She lightly brushed against the bedside table as she exalted herself from the bed, post-coitus, post-cuddle, post-caring. He still lied there with his matted, sweat-soaked hair resting uncomfortably against the cold, misshapen pillow, and he was rubbing his eyes to adjust to the dim light of the lamp beside him. It burned hot near his still heaving body. The ceiling fan swung above him around and around like a hypnotist’s watch and he allowed his mind to wander, free from the confines of carnal desires.
It seemed in those moments that he was able to truly think. It was one of the few times. He asked her if it was alright for him to smoke a cigarette inside, and she nonchalantly obliged, tossing him one of her own American Spirit light cigarettes. He fumbled around the table next to him for a lighter and gently lit the ember, the flame quivering in his hand underneath the fan’s rustling winds. He took deep drags off of it, ashing off the side of the bed into a cup of water he’d probably be better off drinking if he wanted to avoid a hangover in the next few hours.
Empty bottles of wine sat at their naked feet, and his head had already begun to throb. The sweetness of the wine was bitter as the morning light was beginning to peak through the cloudy mists of dawn. His thin blood had begun to run cold. Didn’t it seem like it always happened like this? The moment was over, and the anxiety was already creeping over his shoulders, laying its icy fingernails into his back.
“I’ve neglected myself,” he said to her. She wasn’t listening. She was in the bathroom just feet from the bed, but inside she was a million miles away in the arms of someone else. She was thinking of the best way to get him back to his apartment, and whether she should walk the dog first, and what she should eat for breakfast, and how she would feel at work that day, and finally whether anyone would notice she had put on a few pounds these past few weeks.
He could hear water running over her face. It wasn’t a shower, but it was good enough for now, she felt. He wished the cool water would rush over him right now. He was burning up with a fever borne of disgust. Not of her; she was beautiful. It took him only a sidelong glance at her form, even hunched over the sink, to place her in his top tier. This was a lucky break for him. It was the kind of confidence boost he had needed for several months.
He was disgusted at himself, and so he repeated it again. “I’ve neglected myself.” That phrase recurred in his thoughts over and over as he turned the cigarette in his fingers, the ashes floating down off the side of the bed, the cherry burning ever closer to the filter.
“I haven’t been creative lately,” he said to himself, now simply speaking aloud. “I’ve been purely focused on the tangible, rather than turning the spotlight on the things inside of me.”
Then he looked up at her again. “Do you ever feel like that?” He asked her.
She stopped and looked over at him. She slowly wiped her face with a hand towel, brushing the drops of water out of her darkened, half-drunken eyes and struggling to focus them on him, lying there in her bed, smoking her cigarette, and staring agape at her like a child waiting to be fed. She felt a deep burning sensation in her gut, as though she were Houdini when the last trick went wrong. She lightly caressed the side of her face, ostensibly in deep thought, and then finally asked him to repeat the question.
“Do you ever feel like you focus too much on the tangible?” And then, he continued, without waiting for her response. “I think I have neglected to be creative, to be inspired, or to, I don’t know, lose myself in anything, because I’ve been so caught up with living in the moment. I’m just grasping at whatever is right in front of me, instead of seeking.
“Because all creation is just a means of seeking something within ourselves, right? But I’ve simply… stopped. I’m simply focused on the here and now. Do you ever feel like that?” He asked again.
She sauntered towards the bed in a lazy stagger and tossed her body down next to his, running her fingers through his chest hair and then ultimately under the blankets and in his shorts, grasping his still semi-erect penis in her palm and gently stroking it as the blood rushed from his brain. She kissed his cheek, feeling the stubble stab against her soft, pristine lips. With her free hand, she swept the wet hair across his forehead, and looked deeply into his wide, staring eyes.
“I feel like we should get breakfast.” She said.
He nodded and kissed her forehead. “I think that’s a good idea,” he replied.
This has been “Distractions” by Corey Deiterman, the first piece “Fractured Retina”, Sleepless Stories Series Three.
Corey Deiterman is an accomplished music journalist from Austin, Texas who is exploring the world of avant garde fiction. He has written previously for the Houston Chronicle and Houston Press.
See more from Corey here: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/author.php?author_id=3367