and English. Her work has been published in Takahe Magazine, The Fem Literary Magazine, The Machinery, and others. She is an Editorial Assistant for Cimarron Review and has been an editor and translator for The Wells Street Journal when she was working on her MA in Creative Writing in London.