*once I stood alone so proud
held myself above the crowd
now I am low on the ground…

We are wrapped up in his room on a January night. I remember hearing quiet notes float down from ancient speakers. The walls, bare and white seem closer for the dimness. The entire room is cast in golden, dirty shadows by dying bulbs.

He comes back in and tunes a knob. I hear the air vibrating faster with a loudening hum; the music is falling in waves. I swivel in my chair and find him naked, the entire room made closer by the music and the warmth of the air and him. He is looking down over his own pale chest and I am looking up, discovering his hands in my hair. He sings.

now what would you have me do
I ask you please?…

I hear his own low intonations falling in with the walls of sound beyond and inside me. His ever-present grin is gone, and I feel him in all his gravity.

I wait to hear. …

He pauses, and it is his voice, his voice and nothing else that I am seeking. He is silent and still above me, solemn. I know that it will break in moments, but I am relinquishing my sense of time to the sex beneath his bass, escaping me. The walls beat through the chair and I can feel the pulse of his temples as his lips come to mine and he is whispering through my tongue.

As if he knew that words were how I kissed.

now what would you have me do?
I ask you please
I wait to hear
your voice.
the word.
you say
I wait to see your sign
would I

*Lyrics from Suzanne Vega’s “Penitent


"Fuck!" she shouted from beneath the hood of the car. She rolled out from underneath, angrily. The creeper slid away as she launched herself off of it. "Fuck fuck fuck! This rear engine seal's shot. Why the hell did I buy such a rare old car? I need to have my head examined!"

"How is it that some man didn't snap you up long ago?" he asked wryly. She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear, leaving a black smudge on her flushed cheek.

"Probably because a lot of men want a nice, quiet little doormat and that ain't me," she retorted.

"You're more trapdoor than doormat," he agreed, smiling, and she laughed because she couldn't deny it.

He took her face in his too-careful hands. "Here, hold still, you've got something on your-"

"Yeah, nice try, slick," she laughed, slapping his hands away. He grabbed her around the waist, pulling her close, and kissed her in a way that was not careful at all. When they broke the kiss, he studied her, amused.

"You really do have something on your face," he remarked.

"It's probably just mascara. I need to take a shower and change before we leave anyway."

A look of panic struck her face. "Oh, shit. Are we late for the poetry reading?"

for etouffee

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