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FICTION / Drawers / Brent Hearn

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The girls are all trainees in the same Christian dance company. Their lease is up and they’re moving to a new place, closer to the studio. 

I pay Brie and she hands me my scone. She tells me there’ll be a lot of stuff, but that it shouldn’t take long. That there are only a few heavy things and there should be plenty of people—maybe as many as eight of us if her roommates’ boyfriends are able to get off work and help. Plus, there’ll be donuts when we arrive and beer and pizza when we’re done. 

“Carbs are my kind of currency,” I say.

“Um . . . clearly,” she says, laughing. At least twice a week, I stop by the bakery where she works part-time. At first it was for the scones; increasingly it’s for her. She has a great laugh, definitely a thumbs-up on my mental list of the pros and cons of making the move from casual interest to a full-blown liking of her.

I always get a little nervous when I’m asked to help somebody move. You learn things about people. Unless they box up every single little thing (and who does that?), you get little unguarded glimpses into their lives when you’re in amongst people’s stuff. 

Still, I usually say yes. Nobody enjoys schlepping heavy shit up and down flights of stairs, but if you have enough people, you can usually knock it out pretty fast. Plus, you know good and damn well you’ll be in the same boat at some point, and you’re going to need folks you can call. 

If it had been anyone else this time, though, I would have politely declined. Late March in Mississippi is peak pollen season, and my allergies give me fits. I have that constant just-about-to-sneeze feeling, and my nose leaks like a bum faucet. But like I said . . . great smile.

I get to the apartment the next morning, and Brie introduces me to everybody. A few minutes later, we get word that the boyfriends aren’t going to be able to get off work after all. There are still six of us, though, so we should be fine. 

We move all the big stuff: the entertainment center, the solid oak kitchen table, the coffee table, the chests of drawers (all three of them, sans drawers, one for each girl), the heavy-ass sleeper sofa that smells a little bit like cat pee, and the smaller (but inexplicably almost as heavy) love seat that smells a whole lot like cat pee.  

We move all the boxes: cookware, towels, stuff from the medicine cabinet, DVDs, candles and other knick-knacks, and books. Oh, at the books. There are several boxes full of dance books, everything from anatomy to history of dance to coffee-table photography books of dancers. There’s a whole box of travel books, probably everything ever written by Johns Grisham and Green, and several Bibles. Not the kind people have out just for show, but thick study Bibles with footnotes and concordances and devotional sections, marked up, highlighted, and dog-eared.

When I’m taking out the last big box of books, I see the drawers stacked up in the corner. I keep hoping one of the girls will grab them. They’re all tiny; you'd think they’d grab those and some of the other more manageable items and leave the big stuff to the guys. But they’re all dancers, so they’re strong as hell and pride themselves on working as hard as we are. So still the drawers sit. Untouched. Unmoved. Waiting. 

We move all the delicate stuff: a full-length mirror with faded Hello Kitty stickers, a large antique lamp that looks completely out of place (maybe inherited from a deceased relative?), a couple of cheap bedside lamps of the type you’d totally expect young women only a couple of years out of college to have, and a disturbingly large collection of glass rhinos of the type you’d expect exactly no one to have. Those are Brie’s, and she insists on taking them down herself, wrapping them individually in bubble wrap and standing them upright in boxes (one layer only, ensuring they take up the maximum amount of space possible), and cradling them with the care you’d expect one to treat a newborn infant or something capable of leaking nuclear isotopes. It’s cute. Maddening and impractical, but cute.

Correction: We move almostall the delicate stuff. There are still theirdelicates—the ones in those drawers. I've learned over my years of helping friends, girlfriends, and coworkers move that there's a certain amount of strategy involved in making sure you're not the one who ends up taking those down. It's a probability thing: The smaller the number of movers, the greater the odds you'll end up with a drawer full of lady things; the greater the number of movers, the smaller the odds.

I overhear Brie talking to Cara, one of the roommates. Turns out the boyfriends both work at the same place. A moving company. You'd think the girls would have planned around theirschedule. I guess they were too busy at dance classes and rehearsals and working their part-time jobs so they could buy fancy panties because every single one of them has a drawerful of lacy, frilly unmentionables just waiting to be carted down to the truck. I’m watching how long it takes each person to grab a load, tromp down the stairs, and head back up, calculating how many trips' worth of stuff are left. Somebody’s gotta take those drawers down, and by damn,it’s not gonna be me.

Cara and one of the other guys helping (I forget his name, but he’s a dancer in the same company; I remember that) decide to go ahead and take one of the trucks to the new place. That leaves Brie and her other roommate—Amity, I think, or maybe Amalee, some hippie name her hippie parents from California had given her; I remember Brie saying something about them once—along with me and some guy named Ryan. I have no idea what his relation to anyone there is. So we’re down from six to four. Worse odds from a lingerie avoidance standpoint, but still doable.

I even have a good excuse to stop while assessing the optimal strategy for not ending up with the undies. The physical exertion from going up and down two flights of stairs every trip isn’t doing anything to help my leaky nose, so every now and then I stop to pull some tissue out of my pocket and blow. 

"Allergies?" Ryan asks. 

"Yeah. That time of year," I say, sweating and sniffling as I eye my next pile of stuff to take down. 

But every time I go to grab something from the steadily dwindling pile, I’m thwarted. Amity/Amalee grabs the bathroom scale and a stand-up mixer I'd honed in on before I can get to it. Brie’s manhandling two full clothes hampers, one under each arm. I make a beeline for a magazine rack, but friggin' Ryan—who are you and why are you evenhere, Ryan?—grabs it and balances it on the stack of comforters he’s carrying.

Where the hell are all the slacker movers? Everybody here’s working like a damn pack animal on speed. A little loafing here or there on their part and I’d probably be fine. 

But I’m not fine. Through some kind of freak accident or statistical blip or providential intervention with motives unknowable, I doend up taking the drawers. All of them. Three separate stacks, three separate trips. And of course, of course, the underwear drawer is the top drawer in all three instances. Why didn't they just do a little rearranging? I mean, I get it: Most people (at least in my experience as an amateur mover) have their socks and underwear in the highest drawer in their chest of drawers. But it would have been such a small thing to just restack them so they’re not on top.

Or even just cover them up with something. Why don't people do that? A layer of t-shirts or old sweatpants or something? On Underpants Trip #1, I realize that one of the roommates (I didn't know whose drawers were in which drawers) must have half-considered the notion, as a couple of pair of yoga pants—lululemon, probably; they’re broke young trainees, but they'd starve before giving up their name-brand workout gear—is splayed haphazardly across the top row of undies. This doesn’t help, though, as a silky blue thong and a pair of white, lacy boyshorts are playing peek-a-boo between the pants legs. An image pops, unbidden, into my head of the girls—all three of them—in the booty-hugging fabric, wearing it like a second skin, beads of sweat glistening on their toned shoulders as they’re downwarding their doggies, those fancy panties underneath, just their little secret except now it’s not just their little secret because I know, too, and I won’t be able to look them in the eyes without thinking, I know what you have on underneath, you luscious pliéing sexpots!

I make it down okay with the first stack of drawers and hand it over to Brie, who’s waiting for me in the back of the truck. Everyone else is helping her arrange stuff, so I climb the stairs for round two, telling myself to nut up and that it’ll be over with before I know it.

The trick is to see without looking. That's what I tell myself on the way down after I grab the second stack. Use your peripheral vision. You can't avoid seeing the floral-print demi-cup bra and panties set, but you can avoid looking at it. Focusing on it. Just walk straight ahead, casually, but not toocasually—you don't want to appear to be trying to be casual because that's suspicious. What kind of person has to pretend to be casual when carrying an armload of underthings? A pervert. That's what kind. 

I hand off the second stack to Brie, who gives my shoulder a squeeze and says, "Almost done! Pizza should be here any minute," before turning to straighten some boxes with her foot. She’s sweating through her royal blue tank top and sports bra, and she’s wearing a Cardinals cap, her hair pulled through the back in a ponytail. Everything about her is utterly adorable. 

I wonder what she thinks of me. What am I to her? Just some guy who makes small talk with her when he drops by the bakery where she works part time? Somebody who seems nice enough to ask for help moving, but that’s where it ends? Or is she weighing me on her own pros and cons list? I think there’s something there, but I can't tell for sure.

Everyone else is still rearranging stuff on the truck, so I trudge up the stairs for the last stack of drawers. I reach into my pocket for a tissue but come up empty. I'd used the last one earlier and in what was now clear was a lack of foresight had thrown it, along with the other used ones I had crammed in my pocket, into the Dumpster near the truck. No biggie, I tell myself as I load up the last stack of drawers, a colorful collection of high-cut cotton briefs strewn on top. One load left. One load left and then pizza and beer. Pizza and beer and maybe even a little flirting. An image of Brie’ssweaty face under the ball cap with a little half-smile pops into my mind and then, with no warning, I have an erection. Not a semi, but a full-blown, rock-hard chubby. 

Are you kiddingme?! I can cart down a bunch of hot girls’ underwear and nothing, but a sweaty, beat-up ball cap gives me a stiffy? 

I realize now that my decision to throw away the last of my tissue isn't the worst example of my lack of foresight. That distinction goes to Three-Hours-Ago-Me, who for some reason thought it would be a good idea to wear boxers with shorts. Not boxer briefs or something else providing some semblance of restriction to my manly bits—no, that would have been too sensible—but a pair of might-as-well-be-freeballing regular boxers (well "regular" if you can call underwear featuring an assortment of robot dinosaurs "regular") paired with loose-fitting workout shorts, a combination ensuring hardly any more jock support than going commando, the most glaring repercussion of which is that I'm not merely pitching a pup tent; I'm sporting a teepee big enough to hold the whole damn pack. 

Don’t panic, I tell myself. My heart is racing, and it occurs to me that increased blood flow is probably not the best thing for my current predicament. Just slow your breathing and think of unsexy things. You’ll be fine by the time you get downstairs

I reach down to pick up the stack of drawers and in doing so, my faulty nasal plumbing betrays me, and a giant glop of clear, watery snot plops right into the crotch of a pair of silver panties. Except all of a sudden they’re not completely silver; the crotch spot the snot landed on is now a darker shade of silver in a zebra-print pattern, and I realize that they’re not panties at all, but a pair of bikini bottoms, and not just any bikini bottoms, but the fancy kind that changes color when they get wet. 

Okay, now, I think. Now is the time to panic.

My eyes dart to the doorway. Nobody there. I lean down, puff out my cheeks, and blow on the fabric like it’s a candle I’m trying to put out and not a snotty pair of bikini bottoms. I stop to look and . . . no change. I’m just about to try again when it occurs to me:Just bury them at the bottom of the drawer, idiot

I shove them underneath the pile of panties and bras and bodysuits and who the hell knows what else sexy wonders, but my hands are sweaty and jerky and shaking, and I realize in horror that not only does it now look like someone has been rifling through the underwear drawer, which of course I have, but that instead of one pair of barely-snotted bikini bottoms, the whole of the drawer’s contents are now—thanks to the mixture of regular sweat from exertion and flop sweat from abject terror—for lack of a better word . . . moist. 

It also occurs to me, somewhere through my panic, that Turned On For No Good Reason Boner has been reborn as Raging Stress Boner and has no intention of clocking out anytime soon.

I proceed to grab handfuls of underwear, attempting to dry them on my shorts, my shirt . . . anything, anything at all, but of course it’s futile because there's not a stitch of anything on me that's dry, and now whoever's underthings I have are now covered in my musk, and I see the pair of snotty bikini bottoms and fixate on them because that's what people do in a crisis, I've heard; they fixate on one particular detail they feel like they can control, and I pick them up and hold them close to my face and—good news!—it looks like they're only sweaty moist now and not snotty moist anymore, and then I hear something and look up and see Brie and Ryan, hand in hand, standing with Amity/Amalee in the doorway, all of their mouths gaping open as they stare at me holding a pair of bikini bottoms in my face and sporting the second-biggest boner I've ever had (Jennifer Connelly on the coin-operated horsey in Career Opportunities will forever have the top spot on lock), and it occurs to me that I'm probably not going to get that beer and pizza after all.


Brent Hearn is a freelance writer based in Oxford, Mississippi. His work has appeared online in Defenestration, onstage at various theaters in Mississippi, and onscreen advertising an assortment of products and services that you should probably refrain from purchasing if you ever want to be able to afford those damn Hamilton tickets you’re always on about.