Matching White Underwear

There’s yet another piece of fiction after the jump, if you’re interested.

Matching White Underwear

It sounds like a swarm of hornets, but it’s not. It’s plane after plane taking off, the airport’s dead appendages that shake themselves back to life and take flight from time to time, ignoring their whole to explore whatever else is out there.

Catherine’s at the airport with her dad. There’s dumb soft jazz music creeping through the terminal. Sometimes, she likes the looks of planes taking off: the crackling little glints of light bouncing off the fuselage, the way the wings break the dusty clouds.

“You got in pretty late last night. Sure you aren’t too tired today?”

“I’m fine, Dad.”

“What were you up to?”

“Just making my goodbye rounds, I guess.” She shrugs. “You know?”

“Okay, okay. Well, I’m gonna have a lot tougher time keeping tabs on you now. I gotta take advantage of it these last few minutes.” He mocks her shrug with an exaggerated one of his own. “You know?”

She shakes her head with a laugh and applies chapstick.

Catherine’s bags are checked. Her dad says, “About that time,” as they near her gate. There are only a handful of people waiting at security. There’s a low murmur of voices among the scattered beeps and unending whir of the carry-on baggage conveyer that leads to the mouth of the x-ray machine and its flimsy rubber teeth.

Catherine and her dad stop. She stands on her toes, then rocks back and forth. She is just a shy little girl with a vague sense of longing for anything, except she wants it to be more specific. And she’s distracted, thinking of blonde hair and the smell of kiwi shampoo.

Her dad says, “I guess this is it.” He doesn’t want to say much else, just hugs her and quickly continues, “I’ll see you next week with your mom and the rest of your stuff. We’ll make sure you’re settled and everything right before class starts. Okay?”

“Okay. Thanks, Dad. I’ll be fine.”

He hugs her again, “Bye. Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Her sandals are off while she’s waiting in the gate, and she eyes the bright white of her toenails. It’s not polish, it’s whiteout that was applied the night before. Whiteout was supposedly more stubborn and would stay on her longer.

Catherine’s already looked through her carry-on bag twice, hoping to find a stowed-away letter. She shuffles through the bag one more time to reveal nothing new.

Boarding starts.

At the front of the line, Catherine extends her boarding pass and driver’s license. She’s about to slip on a pair of white-framed sunglasses when the security woman speaks.

“Can you wait just a sec before you put those on so I can get a better look, miss?”

Catherine complies. She feels bloodless and muted and checks to make sure her jaw isn’t pointlessly slack. The woman takes a moment. Catherine twirls the sunglasses and ends up just biting her lower lip and raising an impatient eyebrow. She considers putting on more chapstick.


“No problem.”

Catherine walks, listens to the flip-flop of her sandals, feels the outside warmth rising fast as she leaves the gate behind and nears the plane. She raises the sunglasses to her face, and she sees something written in black. It says, I’ll miss you I’ll miss you I’ll miss you, along the insides of the white frames.

*          *          *

Lindsay’s at her parents’ house. It’s too-early morning and she’s awake in her bed. She smells her mother’s coffee. Her feet are cold even under the blanket although the rest of her feels hot and mushy. She thinks of quicksand and sinking and wrestling for air and light.

She hears a buzzing now and thinks of hornets. But they aren’t there. There’s no sound. The house is so quiet.

Lindsay forces herself out of bed and joins her mom in the kitchen with a cup of coffee.

She asks, “How was the big date with Dad last night?”

Her mom says, “Big date. Yeah.” She deposits a spoonful of sugar in her mug and smiles. “It was a lot of fun, really. There were more people than usual at golf. It was good getting to talk with them.” Steam rises to her nose and she takes it in. “And dinner was nice, too. Oh, you know what?”


“We ran into one of yours friend’s parents at the restaurant. Ah, what’s her name?”

“Lay off the tequila, Mom.”

“Oh, stop it.” She pauses to sip her coffee. “Annie. We talked to Annie’s parents.”

Lindsay’s mom tells her about how Annie is leaving for college that morning, but Lindsay isn’t really listening. Her thoughts wander over to what she dreamt while she was sleeping: skinny-dipping at the public pool the month before, how she exited the water, naked and breathless, the chlorine burning her eyes, causing all the scenery to drip with watery shadows. Lightning bugs were multiplied by her fizzy retinas so it appeared as though thousands were dangling above the water, little floating gems that buzzed like endless vinyl records in her water-soaked ears.

Her mom says, “So, are you excited?”


“Are you excited to leave next week?”

“Of course I’m excited, Mom. It’s college. Everyone’s excited about college.”

“Be prepared for your dad to give you a huge talk about not smoking cigarettes and not bringing home some tattooed boy for Thanksgiving.”

“Mom, come on.”

Lindsay’s coffee mug has left a brown ring on the tablecloth.

“I’m just warning you, babe. He was already getting started last night. I feel like he’s worrying enough for the three of us.” She takes another sip. “Just keep quiet and listen to him when he’s talking. It’s more for his own assurance than anything else.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. At least just make him drive at a reasonable speed when we go.”

“We’ll get there when we get there. Or are you just that desperate to get away from us?”

“You have no idea.” Lindsay tilts back in her chair.

“Just be glad you’ll have us to help you move in. It’d be terrible having to go out all on your own like Annie and some of your other friends.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.”

It’s morning outside and everything is becoming bright. Lindsay returns her chair’s legs to the ground.

Her mom asks, “Do you want me to make you an omelette?”


“You’re gonna miss this when you’re gone. You’ll never find an omelette with these ingredients, this much taste, this much color.”

“Yeah, Mom. You say that every time you make them. Such colorful omelettes. All the colors. I get it.”

“You’ll miss this.”

“I know.” She circles the brown ring of coffee. “I know. Thanks.”

*          *          *

They’re wearing only matching white underwear.

“I just knew. I felt it, I guess.” Lindsay laughs. “That sounds dumb, you know? But I just felt it, really.”

They’re alone in the house, in Lindsay’s bed with no sheets or blankets, facing each other and exchanging warm, late summer breaths. A fan washes air over them. The leaves of the Chinese evergreen plant on the desk beside the bed sway. Their legs are clasped together like two hands forming a large, singular fist of prayer. A small streak of white runs across the top of Lindsay’s foot, an accidental smudge provided by the whiteout she applied to Catherine’s toes earlier in the evening.

Catherine says, “Yeah. Yeah, I felt it, too, I guess.”

The fan clicks every few seconds.

Catherine says, “I’m sorry I’m leaving tomorrow.”

“It’s okay.”

“But, plans, you know?”


“No. Plans. But, yeah, I guess planes, too.” Catherine lets go of some nervous laughter.

“Yeah. Yeah.” Lindsay’s voice falls softer when she repeats the word. She pulls a strand of her hair away that’s stuck to the corner of her mouth. Catherine brushes Lindsay’s blonde hair off her face. They move closer to each other and the sound of some static in the bedsheets jumps like jingling coins. They kiss a little. Catherine’s fingers find the grooves of Lindsay’s ribs. Lindsay’s hand is at Catherine’s hip, index finger held against her body by the elastic of her underwear.

Catherine says, “Remember when we went skinny-dipping?”

“Yeah, and you had to sneak in back here and borrow this underwear from me after you lost yours.”

“Yeah. You have like a thousand pairs exactly like this.”

“I’m wearing them right now, too.”

The girls laugh together.

Lindsay says, “We got pretty good at all that sneaking in and out.”

Catherine starts to speak, but her voice catches itself and stops. She is scooped up and misty and her throat feels raw and torn.

They’re both thinking something about having more time. Lindsay lets her hand rest on the front of Catherine’s underwear. She wonders how she can make this last longer. She considers pulling aside Catherine’s underwear and counting each pubic hair. She considers counting every eyelash. She considers hunting down every freckle, connecting all those dots and shading in every screw-angled shape with different colors.

Lindsay slips her hand inside of Catherine and says, “I’m gonna dream about you tonight.”

Catherine breathes and says, “Yeah,” and her eyes are closed and she looks melty and soft.

They wiggle into one thumbed-over body. Thoughts criss-cross in the blankness that’s sleeping under the young, rushed sounds of wet mouths: something about having more time.


Comments on: "Matching White Underwear" (2)

  1. love it! nice twist at the end…

  2. This was excellent. I love the detail that you put into your stories about the characters, such as when Catherine was putting on her chapstick or about Lindsay with the quicksand. It really reminds me of Michael Chabon’s writing, and he is easily my favorite writer.
    Just out of curiosity, how do you come up with the ideas for your short stories?

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