Jenny’s Apartment

Boots’s Pick
Anne Greenawalt


Living room
Photo Credit: Jeff Croft

Jenny’s apartment was a shrine to her ex-boyfriends, Jason decided when leaving her apartment after his fourth visit.

On his first visit, Jason noticed the paintings on the living room wall. They were the types of pictures that looked like splattered paint on a canvas, something his six-year-old niece could have done with her eyes shut. The term “vomiting rainbow” came to mind.

“Those are… colorful,” he said. He didn’t want to be rude.

“Aren’t they?” she said. “They brighten up the place. One of my exes was a painter.”

His name was Chad and she’d met him randomly at the grocery store where she liked to shop on Thursdays at midnight.

The second time at Jenny’s apartment, which was the first time they slept together, Jason noticed the set of hand weights on the floor of her closet where most women keep their shoes.

“So you lift weights?” he asked.

“Yeah, I do,” she said and shrugged. “I dated this guy for awhile—he was really into bodybuilding. He gave me those.” She winked at Jason and said, “It keeps me fit.”

Jason put his hands on her waist then snuck them up under her blue sweater. He felt her soft skin, which was just a thin layer over very tight abs. The bodybuilder, Dave, was her most recent ex, who, luckily for Jason, lived a few states to the west.

His third time at Jenny’s apartment, they cooked dinner together. Jason opened the bottle of wine while Jenny prepared a meal of roast duck, butternut squash loaf, and homemade bread. Her kitchen was filled with the sharpest set of knives, the best food processor, the most expensive blender.

“Where’d you learn to cook like this?”

“An ex,” she said. She flicked her hair behind her shoulder with a quick twist of her neck. The light from the kitchen lamp reflected off her hair and he could see, for the first time, flecks of red mixed with her soft chestnut-colored hair. “He was a chef. He got me hooked up with the latest appliances. Taught me how to use them, too.”

That was Chef Sherman.

On his fourth visit to Jenny’s apartment all they did was cuddle on her couch and watch TV. An ex-boyfriend had gotten her hooked on the show 24, so they watched that. Jason didn’t mind what they watched as long as he was near her.

“This couch is so comfortable,” Jason said. It was soft and molded to their bodies like memory foam.

“Yeah? I guess it is,” Jenny said. “Scott and I bought it together. He insisted that I keep it when we split up. So I guess I’m glad I did.”

Scott was her college boyfriend. He majored in business. They had an apartment together their senior year.

Jason wondered if there were any traces of ex-girlfriends lingering in his apartment. Other than a shoebox of photos on the top shelf of his closet, he couldn’t think of anything. Girlfriends had bought him clothes—sweater vests and ties and even a fleece jacket once—but those items were promptly donated or dumpstered when they broke up.

On Jason’s fifth visit, he got curious and pointed at random objects in Jenny’s apartment and asked about their history.

“What’s that?” he asked. “Where’s that from? How’d you get that?”

Jenny answered each question calmly. “That’s a tool chest Greg insisted I get in case I need it.” “Ralph got that for me when he went to Mexico.” “Barry got me that when we went to San Francisco a few years back. It’s from Chinatown. It’s a stamp with my name in Chinese.”

Jason stroked his beardless chin with thumb and forefinger. If he and Jenny broke up, he wondered what piece of him would linger in her apartment. What part of him would she keep with her? He’d treated her to dinners and movies. He even made her a handmade Valentine’s Day card a few weeks ago. But he had offered her nothing on the scale of Mexican maracas.

Despite five dates and seeing this girl naked, Jason realized he knew nothing about Jenny.

“What’s wrong?” Jenny asked. “You’re not jealous, are you?” She gave him a teasing grin.

“Me? Jealous?” Jason said.

She put her arms around his waist and squeezed. Her head fit perfectly on his shoulder. Her hair smelled faintly of vanilla.

“It’s just that I’m wondering… is there anything here that’s yours?”

Jenny lifted her head from his shoulder so she could look him in the eyes. She cocked her head to the side. “What do you mean? Everything here is mine.”

“Yeah, it’s yours because you own it. But what’s yours? What do you have here that you got for yourself because you like it?”

“I don’t know,” Jenny said. She looked genuinely startled. “I’ve never thought about it.”

“Ok,” Jason said. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just curious, that’s all.”

“I’m not upset,” Jenny said.

Sometime later, Jason didn’t know what number visit it was because he’d been to Jenny’s apartment so many times by then, Jenny pulled him by his hand into the lounge and said she had something to show him.

“Look!” she said and pointed to the corner where there was a snowboard standing on end.

It was odd to see a snowboard in the middle of summer in someone’s living room. It was red with a floral design like you’d expect to see on a surfboard. It was a top-of-the-line snowboard. He knew from experience and could tell by looking at it.

“Wow, that’s great!” Jason exclaimed.

“Yeah, well, I was thinking how you said I don’t have anything for myself. So I bought this for me.”

Jason felt his face slacken a bit, but Jenny was excited—and serious.

“But, Jenn, you don’t snowboard.”

“But I’d like to.”

“But I snowboard. That’s my thing.”

“I thought it could be something we do together.”

“Yeah, I mean, definitely, but the board isn’t really for you then, is it? It’s more like you got it for us.”

“But I’ll use it. It’s too small for you.”

A few weeks later Jason and Jenny broke up. Jason no longer wondered what he’d left behind in Jenny’s life—a snowboard, even though he hadn’t bought it. And unlike the chef and the bodybuilder and the others, he’d left before he had a chance to show her how to use it. He did wonder if she’d ever use it, if she’d become a master snowboarder, or if she’d just store it away in her closet as another item for her shrine.

Months later Jason found himself driving past Jenny’s apartment to get to his new girlfriend’s house a few blocks away. He saw Jenny coming out of her apartment as he passed. She was wearing a varsity letter jacket, the kind that football players in high school used to wear. The jacket was old, vintage. It had a large maroon M on the back and the word “Soccer” stitched in maroon on a grey background. Jason knew she’d never played soccer. She also wore grey shorts that showed off muscular legs hidden from the ankles down in brown work boots that were clearly too large.

The sunlight caught her hair right before she closed her apartment door. Jason slowed down to watch the sun reflect the many shades of her hair. He noticed there were no more flecks of red. “That’s a shame,” he thought.

pencil

Anne Greenawalt graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. In 2008 she was runner-up in a short story collection competition, which resulted in the publication of her collection entitled Growing Up Girl. She now lives in her hometown in Pennsylvania. More information on Anne and her writing can be found at her blog. Email: greenawalt.a[at]gmail.com