It’s way past midnight, I should go home, but I’m not tired – my crazy lovesickness keeps me up. This, and my lithium holiday. But Jesus, I feel great, less zonked out. Wired. I keep staring at my watch, distracted Phoebe’s not back from studio, imagining all sorts of horrible things: punks lurking behind bushes, kilns exploding, or, worse, her in a bar, holding hands with some other guy. Sleeping in his bed.
I try to squelch the catastrophizing. At least I’m in her house, watching this stupid psycho-slasher movie with her roomies. In the dark, their faces glow an eerie bluish-white from the flickering screen. Scrunched on the couch beside me, Sarah sits so close we might as well meld. Her hand rests in her lap inches away, a magnet willing me to hold it in mine. Across the room, Bethany’s glasses seem to laser holes through me. I feel guilty preferring Phoebe, but not guilty enough to stop my attention from flitting to the front door.
Bored with the gore, my head drifts to sex. Unwinding Phoebe from her layers of skirts and sweaters, sucking on perfect pink lips, mouthing soft, ivory breasts. Undoing her glorious hair, whipped honey strands draping over me, trailing down my chest, my face, my thighs. Licking her until she screams. I slouch deeper into the sofa, grateful for the dark.
“Jesus, Sarah. Not in my ear. Please.”
“Sorry, hon,” she says. But her hand wedges between our legs. I kind of wish she wouldn’t but don’t stop her. Accompanied by sense-surround, my erection grows with my fantasies.
Sudden light from the hallway seeps under my closed lids. The front door sighs shut; a shadow passes. Missed her. Damn. I scrabble up from the cushions, tugging out my shirt to cover my tented crotch. Sarah’s feet tangle in mine.
“Where you going?” She pulls on the back of my sweater.
“Water,” I whisper. “And the can.”
She releases me. Pulse thudding, I rush from the warm, dark room. The kitchen’s bright fluorescence makes me blink. “Hey,” I call softly, but no one answers. I poke around back to the glassed-in porch. Empty. Leaning against the counter, I down the obligatory glass. I open a door; jars of peanut butter, cans of Campbell’s, and a year’s worth of Grape-nuts line the shelves. Turning from the pantry, I pull on another doorknob, find the bathroom. I lock the door, flip on the faucet. Water burbles. I lean against the closed door. Unzipped, I concentrate on Phoebe moving under me, fingernails digging into my back, her--
“Bennnnnnn. Oh honnnnnn.”
Oh Jesus. Sarah. Still hard, now aching, I zip up. The water ices my trembling hands.
The kitchen’s still deserted. A purple backpack hangs from one of the chairs. Hers. The rough canvas smells musty, like turned earth in early spring. A single golden hair, at least eighteen inches long, spirals there, a shimmering nautilus. I pluck the strand, wind it carefully around my fingers.
In the hallway, at the foot of the stairs, I pause. The water-stained ceiling rebukes me, but soft footsteps above reassure me of her presence. I waver, hoping she’ll need something, anything – a drink, a snack, a book from her bag – and float down the steps. To me. Longing thwacks against my ribs like a crazed bird fluttering at a window pane. One foot lands on the first step, then the next, I have no idea what I’ll say when I reach her garret--
“Hon.” Sarah’s voice snakes around the corner. “The movie’s almost over.”
I stop breathing. Upstairs goes silent. Sudden, deep heaviness descends, echoing down the stairwell. I drag myself back to the living room to a possibly surer thing, fingers deep in my pocket, twisting and turning the solitary strand.
Excerpted from BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, a novel about crazy love and choosing too much feeling over sanity. A finished novel looking for a home. To read more about Ben after his life goes to scheiße, read AFTER THE LEAP.
My essay The Week Before My Father Died, an entry in the EDITOR UNLEASHED "Why I Write" contest*, sums up best why I write. *Essays are open to popular voting through February. You must be a registered member of the EDITOR UNLEASHED forums. I appreciate your honest vote. Please take some time to read all the other, often passionate pieces about the writing life.