She comes home at exactly midnight, a modern-day Cinderella stepping foot over the threshold into his waiting house.
He sits by the door, watching her shadowy form steal through the foyer. The dim, milky moonlight streaming in through the open windows bathes her in a translucent post-coital glow and he wonders when the glamour will fall away. When does the drudge beneath the princess emerge? At the stroke of twelve? The break of a new day? Never? He’s been waiting his entire life for the spell to be broken.
She slips off her shoes at the door. Where’s your glass slipper? he wants to ask, but keeps his silence. He knows where they are: melted in her eyes, glassy with distance and glittering with disinterest. She doesn’t notice him sitting there in the dark and quietly sets her keys on the hallway table before lightly stepping up the stairs. For a moment he’s stunned anew by the most beautiful and graceful girl at the ball and she’s vanishing before his very eyes. Who are you? Let me know your name. Your favourite colour. Song. Movie. But he isn’t the prince, not in this story.
“Hey Cinder-girl.” He finds his voice. “Where’ve you been?”
She pauses on the stairwell and turns. Her doll’s eyes find him in the living room and she smiles softly. Her smile is enigmatic, but then again, it always is. It could be mocking or it could be cruel, but right now he pretends it is as fragile and brittle as he wants her heart to be. “Around,” she says.
To a ball and back. He supplies the rest of the answer himself. Where you danced with a prince and held a kingdom within your grasp. He invents stories of her, of himself, and of the unknown other he hears whispered on the edge of her sleeping breath. He tells himself her stories because she is a blank page begging to be written on, but maybe that’s not right because she’s a paper doll he cuts into shapes he thinks are beautiful, but maybe that’s not right either because she’s a figment of his imagination. He made her up and that’s why she’s not there, not really. He’s Pygmalion, not the prince, and every kiss and caress he gives her is a prayer to Aphrodite for his Galatea to wake up.
“Around where?” He waits for the moment she glides back down from the stairs into his arms but it never arrives. She stands in front of him, unmoving and unconcerned, like a statue of herself: a living, breathing, and achingly real statue sculpted out of flesh and hair and ink and silk.
“Coffee with Kevin,” she replies. “We ran a little late.”
He doesn’t realize he is holding his breath until he sighs. Kevin, he thinks and remembers the whispered hint of an illicit name he hears whenever she sleeps beside him. Most nights he rises from their bed and wanders the house unable to sleep, searching in cabinets, in carpet holes, and in cutlery drawers just for the barest suggestion of a name, the name she breathed unbearably into his ear every night. When at last he’s exhausted every living secret, he returns to her side and holds her, humming himself to sleep while she sings Kevin, Kevin, Kevin on a pitch and frequency he cannot hear.
“Come here, baby,” he says and obediently she comes. He draws her close, and is again surprised at how beautiful she really is. He often forgets that he fantasizes about her because she is lovely and believes instead she is pretty because she is a fantasy. Her lips are a small violet pout and he leans in to pluck himself a kiss. She tastes of the Heian geisha paintings he’s seen in museums, of ruthless winter and blood on snow, of black and white piano keys and dusty pages and secrets. He draws back, saddened by how secrets could taste the same as her whispered breath because now he knows that the stories are real and he’s not her fairytale prince. She’s a princess and there’s a knight-in-shining armor somewhere in her life about to ride to her rescue with hoofbeats that measure Kevin, Kevin, Kevin.
Then he bites her lip hard out of spite or maybe it’s an attempt to write over Kevin’s marks on her body so that she becomes a palimpsest, but that’s not what he wants, that’s not what he wants at all. He wants to take an eraser and rub all traces of the other from her body and redraw her as what he wants her to be: a blank canvas with infinite possibilities. Instead he finds himself sketching Kevin: the perfect fairytale prince, someone who recites Romantic poetry off the cuff, quotes Marlowe and Shakespeare, speaks about Emerson and Whitman as though he knew them personally, someone who is everything she wants and everything he isn’t. He feels inadequate against this ghost of a man, and suddenly finds himself painted white and a fool in the commedia of his life as a dull, plodding Pierrot competing against the Harlequin for the love of Columbine. Kevin is everything he isn’t: literary, funny, charming, naughty, forbidden.
She pulls back and licks the blood off her lips and the fired glass of her eyes cloud over with surprise or indignation or even arousal.
“I love you,” he finds himself saying unexpectedly. He said it once, but maybe it wasn’t true the second time. “I love you.”
She tilts her head slightly, quizzically almost, but even her curious expression is strangely bland and enigmatic. Not cruel. Not cruel. She leans in closer for another kiss. “I know,” she whispers, and on her breath, he can taste Kevin’s name.
A girl presses herself against the blank wall of her room, listening for a heartbeat, a breath, a voice on the other side. From the other side, she feels the heat of a body pressed against hers through thin panels, taller than her by an eye, a nose, and a chin. She feels the entire length of a body against her own through two inches of hollow plaster as though their limbs and chests and hips were magnets, she the negative, the other the positive, drawn together by the neutral blank space between them.
A man stands with his palms and cheek pressed to empty white space and imagines the shape and texture of the body on the other side. A form and figure smaller than his, he thinks that perhaps the body is a woman because he can hear the softness of her breath, the sweetness of her exhalations, and gentleness of her touch on the wall between them. Slowly his hands travel down the wall, trying to ascertain through the flat surface the hills and plains of a living, breathing person.
The girl listens to the other’s hands slide over the blank space between them. Suddenly she realizes that the character of the presence on the other side is male. She knows he is a man by the rumble of his voice, the masculine rasp of his breathing, the confident, searching movements of his hands. She feels his yang to her yin, the angles and planes of the wall taking on the angles and planes of his body as she presses herself against the flat surface, aware of her curves yielding to the wall and knowing for the first time that she is female.
She stands and listens to him breathing and wonders what the face on the other side looks like. She is only aware of the shape of his shoulders as he presses against the wall, of how the quality of the space behind the wall changes as he moves around the room, of pensive silences and heavy pauses. She knows the bulk of his body, how the air behind the wall parts and moves to let him through, she knows the shape of him beyond the wall, the narrow hips and lanky legs, the sharpness of his shoulder blades as they dig into the partition that separates the two of them, and most of all, she knows his voice, its tone, its richness, and how it feels as it vibrates beneath her ribcage with its warmth.
He speaks to her and doesn’t know that she hears him. The words are lost, tangled in plaster and negative space, but the sounds carry past the wall, turning sheets of smooth, flat surfaces into trembling, breathing, living things. The girl does not reply; for now, she is content to listen to the rumbling in her chest as it brings a smile to her face.
She kisses like a storybook and for the moment, he lets himself sit back and enjoy her attentions. If her kiss were a fairytale, it would be Snow White: black as ebony, white as snow, red as blood, poisoned and sweet because now she kisses him with deception. She is a negative version of the magic mirror that speaks only the truth; her kisses tell only lies. He tastes blood and copper and oranges and cigarettes on her tongue, but coffee is missing, where was coffee? He kisses her back harder, as though his lips could suck the flavor of another man from her mouth like a vampire, or maybe those are incubi who suck out someone’s soul with a soft, wet, whimper.
She withdraws from him. Where are you going, little girl, back to your cinders and soot? Back to the fireplace to wait for your prince to come? But before he can say a word, she sweeps down on him with such force that his head reels. Who is the vampire now? She scrapes her teeth against the inside of his lower lip and soothes the rawness away with her tongue, licks her own lips with a feral smile and purrs like a contented cat. The hum of her pleasure vibrates down his throat, down his esophagus to settle somewhere below his stomach. The throaty incoherent whispers of her mouth warm him from his toes upward and he wonders how such a cold woman could turn him on like a heater in midwinter.She’s cold, or at least, he thinks she is cold, because otherwise why would she be shivering so, the soft, silkiness of her skin roughened by goosebumps? She shivers and trembles under his touch like a leaf shaking in anticipation of a long hard chill, her nipples tight and pressed against his palms and he thinks of baby birds puckering for a mother’s kiss. Her skin is cold but her mouth is warm, as warm as the summer he spent in Las Vegas with his best friends, sweating on the strip and driving down desert roads baking in Nevada heat. She presses hands as hot as southwest sun against his cheeks and he’s the one shaking, shaking with a chill fever. She’s not a vampire; she’s not a succubus; she’s a woman with her heart on ice and she’ll burn him with frost before the glacier melts.
He opens his eyes. (Were they closed before?) She pulls away from him and he reaches out to touch her face. She is real, he reassures himself, she is real. He’s not dreaming because dreams don’t touch and kiss and caress and stroke him thereohmygod. He struggles to keep his eyes open and looking at her and forces himself to acknowledge that no, she isn’t perfect, and no, she doesn’t love him the way he loves her, but that’s all right because her fingers are crawling along the inside of his thigh, fingers he’s heard wring raw emotion from inanimate pianos and soon she’ll be finding middle C on his body, making him sing in any key she wants him to.
His head rolls back and his eyes take up residence in the back of his skull as he feels every ratchet of the zipper of his jeans come undone with agonizing slowness. Distantly, he remembers that his mouth is hanging open unattractively, but he doesn’t care, not when every bit of his flesh is sensitized and waiting for her touch, not when the moment her bare skin comes into contact with his is nearly upon him. He briefly thinks about orgasm-faces and what they reveal about people and about how his looks like a diva’s. Maybe she’s a master musician and plays people as well as she does instruments, because her hands and lips are hitting all his sweet spots, making him sing in harmony with himself. There’s a humming somewhere in the room, or maybe it’s moaning, but sometimes moans sound like music, don’t they?
He feels her pulling away from him and his hips rise to follow her, but he’s only met with cool air, and at first he doesn’t feel her absence. She was always as haunting and lonely and empty as an arctic wasteland but when he opens his eyes at last, she is no longer there.
“Baby?” his voice cracks in the darkness, jumping octaves as skillfully as any warbling prima donna.
“Over here.” He feels her hands cover his eyes, suddenly cool against his flushed skin. He raises his hands to touch hers and clenches them firmly in his palms. He feels her walk beside him to pull him from the chair. “Upstairs,” she murmurs.
Innocent princess or evil queen? he wonders. He stares at her angelic face and waits for the devil to emerge, for the other side of her face to materialize out of the darkness, the one who would leave him hanging in the throes of passion as she rode off into the sunset with another man. She stands in the half-light and waits. But her waiting is curiously blank, and he thinks he stares into a mirage or a ghost. He reaches out to touch her, to make sure she is corporeal and solid. He watches his fingers wrap themselves around her wrist and marvels that they do not pass through her skin like water through moonlight.
She’s not waiting for him, he realizes. The name hangs on the air around him, but he holds his breath and steps forward, up the stairs, regardless of the jeans dragging open around his hips and the limpness of her arm as she follows behind him.
There is a window in the wall.The girl and the man on the other side dance with each other through the wall, hands, limbs, fingers, feet finding symmetrical positions on opposite sides of the partition. He leads, she follows, she leads, he follows, exploring every inch of the blank space between them until at last they arrive at a space blanker than endless white. The man blinks, surprised by the transparency of glass and suddenly the woman on the other side is nowhere to be found. He cannot feel her small hands against his through plaster and wood and for the first time, he feels uncomfortable.
The girl stands two feet away from the wall, shocked by the revelation of glass and transparency. She hears the man’s questioning hands slide behind the wall but for the first time, she does not reply. She wants to return to the comforting blankness of endless white, but knows that they cannot, now that the existence of the window lies between them. Although she does not feel the sharp planes of his shoulders or the roughness of his touch through the wall, she knows the man on the other side is making his way towards the open space and she does not want to follow. Or perhaps she does, she isn’t sure. Her feet trace soft footfalls along the base of the wall until at last she is but a breath’s pace away from the edge of the window. She feels the bulk of him already there, and now in addition to his hands, his shoulders, his chest, his voice, she feels the heat of his eyes as he searches the room for any trace of her.
The man adjusts himself to the absence of white before him and gazes through the empty space, his hands pressed against the pane of glass, waiting for the responding press of heat against his palms that he had felt through the wall.At last the girl steps forward and meets her hand against his as they had before, but the glass between them conducts warmth better than plaster and their questing touches leave hazy fingerprints on the surface. She does not raise her head, but leans into the glass pane, pretending the window is a wall. But the quality of their explorations changes, now their fingers know where to search, know the lines of form and volume that compose the body of the other beyond the window.
It is unequal.
The man knows more about the girl than she him. He is shocked to find that she is younger than he imagined or assumed through two inches of drywall, smaller than her movements suggested, more delicate and exotic-looking than any presumption to have ever crossed his mind. He sees her but she does not see him. He steps back.
She feels the heat of him retreat before she hears it. Beyond the glass that she does not look through, the girl gropes for the man behind the wall. He is not there. She feels the shape of the space on the other side change and part to let the man through and she knows he is not far away. She knows that if she were to simply open her eyes, she would find him, find him beyond the glass, behind the wall. Her hands trace the windowpane softly.
And she looks.
They lock princesses in towers in fairy tales, he thinks. Upstairs feels like ascending a tower, feels like climbing a golden rope of Rapunzel’s hair in order to rescue a damsel-in-distress. Upstairs feels like reaching the pinnacle of a parapet in order to blast down the doors to flee with his ladylove. Or maybe upstairs feels like being a jealous king throwing his blushing bride into a prison. Am I the villain or the hero? Right now, he’s the villain or the evil sorcerer as he grabs her wrist roughly, shoves open the door, and throws her inside. He imagines swirling a dark cape menacingly around him as he approaches her, so white and so still in the darkened room. Come, my pretty, he cackles. You cannot resist me.
She doesn’t. She offers no resistance as his mouth descends upon hers with crushing fierceness, does not struggle as the force of his assault pushes her back against the far wall, and calmly bares the column of her neck for his ravishing. He should feel guilty; he should feel wrong, but it only turns him on further as she willingly submits to his touches, his bruising grip. Again he thinks that she’s a paper doll, cut from paper and ink so he can use her to play the naughty games he used to make up in his room with his sister’s dolls by making them fuck each other with their plastic legs splayed at obscene angles. If he kisses her hard enough, she’ll come alive, Come alive, Sleeping Beauty, come alive.
No, kissing won’t do. Kissing won’t do at all. His hands trace the soft living skin of her stomach, so unlike the impersonal plastic he was expecting. Her flesh gives and moves with his hands, shying away from his caresses like a skittish creature. It’s like riding a boat on rocking waves as her body undulates and arches towards his and then away from it. His fingers slip into crevices and valleys, undoing and untying, and then she starts kicking, but no, he won’t stop, he won’t, he’ll pleasure her into submission until her painted doll’s face cracks and shatters into a million pieces from the abuse. Her fingers claw at his back, but he won’t give in, he’s the evil sorcerer, and with his magic he’ll bind her to him. But her kicking and clawing stops and then he finds her jeans on the floor and his shirt in her hands. Yes, yes, yes, one by one he strips her defenses away.
But she doesn’t make a sound, as pliable as a stuffed animal in his embrace. He nips at her neck, but only elicits a soft gasp. Angered, he tries harder, trapping her hips against the wall with his legs, gently grinding, and he feels as though he’s grinding away at her lacquered finish to reveal the dull surface underneath. Her head falls back without a noise, sliding against the wall, exposing her throat to his mouth and he could just bite it, feel her flesh tear in his teeth, and maybe when he’s covered with the ice water from her veins, he will hear her cry. The thought shouldn’t turn him on the way it does, but it only makes him harder, makes him thrust against her rougher, but still she is silent, still she doesn’t make a noise, is this rape? but no, it only makes him hornier than he was before and she asked for this, didn’t she? Her compliance makes him think of all those Victorian women trapped in beds with husbands they don’t love, lie back and think of England, and she’s lying back now, thinking of something, or maybe it’s someone, and already he can taste Kevin’s name at the back of his throat like bile.
When she comes, he’s shocked. She crumples like a puppet whose strings have been cut, curling around his body like a limp rag doll, and finally he hears the sound he’s been trying to find all evening: that uneven and harsh ragged sigh that rattles her lungs. Suddenly he feels exhausted; he’s reached the summit of a hill and before he can roll freely down the other side he needs to recover. But she doesn’t let him. The puppet comes alive and she grabs him by the belt loops of his jeans, shoving him against the bed. He bruises his calf against the bedframe as his head hits the headboard with a hard crack. She isn’t a damsel who needs rescuing; it is he who needs to be saved now.
She climbs on top of him and with one graceful movement that makes him writhe with anticipation and sheds her shirt and bra before reaching up with one hand to finger the clip that tames her hair with plastic claws. With a vigorous movement she shakes her head and her soot-black hair cascades around them like a waterfall. The feathery feel of her hair against his bare chest tickles, tickles in several places at once and he wants to be crude I have an itch will you please scratch it? but he won’t, she wants to be seductive and sexy, well fuck it, let her be whatever the hell she wants to be, she is a blank canvas after all. So he lies back and thinks of England, no he thinks of Kevin, he thinks he is Kevin, because that’s what she wants, isn’t it?
The man watches the girl through the glass. When she doesn’t stand with her hands pressed against the window, she retreats to the space in her room. She finds a piano in its center, its black, imposing face stark against the whiteness of the walls and softly she begins to play. He watches her fingers walk amongst the ivory and black keys and he remembers how they feel against his own through the window. When at last her back is turned to him as she faces the piano, he feels tears run down his face.
The girl knows that he is watching and despite being four feet away from his touch through glass, she feels the heat of his presence against her back as though he is standing on her side of the partition. The touch of his eyes is hotter than his palms and she feels uncomfortable. When she stands from the piano and turns to face him, she finds that he is facing away from her in his own room, and she feels more uncomfortable than ever, uncomfortable that she imagines the heat of his gazes, and discomfited by the fact that she wants them.
She walks towards the thin glass that separates her from the man on the other side. He is the farthest away from her than he’s ever been, but the girl feels his touch on the glass as warmly as he had just been there. She studies the planes and angles of his back for the first time, the wings of his shoulders standing out like ridges, the sharpness of the lines that compose his arm, ending in the bluntness of his hands. She knows the shape of his hands and traces them on the windowpane. She cries.
The man feels the girl’s hands against the glass. He clenches his hands and wills himself not to turn around, to turn and find her not there. But he turns and faces the space in the wall. She is there, tears tracing down her cheeks, her hands pressed against the window and he thinks he feels even her tears on his face. He raises his fingertips to his cheeks. He walks closer.Their hands don’t match. Hers are small and plump and delicate and feminine. His are wide and rough and masculine. But they press their palms against each other’s, following movements, leaving cloudy trails in their wake. The girl leans into the glass, palms, wrists, forearms, and elbows in contact with the surface. The man mirrors her. He brings his face close to hers and she follows suit, their breath misting the windowpane between them. With a finger, he traces a question mark.
The girl looks at him. The man looks at her. Then taking her finger, the girl traces three letters: s, e, y, and from his side, the letters spell “yes.”
The man knocks on the glass, once, twice, thrice. On the fourth time, his hand smashes through. And through the broken window, the man and girl clutch hands, as blood drips from his knuckles onto the white wall.
He is swimming in darkness and he likes it. He feels each separate strand float across his body, entwining him in a net of soft, silken black and he expects it to leave sooty traces on his skin, writing words and messages on his body, spells, aphrodisiac spells. In bed he can’t help but reduce her to an elemental force, no longer a princess, as if by the mere existence of his desire for her transforms her from a girl to a witch, a woman to a swan. She glides down gracefully, hovering above his lips, her arms outstretched and poised to take flight. Suddenly, talon-like, she grabs his wrists and twists them so that he moans with pain and arousal. Mercilessly, she raises his hands above his head and pins them there, her mouth swooping down to rend his throat. Instead, gently as a mother bird, she licks his Adam’s apple, and with her tongue she traces warm, sticky patterns along his jaw and he hears the rasp of his unshaven cheek as she scrapes her tongue from his ear to his chin, or maybe it’s not his stubble, maybe it’s her, maybe she’s not a bird after all, but a cat and he wants to pull away, to stroke the length of her body, but her fingers have his in their grip, relentless and strong.
“Close your eyes,” she whispers, her voice husky with serrated edges. He lets his lashes flutter. He feels each tooth of her jagged voice along his throat, down his chest, the shallow line that divides his stomach, and that voice hooks itself along the edges of his jeans, his boxers, tearing them away until the last shreds of his dignity are tangled about his ankles. He imagines he can see black glass eyes shine at him from above his hips, glossy and smooth as glass and then the thought is swallowed by her mouth.“Oh God,” he breathes. “Oh God.”This is not religion; this is not paradise. He shouldn’t be thinking about God, not when he feels this unholy, this sinful, this goddamned good. It’s a happy ending, he decides, or, almost a happy ending, perhaps a wedding on the way to happily-ever-after, but fuck, whatever it is, consciousness starts to leave him, bubble by bubble, and she’s going to wring every last ounce from him until he’s deflated and dry. He’s so high. Upstairs, in a tower, imprisoned by his lust. Alone in my tower of indecipherable speech, but now’s not the time for words, now’s not the time to think about movies with John Malkovich, now is not the time for anything but the sounds of animal passion ripping from his throat.
He opens his eyes when he feels her lips against his in a kiss that is almost tender. His eyes are open; her eyes are closed. Who are you kissing? he wants to ask, but his mouth is preoccupied. Her hands have long ago released his and now they travel down the endless line of her back, over the softness of her flesh, the thinness of the skin around her ribs, the weight of her breasts in his hands, over the rounded hillocks of her buttocks. Her body yields against his, but wait, wait, wait, where was the latex, the goddamned latex? His fingers fumble about the dresser, where is that stupid rubber? Prophylactic, condom, rubber, latex, words are rushing through his head, but maybe it’s the wrong head, where is it? His fingers find the familiar surface of silvery wrapping and it tears like skin in his teeth. Rubber feels nothing like flesh, but now he can’t think or breathe; he’s holding his breath as he is sheathed with her softness all over, her hair covering them like a blanket, and then he is rising, up, up, up, off the bed, higher than ever before. He keeps his eyes open, but she keeps her closed and her silence presses between them and he can’t breathe because the weight of another man is crushing him towards the bed as he struggles to rise beyond him. The steadiness of the rhythm he sets belies the awkward clamoring of his heart, and he watches her rock back and forth, her head flung back, her mouth open, her back arched, pushing her ribs and nipples pointed towards him. He watches her face and begs her eyes to open, open, open all the while her pants are begging, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin.
Who is he fucking, his girlfriend or her paramour? He sees Kevin, he sees his devilishly handsome smile, his cocksure movements and he’s fucking two people in one, does that thought turn him on? yes it does and it shouldn’t because he isn’t gay, but he’s fucking Kevin, or maybe he’s being fucked by Kevin, or maybe he isn’t fucking anyone at all, but just watching two people go at it like rabbits. His hands trace her breasts, but are they his hands? Are his fingers really that long and well-articulated? Or are they Kevin’s hands, elegant and sophisticated as his name suggests, breathed between his girlfriend’s lips in the middle of the night? Does he feel with Kevin’s mouth, with Kevin’s hands, with Kevin’s cock?
Harder and harder, as if the force of his desire could drive his nemesis from his lover’s body, or maybe it’s the lover from his nemesis, but whatever it is, he’s reaching the point of no return, the land of far, far away, second star to the right and straight on till morning. Harder, harder, Kevin, Kevin, open, open, harderharderKevinKevinopenopen, openopeneopenopenopenopenopenopenopen, and dong, dong, it’s the stroke of twelve and it’s time to come home.
Dimly, in the back of his mind, he hears a distant gonging noise, or maybe it’s someone singing, but whoever it is, they’re singing badly because they’re moaning, or maybe it’s not singing at all as he realizes the sound comes from his own throat and he’s groaning in ecstasy or pain, which is it? He’s stopped moving, but now the blood is zinging past his ears, throbbing with Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, or is she saying his name now? The orgasm hits her like a wave and she crumbles into a boneless heap around his body, curling around her heart as if to protect herself, trembling with fear and sexual repletion. She trembles long after the crests of her climax have washed over and he thinks once more of how cold she is. He gathers her into his arms to warm her, but she is already stiff from the cold and does not relax into his embrace. The long rattling sigh escapes her at last, sounding like a death rattle more than a sigh, and he wonders in the darkness who made her come, him or Kevin?
“Oh baby,” he murmurs into her shoulder. “Oh baby.”She doesn’t reply and maybe she’s already dead. He runs his fingers through her sweaty, sooty hair, tangled with caresses and stories. Maybe she’s only sleeping. He leans over to kiss her lips, wanting to wake her up from her enchanted sleep. She doesn’t stir. She isn’t dead or asleep, she is awake, wide awake and he can hear the barest suggestion of a name on her lips.
“Do you want coffee?” he asks her.
She stiffens. “No,” she says after a pause. “No. I had coffee with Kevin. I’ll be fine.”
He kisses her again and wonders where the taste of coffee has gone, but maybe coffee, like secrets, tastes like Kevin and he can no longer tell the difference.
The girl walks the length of the white room, hearing the man on the other side echo her footsteps. What they are looking for, she does not know, but she circles the room over and over again. She reaches the window in the wall with its broken shards of glass, no longer a window, but a hole in the wall. Half a hole. She reaches through the hole for the man on the other side, but he is nowhere to be found. Frowning, she traces her footsteps around the room again, no longer hearing the man on the other side stalking the walls on his own.
She is alone.
She cries as her bloody and bandaged hands trace the wall, searching for the a presence through the plaster. Her hands explore every possible smoothness on the surface until at last she finds an imperfection.
But it is not an imperfection. It is a door.
She looks down to see a pair of shoes other than her own for the first time. It is the man. He stands on the other side of the doorway with a gentle smile on his face. They stand face to face, seeing each other fully, from head to toe. Tentatively, the man raises his hand and equally hesitant, the girl raises her hand to meet his. Their palms meet and then his hand turns under. The man steps back and retreats into his space.
And the door remains open.
I wrote this short story in the summer of 2004 while I was on vacation back at home in Los Angeles in a fit of 18-year-old narcissism. I was setting out to prove that I could write “beautiful, lyrical prose” about nothing. Oh, and sex. Did I succeed? I don’t know, but I am inclined to think it’s one of my most purple pieces of writing ever. Still, it’s good for a laugh, right? Like much of my writing from that period of my life, it is relentlessly about myself, personal in ways that is embarrassingly trivial and self-aggrandizing.