MISCONDUCT

WESLEY O. COHEN

The apology was platinum. The publicist hit all the right notes: the contrite acceptance of responsibility, the head-hanging, the hand-wringing, the self-flagellation, the commitment to listening and learning and striving to change. The reminder of daughter, the apology to wife, the reassurance of positive work for womankind in other areas. The subtle denial of the worst of the crimes suggested, the gentle implication that the story had shifted in telling, the proposition that the behavior in question was perhaps less severe than the accuser had recalled, that the touch was lighter and less inappropriate than reported, that the lamps had been dimmed but not extinguished, that the lean towards the accuser had been intimate but not necessarily intimidating, that the shower had not been running and had therefore been assumed to be empty, despite the steam and the dribble, that the door was perhaps sticky or jammed but not locked, that the night was young, that the drinks had been flowing, that the grin and wince of the accuser was enchanting, that the skirt, although long, had been brushed aside for a moment by thin, lovely fingers, that smells of all type were particularly strong and delicious on the night in question, that the night in question had long been forgotten, that the night in question was not the night originally cited in court documents, that the accuser’s calendar had been modified after the fact, that past lessons had failed to take, that things used to be different, that this was just the way things were, that the universe was perverse, and perhaps silly, and certainly too complicated and shifting and hazy for one to ever be completely sure of anything, of course, forever. 

The rapist read the apology and nodded. He took an olive into his mouth and bit down, setting the newspaper onto the gleaming deck of his boat. The past was behind the rapist, far past. The boat pulled away from the harbor, leaving the city behind. Out here, the water was deep and stunning cobalt. The rapist had many distractions available to him. There were other newspapers to read—with many articles not about him—and magazines, and newly bought books on a variety of subjects for the rapist to browse. The boat had a small lap pool, and a large television, and a well-appointed kitchen. And there was, of course, the wide and shining sea, lapping against the boat’s side in a soothing rhythm. Despite the course and the current, the deep push up of silt and mineral and slime into the light, despite the tectonic shift of earth and heat miles below, despite the eternal flow of the hidden away from the hiding place, despite the legion of researchers and divers striving even now, below the rapist, to plumb the depths and darkest corners of this very sea, despite all of this, at the surface, the waves against the side of the yacht gave the impression of a simple cycle, changeless and bright. Soon the rapist found his eyes drooping, his face relaxed. With his hat pulled low over his brow, leaving lattice-shadow over the soft pink skin of his forehead, the rapist began to doze. 

Wesley O. Cohen’s writing has appeared in Joyland, Entropy, Jellyfish Review, and some other places, and she edits fiction for Foglifter Journal. Wesley’s work lives at wesleyocohen.com, but Wesley lives in Sacramento.