I have this fantasy where we put on that Shirley Bassey album you love and smoke a joint on the sunroom lounge. With your head in my lap, you lie there taking each puff like a philosophical question, explanations wafting away from us with each billowed cloud. This is the meaning of life spelled out in smoke. The amber hues of the afternoon coating us in its half shuttered sepia tones, your voice in the shush is syrupy slow, the way a ponderance feels as it creeps across your skin. Love, you say, love is something you’ve always known.
I dreamt of you last night, abusing me on television. You were being interviewed for a piece on arthritic hips and somehow found a tangent to include my defamation. Watching you broadcasting hatred, I was outraged and confused and happy you were hurting. I woke turgid and stinging, bitter feelings clinging at me, stinking, meaty shreds of memory tainting my sense of me. I scrub and can’t get clean. I don’t know how to say, I hate you, so I carry your shame and resentment with my id, paying penance for my wisdom and getting guidance for my sins.
‘Sorry,’ I say, because it’s the right thing, ‘I’m having trouble with temporal dissonance,’ which is wrong but true. She looks at me from the pity end of the spectrum and sticks a worried smile over it. Dane slips an arm around her shoulder and manoeuvres her away with sly parental subtlety. I watch the ice melting in my drink and count to ten for a minute. Next time, I tell the bartender’s back, I’m not going to do anything. Nothing happens and I stare into the clot of people filling up the room, wondering if I’m really here.
Waking up at three am, wondering what happened to the day I was just in. Sweat-stuck to the sofa amidst the dusty rubble of recollection, small portions of shame gnawing on my extremities, street sounds of construction churning asphalt in my head. I might have died, I tell the dark, you wouldn’t know. The LED eyes of technology blink and stare and bide in myriad concert from their shadowed ghettos, judgements made in standby. Feeling my way over the stained and sticky, grubby paw prints of excess spread across my skin, trying to remember what I should forget.
Nature documentaries voiced by baritone sedatives and about an hour of awkward casual contact on the couch, hands grazing thighs and nestled knees and nested desires incubating under the skin. Then she says, ‘You can fuck me if you want,’ as though asking for the channel changed. When I form the question on my face she says, ‘Yeah, you can fuck me. Just don’t try to kiss me on the mouth.’ I ask if she keeps her hymen in her throat and she tells me to forget it. The narrator says that certain types of mantis eat their mates.
Little bubbles of conversation float above the squabbling murmur of the room, popping into moments of clarity and vanishing into the atmosphere. Caleb itches at the crown of his thinning pate, dirty fingernails dug between follicles with miner zeal. ‘I mean, you never stop wanting to have sex with other women,’ he says, taking another drink, doing a rub your head and pat your stomach routine. ‘These days it’s too much trouble,’ he says with failed acceptance. ‘I’ll just wind up disappointing some girl.’ It makes a sad kind of sense. ‘But you never stop wanting to do it.’
She slips her hand into my pants and lays a kiss against the corner of my mouth. The softness of her palms and all that I can think of are car wrecks and the awkward sweaty aftermath of fucking. Whispering now into my ear, broken glass and bent metal, nothing upon nothing, sweet and viscous. She tastes of vanilla. Below the belt ministrations, gravel rash and bruising. Her hands are giving me mixed signals. Stop, I tell her rising. Softly, stop, but she rolls onward, lays me flat and curbs my reservations. Let me drive this time, she says