Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Thumb War

Ben’s hand found the strap of my shoe and wiggled it, making Daniel sit up a little straighter. It tickled a little, but I didn’t do anything but bat a glance at it. Ben looked at me, drew his lips down into a guilty smirk and touched his fingertips to my Achilles tendon. I let him, trying to keep a conversation with Daniel, but the both of us losing the sentences. Ben lightly stroked my leg, up the calf, barely touching it. He raised my knee and placed it on the chair between his legs. It lifted my skirt. I put it down.

“That’s enough,” I said, though I knew I was blushing. Ben watched my leg drop, his mouth in an O, and shook his fingers out. “Come on,” I said. “It’s just a leg.”

“It’s your leg,” he said.

Daniel frowned at this entire exchange, but lightened up when it was over. “It is a nice leg,” he said. “I’ll bet the other one…,” he leaned under the table, “yep, just as good.”

“Stop it, guys. How are we going to get you two laid when you keep touching me?”

“I guess you’ll just have to fuck one of us,” Daniel said. I threw my straw at him.

“But you’re my friends.”

“Exactly,” Ben said.

“I’m changing the subject,” I said.

“Why?” Ben asked.

“Alright, I won’t. But let’s talk about someone else, okay? Daniel, how long has it been?”

“Like four months.”

“That’s pathetic, man,” Ben said.

“How long has it been for you, then?” Daniel asked him, sidelong, taking a sip of his beer.

“Five months. Look I didn’t say I wasn’t pathetic, alright?”

“You’re both pathetic.”

“You could help one of us out, you know,” Ben said.

“I ‘help one of you out’ and one of you is going to ‘leave my life forever.’ And I love you both, so that question is moot. Let’s find you girls.”

Daniel frowned at this comment too. Ben smiled and started looking around the room. “I’m gonna get us another round,” he said, and kissed me on the cheek on the way to the bar.

“Seriously, Daniel,” I said, leaning over the empties, looking into his brown eyes, they’re green in daylight, but brown in the dark, “Alice has been gone forever and you’ve got to get out and try to talk to someone. Anyone.”

He put his elbow in one of the empty, dry spots on the table and leaned into me, his shirt falling forward, his chest, hairy and a little skinny, appearing before my eyes. He saw me look. “Let me tell you something,” he said. I leaned in more. “I don’t give a shit about Alice.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

He didn’t answer, but simply stared at me, blinking slowly, his mouth opening. I wanted to lean in more, attack him, and I fought it like I always did, but stayed there anyway, to torture myself, I guess. He reached over and adjusted some part of my hair. I smiled, bit the inside of my mouth and leaned back in my chair.

“What about that girl behind me?” I asked him. He looked, pursed his lips and shook his head. “You’re impossible,” I said.

You’re impossible,” he said.

I took a deep gulp of my drink and ignored the fact that he was still looking at me. I felt cold on the back of my neck and saw a drink put down in front of me. “Predictable,” I said to Ben.

“Thumb war for Kim?” Ben asked Daniel.

“What?” I asked, sitting up. “You’re going to decide which one of you I’m going to spend the rest of my life with in a thumb war? Have a real fight, guys.”

“Women,” Daniel said.

“They always want to see a guy get beaten up in their name,” Ben said.

“No, we just like to see you guys roll around on top of each other.”

They paused, thumbs almost raised, then Ben winked at Daniel and Daniel blew him a kiss. “Someday, partner,” Ben said. Daniel laughed. I fanned myself.

“She’s got the vapors,” Daniel said. Then together, they said, “One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war!”

Their thumbs raised and snapped at each other like snakes. Daniel caught the tip of Ben’s, but he got out of it before I could count to three. Ben pounced, but at the same time as Daniel, and their thumbs shoved into each other at the tips, waving in a triangle.

“You’re not trying hard enough,” I said to them both and unbuttoned another button on my blouse, sliding my hand in to play at the top of my breast. Daniel looked at me and Ben leaned over and gave him a kiss on the mouth. Daniel’s thumb dropped and Ben caught it.

“One… two… three!” I said.

“Let’s go,” Ben said.

“I never agreed to this,” I said.

“Who asked you?” Ben said.

“You’re going to have to ask me.”

“Fine,” Ben said. “Kiiiiimm, if Daniel and I have thuuumb war to decide who gets to spend the rest of their life in your pussy, would you agreeee to ittttt?”



“Because I love you both.”

“She loves us both,” he repeated to Daniel, who was still kind of annoyed that he lost, and probably that Ben had kissed him to do it.

Daniel looked at me, smiled at the look I was giving him, nodded and turned to Ben. “Could be worse,” he said.

“What do you mean?” Ben asked.

“You ready, partner?” Daniel asked.

Ben looked at me, looked at Daniel, looked at me, and then nodded to Daniel, buttoning his jacket. I wasn’t sure that the deal made had actually been made, that they were thinking the same thing I was thinking and I watched their forms on the way out of the club for a sign. Ben, shortish and solid, swayed a little, but from alcohol or circumstances I couldn’t tell. Daniel, tall and slight, stayed at a normal distance from Ben, not close enough for flirtation or far enough to avoid it.

When the door shut behind us, the sounds of girls in cars flirting with boys on foot, a thundering bus, Daniel put his hands on Ben’s hips and looked at him for a while. I still didn’t really believe it. Ben blinked a few times, cocked his head and pressed into him. He looked a little shy at first, unlike him, and kept his mouth shut, but Daniel put his fingers in his hair, turned his head and forced him into a deep kiss, finally met with tight clutches at his clothes, an arm up his back, the two of them locked in a struggle to get closer to each other, their legs bent and pushing, their noses pressed into each other’s cheeks. They stopped and breathed over each other’s mouths for a while, then looked at me.

“Let’s get a cab,” I said.

We hailed one and I sat in between them. Ben pulled my left leg into him and put his over it to hold me in place. I tried to close them, but Daniel did the same with my right. Wind came through the cracked window and blew up my skirt, but when I went to pull it down, the men caught my arms and put them behind their backs. Ben looked out the window, but let his fingers slide up my thighs, under my panties at the leg, across my pussy lips and onto my clit. He rubbed me gently. Daniel watched and mustered up the bravery to play with my inner thigh. He closed his eyes and rubbed his knuckles back and forth, thigh to thigh, puffing out a sigh occasionally. Ben dove down every once in a while to lubricate his fingers. I could feel the moisture seeping through the cotton of my panties, rolling down to my ass. I looked down, saw the bulges in both of their pants and wished I could touch them, but I was trapped, exposed, shivering.

Ben moved more quickly as if I had dared him to, and I felt heat rise in my neck. I checked the rear-view mirror to make sure the driver wasn’t watching and closed my eyes. There was chaos, blackout and shuddering. My mouth opened, lips curled into my teeth, and Ben took me to my first orgasm of the night. Daniel watched, his chest heaving. Ben coughed, replaced my panties, rolled the wet off his finger onto my thigh and they left me open like that, the wind puffing up my skirt.

I was still hazy when Daniel paid the driver, helped me out of the cab and led us to his door. We held hands in a line like kids on a field trip up the stairs. Daniel took his keys out of his pocket, threw them in the air and caught the right one on the way down. He put it in the lock slowly, wiggling it and turned to me, stealing a long, soft kiss. Ben came up close behind and kissed my neck, lifting the back of my skirt and dry-humping my ass. Daniel opened the door, his lips still in mine and we shuffled inside, my ass sticking out. Ben slapped it. I pulled at Daniel’s pants when the door shut, felt him through his underwear, and he moaned sweetly. Ben rolled my underwear down in his thumbs. I heard a zipper and felt his cock. He stopped then, went around me, took Daniel to his couch and pushed him onto it. I watched, my underwear down around my ankles, as Ben knelt between Daniel’s knees, kissed him hard, his hand around the back of his neck, and then dropped, his mouth taking Daniel’s cock.

Daniel’s mouth open wide and he watched Ben’s head move, his brow furrowed, an almost worried look on his face. He looked at me like I could help or explain or confirm something, then let his head fall back into his couch. I walked up to them, knelt on the couch and turned Daniel’s face to me. I opened his lips and gently made out with him, taking his hand to my breast. He made a satisfied “Mmm” sound and kissed deeper, then I took his wrist and led his hand between my legs. He toyed with my clit and lips for a while, then began to slip fingers inside, one, two, three, four, fucking me with them. Sweat dripped out of my hair and onto my cheek. Ben stood up and I straddled Daniel, took his cock and sat on it. He shuddered. “Fuck him,” Ben said, unbuttoning his shirt, “Fuck him hard, Kim.”

Ben dropped his pants, took his shirt off and held it like rope in his hands. He stood on the couch, put his shirt around the back of Daniel’s neck and pulled his face to his cock. Daniel opened wide and took him in, deep throating Ben’s cock as I pumped for all my life on top of him. I reached up and played with Ben’s balls, he pulled out of Daniel’s mouth and I took him in for a few strokes. Daniel’s face was open, cracking breath with a gaping mouth. Ben caressed Daniel’s cheek and pushed into his hair. He pulled out of my mouth and went back to Daniel’s. Daniel was losing concentration, his stomach pulling tight and jerking. I slowed and stopped. He relaxed. Ben stood me up and embraced me tightly, kissed me deep and hard and then lay me down across the couch, my head on Daniel’s lap. He opened my legs, lay in between them and began to fuck me slowly, grinding in and out of me. He took some of the juice from my pussy and used it for lube, jerked Daniel off, still kissing me, still fucking me hard and slow. Daniel gripped the couch, his fingers making what would surely be permanent dents in the stuffing, screamed out and came, shooting into Ben’s hair and both of our faces.

Daniel sat still for a while, his chest still heaving, and then slid his hands between Ben and I, finding my clit. There we three light strokes before I came again, my head bent into Daniel’s legs, Ben watching closely, his green eyes blinking love and adoration. He leaned back then, put his knees under me and started to pump in earnest, fucking me so hard, his cock getting in me so deep I thought it would break through. Daniel pulled him over and kissed him, their tongues flashing between them, Ben whining and groaning and then jolting, shaking, crashing into my pussy. He slowed and stopped, pulled out of me and smiled.

“Let’s go to bed,” Daniel said, and we all got up, walked to his bedroom and fell asleep there, our arms around each other, belonging to each other, the three of us.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


He walks like a man in a gallery should walk, as if art has to be stalked down carefully, with respect and stealth. He approaches a painting slowly, careful not to block anyone’s sightlines, first the long shot, then the medium, then, and this time a check for security devices, as close as he can get, his nose to the brushstrokes. His feet, even in rubber soled shoes, crash into the oak floors, finding the squeaks where they lie and deftly stepping off of them. I am, of course, looking for clues, a certain grace in him, where he holds his hands, or maybe it’s somewhere in his clothes, the answer. This is just subconscious preliminary. That I’m attracted to him has been established. This is the hard part, the art in the gallery, dissecting the man, looking at where his eyes go when he turns around. That’s where the truth lies. You can’t find that in a man’s clothes. I manage, in front of another orange haystack, to make eye contact with him at just the right quantity, just enough to leave a clue if one is looking for it, and enough to be explained away if one is not.

We’re on the same route, possibly with the same purpose. Mine is to evade my apartment for a while longer, the wide swing of the door, the lights off, no one home. The museum is brightly lit, clean, populated. Quiet enough to rock me to sleep, to put me in the mood for the silence of home. The slow ticking away of my hours. Sometimes I go an entire weekend without talking to anyone. On the first of the week I find words awkward, mealy, conversation troublesome. I go clumsy, start speaking like a child, but without enthusiasm. I come here after a day of talking, conscious talking, and lull myself into my head, where I must be to survive the alone.

He’s my type, a little nerdy, a little floppy in the hair, a little broad in the shoulder. Slightly shorter than me, which is fine. I’m a little tall. He’s got the look of wonder that I look for. He’s never been here before and I envy him for it. To be able to cross the lathe and plaster corner to another room and not know precisely what will meet you there, whether it will be a bent-necked eastern European worshipper from the thirteenth century or a table top flattened and presented in two dimensions, Le Monde announcing the latest ladies’ fashions of 1913. He turns around and looks me dead in the pants before looking over my shoulder. And there it is. I’ve had my fill for the week. And it’s time to sit down before making the rest of the way home.

The seats are simple carpeted arcs in a dark room. Adults, unused to sitting without leaning, hunch exaggeratedly forward, their shadows folded and cowardly. I find an empty spot near the end but inside a bit, so that the person behind me (man or woman, who knows?) can see without having to sit up straight.

The scene on the screen above, but mostly in front of, us is one of a double hook of sand, a manmade sandbar at the edge of the water, its spine pocked by dark circles. The narrator is a kindly but educated man’s voice. I imagine it coming from the man in the gallery, the man who gave me my week. He says, reading with warm eagerness, that temporary art has now come into the mainstream.

“It is a practical solution as well as an exciting one. Temporary art (here a picture of heated styrofoam cups, glued together to create a fish, hold the sun in a curve) is a movement that has found innovation at its very heart. Public spaces have never allowed so much experimentation (a picture of the Gates project in New York), so much humor (a picture of dogs playing cards intricately carved out of the dust on the side of a van), so much industry (a picture of a working water fountain made of ice) or taken so many risks (a picture of several large white balloons in a net above a Los Angeles median strip). Never are things so important as when they cannot be maintained (a video of those same card-playing dogs washing away in the rain).”

A man enters the auditorium just as a few people leave, the audio portion of the video apparently abandoned in favor of a few more Ken Burns effected pictures. He sits next to me, his knee touching mine and a part of me awakens there, one that’s been a hazy memory for months, the feel of a body against my own. It’s so simple and so easy to forget. There are a few other seats available, but just a few, so it probably means nothing that he’s here. I enjoy it all the more, sucking the heat of him into me, my heart quickening.

“For this reason, temporary art is become an event, and engages the viewer more strongly, positively or negatively. It forces the observer to participate, to be pulled into a different definition of life and his or her surroundings.”

To my fatalistic disappointment, the temperature to which my body has adjusted itself, the film has faded off into its credits and with a sharp movement, the man from the gallery, the one sitting next to me, the one narrating the film, has gotten up.

I smile. More than enough for this week.

On the steps of the museum, a wide avenue and dirty snow in front of me, I pull on my gloves, a flashing red image of a man walking haloing in melting snowflakes around my eyes.

“Excuse me,” says a male voice with a gentle touch on the back of my arm. “Do you know where the Suvero Hotel is?”

“Yeah, it’s….” It’s two or three blocks down that way and one in that way. Then you just look for that sign. It’s a beige one with green letters. “It’s….”

It’s the man from the gallery. He stands, smiling, but honestly waiting for my answer. It’s not that I don’t know where that hotel is, I just don’t know what street it’s on.

“Look, I’ll just take you,” I say, because really I might as well. I’m tired of giving bad directions.

“No, that’s fine, I’ll just ask someone else.”

“Honestly, I was going to go out for a walk anyway. I was going to take a walk through the park and your hotel’s on the other side of it. It’s nice in the snow.”

“Yes it is,” he says, trailing.

“Come on.”

I’m relieved he’s not putting up an argument. I’m relieved he’s not trying to make small talk with me. I’m relieved I can just stand next to some man for a while quietly, like I would if I were his boyfriend, just walking quietly with him in the snow. We enter the park, down a few paths that were cleared by Bobcats, statues taken down for the winter, the larger ones allowed to remain. Denuded trees shiver with ice blankets and deep quiet, our crunches in the ice the only substantial sound. He follows me easily, senses my movements before I make them, like two distant fish in a school, or like birds that all seem to change direction at once. He comes closer to me too, as if he were cold, or as if I were talking very softly. I wasn’t talking at all. I was listening for his footsteps, real proof of companionship, and waiting, thinking, selfishly, that there may be a time when his sleeve will touch my own.

A wind picks up, blowing a few sprites of snow here and there and settles again. A patch of ice is skirted. A cloudy exhale dissipates on my face. My sleeve is clipped by his. I’m sure I’m imagining it, but there it is again, slip-slap, slip-slap. A terrible hope builds in me, a yellow in the blue-grey. It concentrates at my shoulder, a tiny gasp with each contact. This hope is false, but so sweet and new that I can’t move away from it.

Then, somewhere in my imagination, or possibly reality, there are his knuckles against mine. This is dismissed as impossible, a pathetic glitch in my reality, a wormhole between what is concretely happening and the glassy patch of my thoughts. My hands are warm—the snow always warms things—and I take my gloves off, stuffing them in the pocket of my overcoat. When my hand returns, the test, his knuckles are there again. The hope, its abstract foolishness spread by a housepainter’s brush, gets unruly, blocks out reason and experience, covering my mind’s eye in yellow, yellow, yellow!

His hand comes around mine and grasps it. I bite my lip and squeeze it gently, our feet still moving, still in synch, following some enormous evolutionary clock. My thumb rubs the bones of his hand, life streaming up from the snow, suddenly downright hot here, the veins on the back of his hand warm and real.

We exit the park, negotiate a traffic light. Somehow, even here, he follows me seamlessly. And his hand, here, available for the public to observe, stays firmly in mine, neither grabbing for statement nor loosening for fear. It’s just affection, something so exotic to me recently that I was sure it was urban myth.

I could walk miles with this, circling him through intersection after intersection, a weave of the downtown area, each corner crossed twice, intersecting like the veins on his hand and spreading out. Unfortunately, the Suvero is just one more block or so over that way, and I don’t have the brass balls of the cab driver taking advantage of the greenhorn. I take him to the hotel, my face falling with the beige and green of the sign, the glass doors etched, permanent art, and loosen my fingers in his.

They will not leave, however. Instead, in front of two doormen, a podium, a heat lamp and etched doors, he turns me, and evolution gives me the instinct to touch my lips to his, as strange and unlikely as two fish stopping in a school to pick each other’s scales, his lips are on mine, and the hope, joined by blood, turns orange and massive. He stops for a moment and looks at me, blue eyes under fatally brunette eyelashes, and I follow him inside the lobby. A shaken doorman joins the courtship dance to let us through. He, hand in mine, this magnificent stranger, leads me to his room and drops me, bewildered and drunk with surprise, on his bed.

He falls in next to me, turning my shoulder into him, kisses me, still full of wondrous dreams of calling into work, takes my face to him by the neck, gently sweeping it with his knuckles, his pinkie in my hairline. He turns my head and licks for my earlobe. His tongue makes a hook and pulls it between his teeth. My head fills with joy-soaked cotton, where there were walls, now are wooly pink puffs and ecstasy.

I feel like I should ask his name, tell him mine, something, but I can’t. My mouth is only good for his skin anymore, my neck, vocal chords dormant, only good for his teeth. Goosebumps rise all over me, each breath a little hit of pheromone lust, too woozy to decide whether we can pause long enough to take our clothes off. I raise his shirt to his chest and he raises mine. The feel of his skin on mine is almost toxic. Familiar and subsumed emotions, the ones I’ve trampled with such efficient gusto, sneak out in my head. I have a hardon like organic steel fresh from the foundry, and it has the nerve to beg for touch.

He’s breathing fast, his mouth all over me, steaming heat in my neck, on my shoulders, on my cheek. It leaves miniature orgasms all over my skin. My pants, put on this morning without thought or hope—I can’t even remember getting dressed this morning—are undone by a man, his hand in my underwear, my mouth open in disbelief as he touches me. His tongue is on my lips, little flits and down, down my front, my head into the pillow, his mouth, his lips catching, drags down to my cock, engulfing it.

I’m squirming, so he presses my chest down. I’m panting, so he reaches up and puts his thumb in my mouth. I’m thrusting, so he opens wide and takes me in, a wet hot velvet mouth, tongue like its own being, stroking me. I open my eyes and see him kneel up, his hair still flopping in thrusts over me, his knees wide, he unhooks his belt, a massive bulge there, I reach for it. He jolts at my touch and freezes, then lets my cock slide from his mouth, straightens up and quickly pulls and pushes the rest of his clothes off. I remove mine too, the soft feather comforter against my back now, my body and his exposed, heat draining into the air. He kicks his legs out in my direction, lifts one of my knees and rolls me to him.

He smells like salt and lemon, tastes like salt and lemon, adrenaline in my nose creating depth of taste. I’m concentrating on the twist, the rhythm on his cock, the skin on our chests and stomachs met and released, his own mouth a vague, sugary dream on my cock. All of life has risen in me. All of life is dangerously awakened by my senses and I don’t want to put it away anymore. Not right now, not in the dulcet skin of a stranger. When I come, hugging his torso to me, his cock so deep in my throat I can barely breathe, my soul exposes itself, makes a new home nearer the surface. When he comes, I pull it out of him with loving gratitude, his shaking body under my own. He falls back against the sheets and I take the pillows, my eyes red and lost, and bring them down to his head at the foot of the bed. He takes it happily, still jolting, and puts his arm around my chest.

I sleep for a while, then get up, looking around the room. A salt shaker is left on a room service tray. I open it, clear the tray and begin to work. Two hours later, I return, dressed, and kiss him on the cheek before leaving. He’ll wake up to a portrait of him in salt on a tray, and I hope that’s better than my name, better than telling him what he’s done for me.

I come home just as the sun enters my living room, a stream of yellow light in front of my feet on the floor. I drop my gloves on the couch and call in sick to work.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

License - Chapter Two

I could hear her breathing, the breeze of it in and out of her nose, imagined her breasts lifting and falling. The sack of light bulbs rattled a little in her hand. I wanted to think of a reason to take it from her, but she said no several times.

“They’re thin pieces of glass filled with vacuums,” she whispered. “I’ll manage.”

We heard the cart wheel onto the elevator and the final shut of the doors as the maid left.

“We’re up,” I said.

I had conceived the mission for this week. The email exchange went like this:

“This Friday will be a true challenge. You must conserve your strength and sleep well in preparation.”

“Intriguing. Shall my training begin today?”

“The faithful will take the remainder of the week off to reverse one’s sleep schedule and accustom themselves to the pall of night.”

“I have no sleep schedule and indeed do move in the dark hours with ease.”

“Then you will need no training. I require only a Hefty bag and the leave of your judgment.”

“It will be done.”

“Take heart. It is for humanity that we make this mission.”

“The meek shall humble the corrupt.”

We came out from the storage room and turned on the lights, each of us wheeling office chairs and bravely standing on them. I’d provided screwdrivers and gloves for the bulbs this time. We worked methodically, quietly, though there was no need to be quiet. We worked until it was dark again.

I watched her, genuinely concerned about the chairs falling out from under her, but staring really, at this woman I was so in love with, the way her thigh curved so slightly at her hip, the drape of denim on her jeans over her ass. She’d been a model, though not in the way you might think. She took some stock photos for Corbis. She had the look they wanted, sophisticated, in-charge, confident, but not too pretty. Pretty, but not threatening or bimboish. This is how she told it to me. It takes a different kind of woman to be so flippant about how other people look at her. It added another level of muck to my heart. To me, of course, she was stunning.

This floor done, we went one more down. This was the hard part, the risky part. We had to get onto every floor without the maid finding us and wait somewhere quiet, somewhere without any wastebaskets to empty. The storage room on this floor, my floor, was a particular risk to get to. The cubicles here were low and you had to enter the main room to get to the door. I peeked around the glass doors until I found the maid. She wheeled the cart around with speed, masterfully whipping up and replacing trash cans.

“We’ll have to wait for the vacuum,” Emma said. I didn’t see that the vacuum would make any difference, but agreed with her. Her shoulder was against my back. She could have insisted that all dinosaurs were blue and I would have admired her for her sagacity.

It’s funny, the Corbis thing. I’ll be flipping through a magazine on an airplane or an office supply catalog when I’ll be assaulted by a picture of Emma. Here’s Emma making a well timed teleconference to the London office, angled for drama. Here’s Emma, putting a pen down with satisfaction as she signs off on the deal that will put her company on top of them all. Here’s Emma looking right at the camera, her glasses in hand. She knows more than you do. She’s sized you up and made you a new challenge.

In real life, Emma works at a corporate travel agency. There are very few well timed teleconferences with the London office.

The vacuum came on and she lead the way, her timing, as usual, perfect. We danced and blocked and ducked our way around the sightlines of the maid, including our reflections in the windows, and made it to the storage room, Emma’s hand turning the knob and shutting the door softly. We laughed. I looked at her, even though there was nothing to see but black void. I inched up a little, inch by inch, dangerously testing how close I could get to her without her knowing. Shift, toe forward, shift, fingers out just in front of me, other toe forward.

The day before, I’d gotten a call from her ex, my best friend. He’d flipped a piece of mail from a foreign language school for execs and found Emma staring right at him, a smile just barely denting her lips.

“I was just standing out in the hallway and there she was,” he said, “again.”

“I know.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

I could smell her. Troy didn’t know that I was in a dark room, smelling his ex-wife. She smelled like grapefruit and peaches and smoke. The vacuum shut off and I stood back before she could hear me breathing so close to her. We waited, my hands as useless as they always are, on my sides, until it was time.

“We’re up,” she said.

We started our work, dropping light bulbs gently into the Hefty bag, the lights left on in this office, bulbs removed in the next, the entire center of the floor gutted of bulbs. The two of us were up in chairs, our hearts beating fast, when we heard the hallway door swing open. I leapt off of my chair and ran to Emma. She tried to leap too, but her chair spun, and she lost her balance. I caught her, what I’ve wanted to do for years if only she would ever fall, and, spying the vacuum cleaner attachment that the maid was undoubtedly coming back for, pulled her under a desk, my desk, the one my knees bang into every day.

There was only just enough room for the two of us, stretched out so that we were out of the light, lying down. I held her close to me, my back against the wall, felt her chest expand and contract with her breaths, as we watched, our eyes pinned on the trapezoidal attachment about ten feet in front of us, praying the maid had myopia. I put my nose in Emma’s hair and closed my eyes.

When the door shut and it was safe to come out, Emma exhaled hard and I continued to hold her, seeing how long I could get away with it.

“Fuck me, that was scary,” she said, and with a squeeze of the hand, broke free, the smell of grapefruit and peaches and smoke lingering in my nose.

When we were done, after a final descent down one flight of fire escape, we crossed the street to look at our work, the bag of lightbulbs, now heavy even with voids, stretched between us.

“Wheee!” the building read in office lights. She beamed at it, kissed me on the cheek, and we walked on.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

License - Chapter One

She’d decided to smoke, cupping her hand around my lighter, crouched down near the exhaust pipe of the cop car. The exhale billowed into the air in front of her, a light grey cloud, and then it disappeared in the wind. She was shivering, a knowing kind of shiver, squinting at me impatiently, the butt of her cigarette handily near her face. She turned to it for a drag. The cigarette cannot be moved.

I had to take the gloves off. The screwdriver was unwieldy in them. I hoped that she wouldn’t look at my hands, dry and prematurely wrinkling. I felt like I should moisturize them sometimes, but stopped short. That’s what my mother would do. I thought about asking her to hold them, but it would only mean more impatient shivering, the squinting deeper, a more responsible squint. I dropped the gloves between two grey icebergs of slush instead. She sighed and picked them up.

I'd gotten the top two screws out, they and their washers rolling on the ground, but the bottom left one was rusty. There was something about the rusty metal holding this salt-caked license plate that disgusted me. I tried to work faster, reminding myself to catch it before it hits the ground. She probably will, I thought, with the hand that’s holding the gloves. Her reflexes amaze me.

We’d spent the week planning this. We write covert emails with code names in .gif format. One will read: “Friday we fight the system with the use of string and a suction cup.” It will be answered with: “Devious. The cup will latch itself to the very core of corruption!” Then: “It will be a fine, strong suction cup attached to fishing line and will be shot with a sling.” Then: “This is clearly the way.” Then: “We will hide our visages in shrubbery and shoot when the enemy is sighted.” Then: “The whites of their eyes. It is poetry.” Then: “Every can of Red Bull will be launched from the hand of the innocent. It will be tossed thusly into an unsightly pile so that it may be revealed for the capitalist gouge that it has brought to the people!”


She reached her hand, the one with the gloves, between my legs to receive the license plate. The third screw and washer were finally convinced by almighty torsion to release. I tried not to notice her hand, but I could feel it there. It felt like adrenaline.

The door to the 711 opened and I heard the white noise punctured by pips of grumbled words of one of their walkie-talkies. We couldn’t move. A glance at her confirmed that the only option was to work faster. The car doors opened with a squeak and more radio. The car had been left running. The screwdriver slipped and she caught it and put it back in my hand. The trunk bounced when the two cops got in the car. I found the screw again with the slam of their doors. It was almost all the way out but wouldn’t drop. I took it between my fingers, her fingers dangling below, and twisted it frantically, finally impatiently returning to the screwdriver. I had to get it. If I didn’t, she would never love me. The cigarette was done, burnt down to the filter, the only evidence of its former being showing in brown around the edges of the filter paper. She didn’t drop it, but left it there, shivering, now a panic shiver.

The car began to move away. It left behind a screw, dangling from the magnetized end of a screwdriver, and a pleased girl, holding my gloves and a salty license plate in one hand, an inch and a quarter of cotton wrapped in paper in the other. She smiled.

“It is done,” she said.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Insert Football Pun Here

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

I’d written these quotes down, taken from inspirational books and The Bible. Mostly inspirational books. They work, but their effect wears off after a while. The more I think about things, the more I doubt myself, and it’s either inspirational quotes or jerking off to distract me. Unfortunately, the game begins in a half-hour, so it’s inspirational quotes.

“Whether you believe you can do a thing or believe you can’t, you are right.”

It’s not just the game. It’s whether I can pull my life off, really. It’s everything, and it all seems to be coming to a head right here, right now, in this equipment room, twenty-seven minutes before the game.

“One of the greatest of all principles is that men can do what they think they can do.”

I nod my head for myself, I guess. I think of church, the woman standing up in front of me repeatedly this morning screaming out “Thank you, Lord!” Her body quivering with it. I thought of what would happen if when the minister asked for testimonials, I stood up and said, “My name is Marshall Cook (pause for applause and whoops)! I am a professional football player (pause again)! And I’m sexually attracted to my kicker (silence)!” It made me laugh. The woman in front of me jumped up and screamed out “Thank you, lord!” again.

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears.”

I read the sentence again and again, trying to get it to mean as much to me as it did when I first read it, but nothing’s happening. Fears lie. Worst liars are fears. What am I afraid of? The words blur.

The kicker is named Steve Richardson. He was a dancer in high school, but was recruited as a kicker in college. The first time I met him he was stretching his leg against the lockers, his toe out and pointed over his head, his nose nuzzling his shin. My body went a little limp, a warmth in my shorts, and I excused myself before it would be noticed. I think he noticed.

“Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”

This is not what I should be reading right now.

I look at the clock. Twenty-three minutes. I have just enough time. I put the quotes in my hand warmer and make a move for the locker room. Steve is in front of my locker. He sees me coming and holds off moving until the last second, trying to make eye contact with me. He has no luck. I take the lotion out, supposedly there for when my skin is ashy, and head back to the equipment room. I close the door behind me, consider locking it, but decide not to, find a corner behind a bag of footballs, kneel, unlace my pants, drop them over my ass and go in. There’s no time to mess around, trying to think of a woman, and it goes straight to Steve, bending perfectly under my hand, gracefully, on all fours. I ask him if he wants it hard or soft. Hard, he says. I go in.

My hand pulls and twists on my cock. I can hear it, and I pause, trying to judge how loud I am. I’m not. Someone could come in here and they wouldn’t know.

Just as I think that, the door opens. I freeze, slide my back down more on the walls, my knees into a shelf. It’s not comfortable and it’s not fast enough. Before I have time to try to get back into my cup and tie up my laces, Steve is over me.

“Marshall? Oh! Oh, I’m sorry. I just came in here to see… to see what’s wrong and I’m sorry.”


Steve is taken aback by this and I’m not really sure why I said it. Maybe I thought I heard something like a hesitation, like he was talking more so that he could stay longer. He knows now. He looks back at the door, drops onto his knees and takes my cock in his mouth. My head whips back into the wall. He pulls my knees out of the shelf, flattens my legs and straddles them. It’s incredible. It’s been too long. It’s been nothing but paid professionals since I joined the team. They keep quiet. I’ve got the money. Steve, though. Thank you, Lord! He knows what he’s doing. But he’s the last person who should be doing it.

“Steve, I can’t.”

He keeps going.

“I can’t. My career. My life. I was the first person in my, ugh, family to go to college.”

He speeds up.

“You’ve got to, mmm, stop. Stop it. Oh God that feels so fucking good.”

All I see is this twisting man, his body strong, but small. Lean. Built. My neck tingles. Fuck. My back pulls back in an arch over the wall, my leg kicking. I knock a helmet off a shelf.

“I don’t care. Fuck, I don’t care.”

I come, as quiet as I can, my hands around his head. He holds just long enough and releases. He takes another look around and leans in, kisses me.

“You’re going to win this game,” he says. He arranges himself a little and goes to the door. “Now.”

And I am.