The Neighbours

When fireman451 steps inside and says, “Hello, Goldilocks,” I melt. His voice is as smoky as I imagined. I squint as he peels off his winter jacket. Without my glasses, fireman451 is an inky blob.

I point him toward the couch. Make my way to the coffeemaker. He’s definitely not six feet tall. His profile picture belongs to someone else. Mine is outdated as well. Serves me right.

From the living room, he says, “You know, you should install a stripper pole,” then whinnies out a laugh.

I scoop Nabob into the filter, rattle off phrases that rhyme—zipper hole, clipper tool, trip-or-roll.

My grandfather’s antique accordion wheezes to life. Fireman451 says, “Nice squeezebox, babe.”
I wince. There are as many grounds on the counter as in the filter.

He sniggers. “Ever thought of a strobe light. I’m seeing whips and paddles. Maybe a harness.”

I pour Kahlua into my water glass. Toss it back before setting the bottle on the serving tray. Switch on the coffeemaker and return to my guest.

His blur is near the window. He fingers the drapes and says, “You make these yourself, Goldilocks? Nice and thick, just like me, if you know what I’m saying.”

The tingle zinging toward my inner thighs appalls me. The curtain rod clatters to the floor.

I freeze for a moment before hoisting myself up onto the end table. “Could you grab the other end?” I have to clear my throat twice before he responds.

I picture the neighbours at their respective roosts. Mr. Hancock in dilapidated slippers smoking a pipe, his yappy chihuahua Snorkel in the over-sized pocket of his bathrobe. Mrs. Kozak in her faded floral housedress, glasses flapping above flaccid breasts, one eye on her crochet, the other on the street. The widow Kerchinsky, unlit cigarette dangling from her chapped lips, a baby clutched to each round hip. She’s likely already dialed my mother’s long-distance digits.

As soon as I get fireman451 out the door, I’m deleting my dating profile. I’ll be satisfied curling up with my pillows and a bowl of Doritos and watching rom-coms alone.

The coffeemaker rescues me. “Back in a jiff.” In the kitchen, I put on my glasses—might as well see what I’m willing to go down for—and guzzle Kahlua straight from the bottle.

I deposit the tray on the ottoman. Fireman451 inches closer and says, “Nice goggles.” The cedary musk of his cologne weakens my resolve. In the movies, lovers stare into one another’s eyes before they kiss, but his gaze is glued to my breasts. My nipples must be showing through my blouse.

He pours until our mugs brim. Slurps. Smirks and exposes swollen gums and roots. Obvious indicators of periodontal disease. “A nice set of jugs and makes a mean cup of coffee. I could hose you down real good, Goldilocks.”

A shiver travels up my spine. He talks to me like the boys from high school talked to the popular girls. I shouldn’t enjoy this kind of attention, but I close my eyes and sink into the cushions.

He’s not completely un-handsome. He could come to the dental office for a cleaning. I’d strap him into the dental chair. Undo the top button of a special little uniform I’d wear just for him. Pull out the little rubber drill and pressured water hose—The phone’s shrill ring pulls me back into the living room. Likely my mother. I sit up straight, smooth down my blouse.

Fireman451 rubs his big toe up my shin, asks, “You gonna get that?”

I ignore his question. Ignore the phone. Lock eyes with him as I pour more Kahlua into my coffee and ask, “Are you really a fireman?”

As he explains what it’s like managing the local Chevy dealership, my mind wanders back to his stripper pole comment. A disco light spins so fast sparks fly off the tiny mirrors. POUF! The couch bursts into flames. Smoke creeps toward me.
Fireman451’s hand glides up my arm. His fingers tangle in my ponytail as he growls, “I could get my keys and turn you on. Let you grab hold of my gear shift.” He yanks my head back, just a little.

I squeeze my legs together. Let the pleasure soak in. Turn a deaf ear to the ringing phone.

“Do you or don’t you got a fire you want me to put out, Goldilocks21?” He drops his eyes to my moist crotch.

I’ve always envied women who get to be sex objects. I bat my eyelashes, say, “Fire’s down the hall.” I grab the bottle of Kahlua, guzzle straight from the bottle as I lead the way.