Short Story

Jealousy: My Hot New Friend

Photo by Melissa Adret

Photo by Melissa Adret

Originally posted December 27, 2012

View this article on elephantjournal.com

“Do those ruffles have ridges?” squealed the blonde, 20-something hippie chick, indicating my lover’s shirt.

“Why don’t you take a look,” he said, presenting his chest for her to slip her fingers over the scarlet fabric.

“Ugh,” I thought.

It was a crisp, crackling night at the Symbiosis Festival at Pyramid Lake, Nevada. The shimmery water reflected the moonlight and neon LEDs. The air pulsed with a blend of beats. The earth hummed with dancing festival-goers and Paiute ghosts. We were approximately 18 hours before a total solar eclipse. I could not have asked for a more breathtaking landscape to share an evening with the man I loved.

Except I had to deal with this crap.

I mean really? My heart was wide open and he had the balls (or the stupidity) to flirt with this vapid little tart in front of me?

OK, OK. I did yoga. I believed in open relationships. I read Byron Katie. I should have just felt loving compassion for them and recognized my own insecurity and judgment rising to the surface, right?

So why was I so mind-splinteringly jealous?

An electric fireball ball rose to my throat.

When he came back to me, I couldn’t hold back. I felt hurt that he could have taken his attention off of me—even if only for a moment. I felt selfish for wanting him all to myself. I felt stupid for allowing such a petty little thing to crush my heart. Shouldn’t I have been above all this by now?

No. I was not.

I pulled out one of my lethal feminine ninja tricks.

“You can go back over there if you want.”

What a fucking lie. There was no way I wanted this man more than two feet away from me. In fact, my whole body ached to crawl on top of him, wrap my legs around his thick, furry torso and crush him. Consume him. I wanted every broken piece of MAN inside of me.

“No, I want to stay with you,” he replied.

Good answer.

We headed out into the night. He stopped, lingering to take in some art. In vain, he rallied to try to get me to enjoy it, but my hunger cracked the ‘good girl face’ I had plastered on.

“No,” I thought. I didn’t want to look at any stupid art or analyze my stupid fears or process our stupid feelings.

Jealousy, jealousy, jealousy…dear God! What was this all about? Why couldn’t I just let go?

The moment I got curious with her, she spoke.

“Desire.”

Specifically, unspoken desire. Kept inside, it would kill me. Anger and resentment would boil to a toxic brew, destroying everything that mattered to me. But revealed, it would fuel my transformation.

“I want to go back to camp. Now.”

Orgasm trumped all.

Inside the tent, I straddled him. My burning pussy lips wrapped around his cock. My forehead pressed to his. Deep, full wanting rose over me. I desired to both suck him inside of me and to be totally consumed by him.

“Get on top.”

He obeyed. His hair and heaviness annihilated me. I opened my mouth to taste the salty wetness of his skin. My nails dug deeper. A low-pitched scream tore from my throat. I brought his face to mine, biting his lower lip. I enslaved this man with my trembling limbs and held on as the force of blinding orgasm seared our flesh together.

A whispered ‘damn’ was all that remained.

Thank you jealousy for reminding me of my hunger.

Thank you jealousy for connecting me to my power.

Thank you jealousy for being my hot new friend who demands no less than the fullest expression of my deepest desire.

The Last Time: An Erotic Lesson in Love

Photo of me taken by Jocelyn Marquis

Photo of me taken by Jocelyn Marquis

Originally posted October 18, 2012

He starts by softly touching my pussy—whole hand, the hood still covering my clit. It’s more like a massage. A gentle pressing in. One hand on the left nipple, the other on the clit. He has me hike my left knee up high. It exposes me. Light caresses on my coarse hairs along the edge with the backs of his fingers.

He stops. Tells me to turn onto my belly. I obey. He puts his fingers into my shoulders and squeezes. Tender. Giving permission to all those pockets of unexpressed joy, anger, grief.

He has me turn on my side. I am facing him now. My left leg over his head, my right pressed tightly against him. He slides his fingers inside me. Gentle pulses in my body. A simultaneous relaxing and priming. His thumb occasionally grazes my clit. Red hot velcro. Each stroke he makes, his body is there to brace me. Hold me. Warm. Open. Slick walls.

Then he has me lie on my back. His fingers deep inside, he draws me forth. I am contracting in deep rhythm to my heartbeat, and yet there is still a small sweetness within the pulse. He strokes up. I feel a fast rush of heat over my left foot and calf—it’s almost too hot to bear. I want to cry. So I breathe. And surrender another layer. I want to feel all of this.

And the burning escapes out my feet and we float back down into a grey, clear pool. Hovering. His fingers inside me press upward, while his other hand continues to stroke my clit. I keep relaxing and chanting the mantra, “There is nothing to fear.”

I sink back into my body, feeling something deep within wanting to emerge. A round, bulbous heat—a burning pleasure—snowballs as it moves from my belly to my clit. I keep relaxing. I envision the bulb moving out, but without force. The heat has now opened into a canyon of potential.

“What if you just say yes,” I think to myself, “and trust that you are held.”

“Yes,” I whisper.

I feel the fog-tide rolling over my feet. Creeping in over my surrendered-ness. The cool mist-water makes its way up my feet, thighs, pussy, belly, arms, chest, head. My whole body is now bathed in orgasm. There is no thrashing around; just a quiet sparkle. I exhale and more mist-water rolls over us. Suspended in timelessness.

And then the tide recedes back to the reservoir at my feet. I have forgotten myself. The connection between us is viscerally human—and expands beyond cosmic comprehension.

It’s at this moment that I realize how very lonely I have been. I miss God. I miss having the constant companion of fullness and depth inhabiting my body.

I begin to shake and cry. “Oh God,” I cry out, “I miss God.”

A wave of gratitude grips my throat and I keen an ancient sound—a sound that is twisted with both agony and wonder. We touched love. Not ephemeral romance, that crunches and pounces and cramps. But love. Pure. Rich. Golden. Love.

I cry. And cry. His fingers inside me push up and forward. Releasing. He then pulls them out and presses his palm firmly on my pussy. Solid. Ground. I am held throughout the never-ending melting.

A bit embarrassed by my emotional nakedness, I murmur once more, “I miss God.” I cry a bit more. And then a bubble rises in my throat and I realize what really needs to be said. The hardest words of all. But the desire is so powerful that to hold it back would be like a slow, rotting death.

“I love you. I love you so much.”

Something sweet melts in his eyes. I cry some more.

I can’t help noticing the peachy-salmon tones of his shirt. “Peach and purple look good on him,” I think. 

“I like that color on you,” I finally gasp out. We laugh.

The peak slips away and we simply hold on to one another. A raw, humble warmth of orgasm hums between us. I am deeply immersed. Present. There is nothing else to do but feel. Just me…and the man who taught me how to love.

Journey Well: A Short Story Inspired by Nicolò Sertorio’s Photographic Series, 'Peregrinations'

Originally posted August 16, 2012

The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart.  ~Julien Green

I’ve been on this journey for what…five…six hours now…may as well be five or six hundred years, judging by the exhaustion. My head is heavy. I feel bloated.

Yet despite my duress, I am clear that were I to attempt to shut my eyes at this moment, my mind would not allow me the gift of slumber. Lights talk to me (or is it the mountains?). Red skies paint themselves across the inside of my eyelids, while the outside view is of sands shifting into mazes I can’t seem to navigate.

Yup. It’s official.

I’m tripping balls.

Why the fuck did I do this to myself? Did I actually think I’m going to get some sort of mega download from the cosmos? Like the answers to all my questions would suddenly pour into my skull via some multi-colored, amorphous goo of consciousness? I can’t even tell which direction my camp is located, let alone navigate my life right now. The moment I think I’ve oriented myself, it’s suddenly two hours later and I’m nowhere near where I thought I was. I’m like a Heisenberg, psychedelic farce.

I feel like a fool. The last time I saw Alex and her friends, they were pedaling away from me as I screamed at them for their unwillingness to surrender their limiting egoic identities.

Jesus Christ, I’ve even picked up their vernacular.

Who does this? Really? Who spends a thousand bucks buying a bunch of food and camping gear and costumes and useless crap to hang out in the desert for a week? I could be home right now, in the comfort of my living room, a lot warmer, hydrated and able to pay my rent.

And yet…here I am. Why? Eh…why doesn’t really matter at this point. All I’ve got to do is park my ass in this sculpture-thing, wrap my sparkle cape around me and wait it out.

Wait it out…

I miss my mother. I miss her smell. Fried bacon and roses. I haven’t seen her in years. Haven’t seen most of my family in years for that matter, which was part of the reason why when my crazy-ass sister insisted I come to this thing with her, I couldn’t say no. I was propelled more by sibling guilt than by any real desire to be here…

I’m used to being by myself. I prefer it. I can do what I want, when I want and don’t have to deal with anyone else’s bullshit. And yet…

Jesus, I’m crying. Seriously?

Maybe it’s just the drugs. A bad trip. Although…it’s so weird…but right now I feel utterly hopeless. I have no idea which way is up or down and there’s this pain…in my chest…it’s this ache of…hollow…fuck I hate to admit it...

Loneliness.

And the thing is, I don’t even have it so bad. A roof over my head, food on my plate, water in the tap.

But my heart…my heart feels…empty. Hurting. Cracked. Which may not be a bad thing, since most of the time I just feel numb and tired.

I wake up.

I hit the treadmill.

I go to the office.

I enter numbers in a computer for eight hours.

I come home.

I order dinner.

I catch up on TiVo.

I go to sleep.

People like me do not end up covered in purple glitter and wearing furry underwear while huddling for heat next to a neon mushroom.

And yet, maybe they should. Or at least, they should have a moment of some kind of magical catastrophe that shakes up their world.

I have to pee. Man…I really have to pee…nobody’s going to see me pee on the ground this far out here, right?

I shouldn’t though. I mean, it’s not right. They tell us not to.

Fuck that. I’m tired of being told what to do. This whole thing is about breaking the rules, right?

Ugh! I’m so confused. And angry. And my nose is running and I don’t have tissues and I have to pee and I’m cold and exhausted and I don’t want to be high anymore and I’m pissed at my sister for abandoning me in the middle of this place (what were we fighting about? Did she really call me the angel of death?), and most of all, all I want is…

What?

What do I want?

I…

I…

I don’t even know.

Man. OK. I need help.

God, I know we haven’t chatted in a while (feels like centuries), but I could really use some guidance right now. With everything. I feel lost and lonely. I have no clue what I am doing here. What I want. What I need. I feel stuck and stupid and I hate my job I hate my life I hate the treadmill I hate the TV I hate my ex I hate I hate I hate

I

Just

So

Fucking

Hate

Everything!

(breath)

(breath)

(breath)

Whoa. I can breathe. Like a real breath. And that breath…it’s wide. And cool. And fresh.

Thank you. No really. Thank you. Whatever that freak-out was, I needed it.

Peace. If only for a moment. But right now, this moment is worth the fighting and exhaustion and snot and tears cementing my palms as my fingers clench together.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry Alex for yelling at you. I’m sorry mom for avoiding your calls. I know you just want the best for me—even if it comes off as intrusive and micro-manage-y. I’m sorry Billy for throwing your Mac out the window. Yeah, you cheated on me, but really, we knew it was over two years before that happened.

I’m sorry life, for taking you for granted. I’m sorry for wasting my days and blaming everyone for my problems and I’m sorry for not saying ‘I Love You’ often enough.

I love you.

(breath)

OK, that’s a little scary.

I can do this.

It’s OK.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you…

(yawn)

Oh man. Something just hit me. I’m slipping under. I feel like I could sleep for ages. I can barely keep my head up. Thank. God.

Alex, I’m sorry. And thank you. Wherever you are tonight, thank you. The next time I see you, I’ll make sure to tell you that. Also, I love you.

It’s so simple. I’ll just walk up, take your hands and say:

“Alex…”

(snooze)

Epilogue

Friar Ramón Pane jerked from his catatonic bliss with a sharp intake of panicked breath. Despite the fluorescent green glow humming on the edges of the trees, the known world instantaneously reassembled into his mind: the ship that brought him here, the dark woman, the powder she fed him.

As if by divine manifestation, the dark woman appeared beside him, holding him, cradling his head and muttering something in her Taíno tongue. Although Pane could speak her language, his mind was still too concentrated with the powder to take in her words.

Her hands were firm, but warm. Calloused, but inviting. He leaned his head into her palms and gazed into her empty, black eyes. An endless void.

And yet, there was something in the nothing. Light? Reflection? Himself?

He began to cry. Too much. Too much for him to understand right now. All he could fathom was that either this woman had shown him God or had taken God away from him (which may have been one and the same thing).

Her breath—wide, cool, fresh—whispered across his face.

Peace. If only for a moment. But right then, that moment was worth the fighting and exhaustion and snot and tears cementing his palms as his fingers clenched together.

And as he surrendered to her embrace, a single, sweet name exhaled from his lips:

“Alex…”

The Right Number: A Short Story

Originally posted June 10, 2012

John McLean tapped the cracked screen of his yellow iPhone and brought it to his ear.

“Hello, Ming’s Café. What you want?”

“An order of egg rolls, Hot & Sour Soup…”

“…and Pork Lo Mein, right? I know your voice. 3337 Guadalupe Street #2? Same credit card?”

Sigh.

“Yup.”

“20 minutes.”

Click.

John tossed the phone on his grey, tweed couch and glanced around the apartment. The oily, plastic tubs, used chopsticks and red & white, cardboard trapezoids served as evidence of his dietary apathy. A living museum. Empty cartons petrified in time. A hunger that was once wrenching and desperate—now reduced to a low grumble. Eating was more like an annoying habit these days.

Six months. Six months since she left. Only two things remained: her white sapphire and 18K yellow gold engagement ring and a 43-second message on Google Voice. He had it memorized. Verbatim.

Katherine didn’t really say much. After almost two years, she just—poof—vanished. Said her heart wasn’t in it. Said she didn’t want to hurt him. When he returned home to Austin from his mother’s funeral in Mobile, she had packed her things and placed the custom-made ring on the top of his dresser. Where it still sat. Untouched. An orphaned relic of a past life.

Their courtship was short-lived. She was an intern in the hospital where his mother was staying. They had known each other for about five months before he popped the question. She had comforted him through the toughest parts of his mother’s MS. Perhaps their bond had formed out of security rather than love, but still, he had never opened himself with anyone as much as he had with her. If it weren’t for the ring’s insistent existence, he might have believed their relationship was just a passing dream. That would have made things easier.

But it was real. And he now had the Chinese take-out boxes and extra 40 pounds to prove it.

He looked into the mirror and slid up his greasy, white tank.

“Something’s gotta change,” he thought to himself. “Jesus…man. I feel so numb inside. Like I’m spending my life waiting to die or something. I don’t want to live like this. The fucking Chinese delivery lady knows me better than anyone else, for Chrissakes! How fucking pathetic is that?”

He sat back down on the sofa and absent-mindedly reached for the remote.

ABC

CNN

Comedy Central

TBS

He paused. TBS was playing Die Hard. Again.

“Typical,” he muttered. He loathed this movie. Or rather, he loathed his inadvertent affiliation with it:

“John McLane!? Like that Bruce Willis character in ‘Die Hard’? I love those movies! Are you gonna save the Nakatomi Tower or something?”

No, you fucking moron. I’m gonna bash your fucking brains in with a two-by-four.

“Uhhh…yeah, funny. No, not saving anything. He spells is differently anyway. L-A-N-E. I spell mine L-E-A-N.”

“Well, we know who to call when the Germans come to town, eh?”

Fucker.

But on some level, he knew it wasn’t their fault. His name did have a level of notoriety. If he had met a woman named ‘Elizabeth Taylor’, he’d probably say something just as douchey like, “Really? How are the ex-husbands?”

And yet, like a scab he couldn’t stop picking, he didn’t change the channel.

“Ironic.” he reflected. “The hero and the loser. The champion and the deadbeat. John McLane, the savior of humanity and John McLean, the king of Chinese delivery.”

The tinny sound of Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ jolted him from his self-loathing.

“That’s strange,” he thought, “no one ever calls me. Maybe the Chinese place ran out of eggrolls or something.”

He looked at the phone, but didn’t recognize the number.

“Oh what the hell,” he said, answering. “Hello?”

“Well hello yourself! I have been waiting for over an hour-and-a-half at Spider House! Where the hell are you?!” shrieked a woman’s voice on the other end of the line.

“Ummm…what?”

“What? WHAT?! Jenna said you were a little flaky, but this is RIDICULOUS!!!”

“Jenna? Who…who the hell is Jenna?”

“Jenna…your cousin? Wait. Is this Randy Morgan?”

“No. My name is John. John McLean. You must have the wrong number.”

“Oh my God…I am so sorry. It’s just…my co-worker—well, former co-worker—tried to set me up on a date with her cousin and she texted me his number and…well, clearly she made a mistake and sent me the wrong number and…oh, Christ, it’s just been a long day—a long week really. Oh who are we kidding, this whole year has been pretty shitty, what with the divorce settlement and losing my job and my father’s accident…,” she trailed off, stifling her tears.

“I’m sorry,” John said, genuinely moved by this strange woman’s pain.

“No, no, I’m sorry…for dumping all that on you and for screaming at you and…geez, you must think I’m some sort of crazy woman, huh?”

“Well, actually, I think you’re pretty spot on. I mean, if I had to deal with a divorce and losing a job and the father thing—and on top of all of it, being stood up—I’d be upset too.”

“Thanks,” she said, softening. “What did you say your name was?”

“John McLean.”

“Why is that so familiar?”

Ugh.

“Um, Die Hard?” he muttered, grudgingly.

“What?”

“The Die Hard movies? The main character is John McLean?”

“Never seen them. Not a Bruce Willis fan.”

“Oh.”

“Wait a minute!” she cried. “Westlake High? Class of ’92? Well, I guess you were ’90 or something…?”

“Uhhh…’89…?”

“Yes! This is Marsha! Marsha Graves. Well, Marsha Reynolds now, but soon to be back to Graves. We were in band together. I played sax and you were trumpet, yeah? You were pretty good in those days.”

John remembered her. Pretty. Blonde. Soft features. A little flighty. Spent more time smoking weed under the bleachers than in band practice, but she was always kind.

“Sure, I remember you. What you been up to since high school?”

“Oh, local community college. Left after a year. Got it together long enough to get my aesthetician license and been doing nails ever since, though the place I worked for closed down last month. Tough times, ya know. Plus my father just got in a car accident. He’s alive, but his legs are crushed. Not sure if he’ll ever walk again. And he has no pension and no insurance—what with being the local handyman all these years.”

“Medicare?”

“Too young. He was 17 when I was born. So mom and I just have to do what we can to scrape up the money to pay for it.”

John glanced quickly at the ring on the dresser.

“Hmm. I’m sorry to hear that. Seems mighty unfair, if you ask me—for God to rain down a bunch hard stuff on just one person.”

“I stopped believing in God a long time ago,” she answered coldly.

“Me too. It was just a way to get my point across. Haven’t been to church since I stepped foot out of my momma’s house. Though I do miss the music. Always liked Amazing Grace and…”

In The Garden,” they both said simultaneously.

“Ditto!” she cried. “That one was always my favorite!”

“Heh, yeah, mine too,” he laughed.

His laughter took the edge off his uneasiness. He hadn’t had a conversation that lasted more than three minutes in some months. He feared he wouldn’t be able to remember how to be politely sociable. But the clumsy frankness of Marsha felt open and fresh. It gave him permission to reveal a bit more of himself.

“Well. Nice to hear we have something as lovely as In The Garden in common,” he said.

“Indeed. So what about you? I’ve been talking this whole time. What happened to you after you left school?”

“Well, I went to A&M, got a degree in computer science, found a job where I could work from anywhere, so I moved back home to be with my momma. She was sick with MS for a long time.”

Was sick?” she asked.

“Yeah, she died about six months ago.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“I’m not. The years of hell that woman went through. I’m glad she’s found her peace,” John retorted, a bit too callously.

“Oh.”

“Anyway,” he said, trying to soften the moment, “we scattered her ashes in her hometown of Mobile, like she wanted. And that was about the same time that my fiancée decided to skip town. Left me just a phone message and a ring. Haven’t heard from her since.”

“Wow, that’s a little selfish, if you ask me.”

“Yeah, it felt that way at the time.” John was surprised at how quickly he’d opened up to Marsha. He hadn’t revealed this part of his life to anyone since Katherine left. He did most of his work from home, had no siblings or close cousins and his father had been out of the picture since he ran off with one of the neighbors’ wives when John was 12. They both died in a boating accident one year later. John never forgave his father for leaving him alone with his sick mother. He allowed himself a maximum of 30 seconds of grief when he heard of his father’s death. The rest he packed away in a hermetically-sealed time-capsule lodged in the back of his heart.

“But, you know, time heals all wounds, I guess,” he said, brushing off the memory.

“Yeah, except yours don’t seem so healed.”

“You’re poking a little too deep for someone I just re-met over the phone,” he said jokingly, but not without a real intention to end the conversation.

“Haha…ok…another time, perhaps.”

“Perhaps.”

Silence.

The hard, electric buzz of John’s doorbell jangled the pregnant stillness.

“That’s my dinner, Marsha,” he said, somewhat relieved at having an excuse to get off the phone.

“Oh, OK,” she replied. “Well, maybe I’ll give this Randy guy another 20 minutes or so before I give up on him.”

“Yeah, maybe he lost his phone or something and is caught in traffic...”

“Yeah, maybe…”

“Yeah...”

Silence.

“OK, well. 20 minutes. Spider House. Then I’m heading home,” she firmly declared.

“Good luck, Marsha.”

“Yeah, you too John. Maybe I’ll see you in band practice sometime,” she joked, a little too nonchalantly.

“Heh. Yeah, I wouldn’t count on it. I haven’t touched a trumpet in ages.”

“Hm. Pity.”

Buzzzzzzzzzzz.

“Better answer that, John.”

“On it,” he said, without moving a muscle.

“Goodbye,” she said.

“Bye.”

Pause.

Pause.

Pause.

Click.

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Stillness.

The phone started ringing again. John eagerly prepared to answer it, only to find it was Ming’s Café, no doubt wondering where he was.

He sat motionless until the ringing stopped, the driver stepped off his stoop and the car drove away, undelivered Chinese food in tow.

“What the hell just happened?” he thought to himself. “It was just a simple wrong number. She didn’t actually want to talk to me again, right?”

And yet, he remembered the hint of an invitation in her voice when she joked about band practice. And there was something in the way she said ‘Pity’—it was almost like she was seeing deeply into him and pulling out…what? He didn’t know how to explain it, but, for the first time in a long time, he could feel. His heart hurt. His forehead was hot and slick. His skin felt tingly and tight all at once.

And then he knew was it was—that simple piece he would not allow himself to acknowledge.

Joy. Pure, innocent joy. The joy he felt when he played his trumpet. They joy he felt when his mother sang in church. The joy he felt when his father bought him his first Miles Davis album. And the joy he felt when he and Katherine used to slow dance in the hospital stock room, sharing one pair of earphones.

But unfortunately, with joy, comes hope. And dreaming. And love. And history had proven to him, over and over again, that every time he allowed himself the luxury of love, life was going to abandon him in a swamp of unfulfilled desire.

And yet something’s gotta change, he reminded himself. He knew it. He didn’t just know it—he felt it. The truth was pouring out of his body. In his shaking, his sweating, his crying.

He didn’t have much time. He slipped on his tennis shoes, threw on his leather jacket and grabbed the ring from the dresser. He didn’t know if it was worth enough to cover her father’s medical expenses, but he knew it could help.

“Something good needs to come out of all of this,” he thought, as he stuffed the ring in his pocket.

As for what would happen next, he wasn’t sure. Would he and Marsha strike up a friendship? A love affair? Marriage? Or would she even still be there when he got to Spider House?

Honestly, none of that mattered. He wasn’t doing this to try to win a relationship. He was doing it in gratitude to the gift of joy that God (or whatever) had given him that day.

Before rushing out onto Guadalupe Street, he pulled his iPod from his jacket pocket, stuck an earpiece in each ear and pressed the bottom of the white circle. And as he closed the door behind him, he raised the left corner of his mouth in a slight smile as Bye Bye Blackbird began to play.

Hunger: A Short Story

Fort Cemetery at Watson Mill Bridge State Park in GA. Copyright Jamie Holdorf,  www.serendipisea.com

Fort Cemetery at Watson Mill Bridge State Park in GA. Copyright Jamie Holdorf, www.serendipisea.com

I’m standing on the side of the road under a flickering streetlamp (the only streetlamp on this drag) after an excruciating night at the bar. 4am. My feet hurt. My lower back clenches. And the cut on my neck hums dully throughout my body. The faint smell of blood and beer still hangs on me.  I think back on the past few hours…

Gary usually stops by every Saturday for his fix. Loud. Crude. Angry. Your typical drunkard. He prefers cheap beer straight from the bottle. I knew he had reached his limit three drinks before the incident, but my greed overrode my better judgment. Plus he’d never gotten violent before. Maybe a belligerent rant or two, but nothing like tonight. Apparently his wife is cheating on him…or so he believes. I can’t remember all he was saying—I was only half listening. He never really talked much about her, except to complain every once in a while about how she rarely put out and when she did it was like fucking a cold fish. Honestly, I thought to myself, I couldn’t really blame her. I imagined having sex with him would be like having a reckless jackhammer slamming into me. I would have to shut down every bit of feeling just to survive the experience.

But when he started accusing everyone at the bar of sleeping with his wife, I had to step in.

“Gary,” I tell him, “It’s time for you to get a cab.”

“I don’t take orders from you, bitch,” he slurs.

I’ve been working here for so long (what's it...ten years now, right after high school?) that I’ve learned not to take it personally.

“Gary, c’mon man. You’re drunk. I’m going to call you cab and you’re going to go home and sleep it off.”

“Home?!” he cries. “Home…there is no home. There is no bed. There is no sleeping next to that…that…” His voice strangles a bit as he collapses onto the bar. Jim, another regular who spends his money slowly nursing Rusty Nails, catches Gary and tries to help him stand back up. Gary’s wounded pride must have hit its limit in that moment, because he suddenly roars back to life, grabs Jim’s glass and hurls it across the room, screaming, “I don’t need your help, motherfucker!”

“Gary!” I cry. Without thinking, I reach out to restrain his monstrous limbs. His angry fingers wrap around the empty longneck he just finished. A scream like nothing I’d heard before emanates from within him as he swings the bottle at my head. I duck just in time, but in his drunkenness, he doesn’t have a very solid grip on the bottle, so it slips from his hand and smashes into the glowing display of alcohol behind me. Glass shatters everywhere. Liquid rushes down the damp, dusty wood. I cover my head and squeeze my eyes shut, but not before a slice of broken bottle ricochets off the back wall and hits me in the neck.

“FUCK!” The stabbing pain buckles my knees and I have to lumber down to the end of the bar to avoid collapsing into a pile of shredded glass. My hand instinctively finds its way to the side of my neck. Blood, more than one typically wants to see coming from one’s own body, streams between the webbing of my fingers. At least I don’t feel any glass. Must’ve bounced off me.

In the chaos, five or six men manage to hold Gary down long enough for him to surrender the fight. He now lies on the ground, weeping, with his demons exposed. Were it not for the throbbing pain in my neck and the blood matting up my hair, I might feel sorry for him.

“Out! Everyone out now,” the manager, barks. He simply goes by JB. No last name. He’s on the shorter side, but built like a brick. Thick and wide. Late 60’s. Worked here for as long as I can remember. He doesn’t say much, but when he does speak, you listen.

It’s close to 2am. Most of the people have already paid their bills and those that don’t throw some wadded-up cash onto the bar as they rush out into the cool night. No doubt a relief compared to the thick, acrid stench inside. Gary half mumbles apologies as Jim carries him towards the door.

“I’ll take him home with me,” Jim says. Once the place is clear, I start to regain some awareness of my body. I’m a little frozen. Shocked. Except for the gash on my throat, I have lost sensation in other parts of my body. As I stand in the heavy silence, I exhale and feel my limbs melt a little. Warmth comes back to my feet and hips, as an exhaustion like I have never known sweeps over my eyes. I swoon a bit.

“You ok?” JB inquires. He’s less concerned with my health and more interested in making sure that he doesn’t have to take care of me. He’s always been uncomfortable when dealing with delicate matters. He’s a practical man. Intimacy is not something he does well.

“I’ll be ok,” I say.

“Well, take a few moments and then we’ll clean up.” He hands me a glass of water and I soothe my scorched throat. As I slide onto a stool, he heads to the back. I stare absently at the wreckage littering the spot where I stood just 10 minutes ago. JB returns with a broom, a dustpan and a metal garbage can. He starts sweeping up and throwing away mounds of glass in crashing chunks.

“I’ll be right back,” I say and head off to the bathroom to survey the damage. Despite the circles under my eyes and the glassy stare, everything looks alright. The cut is already starting to clot. It felt a lot worse in the moment than it actually was. The wound itself is relatively superficial. Just glad it didn’t hit any major blood vessels. I run some water over a wad of disposable brown paper towels and gently dab my neck. It feels cool and sharp. After a few rounds of this, I head back out to help JB.

Two hours later and we are finally locking up.

“We’ll take care of inventory tomorrow—er, um, later today,” JB tells me. “Just get some sleep and be back here at 4:30. If you need the day off, I understand, but I could really use your help here if you can make it.”

“I’ll be here,” I say. I don’t even pause to think about whether or not I want to. I just say yes. Like always.

“Good. Well then…see you later.” He makes his way to his truck. “Hey…uh…you want a ride?” he asks, as he turns to look at me.

“No thanks,” I answer back, a little shocked at this gesture of goodwill. “I’m fine.” Without a word, he heads towards his red Chevrolet, gets in and drives off.  I’m surprised I declined his offer. I mean, after all the drama of the evening, a ride home would be nice. But something in me needs the clean air, the solitude, the quiet. Besides, I feel too buzzed to go home now, especially after drinking all that coffee while cleaning the bar. A walk will do me good, I think to myself. I jog across the road, but instead of heading straight home, I lean against the pole with the flickering light.

My mind drifts to Gary. How long has he been married? 15? 20 years? How could his wife have stood it for so long? I mean, I don’t know the whole story, but if his behavior is any indication of their home life, my guess is that she’s probably not a very happy woman. He’s clearly a sad, wretched man. My heart drops a little at this discovery.

At least I’ve got James, I think. He’s a decent guy. Nice enough. Hardworking. Wants the best for everyone. True, our sex life has dwindled over the 6 years we’ve been living together, but that happens to all couples, right? I mean, he works during the day and I work nights, so finding the time and energy to get all hyped-up and hot and horny isn’t high on either of our priority lists.

I feel a sort of heaviness wash over me. A thick ball presses into my throat as I think back to the first sweet months of our relationship. How we couldn’t get enough of each other. How our sex was like this fantastic erotic playground. The light tickle on the back of my fingers while barely touching the hairs on his cheek. His front teeth slowly biting down on my nipple until a sharp, painful rush of heat rolled over my breasts. The electric current pulsing through the tips of our tongues when we lingered in a kiss.

The heaviness gives way to a sort of hollowness. A black void opens in my chest that travels down to my belly—and then shifts to my genitals. When was the last time I had my pussy touched? Or even looked at, for that matter…

The thick ball in my throat rises. My face flushes. My forehead feels tight. An internal pressure builds to where I can no longer control the tears swelling in my eyes.

“It’s just been a long night,” I lie to myself. The tears back down for a moment, though my fingers start to tremble. For in that black void sits a burning, unavoidable truth.

I’ve had enough. And not just tonight. With everything. My life feels somehow…empty. My days consist of cleaning the house and catching up on sleep. My nights consist of emotionally managing men with a painfully unquenchable thirst.

And me? What about my thirst? What about my…what? What is this…hunger? I feel like one of those people who hasn’t eaten in so long that she has forgotten what hunger feels like.

I glance up and catch a masculine-looking shadow not twenty feet away from me. My defenses instantly snap into place, like a puffer fish flaring her blades. Who is he? How long has he been there? Has he been watching me this whole time?

I check my watch. 4:30. I’ve been here for half an hour already. Was he waiting for me to exit the bar? It’s not like someone to be hanging around alone this time of the night. There’s nothing else in this area but a bridal shop and a cemetery down the road.

I start walking. Quickly. My body is buzzing and I am holding my breath as I rush down the street. My feet scrape carelessly along the sidewalk, leaving a jagged, scratching sound in their wake. Behind me beats the brisk, steady rhythm of heel to cement. I fly past the bridal shop to my right (how many times had I gazed longingly at its offerings of layered, white organza) and head towards the cemetery. Normally I hate walking through here, but the groundskeeper lives on the other side and if I can make it to his place in time, hopefully it will deter my shadow.

I race to the iron gate, affixed between two, six-foot high, rectangular columns of cement. I curse under my breath to find it closed. I locate the latch and use all my strength (what little is left) to lift it up. It’s not locked, thank God. But I have lost precious seconds and I nearly freeze in horror to see my pursuer only three long strides away from me. I slip inside the gate, but as I try to close the door, he catches it in time and swings it open, sending me nearly flat on my back. I regain my footing and turn to run, but I don’t make it more than four steps before one arm grips around my waist and another wraps around my shoulder to cover my mouth. We stand there suspended in the moment for what could have been between thirty seconds and three hours. I feel my pelvis press firmly into the hard angles of his hips. His belly is methodically breathing into my spine, while I struggle to manage the chaotic symphony of my rasping chest. My mouth is slightly agape. I can taste the salty, acidic wetness of his palm. The hot moisture of his breath tickles my left ear and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Eventually, my rigidity gives way. I melt into the warmth of his body in surrender. I know I am outmatched. He feels this shift in me.

“Good girl,” he whispers.

He guides us towards a mausoleum about forty feet ahead of us. We turn into the tomb and he presses me face-first into the corner made by the entrance and the left wall. The heady scent of wet limestone and stale mushrooms nearly asphyxiates me. He spins me around and we are, for the first time, face to face. Though it’s dark outside, the glow from the streetlamp creates enough light for me to make out his features.

I instantly recognize him. He started coming around the bar a few months ago. Early 40’s. Dark hair. Fairly good-looking, if it weren’t for the fact that the right side of his mouth was totally paralyzed—though that never really bothered me. He always sat at the left edge of the bar, where the wood started to curve away from the main stretch. He never talked to anyone. Never drew attention to himself. I didn’t ask for his name and never thought much about him, except for the curious fact that the only thing he drank was soda water with lime—an odd choice for a hardcore dive bar.

“I know you know me,” he says, as if he can read my thoughts through the changing expressions of my face. “And I know how miserable you are. I know you want more, so much more.”

I stand there, fascinated, vacillating between repulsion and unspeakable attraction. Who is this guy to chase me down in a fucking graveyard just to tell me about my life? What had I ever done to him? What did he want from me? And why was I all of a sudden hungering for him to pull me deeper inside him? A magnetic current swirls up from my feet, my legs, between my thighs, to my chest and washes over my face. Despite the darkness, I was positive he could see the reddening in my cheeks. Something in me hated him for that, for feeling me so deeply without asking my permission. And yet…another part of me, some part that had been dry and hidden for so long, wanted him to feel me even more.

He looks at my face for quite some time. I’m not sure if he’s contemplating what to do with me or if he is just curious. His gaze is intense, but I stay with him. I’m still a little on high alert, but I also don’t want to miss a drop of his exquisite attention. He traces his finger over the arch of my brow, down my cheek and along the edge of my jaw. I gasp a little when he strokes the gash on my throat, but it’s more in anticipation than in pain. He furrows his brow a little and peers into my eyes, as if asking for permission. I nod my head once and he brings his mouth down to my neck. He draws the tip of his tongue along the wound. A prickly, stinging sensation stretches over me, but I surrender to his touch.

“Mmm,” he murmurs, as if he has just eaten something delicious. “I want to taste all of you.” He bends his misshapen mouth to mine and the cool, freshness of his kiss is irresistible. Like cold lemon-water in the middle of a desert. I reach my tongue deeper into his mouth. I want all of me inside of him. I want him to consume me…and at the same time, I want to consume him. To suck him deep into me. To envelope his flesh with mine.

He pulls away a bit and the hand near my face glides down my chest, over my abdomen and to the top of my pants. He unbuttons my black jeans and slips his hand down the front. His first two fingers curl in and slowly slide into me. Once he’s inside, I become keenly aware of the thick, heavy wetness dripping from between my legs. My walls ache and pulse around his fingers. He pushes them in a little deeper. A low groan escapes my throat. He holds me here, suspended in the chasm between my wanting and my satisfaction. In this space I would normally rush to have him fuck me hard, but this time, there is something so different, so expansive happening within me that I don’t dare move a muscle.

Unhurried, he pulls out of me and I can feel almost every ridge and crease of his dry, cracked fingers. He brings his forefinger towards his face. He brushes it against his mouth and then in one single move, he places it on his tongue, wraps his lips around it and pulls it out, sucking up all the juice. He then takes his middle finger and brings it near my mouth. I lick my lips and open them wider. He slides his finger in my mouth and a rush of sweet, salty warmth cascades over my tongue. He draws his finger out and I linger in the moment with my eyes shut.

I open my eyes to find his devilish, lopsided smile reflecting back at me.

“So?” he asks.

“Yes,” I whisper.

“Yes?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

I blink in confusion. No? He’s telling me no? No what? Why is he here if not to fuck me? I want him. He clearly wants me. What’s wrong? Did I do something wrong?

Again, reading the emotional storm through my silent expressions, he softly laughs and says, “This is how I always want to remember you. Hungry. Open. Vulnerable. Consumed by desire. I want every moment of your life to be this electric. This…alive.”

And as quickly as he came upon me, he makes his escape into the breaking dawn. I remain glued to the mausoleum wall. The coldness of the stone is no match for the heat coursing through my body. My brain can’t make sense of what just happened. I begin shaking. What…was…that? Should I go after him? Should I go home? How can I go back home? Is it possible to go back? Do I want to go back?

My thoughts collide until I can think no more. I stand stunned. Frozen. Then, in my mental blankness, I suddenly recall a line from years ago (tenth grade English?) that brings everything into perfect focus:

What’s done cannot be undone.

The truth of who I am is so undeniable that I have no choice but to follow the path that has opened before me. No, I will not be meeting JB at the bar at 4:30. No, I will not be returning home to James. No, I will not be confined by the walls of this town. And no, I will not be running away from my hunger anymore.

My body starts to float back down to the earth. A few more minutes pass. My cells settle into my skin. My feet feel firm and connected to the ground beneath me. I peel myself away from the wall, head out of the tomb and walk towards the cemetery gates. I exit the iron door, still standing agape from the struggle earlier (a moment that seems like a lifetime ago), and I stand silently on the street. I inhale deeply, as if I can finally breathe for the first time in my life. I feel awake. The virgin morning is crisp and clear. And even though I don’t know exactly what the future looks like, I do know that everything feels exactly right.

As I turn towards the open road, I catch a final glimpse of my little bar on the edge of town—the only town I have ever known. And the last thing I recall is the single streetlamp, now no longer flickering, but burning brightly against the white hot glow of the rising sun.