The stink of sandalwood and machine grease assail my sinus as Carl pulls me close, cinching the harness tight to my body. Bits of belting and buckle burrow into the fleshy excess under my arm and up the inner thigh. My heart races and my skin vibrates. I can feel Carl feel it, the bulk of his body invading areas the rigging won’t reach, a tacked and tacky sensation. Outside, the propellers spin and masticate the wind, spitting the shrieking remains throughout the fuselage. “Don’t be scared,” he whispers, breath hot and wet upon my neck, “I’ve got you.”
The hand presses into hip crease, chases the form deep into the folds of the couch. A small voice says, stop. Lips and bristles prickle the neck. The hand keeps creeping. Flesh crawls and stays put. Stop, says the small voice, get out. But the ego-fog is intoxicated. Dull eyes, grown gross with mischief, grab and pry, working where the fingers won’t. Tobacco stink, sweat, and spittle stained skin press their inescapable vulgarities. Stop, the small voice screeches. Tongue, slick and prying, denying, doesn’t. Stop. The mind takes flight. The little voice is silenced. Nothing stops but her.
Air is fine it’s the people that are sour. Respiration, the new plague rat scuttles about the city, forcing our faces behind fabric so we don’t have to fabricate masks anymore. Socially distant, emotionally isolated. Why bother smiling when it can’t be seen and the eyes can scream just as succinctly. It’s all screened now anyway, talking heads on babushka boxes babbling and braying, saying, your walls are your kingdom, expand them through Amazon. Buy a monitor so they can watch you. Comment on YouTube. Glad this was created, I see so much that stinks. Breathe it all in.
Women fuck me up. I want to perform small intimacies on them. It’s not even sexual. How easy carnality would be, fuck and forget. But the things that I want come with time; a hand that lingers; a meal shared; afternoon naps; laced fingers. The casual that is beautiful, innocuous, dutiful, caring, fatuous, benign. The divine fine little things. I just want to touch them, you know. Be there when everyone says nothing. Float in our own lost thoughts together and idolise the interstitial times. I want them to take their skin off and show me the machine beneath.
I see myself reflected in the beads of sweat on Betty’s neck, secreted distortions cavorting on her skin. Watching a thousand tiny replicas rolling out from her hairline, dripping and ducking into prominent creases and taking my face with them. Her clavicle’s a pool now. I want to drown. As I stare into it, I see my eye shimmering back as Narcissus sitting in dysmorphic horror. My own sweat clings, moist in depravity, sad in shameful spots and proud upon my brow. Saltwater taffy, I think, and don’t lick. The eye doesn’t blink, judging. The oasis is a mirage.
Trying to sleep with sheets kicked to the floor and air upon raw flesh. She’s slick with sweat. I’m also wet. I lay palm to her belly and it hydroplanes to hip. ‘Don’t,’ she moans, throws my hand away. Industrial fan clicks, turns, churns the atmosphere to paste. The night gapes, still, dull, and dead. In my head we could have sex. I replace my hand atop her chest but it backslides landing leaden on the bed. ‘Was supposed to rain,’ she says, again. Press myself flat to the mattress and tell her, it’s only going to get worse.
Most of the time Callie ignores me, but every now and then, when I make her a nice meal or stroke her neck just right, she loves me like nobody ever has. I wish she was more affectionate, but it’s her nature to be capricious, aloof. I don’t blame her, and late at night when I feel her little body pressed against mine and hear those sleepy sounds, I feel enraptured. Though lately it’s like she’s lonely beyond me, primed with primal needs I’ll never meet. I don’t want to share her, but maybe I should get another cat.
I’m stuck to the screen when a toothpaste ad reminds me I haven’t cleaned my teeth in two days, which means I haven’t showered in two days, since that’s where I brush. It’s more efficient that way. I wonder how long a body can survive unscrubbed, if filth and decay is a life or death process. With no infection or interference, no action or interaction, what minor scum accrues can only be more skin. An excess flesh carapace encasing my corpus in quiddity. Then an ad for a dating app comes up and I decide to take a bath.
Beyond the flesh I miss her mind, or moreover her presence now in absence. In cerebral invasion I envision this floating thing, like an orb unmoored by gravity, a hovering visage flitting and forming simple actions and single lines, slices of time that, like scientific slides, cut a swatch of understanding from the whole. I guess you could say, the soul, but it’s divorced from dogma and drawn in cotton watercolour. Well, whatever the render, it’s what it represents. Memories and summaries that somehow draw a person in relief. Beyond the flesh. Beyond belief. Totally occupied by her vagrancy.
Sometimes I take cigarette breaks I don’t really want just so I have a good reason to be alone. A lifetime of tiny deaths seem worth the price of a little isolation. It’s not that I don’t like people but I don’t want to be around them when the cost of even the best interaction is deep and swiftly taken, leaving me shucked. It’s nobody’s fault but mine maybe, for feeling myself so seperate from the rest. Sometimes I just need a minute, to recalibrate, breathe, and become human again in my own way. One day I’ll give up.
Once year I smash a bottle of Southern Comfort on the ground. She would hate that, I hope, it was her favourite and her favourites were sacrosanct. The pleasure it gives me is short but large though largely without solace. I look at the shards and sticky liqueur and say it’s a metaphor, that it’s symbolic. I say that, but it’s not, it’s wasteful, scattered thoughts, passions, anger and obsession. I hurt myself in ways she would love and say it’s expression. Of what I don’t know, but once a year I smash a bottle and remember being broken.
One hundred seventy eight square centimetres of contact from shoulder to shin. Palm to palm, forty six when pressed flush. A rush of blood in a minute round trip, tip to tip, past the heart. Two spoons, one big, one little, hard held in tapered flesh. The breaths are a current across neck and shoulder atomic flecks that rise and blend with periodic heat, see oh two, particles mixed and settling into concentration. Presupposed adipose tissue with no limp lipids is crackling with kinetics, so rate of force is of course glorious and love is the result-cum-catalyst.
When you write a sigh it loses its subtlety, becomes less than punctuation or something strong as a sentence, turns sassy like irony or onomatopoeia. Sigh. So audibly versatile. It could be exclamation or ellipses, exasperated and punchy or forlorn and drawn, but give it textual context and it dries on the page. Sigh with rage. I wish things were simply what they meant and often lament their transmutative action for lack of explanatory traction. I wish a sigh on paper or in aether would have it’s meaning be clearer than being heard in the head or merely read.
Neither of us cries and the air grows thick with precipitation. In times of drought, I tell her, people of the Balkans would pray to Perperuna, a ceremony and god, Pagan in principal. She was the goddess of rain. A little smile breaks, as sunlight does, and penetrates the cloud. ‘Does this mean you would dance for me?’ For you, yes, but not for rain, I say. Naša dodo Boga moli, my aim would be to stave the storm. ‘Then start,’ she tells me, ‘and let us both enjoy the sun.’ We hold hands and move to warmer climes.
In bed with my stuck headed ways, thinking about lie and lay, ley line, lain, lei, lion and lying, dying linguistic miseries over and again. I want silence, stillness, but there’s still no release when these troupes of tropes traipse for days in lackadaisical ways through the malaise of my brain. Like, why is and y in Spanish when et is and in Latin too. Do you see? ¿no o si? Maybe it’s just me, or the inner eye that’s seen too much. I guess oui? Maybe we’ll never know, or maybe I need to give me a rest.