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She’s grabbing at the buttons on my shirt, she can’t unfasten them quick enough. My hands, centered on her core. I’d say it’s number three on the list of things I find most attractive about her physical body. Number one will go unmentioned, but number two are her thighs. I work my way there as she fumbles around with the last button.

She pushes me away. My kiss falls. Her face changes.

A few hot feet away, my arms are partially lifted at my side, and my palms outstretched in uncertainty. My mouth hangs open, but no words come out.

She says, “You need to step the fuck away from me.”

I walk over to the dining-room table, sit down, look out the side window. It’s beautiful out. Neither one of us are the real enemy here. She stands, wide eyed. Apprehension producing a fog between the two of us— it winds itself into one big ball, hurls itself toward me, striking me directly in the rib cage.

Keeping my gaze from her, I begin to tell a story. I take my time, providing length within and between sentences that doesn’t even exist.

“It was mid-December. I decided to take an evening stroll. I’m not sure what came over me, I hated winter. Wide-open spaces covered in nothing but white typically brought on feelings of dread. Large, blank, depressing. White was blue. White was lonely. Everything around me was blanketed in a ridiculously thick layer of lonely, but I was in search of something. So, as I walked, I listened.

I listened deeper than I had ever listened before. Seeking out sounds beyond the sounds of everyday life. Beyond the slop smashing against car tires as they crept past. Beyond the unusually loud buzzing coming from a street lamp. Beyond the aggressive clanking of trash bins as my neighbor’s breath turned to fire, cursing the cold.”

I remain focused on a ground painted in polka dot sunshine. From the corner of my eye, I see her lean into the wall, playing with the scar on her middle finger— the result of drunkenly opening a 3am can of tuna a few months ago.

“You know, it’s funny how what is normal often becomes routine, things we become conditioned to, burying themselves deep within our subconscious. How these everyday sounds are so apparent, yet no longer heard.

Anyway, I walked along, wanting to not only be aware of these sounds, but to discover something much more… private. I’ll admit, it was invasive of me. The sound of children laughing at cartoons, their mother yelling from another room, “did you guys finish your homework?” The sound of soft music playing as two shadows glide back and forth behind their living-room curtain. The whistle of a chimney. The turning of a page in a book. The snap of a quilt being spread about a bed.

When I reached the end of my street, I paused. A generous brick house stood on the corner of the next block. A dim light hardly gleaming from just one of more than two dozen windows. People always talked about the woman who lived there. Said she was a mean and bitter woman in her early fifties. Stories circulated about her all the time. The latest was that she ran a stray cat over with her car, simply because she didn’t like it hanging around the backwoods of her property.”

She pushes further into the wall, crossing her arms.

“I didn’t wear proper shoes, they were already soaked through. Barely able to feel my feet, I made my way across the street, and stood on the bitter woman’s front porch. I stared at the discoloration in the floorboards where a sort of welcome mat used to sit.

All of the other houses… stories of life and love and purpose bellowing through the night. Stories in abundance. Stories echoing. Stories crashing into one another. But her house? Her house ripped open my eardrums with its profound silence.

Suddenly deaf, I knocked.”

I stop talking.

She sighs.

I shrug.

She nods. “Okay.”

I grab my pack from the table and head out for a smoke.

“Since you’re heading out, will you go pick up some bread? We’re out of bread.”

“Of course.”

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