Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Empathy Part One

The man behind me is impatient. He feels like spikes in my back. I step forward a little bit and feel normal again. A girl comes around behind me, accidentally touches me and goes past without excusing herself. She’s not being rude though, she’s preoccupied with something and on the verge of tears. I try to make myself small, but it doesn’t work. They’re still there, all of them about to touch me.

“Hi, I’ll have the Mandarin chicken and the rice, please,” I ask the girl behind the counter. She uses an ice cream scoop to put the rice in a small ceramic bowl, wrestles the Mandarin chicken onto a plate and hands them both to me above the glass without ever looking at me. Her fingers slip on the bowl as I reach for it. All emotion in me is drained, replaced by buzzing habit. I’m glad to touch the tray again, cold plastic and my own feelings. They’re not pleasant in a crowd, but at least they’re my own.

I find a table and sit alone, happy to be that way.

“The Bauhaus was a rebellion against neo-classical design, and the first true rethinking of architecture as an art form in two hundred years. Other trends came and went, but the form was always based in function. Bauhaus is interesting because it rethought form by stripping it away entirely. By erasing all sign of it, they were the only school that had completely revolutionized form. Yes, Max?”

“In the west sure, but in the east they’d been doing that for years, and a lot of The Bauhaus’ ideas were stolen from there.”

“True, but you have to put this into context. When these guys were around, everything that was going up was the elongated columns structure and completely unnecessary flying buttresses. Japan was completely off of their map.”

Max leans back and puts his arms behind his head. His bicep flexes and there is a dip before the formation of his triceps. His white shirt has paint stains on it. He’s skinny, but all of it is meat.

“I’m just saying they didn’t come up with it on their own out of nowhere,” he says. The professor resigns this to him and moves on.

“Hey,” Max says. “Hey!” I suddenly feel a little nervous but somehow a little relieved and happy. He has touched my elbow. It recedes. “You were in my Asian history 320 course last semester, right?”

“With Professor Arendtson?”

Habit has dictated that if I’m not moving with the crowd I have to get far away. I talk to Max from the grass.

“Yeah. You know, he was right. We totally forget that the east invented everything.”

“Yeah, I see it everywhere now.”

“I mean Professor Lucas just shrugged off like ten thousand years of Japanese architecture like it never existed.”

“We do that.”

He smiles at me. “Yeah, I was just confirming that I didn’t make that up.”

I smile a kind of “I’m off!” smile, but he walks with me, so I keep up the conversation. “I mean, I want to like Bauhaus and all. I’ll acknowledge that it was totally revolutionary, but it wasn’t like, hard to think up or anything. Anyone can look at a blank slate and go, ‘Finished!’”

He laughs. I have a moment of glee before the usual denial. “Yeah, sometimes I think it only got popular because it was cheap to build.”

I stop and turn to look at him. Of course I remember him from the Asian history class. All I did was stare at him. I called it the Max’s body class. I point at the dorm behind me. “I’m going into this knockoff Bauhaus trash now.”

“Listen, what’s your name?”

I back away from the revolving door and almost fall into the bushes. “Sarah.”

“Sarah. Hey, listen, I don’t have a website or anything but I set this up last night and it’s got my email address attached to it. Why don’t you email me your email? I’m having a party this weekend and I could send you an invite.”

He writes a flickr URL on my palm. My heart is pounding and I’m feeling something like sex, some warm feeling that increases when he looks at me and before he drops my hand. The feeling is a little excruciating, however, and I’m glad when he lets me go.



Hi, Max!

Listen, I want to go to your party, and I would love to spend more time with you, but you need to know right off the bat that I’ve got a really rare condition that makes me avoid human physical contact. It’s strange, I know, but it would be more strange if I didn’t tell you and you wondered why I spent the entire time there in a chair by myself and went outside a lot. It has nothing to do with you or anyone there. Don’t be offended by it, okay?

I love the flickr page. Hilarious.

Wait, please tell me you were kidding.

Looking forward to it,


Max smiles at me in class and asks me what I’ve got. I tell him it’s a centralized and unique form of autism. Maybe it is. Maybe autistic people just know too much. He doesn’t shy at it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What It's Like

I don’t know what to do when he sits and watches me cook like that. Does he have any idea how much it unnerves me? Does he think this beer is going to help? Does he think he’s going to get into my pants with this shit? I didn’t think there would be any problem moving in here, thought he was just some guy that I made friends with at work and he had a spare room and I had nowhere to stay and I come home last week and he’s got some guy across my fucking couch, his head all bobbing up and down and not a reaction, not one pause or anything when I came in. He had to hear me. I’ve got a million fucking keys. The guy saw me. But then he just closed his eyes again. So things have been a little weird around the apartment, yeah. Just a little weird.

I look at the cucumber I bought. I mean how can I even touch that thing while he’s looking at me?

“Eric, what’s the problem?” he asks.

I don’t answer him. It should be completely obvious what my problem is.

“Eric, what’s the problem?” he repeats.

The problem, I discover, is that I can’t look at him anymore. I want to turn around and yell at him, but I can’t. I hold the cucumber up, hoping that his little mind can get from that to what I’m referring to.

“What’s wrong with the cucumber?” he asks.

I wave it around a little more, then in a stabbing motion, finally, in a move forgotten since the twelfth grade, pumped it into the back of my fist with the index finger out.

“Oh! We didn’t do that on your couch, man.”

“No!” I finally pipe up. “Why didn’t you tell me you were gay before you let me move in here?”

“You didn’t know I was gay?”

“Why would I?”

“Everyone else thinks it’s obvious.”

I finish chopping the red pepper that I’d roasted over the open flame on the stove, sure that it was going to slip from the tongs and he’d watch me bend over for it, and set out the tortillas.

“Fuck everyone else! How the fuck would I know? You think I look for that kind of thing?”

He laughs and I’m ready to smother his face in the tortilla.



“No one thinks you’re gay, alright?”

“’Cause I’m not.”

“I know. So shut up about it.”

“Everybody in the world’s gonna think I am now though.”

“No they’re not.”

“I like women, alright? I might bring one over here sometime and they’re gonna take one look at you and they’re gonna think I like dick.”

“Did you ever hear the saying about protesting too much?”

Why am I cooking for him? I put the slices of mozzarella carefully over the peppers and start chopping the cilantro.

“Eric,” he continues, “if you keep telling me how not gay you are again and again I’m going to start thinking you might be.”

“I’m not.”

“Stop telling me that.”

“But I’m not.”

“Alright, well since you keep bringing it up, why aren’t you gay?”

I sprinkle the cilantro evenly over the cheese and get to the clove of garlic.

“Why aren’t you straight?” I ask, figuring I’ve got him there.

“Because I like cock. I like the look of it. I like men’s bodies, strong backs, straight shoulders. I like their asses in the right pair of pants and out of them. I like to make them come, and I like the taste of it. I like-“

“That’s enough! Jesus, you’re making me sick.” He is making me sick. I’m a little dizzy, swaying over the garlic, afraid to use the knife.

“That guy last week, Eric, he wanted to taste his own come in my mouth so I didn’t swallow it. I swished around in my mouth a little and then let it slide off of my tongue into his. He-“

“Cut it out, Stephenson, I’m gonna throw up!”

I’ve put the knife down because I feel like I can’t control my hands. The smell of the cheese comes through the garlic and it’s menacing, drugging.

“He blew bubbles in it before he swallowed it. Then I turned him over and drilled him hard. Oh yeah, I lied. We did fuck on your couch.”

I close my eyes because the room is turning a little yellow-green and a vision of that night and Stephenson on my couch appears, the guy he was with under him while I was in the kitchen, shaky hands, doing the dishes.

“Eric, you can look at me, you know.”

“Stop talking.”

“Turn around and look at me and I will. I still don’t believe you didn’t know.”

I turn around and fuck up immediately. I look at his pants before I look at his face. Why did I do that?

“There, I’m looking at you. This is me looking at you and telling you that I’m going to move out this weekend.”

“You’ve got a hard on.”

And I do. I know it. He gets up and walks over to me. I’m thinking about where I would put my hands on a guy and then try to get that thought out. I can’t walk away. I can barely stand here, leaning against the counter, my hands wrapped around it to keep me steady. He’s coming at me, that ridiculous bowl haircut that I’ve been making fun of for weeks. He’s coming at me, the hands that put mail in my in-box are reaching out for my cock. He’s coming at me, the head that was bobbing over some strangers thighs is right in my face. The thought of that scene skips over the nausea for the first time and hits me straight where it really meant to go, a hot wave over my body. He touches me in the middle of it, and I fall on the floor.

“You want to know what it looks like, Eric?” he says. I have no capacity to answer. He stands straighter and undoes his cargo shorts. They drop. He’s got a bulge where I still expect a simple V shape. That’s his dick in there. I imagine what it tastes like before I can stop it. I lay my head back on the floor so I can’t look anymore. He simply moves forward, over me, his ankles on either side of my chest. He pulls his underwear down below his balls, a dark blue pair of boxed briefs that make his thighs look like a gladiator’s. It’s out, over me, straight and hard in his hand. Enormous. Undeniably beautiful.

“What do you think?” I don’t answer. He steps off to the side and lets the underwear drop altogether, kicking it toward my face. “Here’s what it feels like.” I’m petrified, but he makes it easy for me. He goes to his knees and unzips my pants and pulls them off with, admittedly, very little help on my part. He looks at my underwear and smiles. “Tighty-whities,” he says. “Straight boy.” I can take a lot, have taken a lot, but something about him making fun of my underwear pisses me off on a deep level. I scramble away from him and stand up. He’s still got his hands hooked in my underwear, though, and he yanks on them. Then there is his mouth, warm, alive, full of ecstasy and evil. I let him. He stops.

“It feels like that,” he says, “but there’s more.”

There is cold then, a firm cold thing between my thighs. I’m so confused I forget to stop him when he spreads my legs. The firm cold thing is between my asscheeks.

“What is that?” I manage to put together.

He shows me the cucumber and takes the cooking spray from behind me. He sprays it and, smiling more than I think I’ve ever seen him smile, slides it through the back of his fist, the index finger sticking out. I make a move to get out, but he stops me with the flat of his hand simply on my stomach just below my navel. The cold, now slippery, cucumber is slipped between my asscheeks again. It twists at the entrance. I can feel every part of it, sweet, cunning, thoroughly jarring and authoritative. His lips slip over my cock again as he makes a push from behind. I can try to avoid it, but it would only be to enter his mouth deeper. I give up all power. I let him have me, let him teach me what I’ve always wanted to know.

“Sweet Jesus,” I say.

The cucumber is plunged further in, a steely invader from another life. I’m impaled on it. He can twist me and move me with it now, like I’ve got a handle. He does, forces me to grind in his mouth. Then he begins to pump it and I’m useless, Jello for bones, a sack of nerves where a man once was. I feel all of it, each flick of his tongue another pressure bomb, each push of the cucumber another grounding, painful swell. It’s there then, unstoppable and whiplash-fast, an orgasm of heights I’d never imagined, a can of pleasure syrup bursting all over me. I’m pulling his hair and screaming for all my life over him, my legs only holding me up because he’s pressed into them.

He stands up and shows me my come on his tongue. He closes his mouth and gives me an offering look. I’m confused and still somewhere outside of these four dimensions so I look at him quizzically. He shrugs his shoulders and visibly swallows.

“That’s what it’s like,” he says, and leaves me in the kitchen to rub my face until I can find the strength to pull my pants and underwear back up. I look at the knife and the garlic and decide that I’m not hungry anymore.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chicago Transit Authority

The tracks curve to the right and we, with no choice by design, curve with them. Then there is a straightaway, long enough for eight cars, and a platform. I slow to a halt at a piece of metal painted yellow with a black eight on it. I slide open the window and lean out, waiting for all the little commuters to scurry on, looking for strays, and find a pair of men’s eyes gazing upon me. That never happens. For years, the only people you make eye contact with are the other engineers and employees. They spin above it all, in quick bits of information and nods, but this man, the one looking at me, the one in tight jeans and a loose, long-sleeved t-shirt, doesn’t work for the CTA. It hits me like a rock in the stomach, this man’s brief attention, and I feel the rock sink into my pussy and dissolve there, a hunger that never hits me at work.

It’s the later part of my shift, one that starts at the beginning of rush hour and stretches into the nether regions of public trans. It begins with crushing office employees, girls on their cel phones, men whose hair products have worn away in the day scratching at the surfaces of their iPods, and gradually fades into those who have worked late, the same people but looser, more loud and grouped and exhausted. Then the ones who have been drinking start to feather in, finally becoming the majority at around ten. If anyone’s going to start a fight with anyone, if anyone’s cel phone is going to be tossed onto a platform in anger, if anyone’s going to miss their stop and end up swaying in an imagined wind at Kimball, it will be in the next two hours. At the end of it, you’ve got a thick combination of the drunks and the restaurant and bar employees who got them that way, and their grumpy, fearless authority calms the drunks into a quieter rumpus, the kind that a group of thirteen-year-old girls get when Mom picks them up after the movie.

It’s around 12:30.

The next day, at around the same time, I’m surprised to find myself eager at Merchandise Mart, hoping that the man will be at Chicago and Franklin, and he is, seems to exhale at the same time that I do, making eye contact with him on the way into the station. He bends his chin down and looks up at me, blinking only once and slowly, a slight grin pulling at the corners of his mouth which I’m either returning or he’s returning to me. There is a small dive in the man’s left hand, his thumb on his belt, a nervous habit, but he’s managed to move my eyes. There’s the rock and the drop again, and my blood follows it down, leaving me a little light headed and woozy. I just make the metal sign, coming in a little too fast, I have to hit the red panic button to stop us in a hurry. The window open, the man again, looks back at me before entering his car, my car, with a full grin. When he’s aboard, I can’t remember where I am and take a little too much time to get going, leaning forward slowly into the throttle, ether in my brain.

The next night he seems ready for me, settling his arms around his front at my approach. I’m late tonight, two trains have been past since he would have seen me. He must have let them go through. My heart leaps. He looks seriously at me, then doesn’t look at me at all. He’s inspecting the train instead. Then, when I’ve almost passed him, his hand comes up and a Post-It note is attached to my window.

“Hi,” it reads simply, though one could tell that the letters were written with great care. I open the window halfway at the stop and remove it, a blushing smile dominating my face.

He waits for my reaction. “Hi,” I mouth more than say, and he smiles and gets in.

The next night I’m frantic waiting to get to Chicago and Franklin, missing “eight” signs all over, messing up the announcements, my hand flaky on the throttle. When he’s there, dressed in a wonderfully tight and fitted pair of jeans and an untucked grey henley, my heart whirs more than beats. He has me and he knows it. Another Post-It is attached to my window.

“Let me in tonight,” it reads.

He looks back at me seriously and I nod before I know what I mean by it. My hand hits the throttle and grips it nervously, pulling us out of the station like we’re taking off in flight. There is a knock on my door. I open it. I get us to a steady speed. The door is shut behind him. I glance. He stands by the empty seat and the old microphones, swaying, but surfing the car.

“Rhada?” comes the voice on my radio.

“Yes,” I answer.

“We need you run express Belmont to Western.”

“Sure,” I answer, trying not to look at this man, though I’m sure what expression he has. If timing is an ineffable force that some people possess and some don’t, he’s got it, hard and fast.

I press the announcements and slow the train down. The man approaches me and turns his face, looking into my eyes. This is my last chance to say no. I don’t take it. His lips, the top one stubbled and sculpted, the bottom soft and strong, touch mine and my heart wobbles, my breaths sink and my pussy swells and aches. I reach back and slow for a curve. He slides to my neck with tiny tingly bites and wet, warm then cool with his breath. I back into my booth again to control the curves before the next stop and to make it. He drops to his knees so he can’t be seen and rubs my hips and thighs, his fingers under my shirt, pulling my belt, his breath on my stomach. Sedgwick, Armitage. My belt has been unbuckled, his hand deep between my thighs. I have to come around him for Fullerton, the platform being on the other side. My face hangs out of the window, pink and twitchy, the scampering commuters a silly blur.

“I’m going to fuck you, you know,” he says after Diversey. He has my pants down, my underwear suspended at the top of my thighs. “After Belmont, you’re mine.” My fingers miss the announcement button and I slam it with my palm.

“Yes,” I say, because what else can you say?

At Belmont, the platform again on the other side, he pulls me to it and bends me over, his cock hard against my ass. Rather than a blur, I can’t see a thing, can’t concentrate on anything, all of my mind is down at the sticky, hot bulge in between my pussy lips, throbbing, droning, wanting inside. I simply give it time. The light on the signs indicating “Express” is blinking. An announcement is made by someone who was at one time a train engineer, “This train… will be running… express to Western.” The doors close. My hand is around the throttle. We move. The train speeds as he enters me, his hand pulling me tight to him by the shoulder.

The train hovers and sets and sways and he slides with it, the movements less of a hindrance and more of a suggestion, as if the train were teaching us how to fuck, when to slam and when to swerve and slide. Steel on steel screeches and I moan, squirming. He fucks me slow through the stations, quick between them. He pushes me against the window and a button is pressed by my clit. “Attention, customers,” the warm midwestern voiceover comes on. I switch it off, hold the off button down and let it rub my clit more. “Atten- Atten- Atten-“ I’m coming. “Attention- Attention customers,” I’m bent over the panel, my face pressed into the window, “Please be considerate when talking on your phone,” I’m shuddering, tree branches slapping green against the windows, “or listening to electronic devices so as not to disturb other customers.”

He sees that I’ve come, that I’m down, out, limp, and he slams into me harder, fighting the sways of the train now. He slips his fingers into my hair and pulls my head up. He bites my back. A sound comes out of him, an umph and a hu-gah, then trembles above me.

When he’s done, he pulls my panties back up, my face in a mist of sweat and bliss. He kisses me slow, mouth open, all heat and buzz and I press the button to announce Western. He leaves me with a long kiss on the cheek, stumbles to the door and exits the train, looking back at me and smiling. I drive like crap for the next week, but I keep my job. The man in the tight jeans is never seen again.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Sex Pistols

ArresTed and Jules were messing about on Trafalgar Square waiting for a night bus to get back to the bedsit that Jules had let and ArresTed was snuck into each night.

At 10:00, ArresTed and Jules could be found in the bedsit with a glass of egg white, twisting each other’s hair into loftier proportions, laughing a lot, saying the word “fuck” a lot.

At 11:00, ArresTed and Jules were on the Northern Line headed for Angel, Islington. Jules ripped ArresTed’s jean jacket a bit more, but accidentally pulled part of the t-shirt that had been sewn onto the back with more reckless abandon than skill. The t-shirt read The Damned” in deeply pissed off letters. Jules didn’t tell ArresTed about it. If he noticed, Jules would say it looked “Fucking Evil like that!”

At 12:00, ArresTed and Jules were outside of a club they had no money or powers of seduction to enter. They spit, smoked cigarettes, drank bottles of lager and then whipped them at walls for a satisfying crash. ArresTed jumped each time a bottle hit a wall and hoped that no one would see. Jules practiced his sneer, trying to get the lips to roll up onto his gums. He found that it was easier if he let the gums dry, but when would you have that kind of time? Two men in a unique holdover from the glam era walked by with their hands in each other’s back pockets.

ArresTed said: “Look at the fucking fairies!”

Glam man on the left said: “Fairies? We’re called arse and ankles boys now, wanker!”

ArresTed said: “Yeah, well at least when I touch a prick I know it’s me own!”

Glam man on the left said: “What a fascinating life you must lead,” and walked on.

ArresTed, with nothing to add, threw a bottle that wasn’t really empty at the glam men, purposely missing, then wishing he’d had more beer.

At 1:00, ArresTed and Jules were on Trafalgar Square, spitting and waiting for the night bus, when Jules had an idea. He found a group of sloanes who were much more fucked up than they were and had jauntily tied their corduroy blazers around their necks to impress anyone foolish enough to go home with them. He and ArresTed approached the sloanes furtively, exaggeratedly, on tiptoe and snatched the jackets away. ArresTed swung the brown one about in a helicopter motion, above the mohawk which looked to slice it in half. Jules put his on and paced up and down the square, arranging the sleeves and then, apparently on a whim, checking the pockets. Nothing. He shrugged his shoulders and walked into a large puddle of pigeons. The sloane, who’d looked annoyed and then quite amused up to that moment, turned his head in a threatening way. Jules sneered with enough time to get his gums dry and lifted his arms.

Pigeons swarmed onto him, shrieking and grabbing and leaving dripping black and white packets of birdshite on the shoulders and arms. Jules turned his head and tried to kiss one of them, but the bird would have none of it. The sloane, on the other hand, was running for Jules with mad passion of a different kind and made contact with Jules’ lips in no time at all, with his right fist. It took a surprising amount of time for the pigeons to be shaken off. Jules paid no mind to them, but fought the sloane with pure sneer joy.

It’s time to tell you more about ArresTed and Jules. When they left school, for it was true that it did end sometime, Teddy and Julian put their plan into action. They planned to live off of the state and their parents for as long as possible and drink as much possible and work as little as possible and maybe sometime get a flat where they could get laid as much as possible. It was an elegant plan, and one that worked quite well. Teddy and Julian would be in Julian’s room smoking stolen fags and screaming along to a record player, whose needle would often bounce when they jumped, until Julian’s mum would clamber up the stairs and gently beg them to stop. The volume on the record would then climb to max and then back down to the level, marked in red to the side of the dial, that Mum could just about tolerate. Teddy and Julian would then sit on the bed and flip through records again and again, pulling them out, examining them for dust and scratches, then putting them back in, the sleeves inside turned sideways so the records wouldn’t roll out. They would discuss in hushed tones, their shoulders together against the wall, what it would be like to be famous, how many girls they’d fuck, and what positions they would fuck them in.

Then, with an eye on the door, God saving The Queen again, they’d give each other a quick wank. Julian would bite his lip hard when he came, his head bashing into the wall. Teddy would end it with an “Oomp! Ahh” sound. Julian would hand him a paper handkerchief, take one for himself, and, the business for the night being over, Teddy would find a reason to bugger off.

One night Teddy went home only to return again an hour later, a fresh bruise where cheekbone met skin and Julian took all of the money from his mother’s purse and one of her bank cards. They set off on their own.

Jules had finally convinced his sloane that fighting back anymore would be a very bad idea and pushed off of him. He spat on him, examined his bloody knuckles and walked over to see how ArresTed was making out. His sloane was angled above him, taking a step back and swinging forward with a kick to the kidney. Jules ran to them, kicked the back of the sloane’s legs and, holding the sloane’s shoulders, head butted him. Dreamy headache swirled around Jules’ brain for a moment, somehow intensifying the pain in his hands and shoulders, and he bent over ArresTed.

“Fucking bus has finally fucking arrived,” he said.

ArresTed rolled onto his back, the spines of his vertical hair crushed against the pavement and looking to break off, winced and stood up. Jules took off the sloane’s blazer, now enhanced with blood, swung it, aimed, and let it fly into the pigeons. ArresTed’s sloane began to sit up as well and ArresTed and Jules made a run for their night bus, wailing, air whistling in their piercings, the last few steps made with the two fingered salute. They ran up the stairs and sat in the rear seats, hunched down, mumbling orders to the driver that it was time to fucking move on, their eyes front. With a sprightly groan, the bus finally removed itself from where it had settled in so snugly and made a victory lap around the square before turning off.

ArresTed and Jules laughed loud, mouths open in blah yelps, their faces shiny with blood and sweat. “Fucking right!” ArresTed cackled and Jules turned ArresTed’s chin, the only part of him that seemed safe to touch, and mashed his mouth to him. ArresTed pushed at Jules’ shoulders, pulled at his clothing and finally bit Jules’ lip to make him stop.

“Fucking hell, Jules!” he said.

Jules risked another bit lip and went in for more, ArresTed pulling them both off of the seat trying to get away, Jules following with the determination of any man with a hardon like crisp iron would, he followed him to floor and then some. His hand went down the front of ArresTed’s body, knowing he must be causing him some pain and enjoying it, and found the answer to his question in his underpants, his knuckles leaving blood at the verge.

“I’d forgotten about this,” Jules said, and flipped the safety pin fastened to ArresTed’s cock in his fingers.

“You put it there.”

“How the fuck do you have sex with this bloody thing in?”

“What makes you think I’m having sex?”

“I’ll remove it then.”

ArresTed made a move to protest, but Jules covered his mouth in his palm. ArresTed punched Jules hard in the ribs. Jules groaned and considered vomiting for a moment, then righted himself. He pulled at the safety pin. “Christ, Jules.” But his cock throbbed tellingly. ArresTed’s torn trousers and knickers were down in the time that it takes a man to accept it and Jules’ tongue was fiddling with the pin, skirting the precome that had emerged. Jules sat up and gently removed the safety pin, made sure that ArresTed was watching, and plunged it into a virgin portion of his left ear. A small amount of blood showed that it had made it through. He gingerly snapped it shut, grinned and went back to ArresTed’s cock.

“Jesus, fucking Jules,” ArresTed said.

Jules opened his mouth as wide as he could and reached below to ArresTed’s arse cheeks. He held them tightly, meaning to bruise, and lifted ArresTed’s pelvis. ArresTed was being forced to fuck Jules’ mouth, smoothly, effortlessly, beautifully. ArresTed reached under his shirt and twisted his own nipple hard, like he was trying to snap it off. Jules’ nail scratched at ArresTed’s arsehole, biting in occasionally.

The bus slid to a stop and the bending of it over the street indicated that people were getting on. Dreaded treads came up the stairway, then the sharp yelp of a girl.

“What are you doing?” she whispered, realising she was making a scene.

“What does it bloody look like we’re doing?” ArresTed answered. It was enough for the girl and the treads went downwards now. Jules, who had not stopped for this exchange, guffawed a bit and gave ArresTed’s testicles a bit of a twist. ArresTed’s legs began to kick, his flat, unfed stomach tense.

“Fuck,” he said simply as he came down Jules’ throat.

Jules leapt up and straddled ArresTed’s chest. He undid his zip, pulled his cock out and held it over ArrestTed’s face.

“Go on.”

ArresTed, face truly black and blue now, swollen a bit here and there, made a few quick strokes on Jules’ cock and Jules imploded, come flying out across ArresTed’s face, making a screen in a safety pin in his eyebrow. Jules bent over and licked it like a mother cat, careful of the bruises, then he found the biggest bruise, kissed it gently and gave it a bite.

“You’re an arsehole is what you are, Jules.”

“Fairy arsehole.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Letter from Elsewhere

This is what I think about. What you’re doing when I can’t be with you. I think about you in the shower in the morning, the soap bubbles on your skin, the feel of them popping under my fingertips, what that must feel like to you, the tickle of them on your skin, headed, ever so slowly, down the back of your shins. I think about you working out, the seat of the bicycle between your thighs, the dance of your balls above, above that, above the sweat and twist of your midsection, your breaths, what you sound like before I make you come, a crackling catch here, but mostly rhythm, mostly see-saw rushing air. I think about you at work, your fingers nimbly plucking dead leaves from a plant. Details. Accuracy. Affection. But you can heft a tree into a hole that you carved into the earth, plunging it with patient accuracy into the ground, sliding it in like a key into a lock. I think about the sweat on your neck, forced to circle the landscape of your musculature. It lands on your shoulder, quivers there and drops, a lucky raindrop starting a lake in the cavity above your collarbone.

And what do you do at night when I’m not there? Do you do what I do? Do you think about me? Does your hand drop into your shorts at night like mine does? I think about you every night, the squishing sound of my hand around my cock makes a soundtrack to the movie I have of you in my head. I picture you in your living room, legs splayed, one on the back of the couch, one shaking on the floor. I picture you on the floor, all fours, knees spread as if I’m under you, your hand pumping to complete the illusion. I imagine you taken suddenly, as you sit down to your dinner, to push the plate away and dive into your pants. I’m there every night, you know. My lips are wrapped around the tip of your cock, waiting to taste you, waiting for the spray across my tongue. My hand is in my own pants now. I long for you, your smell so tangy and sweet. I’ll be home soon. My body will feel yours again. But now, I’ll live in this dust of memory, spit-shined by imagination. Your cock is so beautiful in my dreams.

Monday, March 12, 2007

License - Chapter Four

I left Jason’s house in the morning unrested and restless, briefly able to concentrate on the melting ice and the puddles that it created. When I realized that there would be melting ice not only here, but the entire way back to the apartment, I resented it, knowing I would have to concentrate on it and not the useless thoughts that were practicing a cheerleading routine between my ears. Always the same routine, very little progress with each pass.

When I’d come by the night before, unannounced to my boyfriend’s house, he opened his door, not unsurprised, but not generally pleased either. He frowned at my mustache instead of laughing at it, annoyed that I’d come up with not one but two gimmicks, the showing up out of nowhere and the facial furniture, to provoke him to ask me about my day. He ignored them both and slinked off, sub sandwich in his hand, back to the couch and Deal or No Deal, the door left open the only indication that I’d been noticed at all.

Goosestepping unattractively across the messy wet salt water punctuated by curved icehill surprise wedges, I was annoyed when someone took my arm. I might have looked silly, but I can walk, albeit slowly, on a sidewalk without help. I looked up and was met by the eyes of a very gracefully aging Asian woman in a beige raincoat.

“You are beautiful,” she said with a squeeze of my arm and walked on. I didn’t have time to respond.

You might think of Jason’s behavior at the door as some sort of indication that he was angry with me, or perhaps that I was lying to Mike and Jason was actually my secret autistic brother. In truth, he’s just like that sometimes and it has nothing to do with anything. He is a faucet, on or off. He was simply off. When he seduced me, he was on. He only came on about half the time later.

I left him on the couch and went to his bathroom to take a shower and work at the spirit gum and fake fur on my lip. I looked at myself in the mirror before I took the mustache off and relived the moment on the roof before I could spray it away with a power washer.

On the sidewalk, my arm still feeling dented from the manicured fingers of the stranger, I stood up straight, glancing down only occasionally at the reverse Arctic, ice on the bottom and water on top, and made it a half block before I fell right on my ass. I was negotiating the quickest and most dignified way to get out of this situation when an arm came down to me and helped me up. It was what we call a Trixie, a woman in her twenties with a double jogging stroller and a single child, hair neatly combed into a flawless ponytail and cute little overpriced jogging-wear. I thanked the Trixie as she righted me, surprised as I’ve held so many doors open for her kind and never gotten a thank you. She smiled, bit her lip and said, “You are beautiful.” I wanted to thank her, but realized that I’d just thanked her five seconds before. The thought of whether to thank her or not was enough to befuddle me until it was too late to say anything at all, and I walked forward again, smiling a bit over this new befuddlement, my sudden apparent fan club.

I felt stupid, going to Jason’s, as if he would somehow see that I had been kissed and that he’d better put in a better bid to keep me. There were no sudden flowers, bath drawn with the spare petals floating in it, no cupcakes baked, deep hugs or trips to New Zealand planned. But now that I was there, I made the best of it, planned to shower myself into normality and sit down with him to watch whatever he was watching, a silent acceptance between the two of us that I should be used to by now.

Just around the corner, down the one long block between Jason’s house and my apartment, a string of persons entered my sightlines, each with the same abashed look on their faces, each clearly awaiting my approach. “You’re beautiful,” came a voice behind me, obviously someone I’d already passed up. I tried to ignore it and stomped bravely on. Two men, both with thick eastern European postures looked at me humbly and genuinely and blocked my path. They were very young, very thin and shy. “You are beyooteeful,” the one on the left let out, then grinned and bowed away. I tried to get around the one on the right, but he found the strength to purse his mouth and try to make himself understood. “You are beautiful.

“Thank you,” I managed, though I was beginning to shake terribly, as if I had stage fright. I don’t get stage fright.

Jason stood up at 10:00 and walked to the bedroom. I slid in next to him, naked, though I now felt a little self-conscious about it. He read for a while, then reached across me to turn the light off. The dark made no difference. My eyes wouldn’t shut. I listened to him sleep, wanting to go home, but scared to leave. I felt that if I left I might not come back.

The next person on the street was a middle aged dad type. He smiled and spat out “You’re beautiful,” with a little belly-shaking hop. I was walking as quickly as I could, bursting through iceless patches, going up on the grass when great wavy glaciers were unavoidable. I wanted to be home right now. Two black teenaged girls, twittering, “You beautiful.” Another Trixie, “You’re beautiful.” A white young man, “You’re beautiful.” A little girl and her father, “What did you want to tell the lady?” “You’re bootiful.” “You are.” Two middle aged couples, “You’re beautiful.”

“Mike!” I yelled. “Miiiike! Where are you!” I was taking my shoes off to run the rest of the way when an elderly gentleman, his white hair carefully parted, took my hand to balance me. I looked up into his fading blue eyes.

“You are beautiful.”

Tears began to stream down my face, my feet numbing in the ice water, “Mike! Mike! Mike!” I ran, mumbles of “You’re beautiful,” and more clear calls of it, a cacophony, the symbols losing meaning, but still stunning me. I got to my apartment building and ran up the stairs, the carpet itching my feet, opened my door and slammed it behind me. I stood and panted for a moment, placed my shoes on the floor and went to my phone to check for messages. There were none. The notepad next to the phone, in wonderful cursive script, read, “You’re beautiful.” I held it in my shaking hands for a while and cried until I’d calmed down. I wiped my face with a nearby napkin, inhaled deeply and picked up the phone.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


Author's note: No research. Just suspend disbelief. And yes, this was meant to be a little funny.

Tatanya and I had known each other exactly four months when the call came through. Then there were four weeks of training in closed quarters with the others, secret meetings here, secret meetings there, briefings and briefings and debriefings with the KGB. A pill passed silently. No explanation, but we knew what it was. Then injections, pledges, strapping up, reminded that we were expendable. That any Russian would gladly give up their lives for their country and that we should be proud and docile. Proud and docile is what we were.

Tatanya and I were pulled into separate rooms to be told what we were to do for Russia and we nodded, or I’m sure Tatanya did too, like good Cosmonauts. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t delighted that I was ordered to keep this secret from my wife. She knew I could not say no, but what would it do to her? Nothing good. I wasn’t even sure that this would be any good for me and certainly worried about Tatanya, but I put it out of my mind. I put all of it out of my mind when I decided to be a Cosmonaut. I would only be able to glimpse this world from the empty black oceans of space if I gave my heart truly to the Soviet cause. It was done.

The file was laden with the other files that I was to carry on board. The orders of this particular sheaf of paper just as devoid of sentimentality as the ones that checked-off switches flipped and dials twisted. That it was a checklist was no surprise, but it made me nervous. Could I be called upon to calculate the trajectory of my penis at 0700h as easily as the pitch and the roll of the ship? Tatanya, thankfully, could be called upon to encourage me when it was needed. She was a smart girl, a beautiful girl, and everything that meant Russia to me. She was brave, as brave as me.

Your first moments of weightlessness are not really what you expect. In truth, weightlessness just means that you are falling every bit as fast as everything else around you toward the nearest source of gravity (there is no zero gravity) and your context has no meaning. There is no up or down, but only where you are in relation to other things. It makes you lose your stomach really, a sensation that takes some getting used to, once you’ve gotten over the hellishness of being torn from the earth on the back of a bullet. I worried for Tatanya here too. But she took it, if anything, better than me, and immediately freed some rubles from her pockets to watch how they spin if they can spin forever. They reflected in her eyes, gold light in the brown, spinning and warping.

The matter of the checklist and what it entailed was to be taken care of the second day, Star City time. I decided to try a little courtship with Tatanya on the first day and gently cradled her hand as I floated past her to the vertical beds. I found right away, my penis was just as loyal to The State as I was, and could be called upon at any time, like a soldier in a bunker, to come out and fight. I hoped that Tatanya too had steeled herself for battle.

Time, though according to Einstein is supposed to drag when you are away from a strong gravity source, tends to fly anyway when you are under a strict itinerary of busy work and a glimpse of that which has been seen by very few out of your porthole. I concerned myself with other matters and was surprised when my sheet was flipped, the clock spotted, and it was time for Tatanya and I to continue our duties in the back. We did not know, but assumed that the others had not been told of this portion of the mission. Mother Russia never tells anything it doesn’t have to. Tatanya and I, blushing, appeared to the aft of the ship and closed the port at exactly the time in which it was expected. I looked at her and added something to the checklist, a gentle kiss. It was only right.

I’d memorized everything else.

Removing clothing is strange in space, to say the least. You can pull your pants on two legs at a time, or just for the sport of it, throw them up in the air and make a running leap for them. Taking them off is a little more difficult. You cannot simply unlash them and expect them to fall. You must twist out of them like a fish trying to get away from an octopus. Tatanya helped me with this task, holding onto a wall handle and pulling them off by the end of the legs. She took her own clothes off with ease and grace, as if she’d been practicing underwater. We found each other with the robot hair of wires and suction cups, mine all over, hers discreetly away from her breasts. Her panties, white and somehow unbelievably sexy in a teasingly utilitarian way, were saved to be removed by my Soviet, masculine hands, and I did so with great care and affection, Tatanya’s eyes as cheerful as I could hope. They peeled from her hips like the soft tissue on my Cosmonaut’s certificate, revealing a triangle of beauty that would be explored with as much curiosity and precision as space itself.

Communists believe in the equality of women. Her satisfaction was listed first on the checklist. I took her inner thigh, pushed off of a wall and grabbed for the straps on my wall bed. To handle a woman like this, to be able to turn her body this way and that with almost no effort, was a possibility I hadn’t taken fully into account. I would pay her dues gladly, would finally be able to do so at just the right angle, could even ask her which was best without emotional involvement. I wrapped my legs in the straps and lifted her thighs to my face, stopped her roll and pulled her in. I split her pussy open with my thumbs, the sweet musty smell of it, and went in.

If it is science that you are looking for, I can tell you this. Liquids turn to little beads in weightlessness. They fly into your nose and your eyes and cling to your face by way of surface tension. Saliva looks like perfectly rounded diamonds. Pussy juice, opals. There is no telling where they will end up and it’s best to enjoy it. I did, very much. I loved her all over my face, loved her scent and taste and the mess. By the way her back was arching, she loved what I was doing to her. I judged my adjustments by the rippling snaps that her body made across the ether, her hands splayed, her hair waving up and down. When my tongue got tired, I could simply move her. I made a mental note that she liked this just as much. The checklist demands details.

Tatanya coming, her body dancing in the air, a butterfly stroke but faster, more angelic, is something that I will never forget the sight of. She could not say my name, could not moan or yell, but her limbs, indeed all of her, bent out the message to me that I was finished with this duty, that this fish was ready to be prepared, would stop its flopping on the deck and simply await my command.

We’d both been tested and screened and tested some more. I was issued no thick rubber condom, the letters CCCP and a red star down the shaft, only a spermicide, as it was decided that the rhythm method would suffice for her. I pulled her to me, my legs straight, the ankles hooked firmly in the straps and kissed her cheek gently before I pulled her further down, making a pit stop at her breasts, so beautifully gravity-defying here. I made a job of her nipples for as much time as I could squeak in, counting off seconds, having timed her orgasm for the government and found that she came two minutes and thirty-four seconds quicker than they had alloted for. This was flattering. There was no doubt about that. My fingers entered her cave, exited and returned with the shot of spermicide, to be injected directly within. This too gave her little jolt, and I felt the muscles contract around the probe, almost losing it. I balked, envious, frankly, impatient.

“Pull your knees, up, my dear,” I said to her, in a calm scientific voice that comes to me in times of stress. She pulled them into her arms, her breasts bulging at the pressure on their sides, and I drew her to me by the hips, a cocoon with a warm, fleshy entrance. I entered her as gently as I could make the dock, not as easy as you may think, holding onto her with one hand, pressing my cock down with the other. Once I was inside, however, my body began trembling. I got a good hold of her by the thighs and pulled her onto me, fighting only inertia, back and forth, in and out, off and on. I began to twist her once I got the hang of it, screwing her truly, rolling her in my arms back and forth like I was polishing a shoe. “Are you dizzy?” I whispered.

“Of course not,” she whispered back, all fearless Cosmonaut. The best of the best.

I put her through a few 360s, my face twisting with her, gasping quietly, and returned her face up to pound her against me. My ankles were losing the straps in the struggle, the bodily thrusts and as my orgasm approached, very quickly, new things having been done to my cock, I lost one foot, then the other. We soared through the air for a few more strokes when at the moment, the culmination, I lost her altogether. A fast thinking Cosmonaut, true to the cause, she descended, hand over hand, quickly down my chest and finished me with a flick of the wrist. My body in paroxysms, I only caught a glimpse as she deftly caught all the little soapstones, perfectly rounded in the air, in her mouth, as if this too, was part of her training.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Red and Grey

We’re driving, headed west, making our way on a highway that might as well be a latitude line, only bending with the curvature of the earth, through Kansas or Nebraska or Oklahoma or somewhere, just miles of not much and even more not much and there is a storm on the horizon, purple and violent, could be a mile away, could be twenty, we don’t know, but we’re driving right to it, the road making us play chicken with it, see if we can dodge the barrage of lightning, run through it like a gunfight. But there’s no way to tell, even from here, which direction it might be heading, though it’s common knowledge that storms around here move west to east, there’s no way to tell whether it’s going to take a dance around us, a waltz or a foxtrot, or it will tango its way right at us. So we continue on, because that’s what you do anyway, and the storm doesn’t move to the left or the right, but just gets bigger, the sky around it no longer visible, a massive anvil shape that nature and the interstate highway system are about to Wile E. Coyote on us. We are in it and we are not scared, looking up at the hail with bemusement, the windshield protecting us, like God is on an overpass throwing golf balls down to scare us, they simply bounce off of our hood and in the puddles around us, something celebratory about it really, if armageddon was one big party, it would begin with hail and purple-orange light and a parade of drag queens would cross the street, catching it in enormous hats before tipping over.

When the hail ends and things become silent and the sky turns green and the rain turns from fun little water static to little arrowlets shooting into the sides of cars, we pull off the road and roll into a small town where the people are running into houses, the houses with nothing to run into, standing bravely before the storm. A bit of cloud becomes a little pointy and makes a move, swirling, down for the ground. But it is only flirting with it, a nudge on the shoulder before the real pass is made, before the earth gets a good fucking, and we’re standing in the way. So we run, because that’s what you do, figuring we can forgo a ditch if something better comes around, taking the backyard route, leaping over fences and big wheels and we find a cellar, its doors flapping on their hinges and we run into it without saying anything to each other, as if we could hear anything besides the howl of the wind, like an evil choir stuck on bass, a lone soprano of an air raid signal over it all, damned if it isn’t the loudest thing we’ve ever heard, and in the cellar we each take a door and pull it shut, a bathroom stall latch broken, but we find a piece of steel, a leftover from someone’s car, attached to a chain and slide it between the handles. We have lighters and use them, finding ourselves alone, no people, rats, cockroaches, a clean cement floor and a bench, but never completely alone really, as the evil choir snakes its horrible message into the door frame, now with percussion, the slamming of it.

We stand in the middle of the floor beside the bench hugging each other tightly, because that’s what you do when you’re scared, because we are scared, like a cellar door could stop an evil choir if it really wanted to get in, no, this is real and we are sure of death, can feel it rap our faces like a rude child, so we hold each other close, because that’s what you do when everything else is petrifying. And I kiss your cheek because it’s life, that’s what life is, in a kiss on your cheek, and you know that too because you turn your head and give me one on the mouth, on the breath, on the soul of me, because that’s where it is, lying in a scream just behind my tongue. There’s nothing else to do but this to fight the howling death outside but keep proving that we’re alive, alive right here behind a cellar door, protecting each other with life. We’re so scared that we kiss enough to split each other’s lips, the blood more proof to the grey evil, what we got is red, real color, what do you have but void? So we pull at each other’s clothes to get closer, the shirts off, your heartbeat against mine in our skin, still in our skin, and then the pants and the shoes and the underwear, all of it on me, all of your skin against me, to warm it, because that’s what skin is for, and you take me to the bench, a quick, lighter-brandishing scour of the shelves finding corn oil, a big jug for a fryer, and we open it and pour some out into the darkness, the howling no match for the corn oil, the slamming doors no threat to your cock. I straddle you, the slippery sluice down between my asscheeks and tickling down my thighs, my hands on your shoulders, my back bent, you enter me and I howl, in synch with the choir, the overwhelming full and tearing burn as layers of muscle loosen up. Why don’t you try this, you fucking evil storm?

If anything it gets louder and I yell out louder, because I can, whether you’re howling or not, probably not, and the pounding doors go faster and begin to rattle. We’re really pissing it off. I’m bouncing on your thighs until mine begin to go sore, but I don’t care because I’m full of raw life, fucking life, screaming out of me. Glass breaks outside, burst, burst, burst and something else that was rattling stops, whistles and crashes. I'm fucking you as hard as I can, as fast as I can, the cruel pleasure of your cock in my ass, the sweat and the tears on my face, I really am fucking scared, and you take my ass and pull me faster, even faster, and I take you here, take your hand to my cock, the pleasure of life, us, and the world lifts, the fire in my thighs makes a visit to heaven to balance out the flavor, and I start to rattle and lift and crash. You, your face somewhere in the dark, make a sound, my name, to put a name to this feeling, you shake and scream yourself and I pump over you slowly, to draw it out, a smirk on my face only God and I know about. The storm outside, blushing, slowly gives up and turns back to rain, because that’s all it knows to do, and it stops rattling the doors, and we kiss. We kiss each other hard because that’s what you do when you’ve won.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

License - Chapter Three

Unfortunately, I must request that you take Friday afternoon off. It will be necessary for our cause.

Your humble request is, to me, an announcement from above. I am at your service, commander.

Meet me at my apartment at 3:00.

The ill willed shall tremble before us.

Mike and I are on the roof of our apartment building because it’s still daylight. We huddle together, peering over the side, giggling at times. I sit back for a few moments to light a cigarette and rest my legs. Mike’s eyes follow me back, but his face is pressed into the top of the wall. It’s awfully high up and I worried that he might be afraid of heights, but he’s not. His legs splay a bit as he leans in.

“Are those jeans new?” I ask him.

“Yeah,” he says. “Oh!” he says, and I perk up, but he relaxes. Nothing is happening yet.

Mike and I only really got to be friends after Troy and I broke up. Troy was a jealous kind of guy and Mike knew that. Even though there’s clearly nothing between Mike and me, nothing then either, Troy forbade me from having male friends. It’s one of the reasons I ended it. If you really get back to the root of our problem, it’s the only thing that really ended it. Mike’s an attractive guy too, though not my type. He’s got an aging frat boy look, always in baseball caps in the summer, clean cut and a big, white-boy smile. I can see it in other women’s eyes when they see us together, that grimace of disappointment when they imagine he’s taken. A couple of times even a wink of congratulations. I want to tell them he’s not mine, to encourage them, because Mike needs someone, but you don’t talk to strangers about that. Why Mike isn’t with some little cute girl is out of my capacity to explain. They would hit on him all the time if he would only look their way. Troy saw them looking too, and kept me away.

“Here’s one,” he says, waving his hand frantically at me. I throw the cigarette down and take it. He helps me up, though I hardly need it, and I stand shoulder-to-shoulder next to him, watching a confused girl with a basset hound far below. She stands for a moment, flabbergasted, and goes out of sightlines around the building. Mike laughs. I never feel like my ideas are as good as his and it shocks me when he laughs. I reach for his forearm to give him a thank you squeeze. He looks at my hand. I take it away.

“How’s Troy doing?” I ask. He looks uncomfortable with the question. I soften it. “Is he finding work okay?”

“Yeah, work is good.”

A man in a hoodie with a backpack comes up to the building and stops. He looks around for a sign or something and then pulls his iPod out, shuts it off, finds his cel phone and makes a phone call, his right arm across his chest, tucked under his other elbow. “That’s two,” Mike says.

“I’m glad he’s working,” I continue, if only to end that part.

Mike kicks the wall and smiles, then looks at me, serious. “He still has no idea why you left.”

“It’s probably too late to tell him now.” This seems to irk Mike most of all.

“Tell him what?”

“Why I left.”

He wants to ask me, but changes his mind. The woman and the basset return. The backpack guy looks at her and the dog, but continues his conversation. The dog smells his shoes, but he doesn’t see it. Another man, this one in business casual wear, comes behind them. The dog notices him first and almost breaks the leash to get to him. The woman turns around, waits for the man to greet the dog, then lifts her chin to him for a kiss. There’s something about this, something that the Troy conversation probably primed me for, that makes me very sad, and I feel bad about my idea, that it caused me to witness this couple and their dog.

Mike, however, is laughing. “Three people.”

“And a dog.”

“They’re just standing there. I’m amazed.”

He looks at me and laughs some more.

“What?” I ask him.

“I keep forgetting about the mustache.”

“I take this very seriously,” I say, blushing. I forgot about the mustache too. “But you look good. You’d make for a hot construction worker. I probably wouldn’t even tell you to fuck off if you whistled at me.”

“Do they still do that?”

“Of course.”

“Well, I’d whistle at you,” he says, then blushes at himself. Another woman, also with a hoodie and a backpack, but also with shopping bags, joins the crowd at the entrance to my building. She talks to the others, a brief conversation of short sentences, and then she too tries the other side, going around and disappearing at the cornerstone, a bit miffed that the other three were so stupid.

“Four,” Mike says.

“If I tell you why I broke up with him, would you keep it to yourself?”

“Of course.”

“I’ve been with another man. His name is Jason.” Mike is suddenly painfully silent, then pushes away from the wall for a quick pace. “Mike? What? Look, I know he was cheating on me. I wasn’t doing anything he wasn’t. I just had the manners to end it with him. Mike?” He’s standing about three feet away from me, leaning on the wall, staring at the ground in front of me. “I’m sorry, okay? I’m not perfect, but I did the right thing.” Mike won’t say anything and I can’t imagine why he would be so mad. I change the subject. “Look, there’s another one.”

A black woman of about forty-five joins the group and sizes up the situation. “She’s the one,” I say. Mike won’t look at her. “She’s going to do it!” The woman leans in and begins to pull on the window washer scaffold. She yells at the man on the phone and he takes the other side with one hand. The basset runs around the scaffold. “Mike, look, they’re finally doing it!” Suddenly, I feel his hand take my wrist. I feel his breath, see him come to me, blurry up close and he kisses me. I try to break away, but he holds me tightly. “Mike!” I muffle into his mouth, but he pulls me tighter. I give in, stop fighting him and wait for it to end. He’s serious, pressed into me tightly, enveloping me, shutting out the rest of the world. Part of me unlocks, though I’m screaming at it not to, part of me opens up, tries to take up all the space in this small room that he’s created with us. “Mike,” I try again, softer, and give his cheek a stroke. He loosens me and looks me straight in the eye.

“Mike, I don’t want to end this.”

“I’m not trying to end anything,” he says, breathy.

“I know, but you are.”

“I’m in love with you, Emma. Mustache and all.”


Tears well up in my eyes as I turn away, open the door to the stairs, descend two flights to the elevator, take it to the ground floor and head for Jason’s house, caution tape in the doorway flapping. I tear it, put my helmet on and swear. Mike, dammit, no!