“I’ll race you to the car!”
She’s faster than him, but he’ll just say he
let her win (if anyone asks). When he catches up to her, she’s leaning
against a nondescript black sedan, looking towards the sky. He sincerely hopes
she doesn’t plan to start waxing poetic about the solar system.
“I used to look at the sky all the time when I was
He settles against the car, deciding whether he should cut
her off or let her speak. She doesn’t say anything else, and he never did
like sitting still.
“And now you don’t?”
“Well, there must be a reason.”
Looking at him, she has the urge to slap the brim of his
hat so it covers his eyes. Instead she looks away, and smiles into her shoulder.
“I wanted to know what was up there. It was a mystery. But now I know why the sky is blue and why
stars are in fixed positions.”
one could say you like mysteries. The exhilaration of the unknown.”
Flinging hair over her shoulder, “Yes,” clears
her throat, “but now tell me something about you.”
Brief pause, then “I’ve had this deep-seated
hatred of rabbits ever since--”
She gives his shoulder a shove, it’s not hard but
was unexpected, and he drops his cane.
He glances at his cane on the ground, and then to her.
“I didn’t know you were prone to violence. You must be fun at parties.”
She bends down and picks up his cane, but doesn’t
give it back to him.
“Can’t you give me a straight answer?”
“But this way is more fun.”
Waving his cane in the air between them, “You’re
not getting this back until you tell me something about yourself. I told you
something, it’s only fair.”
“Damn, I left my spare cane in my other pants.”
He makes a half-hearted grab for his cane, but to no avail.
“If I’d known beforehand that you wanted to
interrogate me, I would’ve brought my lawyer.”
“Dr. House, I mean--”
It rolls off of the tongue quite nicely.”
“I love it when you say my first name. Gives me chills.”
No reaction, but her eyes give her away. “Greg.”
Her cheeks are slightly red from the cold weather, and he
pretends that doesn’t matter.
“You’re not off the hook. Tell me something, it can be anything.”
Pretending to brush something off of his jacket, he turns
towards the car, “I like to read … sometimes.”
She grins and he realizes he’s losing a game he didn’t
know he was playing.
He attempts to grab his cane from her again, but succeeds
only in grabbing her wrist. He doesn’t let go.
“That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
Beneath his fingertips he can feel blood, warm and essential,
coursing through her veins. “You leave me absolutely exhausted.”
“You don’t look tired.”
“It’s a clever ruse. My cane, please?”
Shaking her head, “No.
“Spit it out.”
“Who’s your favorite author, and why?”
“Isn’t this an SAT question?”
She taps him on the chest with his cane. “Humor me.”
“Aren’t I always doing that?”
Mumbling, “Ernest Hemingway.”
“The way he writes.
Terse. He uses words sparingly.
Straight to the point, there’s no pretty language to sift though. He’s
made short, declarative sentences into an art from.”
Furrowed brow, “Wow what?”
She grins, and offers him his cane. He doesn’t take it. “That’s the most you’ve
ever said to me without using sarcasm.”
“I’m sure it was purely accidental,” he
takes the cane.
Quirking an eyebrow, “I don’t think anything
you do is accidental.”
“Only I get to be a smart ass.”
“Some people might be put off by never ending sarcasm,
“You don’t worry that people won’t like
“Trying to get people to like you is a sign of mediocrity.”
“What isn’t a sign of mediocrity?”
Fingers still wrapped around her wrist, he tugs her to him. She’s close enough to see the fine lines in the skin on his face; history by
“Buying your boss a cup of coffee.”
She smiles, eyelashes brushing his face, “What if
I don’t drink coffee this late at night?”
“I don’t either,” his voice lowers, “but
She moves to get into the car, and he lets go of her wrist. For now.
End of the Day
Comes Too Soon and Tomorrow’s Hard to Tell
breath hitting her cheek, there’s a different look in his eyes now; it makes her warm, impatient, and downright unsure
about her place in the universe.
Random: I was
writing an essay for English, concerning beauty; it was open-ended. About seven
pages into it I thought of this story, and realized quite suddenly that I wasn’t finished with it. Not even close.
It’s a painfully typical roadside diner.
“What the hell kind of name is ‘Diner-topia’?”
He asks while opening the door of the diner.
She walks in ahead of him and wonders if it’s at all
possible to find acerbic comments sexy, because she’s dangerously close to something.
They’d driven for a while; he’d grumbled his
way through three radio stations before she gave him a glare. Having hardly been
in any situations that warranted said glare, she took pride in its effectiveness.
“Fine,” tilting his head towards the radio,
“you find something. I’m sure there’s a station that plays
sappy love songs sung by the children of actual musicians. No doubt they have
a slew of commercials for teeth-whitening and home mortgages at fixed rates for thirty years.”
She stared at him with an amused look on her face. Thinks it might be past his bedtime.
His right hand leaves the steering wheel and goes to his thigh. Fingers
drumming, palm thumping against denim, he was living proof of Einstein’s relativity theory. The seconds were passing slowly. He swears he can feel each
one move through him, bringing little changes.
“I’m literally a hoot. Two hoots if I’m liquored up good enough.”
Squinting, “That’s not what I meant. When you go into your rants you get this glazed-over look in
your eyes while staring off into the distance. Lost to the world.”
First resort, “You’re so attentive. When you grow up you should be some type of--” waves his hand around, for effect, “doctor. You know, ‘First do no harm’, and all those other pretty idioms.”
“Attentiveness doesn’t have anything to do with
it. You said so yourself.”
He gives her a ‘you’re-telling-me-what-I said-?’
face. Along with the bulk of faces he makes, she just shakes it off, unaffected.
Leaning a few inches closer to him, “You said you
hired me because I’m aesthetically pleasing.”
“About that,” moving his hand back to the wheel
as he stops at a red light, “the Greeks thought that beauty lies in the symmetry of an object.”
“You’re claiming an ancient civilization is
to blame for the pretense under which you hired me?”
Smiles, but it’s brief, “The distance from your
brow to your hairline,” his steady, surprisingly graceful hand brushes hair away from her forehead, “compared
to, let’s say … the distance from your nose to your chin,” his thumb and forefinger, inches apart, touch
her face. It’s a whisper and it’s gone a breath later.
“I think …”
His breath hitting her cheek, there’s a different
look in his eyes now; it makes her warm, impatient, and downright unsure about her place in the universe.
A car horn interrupts her reply, but he continues regardless
of the traffic pattern.
“Beauty, in its most basic terms, is simplicity. One section of your face is inversely proportional to the other, and for the majority
of the population, that’s pleasing to the eyes. But--”
The car’s horn interrupts again. He pays it no mind.
“We as humans, thinking, feeling creatures, can’t
deal with beauty in just its most basic form. Our reaction to an object, whether
it’s a puddle of oil on a driveway or a ninety-pound supermodel, is beauty at its most complex. The ability to evoke emotion, to wrench it from us, willing or not; it’s satisfying, invigorating,
or just maddening. It’s chemical processes and the escalated beat of one’s
A few irritated drivers are moving around his car now, their
passing sometimes accented with a crude gesture or comment. He’s heard
it all before. She hasn’t, but at the moment feels like she’s stuck,
and not just in a sea of pissed off strangers.
“In ten or twenty years I’ll look different,
everyone will. Our habits, our environment, and maybe some luck,” he rolls
his eyes, “looks are fleeting.”
“There’s always, on some level, a response--”
“Things change but stay the same.”
good thing about being human is that beauty doesn’t go away. It’s
fixed, not relative. It’s impossible to compare two things on looks alone;
beauty is infinitely subjective. Fifty years from now your symmetrical, well-proportioned
face all but guarantees that I would--”
There’s knocking on his window, just another in a
long line of interruptions. Like a flipped switch, he’s already annoyed
before the window is completely down.
Allison leans forward to glance outside his window. It’s an average looking man, late twenties to early thirties. The look on his face suggests that he’s not in agreement with House’s improvisational parking.
“I have to be somewhere, you know.”
“And just how does getting out of your car to talk
to complete strangers help you get there faster?”
She muffles her laughter.
Judging by the look the man gives her she didn’t do it too well.
Average looking man is becoming annoyed by House’s
“You’re in the middle of the street. You’re blocking traffic!”
“Both of those statements are, in fact, true. One could say blatantly obvious.”
“I’m calling the police. I don’t have to deal with this shit!”
“You want to call the police? Put me in my place? Be a big, tough man? Be my guest. But first,” he turns around and reaches
for something behind his seat.
Scared that he’s going to pull out some intricately
carved homemade weapon, she grabs his forearm. He looks down, as if to make a
point that she’s touching him, and then up at her.
Quietly, “Don’t worry your pretty little ass. Just sit tight a moment longer.”
Letting go of his arm, she trusts he’s not going to
do anything stupid. That fact makes her feel slightly ridiculous.
He turns back around quickly – with his cane. Average looking man doesn’t look impressed by the cane. Most aren’t.
“So what? It’s
“You’re such a clever little man, aren’t
you? Try looking at things from my perspective.
I could say that you’re harassing me; I’m a poor, lonely, defenseless man with a limp. Pressing the gas pedal for extended periods of time makes my leg hurt, oh so bad. You’re going to look like a real bastard, huh?”
Average man’s face turns several shades of red, and
then he turns around and walks away.
Leaning out of the window, “Wait! Come back! We haven’t done each other’s hair yet! At least tell me where you got those shoes!”
Before he has the chance to yell any other comments at the
retreating man’s back, she grabs his collar and pulls him back into the car.
He stares at her, an incredulous look on his face.
Shrugging, “I wanted to get your attention.”
Trying to straighten his now crooked collar, he addresses
her. “A simple ‘Greg?’ would’ve sufficed. But what am I thinking? Only civilized people use language
instead of force.”
“You don’t listen to most of what people say
to you. Unless you’re going to use it to throw back into someone’s
face. Besides,” turning up the song that’s playing on the radio,
“this way is more fun.”
He doesn’t respond to the fact that she repeated his
own words from earlier back to him. Not sure if that’s a good sign or not,
she stares out her window.
His foot eases off of the brake, and they’re once
again on their way.
Minutes later she sees movement out of the corner of her
eye, and turns towards him. His hand is back on this thigh again; she notices
he’s playing along with the song on the radio. She’s a little surprised
that he knows ‘Excitable Boy’, but more surprised that he knows how to play the piano. Noticing her staring at his hand, still keeping up with the music, he stops abruptly. Turning back towards the window, she wonders what else he’s ashamed of.
Now they’re at this diner, predictably in the middle
of nowhere. It’s somewhere; he just doesn’t care for it much. They’ve been inside the diner for less than a minute and two people have already
smiled at him. That kind of unabridged friendliness nauseates him to no end.
A waitress walks up to them.
Looks to be mid-thirties, according to the nametag her name is Bobbie, and she has three pens in her blonde hair. He’s sure she’s not aware of that fact, and she may even have a stapler
in there she doesn’t know about.
“You guys doing good today?”
She decides to cut him off before he says something to get
them both kicked out of the diner. She’s really hungry.
“We’re good, thanks.” She just knows that he’s glaring at her.
“You guys want the counter or a table?”
“A table would be good,” thinking for a second,
“actually, a booth would be better.”
Bobbie pastes on her customer service smile, “Follow
As they’re trailing behind the waitress, he leans
down and whispers, “A booth? Are we going to share a milkshake and talk
about study hall?”
Slightly annoyed for thinking of him, “Your leg. I thought you’d be more comfortable.”
“Oh,” as they arrive at the table.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes with the menus,
hmm?” Bobbie says.
He watches Bobbie leave, and silently prays that her service
is better than her sentence structure.
Meanwhile, Allison slides into the booth and takes off her
jacket, which she throws next to her on the worn vinyl seat.
He clears his throat.
She sees him standing next to her. “Scoot.”
“You know. Scoot. Intransitive
verb, Scandinavian origin; it means to move swiftly or to slide while seated. Example:
Scoot over and let me sit down.”
“Thanks for the life-changing etymology lesson, Professor
House. I’ve never loved words until this exact moment.”
Grinning, “You have hidden sarcasm. I knew it.”
Smiling, because him grinning warrants that, “Anyway. You really want me to move?”
“No, I just like wasting breath. Yes! Move so I can sit down.”
She moves over and he slides into the booth. He tosses his cane on the seat opposite them and puts his leg up next to it.
Groaning, “Ah, that’s glorious.”
Noticing his foot on the other seat, “Is your leg
“My leg,” taking his Vicodin bottle from his
pocket, he takes a pill out, swallowing it dry. Cap back on, he returns the bottle
to his pocket.
“My leg is always bothering me. If it’s not the pain it’s the impaired mobility.”
Menus appear in front of them. “You guys want a drink?”
Bobbie’s back and smiling.
He’s too quick this time, “Yes. I’ll have coffee. None of that decaf monstrosity, either.”
“So,” turning to her, “what do you want?”
Pilot, Sports Medicine
If you want.
the palm of her hand, the affected beat of his heart is a subtle reminder that neither of them really knows any better.
“I’ll have …”
If she takes any longer he’s going to take
out a stopwatch and time her. It must be a world record. Some money could be made from this horrid situation.
Scanning the menu like a patient’s chart,
her lips pressed in a thin line. It’s the universal symbol for a woman
on the edge; if he says one rude comment or thoughtless remark, she’ll be angry.
The chance to throw her off balance, even a little bit, is irresistible. His
fingers, once splayed on the Formica table, are fidgeting as scenarios fly through his mind at a speed that scares even him. It’s a rush, and he marvels as his imagination paints Technicolor possibilities
on the backs of his eyelids.
He looks at Bobbie standing there smiling at them. It’s a guise; he knows she’s thinking of a way to speed things up, too. Mentally saluting her, he turns his attentions back to Allison.
Sliding closer to her, “What’s the problem?”
“Give me a second, okay?”
Leaning even closer, he pretends he’s glancing
at the menu. He’s trying to unnerve her; most don’t like people in
their personal space. With his eyes working their way down the menu he’d
so much as memorized minutes earlier, he moves a little closer. He’s at
the end of the appetizers and … crap. He just looked down the front of
her shirt. It was an accident! He
couldn’t help himself, really. Why try to fight nature when you can go
along with it? He’s almost in her lap at this point and he wonders why
she hasn’t seemed to notice.
Slowly turning her head, she looks at him but speaks
to the waitress. “I’ll have coffee, too.”
Somewhat relieved, “You want anything to eat
He turns towards Bobbie to reply, but instead, “Ow!”
Allison’s hand is on his leg, like a
vice, and he wonders what the hell she’s been eating.
Suddenly she has a ‘girl-next-door’
smile, which makes what her hand is doing to the muscles in his thigh even more sadistic.
Would you mind giving us a few minutes, though?”
Bobbie leaves and takes any hope of him getting out of this situation with her.
With no pretense, “What is your problem?”
Feigning innocence, but it’s hard with her
squeezing the life out of his leg, “Actually, you’re the one with the death grip on my--”
“I’m a doctor, I know exactly where
my hand is and what it’s doing. Answer me.”
For the sake of his leg he decides he should just
tell her what she wants to know.
“If you insist, I was trying to get freak
you out a little. Bother you. You’re
a real killjoy, but I’m sure you already know that.”
“You’re a jerk most of the time, but
I like you better when you’re not trying to be a jerk.”
“Golly gee, as long as you like me--”
“You want to do something to freak me out? Be nice to me,” letting go of his leg, “it won’t kill you.”
Anything’s got to be better than this, he
thinks. He rubs his thigh, hoping the blood is still circulating.
As she picks up the menu again, he considers her
statement. For about three seconds. At
least she didn’t notice him taking a peek down the—
“Do I have to stop wearing low-cut shirts
Trying not to smile, she’s still looking at
the menu. He’s not fooled.
“Don’t flatter yourself. It was accidental.”
“You were staring. I thought you’d lost your car keys down the front of my shirt.”
“Now that you mention it, I lost a wristwatch
last week,” he leans forward.
She places a hand on his chest to stop him from
moving closer. Or to stop herself. They’re
sitting hip-to-hip, his arm casually across the back of their seat. If she didn’t
know any better, she’d be a little anxious. Underneath the palm of her
hand, the affected beat of his heart is a subtle reminder that neither of them really knows any better.
“Accelerated heart rate.”
She feels the muscles in his chest tense and believes
she might’ve hit a nerve.
With a smirk, “Diagnosis?”
“An underlying case of insanity, aggravated
by stress and a negative outlook on life.”
“Try to get more fun out of life--”
Faux-stern look, “It’s not polite to
“And I’m so concerned with politeness.”
“Excuse me,” Bobbie’s back, with
her voice hinting at inconvenience.
She places two cups of coffee on the table. “Did you make up your minds yet?”
“Yes,” taking her hand from his chest,
“I’d like a tuna melt.”
“Anything on the side?”
“And you, sir?”
“A double bacon cheeseburger with extra lettuce,
tomato, and onion. I want it rare. I
don’t mean rare as in medium-rare, I mean rare. Actually, if it’s
possible, I’d like to see the thing killed in front of me. Just to make
“Rare,” said Bobbie, loud enough to
hear three tables away.
“I want to be able to smell the blood coming
“Greg,” in a hushed whisper.
Ignoring Allison next to him, “That’s
all, Bobbie. Thanks for playing.”
As soon as Bobbie is out of earshot, “You
were doing so well, too.”
“Is this an exam of some sort? If I fail, do I get a do-over?”
“No, it’s not. But you only get one chance.”
“This is my entertainment. I don’t understand why people want me to change my behavior.”
“It’s not so much that,”
she sighs, deciding whether she should continue.
“I’ll save you the trouble,” staring
her straight in the eye. “The wry comments, the rants, and breaking people’s
spirits are because I can’t stand to sit on the sidelines. That cane, and
everything associated with it, is a daily reminder of something I want to forget. I
wasn’t too personable before this,” patting his right leg, “but I had hobbies that I enjoyed, at least.”
She’s tearing up, even with the lack of centrifuges,
and tries to turn away before he notices.
Turning back towards him, “How’s your
“I already told you--”
Shaking her head, “No. I meant from when I grabbed it.”
“It’s … okay. You didn’t make it worse, if that’s what you thought.”
“Don’t move suddenly,” as she
turns backwards in her seat. Grasping the back of their booth with one hand,
she starts to slide her leg over him.
“It’s my leg, not my--”
“Watch out.” She slides her other leg over and she’s unintentionally straddling him.
“We’re in a public place,” while
his hands move to her sides.
She finishes sliding over him, turns around
to give him a dirty look, and then walks to the cashier.
In the meantime, he tries to think of some
witty comment in regards to what she just did (there isn’t one). He’s
shocked that his unlimited supply of sarcasm may, very well indeed, be limited.
She comes back to the booth with a big plastic bag. Also present: a smile.
“Could you hand me my coat, please?”
He hands her the coat. As she’s putting it on, the hem of her shirt rides up a few inches and he sees what looks like a
tattoo peeking out from the waist of her pants. His jaw clenches; half of his
blood supply rushes to his face, and the other half goes, not with a whimper but with a bang, to his groin. He’s never been in so much trouble.
“Get your coat, we’re leaving.”
She hands him his cane as he stands up to put on
Holding up the plastic bag, “Paid for.”
Buttoning his coat, “Is this the part when
you tell me what’s going on?”
“You said you had things you enjoyed?”
He hopes that’s a non sequitur. “Yes. Why?”
As she takes his arm to lead him out of the diner,
Share This Motion as Well
Pilot, Sports Medicine
For the provided snark?
defiant look on her face and hand on her hip are more than suggesting he’s wrong.
They walk back towards the car, and with nearly
every step his cane wrestles with the loose gravel in the parking lot. He’d
give anything for some firm ground right now.
“Will you hurry?”
He watches her walk ahead of him through his
expelled breaths, which linger longer than usual because of the temperature.
“And all this time I was under the impression
that this cane made me walk faster than I used to.”
She beats him to the car again; she’s standing
by the left front tire, food in one hand and the other is playing with the pass that’s still around her neck. He’d lose to her forever because there’s something about her that makes the end of a journey
worthwhile. He doesn’t dwell on that too long, he deals better with facts,
something concrete. He has the urge to take out some paper and a pen and try
to break her down into numbers. A proof, with reasoning principles he’d
be able to find some truth in her, or make this entire situation more tangible, just a little more in his control.
“What are you thinking?”
He’s been standing at the car, apparently
for a few minutes, unaware. With a tilt of his head he tries to make this believable.
“Validation by numbers. Searching for truth in the universal language.”
His uncharacteristic loss of words makes her chuckle.
I meant math.”
She doesn’t respond, but the slight purse
of her lips suggests she knew all along.
“Where are your keys?”
“Are you my mother, now? Because I’ve got to tell you, if you are we’re going to have some serious Oedipal issues to
“I’m not going to touch that,”
holding her hand out, “but hand over the car keys, please.”
“You don’t think I can drive?”
“I want to drive your car.”
“If you want to use logic to explain every
choice I’ve made, you’ve picked the wrong person to take on a not-date.”
He pretends to mull over her statement. Really, though, he’s singing to himself in his head. With a suitcase in my hand …
Whoa, the blue light was my baby … and
the red light was my mind.
“I’ve thought it over. You can drive.”
She grabs the keys from his outstretched hand.
“It’s not polite to snatch.”
The defiant look on her face and hand on her hip
are more than suggesting he’s wrong.
“You’d already made up your mind. You just wanted me to squirm.”
“I’m sure you squirming would just cap
off this night perfectly--”
He glances at his watch; it’s 1:53 a.m. Damn, she’s right. Moving on.
“Is it past your bedtime? I’ll warm up a cup of milk for you before you go to bed.”
“Don’t worry about me.” As she’s opening the car door, “I can go all night.”
He walks around to the passenger side door. After he opens it, he tosses his cane on the backseat, and then gets in the car.
She starts the car and waits for his predictable
epigram, at her expense, no less.
Turning towards her, he puts a hand on the back
of her seat. The other hand is resting on the word ‘airbag’, etched
onto the dashboard in front of his seat.
“One can only assume that when you said--”
“When I said I could go all night,”
putting a hand on either side of his mouth, she squeezes until his lips pucker, “I meant it every way you can take it.”
Her hands slide off of his face, purposefully
slow if you ask him, and she fastens her seatbelt. Still in his leering/lewd
comment position from a moment earlier, his eyes go wide when she reaches down between them with her right hand.
“Tell me what to do.”
Hearing the familiar sounds of the car switching
into drive, he coughs with the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.
“You’re going to give me directions,
While I’m making scathing, yet accurate, comments about female drivers.”
Fasten your seatbelt,” as she turns the radio on, searching for a song.
“Something might happen.”
The words “I never seen a light move like
yours …” whisper from the radio, and he’s passing time by counting streetlights.
“Take a right up here.”
Ten minutes go by and he can still feel her hands
on his face and her words at his ears. He thinks of the road that they’re
leaving behind, at fifty-seven m.p.h., and knows there isn’t any going back.
“Take another right at the next light.”
“Where exactly are we going?”
He sighs and his breath fogs over a portion of the
window to his right. With a flourish of his index finger, he writes a question
mark in the condensation. For a few seconds he stares at the interrogative mark,
and then wipes it off with the palm of his hand.
“I’m not sure, but we’ll know
when we get there.”
She eyes him curiously and keeps driving.
Taken Seriously Their Own Strictures
Is lovely, in all its forms.
inhale is felt against the inside of her wrist; he licks his lips, a twinkle in his eye, and she’s drowning.
Two left turns later she still hadn’t the
slightest idea where they were headed. The roads were pretty empty at that hour
and she always loved the feeling of owning something. He had been quiet for the
past twenty minutes. She wouldn’t call it a comfortable silence. It was a questionable silence; she wasn’t sure if it really existed between them or if they just
didn’t have anything to say.
“Is your leg bothering you?”
He turned towards her with heavy-lidded eyes. She looked away quickly, not ready for that kind of honesty.
“I would count the number of times you’ve
asked me that tonight on one hand, but then I’d need a hand with a million fingers.”
He wishes people would trust him to take care of
himself. “It’s fine.”
“You’ve been quiet.”
“Why are you here?”
“You asked me-”
That’s incidental and a lie. Way to cover your bases.”
“It’s not a lie.”
“That’s what your brain wants you to
think. Take this left up here.”
She pressed the button on her left to lower the
window a few inches. The cool air forces her tresses into flight. She’s jealous of the ease in which the strands dance, trembling and fluttering with the wind.
Flicking her turn signal, “We’re not
allowed here after dark.”
“Is this some kind of game I don’t understand? I ask you questions and you don’t answer them.
Not directly. But you do answer questions that I don’t ask. I can’t wait until my turn.”
She takes the left, reluctantly. “Now?”
“Keep to the right. The road winds around the back of the building.”
He’s forgotten that making new friends is
a hassle. It’s always easier when people already know you. Then you can make jokes at their expense and borrow money.
“This may sound drastic,” feigning confused
look, “but it’s a parking lot, so you should park the car.”
He leaned to get his cane from the back seat, and
by the time she’d turned the engine off he was opening the door to get out of the car.
She grabbed the keys and followed him.
“What are we doing here?”
“Why do you think?”
Her gaze sweeping over their surroundings,
she considers that he may actually be crazy. The directions he’d been feeding
her for almost forty minutes had led them to a high school. Specifically, it
was the track located behind the high school.
She shrugged her shoulders. Interesting.
“Grab the food from the car,” with a
nod of his head, “we’re going for a walk. I’ll wait.”
When she gets back to him with the food, he’s
standing with his left hand out towards her.
“Did you want your food now?”
I,” sighing, “I have a problem with my leg. Not my manners.”
She hands him the bag.
They walked in silence for a few minutes. She trails a few steps behind him, content to follow and see where this leads. He stops walking when they get to the side of the bleachers that surround a section of the track. He’s looking at the top, where the announcer’s box is; his face suggests
something of a challenge.
That’s where I want to eat.”
“This won’t hurt your leg?”
He hands her the bag of food and smiles. It’s the type of smile of one who’s about to do something they shouldn’t.
“It might, but you’re a doctor. You can make it better. Get moving.”
She starts walking up the skinny aisle that
leads up to the announcer’s box. Without having to turn around she
knows that he’s not watching where he steps.
“I know you’re staring at my ass.”
“It’s swinging back and forth in my
face with every step you take. It’s not so much me staring as it is your
aforementioned ass blocking my field of vision.”
“Can’t you stare at something else?”
“If you want to walk backwards I would gladly
stare at your-”
He’s worried for a second that he’s
gone too far, but he won’t apologize. Doesn’t even entertain the
thought. He realizes they’re at the box already.
“The door is padlocked, Greg.”
The emphasis she just on his name; it could’ve
been the tone, perhaps she’s out of breath from the walk (he doubts it), or another thing entirely, but it was dripping
with something he’s sure isn’t sold in stores. It sends a shiver
down his spine. He gets a better grip on his cane.
“How thick do you think that door is?”
She takes a step closer to get a better look at
the door. On one hand, he really loves a woman that does what you ask her to
do. On the other hand, he’s afraid eventually he’ll ask something
of her that she can’t possibly give.
“Looks inexpensive. Probably just a piece of plywood.”
He moves to stand next to her, and then gives the
door a cursory glance.
“I don’t know about you,” in a
hushed whisper, “I really don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little felonious.”
“Are you serious?”
Take a few steps back.”
She did what he asked and started nervously
looking around. There’s always a nosy person in the vicinity when a law
is being broken. They always have a video camera.
He slides his cane into the space between the door
and the loose latch onto which the padlock is locked. Pressing down on the cane,
which acts as a lever, the cheap latch disconnects from the door with a ‘thud’.
He opens the now unlocked door and is about to walk inside when she interrupts him.
“Doesn’t it bother you? That you just broke a law?”
“Actually it was quite invigorating. The fact that you were present while a law was broken makes you an accessory. That’s quite a sexy title for you.”
She moves to stand next to him, and peers into the
“We shouldn’t go in here.”
“The door is open. Having second thoughts?”
“I don’t know-”
“Have some fun with an old man.”
“Are you saying all the time I’ve been
talking to you I could’ve spent talking an old man into giving me his Social Security checks?”
“Don’t use the sarcasm so much. You’re very smart and very pretty. It’s
too much of a contrast.”
She stares at him and it’s the first time
she’s really seen him. There have been glimpses, a moment in her day when
he’s just a man that gives her a genuine smile. She wants to kiss him,
but doesn’t want what happens next. They’re so tangled in their jobs
and the related politics; it’d be such a bad idea to get caught up in each other.
Her hand is on the doorjamb, against his side, before she knows it. His
inhale is felt against the inside of her wrist; he licks his lips, a twinkle in his eye, and she’s drowning.
He grabs her waist and takes one step, then
another, until she’s pressed against the other side of the door jam. She’s
got nowhere to go, and just to make sure he moves closer, pushing his body against her.
Any contact he can get. Looking down at her, he speculates on just how
many things she’s going to make him regret. Sliding his knee between her
legs, he eases her thighs apart. The friction makes her groan and causes her
cheeks and neck to blush. She’s got a sweaty palm sliding from his knee
to the waist of his pants. She hesitates when she has her thumb tucked into his
belt loop. He looks her dead in the eye and dares her into action. Quirking an eyebrow, one of her fingers, which is quickly followed by two more, dip into the waist of his
pants. She trails her fingers along the inside of his waistband, towards the
button of his jeans. The muscles in his stomach tremble from the contact with
her knuckles. His blood going south once again, he decides she should know.
“You’re ticklish,” she says, with
enough smugness in her voice to make him proud.
“You,” he leans forward and whispers
in her ear, “are so many things I couldn’t possibly list them all.”
“You’re smart. Tell me one of the things I am.”
Dipping her hand lower, she plays with the coarse
hair beneath her fingers.
He grinds against her, slowly and with a purpose.
“You,” he grinds again, proudly, as
if he’s practically boasting with his erection, “are bad.”
She wraps a leg around him because it feels that
good, that’s all she currently cares about.
“You did say I was an accessory.” She slips her hands underneath his t-shirt; his chest is tight and warm, she wants
to taste it.
“You’re my accessory.”
Leaning down, he’s intent on mapping out her
collarbone with his tongue, when:
You’re not supposed to be here!”
Free-Floating Anxieties and the Cost of Living
funny, people think they know all sorts of things. Turns out they really don’t.”
They stop moving immediately, straining to hear where the
yelling is coming from.
“What was that?”
Looking towards the direction from which the shouting had
come, they see a flickering light moving across the field.
“It looks like someone running with a flashlight.”
Uninterested in her thoughts regarding their interruption,
he turns his head slightly to smell her hair.
“What do you think it was?”
Her hands are still underneath his shirt, palms flat against
his chest. With her index finger she’s tumbling verse on his skin, syllables
and meter that in another context would be hard to appreciate.
“It’s a UFO, a mutated breed of firefly, or
perhaps a cult that comes to this field every Friday night to perform an improvisational dance.”
The slight shift of her pelvis recommends he stop talking. With an adamant swivel of his hips he concurs.
His breath is oppressive, ragged against her neck; it’s
impossible, never again will she be able to stand near him and not think of herself.
Slowly, he slides his head away from the crook of her neck. Intentional,
or not, the side of his face rubs against her cheekbone. As a result, a trail
of sweat and angry beard burn now decorate her profile; this is too much. She
shoves his hands away from her waist.
Every part of her body is trembling with knowledge of his
proximity, and grabbing fistfuls of his jacket, she shoves it from his shoulders. A
quick study in everything, he helps her off with her own jacket and lets it hit the ground.
He leans forward again; this time she grabs the back of his head to make sure he’s not distracted. Their mouths meet, it’s not borderline platonic or gentle.
He runs his tongue along the length of her bottom lip and then bites down on it.
Hard. She hisses a response into his mouth as he presses himself fully
against her. He wants her to feel everything he’ll never say. The movement causes the leg that was wrapped around him to slip.
It’s five inches closer to the ground before his hand slides underneath her leg, fingers fierce against the inside
of her thigh, and pulls it back up to his waist. The doorframe creaks in protest
of the added pressure and showers them with dust. His left hand pushes hair away
from her face as he deepens the kiss.
His cane is sandwiched between his hand and her waist. When his palm starts to hurt from the cane he realizes how tight of a grip he has
on her. The cane hits the ground with a clatter, surprising them both in the
process. They pull apart to breathe; his nose is pressed against her forehead
and her fingers are wrapped around his bicep. He lets go of her leg, and trails
his fingers along her jeans as it slides back to the ground. The gesture is apologetic
and she feels his chest expand against her as he sighs.
After giving it a quick squeeze, she removes her hand from
She hates that she has to pretend there’s no catch in her voice.
“My aim wasn’t to take you to a random location-”
She crosses her arms in front of her, it’s a shield
if he’s ever seen one, and he never wants to consider her impenetrable.
He takes a somewhat staggered step backwards. “Would you hand me my cane?”
She turns around and bends down to pick up his cane from
the floor. As soon as she’s bent at a ninety-degree angle, she feels something
large and warm underneath her shirt, moving from the base of her spine towards her neck.
A second later his hand is planted firmly between her shoulder blades preventing her from standing up, and he’s
now standing directly behind her, preventing her from bending down any further.
“It’s funny, people think they know all sorts
of things. Turns out they really don’t.”
“Is there a point to this? I do yoga. I can stand like this for hours.”
He presses harder on her back. She grunts. He smiles.
And presses down again.
Bum leg; don’t know if you’ve heard. My point,” he presses
a thumb between her shoulder blades, “is that it wouldn’t be here, if it happened.
You should expect more from men in general.”
He runs a finger from her shoulder blades to the base of
her spine; her subsequent involuntary shudder and goose bumps make him want to forget who he is. He smoothes down her shirt, and then takes a step back so she can stand.
“You couldn’t say that while I was standing?”
Raised eyebrows. “I
could’ve … of course, you’d no doubt be staring me down and I’d have to pretend those red marks on
your cheek and neck aren’t from me. Most likely I’d stutter over
a three-letter word. This way my dignity remains intact.”
She smirks and he gets the feeling he’s missed something.
“Definitely intact,” she says, and hands him
She gets their coats from the floor, and hands his to him. As she’s putting on her coat, she takes a few steps outside the announcer’s
box and looks down to the field. He stands behind her, but not close, and takes
his prescription bottle from his pocket.
She hears the pill’s familiar rattle, and looks at
him. “Did you go to school here?”
He swallows a pill and puts the bottle back into his pocket.
“Why did you want to come here?”
“It wouldn’t hurt to be a little more forthcoming.”
He looks anywhere but at her face.
“Sure, why not?
While I’m at it, I should get fork and stab myself in the eye. Better
yet, a spork. Cutting edge, I hear.”
He’s a bit relieved when she doesn’t respond. Then her hand is on his shoulder, smoothing invisible wrinkles from the lapel of his
jacket, and he will forever have trouble with things left unsaid.
“Before,” gesturing to his cane, “before
this I ran. I ran anywhere my legs could or couldn’t take me. To get somewhere of your own volition is satisfying.”
She smiles, picturing him and the ground punished underneath
“I was on the swim team.”
was for a while. I didn’t like it.”
“And why is that?”
“I love to swim but not back and forth in a pool. I hate to-”
“Stay in one place?
You like to keep moving?”
She drops her arm back down to her side. “Is that how you felt when
“No, it was just something I read on a bumper sticker
“I felt that way sometimes. Other times I just wanted to get the hell out of New Jersey.”
She laughs. It’s
loud and would be totally inappropriate anywhere else. The artery in the side
of her neck, close to her jaw, pulsates three times before he leans over to kiss her.
His mouth lands on the side of her face, in front of her ear, and lingers a few moments because the second he moves
away he’ll hate himself.
“What time is it?”
“About twenty after four. Why?”
“You don’t work today; this I know. You need to sleep in case you get called, but first. I
want to show you something.”
It’s contagious when he’s acting like a child
with a secret.
“What is it?”
“Why would I tell you?
It’s your choice. Are you in or out?”
“I don’t know …”
“Time, the old wench, is of the essence. Answer.”
He slips his hand into her front pocket and takes the car keys. “I’m
The walk back to the car is silent for the most part. He tells her several times to walk faster. He
zooms out of the parking lot at a speed that most drivers’ education teachers would frown upon.
A few minutes into the drive she realizes. “We left the food.”
“Obviously we can’t go back.”
“Have to keep moving.”
She looks at the sky, dusk fading to dawn, and knows how
The Details are
me warm and tingly.
Summary: “Then get your ass in here.” He nods his head. “And bring the rest of you, too.”
He weaves along back roads, hoping to shorten their drive,
because the few times he has second-guessed himself have always been outside of work.
In the passenger seat, head lolled back, she’s fast
asleep. At first he was a bit offended as to the fact that someone fell asleep
in his company. Then some common sense crept into his thought; they’d both
had long days and he wasn’t sure when she had last slept. He doesn’t
sleep much, mostly because his brain won’t shut up, and his leg keeps him awake.
It’s something else that’s out of his hands but up to his leg. As
a result he sleeps in three to four hour increments.
The buzzing in his pocket confuses him for a second, but
then he realizes: his phone. He takes it from his pocket and checks the display. It’s Wilson. He turns the radio
down and looks at Allison. It’s possible this night could end even more
awkward than it began. The vibration in his hand brings him back to the phone. If he doesn’t answer he knows Wilson will call back, like a wife who is wondering
why her husband is out late and what he’s doing. He rolls his eyes as he
“My, aren’t we a little snappish?”
just that I’ve noticed there’s a disturbing correlation between this phone and people with whom I have no interest
in talking calling me way too often.”
“And … that’s not snappish?”
“Did you call me for any other reason besides to exercise
your geriatric vocabulary?”
“I’d been back from dinner for a while and you
“I supposed to what, check in with you now? Do I get an allowance, too?”
“Does the wife know you’re this needy?”
“I thought you’d be curious about dinner.”
“Was the lobster as good as people say it is?”
There’s a pause; Wilson sighs.
“Don’t want to talk about it.”
“It’s six words.
Do you need a dictionary?”
“You’re still with Cameron, aren’t you?”
He shouldn’t have answered the phone.
“I was never with Cameron. We’ve merely been existing in the same space.”
“You’re going to start using Physics to describe
relationships with other people?”
“M-theory just fascinates me,” he says, briefly
thinking he should pioneer a type of intelligent sarcasm.
He hears Allison shift in her seat, and turns to take a
peek at her. It could be the lack of adequate lighting in the car or that he’s
constantly under the influence of painkillers, but she looks relaxed. It’s
not him; he’s never been conducive to relaxation.
“There is no relationship,” he continues, turning
back towards the road. “It’s a non-date.”
“I doubt she sees it that way. She’s got a schoolgirl crush on you.”
He pulls into a parking space and turns off the car.
“I was clear about the non-date from the start, did
I stutter? And most schoolgirls – I mean, she’s got a tattoo.”
He could practically hear the rise of Wilson’s eyebrows.
“If my powers of observation live up to their reputation,
I’d say an inch down and four over from her navel.”
“You know this for a fact?”
“It’s not conclusive; I’ll get back to
you after I’ve extolled to her the virtues of sex with a man who uses a cane.”
“Does it get you off, saying my name so much?”
He turns to look at her again, and is surprised to see that
she is awake. More importantly, wide awake and staring right at him. She’s drowsy and mischievous; his car is too small.
“We’ll talk later when you can hold up your
end of the conversation.”
He hangs up on Wilson without a first thought and puts the
phone back into his pocket.
“Wilson, I’m assuming?”
He’s not sure if he should answer her.
“Your conversations with him always seem to end with
She looks to the building at their right.
“You live here.”
The building is imposing by implication alone. Shoulders tensing up, she absentmindedly glides her tongue along the bottom lip on which he bit down earlier. His taste lingers, or she wishes it did.
“And you know this because …”
She can practically see the wheels in his head turning,
trying to figure out how she knows this particular piece of information. After
a minute she takes pity on him, although she’d never say.
“You’re not the only one that’s curious.”
He coughs. “We’ll expand on that topic another
time, but for now we have to hurry.”
Without another word he gets out of the car. She promptly exits the car and follows him into the building.
Moments later they’re in the elevator staring at distorted
reflections of themselves on the inside of its doors. Five floors up, a bell
signals their exit from the elevators. Before the doors shut again, he snakes
a hand back inside and quickly presses all the floor buttons.
She looks mildly amused, the key word being mildly.
“Do you do that every time you ride in an elevator?”
“No,” he responds as he’s walking past
her, “just when I’m feeling a bit wayward.”
Staring at the door of his apartment, she feels the need
to lower her voice. “How often is that?”
He slides a key into the knob and unlocks the door. After pushing the door open, he signals for her to enter first.
“All the time,” reaches her ears as she enters
She stops as she gets past the entryway to look around. The first thing that catches her eye is the piano and she smiles realizing she was
right. Every surface seems to be covered with laid open books and scattered magazines.
“Over here,” he calls from the rear of the apartment.
She tries to follow the sound of his voice and winds up
standing in front of a number of similar looking doorways. If this isn’t
a metaphor, she thinks.
A tousled head of brown hair peeks through one of the doorways.
She walks over to him and stops in her tracks. It’s his bedroom.
He senses her hesitation.
“Will you grow up?
I’m not going to pounce the minute you step foot in the room.”
“Don’t you trust me?”
“I trust you at work.”
He leans against the doorframe, a lacrosse ball in the palm
of his hand, and starts tossing it up in the air.
“At work. Okay. But we’re not at work now; it’s the two of us. The only life that hangs in the balance is yours. The relevant
question is: do you trust yourself?”
“Of course I do.” It’s certain situations she doesn’t trust.
“Then get your ass in here.” He nods his head. “And bring the rest of you, too.”
He walks back into the room and leaves her standing in the
She goes into the room.
It’s fairly large for a bedroom and has a balcony. He is standing
on the balcony, wind causing his shirt to flap around him, with his mouth pressed against the glass making funny faces. She smiles and wonders what she was so anxious about.
He waves her over.
She moves towards the balcony, but after two steps half-stumbles
over something. Looking down, she sees it’s his cane. Funny. She picks it up and throws it on his bed. She glances at his bed and is definitely not wondering which parts his body has touched. (Keep moving.) She takes off her coat
and tosses it on the bed near his cane.
He opens the balcony’s door. “You’re going to miss it.”
She tries to step onto the balcony, but he’s blocking
He squints. “You
never did tell me why you’re here. And I don’t mean existentially
“I’m here because I want to be here.” It’s unsettling the way he leans into her words when she speaks. “Satisfied?”
He moves out of her way.
“What are we doing?”
But in five minutes the sun will be rising.”
She rests her arms on the railing and looks to the street
“What makes you think I’ve never seen the sun
He limps over to her, and with his right hand grips the
railing for support.
“Never said that.”
“Rain, shine, golf ball sized hail; the sun’s
always there. It’s something that people see every day, but hardly take
the time to recognize, let alone appreciate.”
“You brought me back to your place to see the sun
“No, to appreciate it.
People nowadays are so easily amused by technology. They need to be reminded
that something bigger than each one of them exists. Uncontrollable and way more
She stands up and faces him.
“You’re as amused by technology as the next person.”
“I’m aware.” He shifts his stance, briefly wincing. “Everyone needs
a reminder now and then.”
She noticed his wince.
It’s too late; she’s in doctor mode now.
“It’s not fine.
When was the last time you had anything to eat or drink? At the rally?”
“I said I’m fine.”
She puts a hand on her hip.
“Your body says it’s not fine. You’re pale and sweaty.”
“I just need my cane.” He grits his teeth. “I’m used to support from
the side. Leaning on this railing is killing my thigh.”
She smiles softly.
“My cane? It’s
back in the room somewhere.”
Her hand slides off of her hip. “No. I almost tripped over it.”
“Then I need to sit.”
It’s out of her mouth quickly, like a breath she’d been holding too long.
“Did you just-”
“Lean on me.”
He tries to read her face.
She seems genuinely concerned despite his best efforts to prevent it. The
wind blows hair away from her face, and he heaves a sigh realizing it took the last of his resolve along with it.
She doesn’t want to wait twenty minutes while he stands
around thinking about possibilities. After gripping the railing in front of her
with one hand she slides her free arm around his waist, hand planted firmly on his side.
“Go ahead. Lean. I won’t break,” she says, getting a firmer grip on his side.
“But I might,” he adds, resignedly.
He leans into her slowly, and is surprised by how strong
“It’s okay,” she tries to reassure him,
“it’s just in lieu of your cane.”
He slides his hand underneath her hair and rests it on the
base of her neck. When his fingers start drumming on her neck she turns towards
“It doesn’t change anything,” she doesn’t
lie, but tries for him.
“This,” he starts, his hand warm and fingers
tight around the back of her neck, he watches her eyes close in response.
“This changes everything.”
While her eyes remain closed, she gets a tighter grip on
his waist and pretends she can see the sunrise through her eyelids.