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The intricate sensations of coupling
I have to cough bad, but she’s draped on me, asleep. I mustn’t rouse her. The strap-on is still wet, cold and ribbed and textured like an eel. My emotion is: long-drive wistful. Long-drive wistful is when you’re on the highway and see shadowy woods to explore. Long-drive wistful makes you book a vacation to a tropical island to go free and walk into the hills.
The phlegm shifts with each breath. We’d mated like frogs, my sticky fingers groped around her stomach. They call it applexis, how frogs fuck, my chest forcing her down, her eyes vacant just above the waves of bedsheets that she can hardly suck air through. The buckle chafes my hip and I’m not dominant but she likes the way we do it. Me personally, I wish we could mate like birds, with cloaca. It would feel even, the kiss of two cloacae.
I mustn’t cough or she’ll be disturbed. My soft animal body doesn’t care for this vacation climate. They say this island is alive but it’s not a vacation, no colonized vacation destination could be anything but Hold You Down and Enjoy. Its wildlife is unafraid, zoo-like. I booked the trip on a website that traps you, when the back button just refreshes the page. She wanted a rent-a-trailer with a hammock. I count how she’s touching me to distract myself from coughing.
Her inner thigh on mine: this thigh was used to kick footballs, all the way through high school. She was the striker on the intermural club. There was a manboy, her teammate. I’ve seen pictures of his handsome face, his dark grin. He planned long-term. He touched her here, a question posed to her inner thigh, and she closed it in a broomish sweep—a story I once loved.
Her elbow on my chest: my chest is flat and mistrustful and her elbow digs it. How many people have thought about her elbow? It’s not her most notable bit, just a hinge. She’ll bend it at a 90-degree angle, hand sculpted flat, when she pontificates about how the manboy won her over in college. “All in the past,” she’d say. No one can make a perfect 90-degree angle, not even mathematicians—it’s always a little bit off, in one direction or another.
Her chin in my neck: I never touch her chin, but she grabs mine when she talks down to me, when I mess up the grocery list, when I get upset about him, being ridiculous. I seem to be upset about him more often these days. I hate that she can fall in love with any shape and I can’t. I hate that he convinced her, that she gave in, when I can’t even cough. He planned long-term. Her chin is kneading my throat; I’m paralyzed with silent wheezes.
Her bare toes on my ankle: a relationship, especially if it’s scent-mixingly insular like this one, is mucky to watch fail. She was my biggest success. It was her toes that delivered her to me, because she’d painted insects on the nails, and I knew each species. I approached her about the stump stabber, which deposits its eggs in the larvae of the horntail wasp, hidden deep in wood bores. I told her that being a host organism, cultivated for another’s end, is just about the worst gig in the world. She said: what about a sucker stuck in a cobweb?
Her belly, slightly swollen against mine: we met because we both majored in biology. We vacationed to see flora and fauna, but really we vacationed because we’d been fighting. I’d seen the manboy’s name bloom out of her phone screen too many times, his faintly submarine glow on a late-night ceiling. “Just friends,” she’d say, making 89 and 91-degree angles, grabbing my chin. But I know that every time they get back together they exclaim about how they just can’t stay apart.
Her wrist, cuffed in the bracelet he bought, because? ‘You’re paranoid’: I cough hard. Buck up phlegm. My quisling brain says ‘STOP’ but I say ‘NO’ and hack great abrasive woofs against her. Heaves rack our bodies like earth tremors, the hammock swings, the suspension bucks, the split sidewalk swallows our Winnebago when I suck in, and she wrenches away from me, always her first instinct.
Moments later I’m gone. She’s slumbering peacefully again in her web, more than welcome to jog back to you-know-who in the morning. My pack is heavy but I’m walking free in to the hills. I lope into undergrowth, breathing vacation air, breaking lonely silk strands on my arms, some still attached to spiders, which swing like pitted ornaments from my elbows and shoulders, a twinkling dress. I am immensely pleased, and the dull itch of long-drive wistful fades behind me.
About James Cato
James Cato loves the color red and has just completed a novel with his lifelong friend. Look for him in Every Day Fiction, Eunoia Review, Montana Mouthful, Crack the Spine, Penultimate Peanut, and Brilliant Flash Fiction. Connect @the_sour_potato