Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Should Go

I should go.

I should be going.

As soon as I open my eyes, I’m going to grab my underwear from that chair by the window, and my shorts from under the bed, and my shirt from wherever I tossed it — wherever that is.

My shoes are by the front door, I think. Loafers with tassels. Why did I even do that? Oh right, because I couldn’t find my flip-flops this morning.

Shit. I should go.

But I think I’ll stay a little longer.

I hope you don’t mind. This is usually the part where we both get redressed and stutter through mindless small talk. So what are your plans later? How long are you in town for? What do you do, again? These are just things to be said so that we don’t have to face our own indignity in front of someone who just discovered how [and who] we really are. But we’re not doing that right now. I mean, we might do it eventually. But right now, you’re laying on your back and I’m laying on my stomach and half of our bodies are overlapping — all the way down to our feet and all the way up to our cheeks — and you are warm.

You don’t smell like anything but your own skin and I like that. I inhale it and I’m the only person in the world inhaling it. Being here with you makes me the only person in the world doing a lot of things and that makes me want to stay, among other reasons.

Every time I have the compulsion to go, it feels like a struggle. I’ve wanted you for so long and now that it’s happened, I don’t want to press my luck. Because even though you’ve got your shortcomings (like your shitty job and your exboyfriend baggage), you are extraordinary to me. And being here with you feels like I’m being rewarded for something I don’t deserve. So leaving before I overstay my welcome feels like the right move.

It goes without saying that the sex was incredible. This makes four times, right? Four times since the first time a year or so ago. Remember when I used to visit you at work just so I could kiss you outside on the street? That seems so far away from this moment. And just so you know: I’ve never lingered like this before and I hope you don’t think I’m clinging. Usually, if I fuck someone under similar circumstances, I bail immediately or practically shove them out the door. One time, I told a guy that he had to leave because my mom was on her way. It was eleven at night and my mom doesn’t even live in the same city as me.

You bury your nose into my neck and kiss me there. I consider guiding your mouth up to mine, but right now, I just want to feel you wanting me. It’s easy to fake yourself into thinking someone’s into you when you’re giving direction. Then, you glide your hand down the prairie of my back and I open my eyes just enough to see through my eyelashes. It was overcast this morning on the drive over here (I called it, cloudy with a chance of shame). But now, judging by the dull glow behind the window, it feels like the clouds only came out to keep us in bed together. If it were sunny, I might be more inclined to leave. And I don’t want to leave just yet.

Slowly, you lift your head and raise yourself up onto your elbow. You look down at me with sleepy eyes and smile. We stare at one another you touch me with your fingertips along my jaw, from my ear to my chin. I wrap one arm around your waist and I bring my palm against the side of your face. Then I kiss you and roll you onto your back. I plant my hips into you and you rock you head back over the pillow. I lift my torso with both arms into a push-up position so I can see all of you. Then, I shift down and lay my head on chest. We do all of this without saying anything. But then again, I don’t think I could if I wanted to.

The truth is, I’ve pretended other guys were someone like you. I’ve faked this feeling before. I’ve acted my way through scenarios that weren’t nearly this genuine or comfortable. Even your breathing is perfectly paced. I slow mine to catch up with yours until we’re in sync. We rise and fall together. I exhale soft, steady streams form my nose and mouth and feel you doing the same above me. From your chest, your nipples look like little pink Sherpa huts. I look up towards you and your eyes are closed. Part of me wishes you would open them and look at me, but I’m glad you aren’t. I don’t know how I look right now and I’m pretty sure my perspective is better than yours.

I should probably be going, right?

I should go.

But what If I miss the inside of your mouth?

The shape of your ass?

Your skin?

What if I spend the rest of the day thinking about this?

What if I spend the rest of my life thinking about this?!

Better not take that chance.

Better hold you like you need it.

Better graze your lips with the backs of my fingers.

And then you say, "Don't leave."

So I stay.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lifeless Bodies

The first reported death by cuddle corpse was on the news about a month ago. Since then, 12 bodies have been found in the arms of his or her very own surrogate sleep partner.

After the first few reports, the stories began to feel colorless and trendy to me – like a small meningitis outbreak or like when a bunch of kids bring guns to school, independently but consecutively within the same month. The whole thing felt annoying and faraway until this morning, when Daisy Liss was found dead in her home, tucked tight next to her cuddle corpse.

Daisy didn't work in my department, but I saw her in the parking tower every evening after work.The last time I saw her, she was jogging to her car, the clump-clomp of her saddle oxfords echoing through the third floor of the tower. I didn't call to her, but when she drove passed me on her way out, I smiled broadly and waved. Daisy was a slender woman with a wheat-colored bob and razor-cut, blunt bangs. She wore ankle-length skirts and carried her beige, shapeless purse with both hands, pressing it tightly to her ribs at all times. When she saw me from her car, she did not smile back. Her face looked sullen, but then again, I only saw it through shadowy glass and only for a second before she turned away and sped off. Now, I can only assume she was hurrying home to climb into bed with her cuddle corpse, where she would remain until this morning when the police would find her starved, fetal form spooning with a low-functioning comfort robot.

The 13 deaths [now 14, including Daisy] didn't necessarily occur within the month since the first. In fact, the publicity from the first case prompted good neighbors to check on the reclusive and the recently withdrawn. That's when the bodies were found. Before that, the media hadn't latched onto the term "cuddle corpse." They were just SleepMates and they were surprisingly popular — the result of a beautifully executed global ad campaign. All SleepMates are made of the same white memory foam, but come in a variety of sizes. Inside the torso is a small machine that simulates deep breathing, causing the chest to rhythmically rise and fall. At launch day, nearly half a million SleepMates were sold.

Around the office, I can’t go anywhere without hearing the buzz of Daisy's name. A worldwide, trending epidemic has finally come home and everyone is finding a way to localize the tragedy, as people tend to do with such things. Daisy Liss was a skittish woman of few words, but somehow, everyone knew her differently; more lively, I guess. But in my head, I picture her grey and malnourished, intertwined with another lifeless body. I leave the office before 10AM because there is no use in sticking around. Nothing will get done today.

So far, the most common form of death is starvation, although two have been declared suicides. One woman — an assistant to the Mayor of Sacramento — chased a bottle of Valium with a tall glass of iced tea before crawling up next to her child-size SleepMate. A few days later, a man in London was discovered with a plastic bag over his head. His SleepMate was dressed in the clothes of his recently deceased boyfriend. Before the gay guy’s suicide, I’d never heard of anyone dressing up a cuddle corpse, but apparently it was pretty common.

I cross Rendon Street and slip inside Greta’s where I order biscuits and gravy with an orange juice. I am alone except for the wait staff and a young hipster couple. They are each looking down and staring at their phones in silence. My food comes, I eat, and I pay the check. Hipster girl and her boyfriend still don’t speak. I’ve stared at them staring at their phones this whole time and neither one has even looked up. I wonder if they fuck.

I wonder if they fuck and then have to check Facebook and Instagram to see if they missed anything.

I wonder if they’re fucking other people because this relationship is unstimulating.

I wonder if he holds her.

I wonder if she’s the intimate type.

I wonder if we’re all headed down this road and these guys are just ahead of us.

I wonder if we’re fucked. 

The bells on the front door jingle and I look up to see Kipling Breaux walking towards me; his wide, square frame backlit by the morning light coming through the windows. I jerk my chin in his direction and he returns the gesture. “Have you been to the office yet?” he asks, taking a seat across from me. “Yeah,” I say. “I bailed.” The waitress comes by to clear my plates and Kip orders Maker’s on the rocks. “The partners just sent an email telling everyone to take the day off, so I’m getting hammered.” He puts down his phone and rolls up his sleeves. “I wonder what size corpse Daisy owned,” I say outloud without actually meaning to. “Medium-size adult male,” says Kip. And Miranda says she had it all dressed up.” The waitress returns with Kip’s drink and he orders another right away. I ask for Jack and Coke because I might as well. “I was talking to a girl on Tinder this morning and I told her the dead woman worked in my office and she told me that can’t even keep up with demand right now. You would think all the corpse-related deaths would cause the business to tank, but the exact opposite is happening. The infant model and the adult male in sizes large and extra-large are all sold out!” I bite the inside of my mouth and look out the front windows. “It becomes the person you miss most,” I say. He shrugs. “Or the person who won’t love you back.”

The waitress glides by, carrying a tray of sandwiches and onion rings. She rounds our table and leans over my shoulder to hand Kip his drink. When she grabs mine, something shifts on the tray and startles her — causing the drink to pour directly onto my shirt and pants. “Shit!” she yelps. “I am so sorry! Let me get you a towel.” She sets down the tray on a neighboring table and darts off to the kitchen before I can say, “It’s completely fine.” Kip, unfazed, shotguns his drink and swipes his phone to check Tinder.

Daisy’s passing has completely freed up my afternoon.

The weather’s pretty and I’m pretty buzzed, so I decide to have a few more drinks on the patio at El Carbon, but first I have to change my shirt. I keep a spare on a hanger inside my office, so I head back down Rendon. On the way, I pass a digital outdoor board with a rotating ad for the SleepMate. It pictures a pretty mixed-race woman asleep on her side with the profile of a cuddle corpse behind her. The logo and website appear in the bottom right corner under the headline, Fall Asleep Quickly. Sleep Soundly All Night.

The entire office feels like a haunted house. Even the florescent lights are flickering, and that’s weird because they’ve never done that before. I walk through rows of desks and eventually pass Daisy’s, which has already been cleared off — the contents probably sent home in a box. I wish I could remember what was on it. Did she display pictures of family members?

Did she keep a sweater on the back of her chair?

Did she stash candy in the drawers?

Who was she projecting onto her cuddle corpse?

Did she relish her slow death?

What was she thinking when she slipped away?


Where is my extra shirt?

It was right here!

It was hanging on the back of my door just a few days ago.

I swear.

It was right here.

Wasn’t it?

Wasn’t it?