The leopard on the ceiling had 23 spots. Sometimes I wonder if that was right; I worry that it might have been 37 or 13, that forgetting means those nights weren’t really as bad as I thought. As I think of them now.
I counted the spots every time he would climb on top of me, always tiredly but viciously. I stopped trying to resist after I helped him move into his new apartment.
That tapestry was the first thing he hung up. I helped him pin it to the low ceiling, stretching and pushing to get the points through thick fabric and into the exposed beams. After we were done, we laid down and stared up. Twelve pins glinted gently around it like a frame. There was a big tree up the middle, wide and red and reaching. Across its boughs were birds and monkeys. Around the base of the tree were deer and flowers and that leopard. The cheapness of the tapestry was belied by how orange and distorted the leopard was, by how he stalked toward me, contorted.
I thought hanging the tapestry above the bed would make his apartment feel more like home. More like I belonged there. More like I had a claim on him, his affection.
When it was dark, the orange leopard was still bright. I could count on him to look down on me, lick his lips, as I felt the bed shift next to me, knew what time it was again. The covers were pulled back, my clothes off, legs apart; sometimes he would stop to ask what I was staring at instead of him. I would pet his head and kiss his neck until he believed that I wanted him to be inside me, that I was just lost in the pleasure of being fucked by him. I was afraid to admit that I was passing the time, counting the spots of the leopard. He would always settle down, start again until he collapsed onto me and rolled away. I would lie naked and cold, still staring at the leopard, counting and crying before turning away, falling asleep.
Rachel Roupp is a poet and editor from the mountains of Pennsylvania. Her poetry has appeared in Crab Fat Magazine, Chantwood Magazine, Honey & Lime, Rust + Moth, and Rag Queen Periodical, where she served as the Social Media Coordinator. She just wants Dolly Parton to be proud of her.