He ran his stocky hands through her hair with careful deliberation. Thick and heavy with allure, like the steamy aftermath of a rainforest swamped by rain; yet quietly suffocating like the slow diffusion of carbon monoxide as it tenderly overwhelmed the car’s unsuspecting occupants.
The early morning light cast a shroud of vulnerability around her; a gentle squall of warmth radiating through the air. A thin sheen of sweat covered her skin like the sprinkling of frost on a crisp winter morning as she rolled over, gazing at him through half-closed suggestive eyes.
What secrets are you hiding? he jokingly teased, curling a strand around his finger. Dark as a lonesome night, filled with frantic bouts of melancholic self-loathing – yet strangely as comforting as the routine advent of the sunrise. The effect she had on him was puzzling, and offset his usual detachment. He gave her a kiss on the cheek, watching her squeal as his stubble tenderly grazed her delicate skin.
The sun shone brightly through the half-open blinds, providing superficial respite from the chilly morning which stealthily crept through the half-open window and into the bedsheets.
She ran her fingers up his chest and caressed his hair, wondering aloud at the in-congruence in color. Each hair has a different gene.. he began, and her face lit up.
Tell me about the world, she said.
She was a dreamer. Hopelessly improbable; perpetually lost in delusions of warped time. To her facts were merely malleable obstructions with the ability to conveniently disappear when needed.
They headed out, a quick shower to erase the last lingering vestiges of infidelity left over from the night.
He ordered a long black while she deliberated over the menu, the periodic hiss and clank of the coffee machine causing her mind to drift listlessly. It had taken her over a year to warm to the general rhetoric that a mocha was simply an impostor in the world of coffee, and thus she settled on a flat white.
She reached out for his hand, noting the slight crease which abruptly surfaced in between his eyebrows.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, voice rising like a flurry of wind, whirling about like a free-spirited sprite.
Nothing,” he remarked squeezing her hand vigorously; an attempt to offset the insincerity which lay heavy between them. Pianist’s hands, he mused, beefy hands clasping her dainty ones. He glanced up to find her smoldering eyes locked on him and his mind drifted back to their early days.
She sauntered down the street, the amber glare of streetlights turning the rush of office workers into cartoon caricatures. A catwalk for the plain folk.
The frenzied honking of a lorry driving past forced the constant staccato of her heels into the timid crawl of a broken metronome, and she slunk away, as stiff-legged and somber faced as she had been after her first period.
The lighting was dim; the pub an obligatory precursor to the weekend. All in all it was an initial rendezvous for businessmen and youngsters alike; a babble of cheap talk riding on feigned boldness. A thousand anomalies jammed into one; a chance to re-invent one’s own character.
The jarring tang of alcohol seeped through the joint, religiously coating every inch of exposed flesh in preemptive remorse. She fumbled awkwardly with hands which felt all too bare for lack of a drink, and tentatively sidled onto a stool.
An arm snaked its way around her waist, alarm manifesting itself in the form of goosebumps which spread downwards from her decolletage to her legs. She protested against what she perceived to be a betrayal of her body as she felt her hips soften to accommodate the stranger’s advances; the seething irritation at the casual intrusion quickly deteriorating into grudging acceptance. Professional hazard of being a woman, she lamented, as she turned to face him.
“Oh, hey!” she grinned, caution slipping into easy familiarity as recognition dawned upon her face.
He had been forced to make her acquaintance after she had mistakenly walked away with his coffee at her regular haunt, on two separate occasions. As way of introduction, she found out that he threw back at least three strong blacks a day, and optimized code for high-frequency trading systems. She had joked that the excessive amount of coffee was necessary for him to function on the same wavelength as the systems he maintained.
“I’m a straight shooter,” she said, the slight break in her voice divulging her hesitation as he motioned her towards the bar.
To his amusement she ordered a lemon lime & bitters.
A drink which brandished itself as the fresh-faced, pink-cheeked ambassador of the alcoholic underworld; concealing the minute undercurrents of potent liquor which threatened to alienate the abstaining crowd.
“With the amount of bitters you’ve been having you may as well be having a shot of straight vodka,” he grinned.
They clinked glasses and he threw a probing eye over her.
“You know, if you were a program, you’d be like a flaky piece of code with an indeterminable amount of go-to statements. You develop fixations, and get stuck in a loop.”
Go-to statements were like a one-way ticket, a cheap hack to force code into logic pathways. The indulgent programmer ran the risk of creating spaghetti code which usually fulfilled its intended purpose, but in a grossly roundabout manner.
“You’re the programmer here,” she rebuffed, continuing the playful banter. “Why don’t you straighten me out?”
“I would if I could, but you’re too non-deterministic,” he said, smiling.
She sighed. He was so blunt and matter-of-fact, as always.
But always right, he laughed, a lopsided smile pulling up the corners of his mouth.
The orange streetlights cast an orange pall over the green trees, like a premature autumn. His gaze drifted downwards towards her long legs which stretched away. Are you a dancer? No, she replied laughing it off, struck by an unexpected pang of regret as she remembered her first ballet lessons. You have the body, but lack the dedication.
“It’s just the heels,” she remarked. “They take me down paths I don’t want to go.”
She went home, and he followed. They spoke of troubles near and afar, their overarching dreams and desires well until the last rays of candlelight flickered out and the dancing shapes on the wall collapsed into inky blackness.
The clang of the ice-cream truck in the distance was so infrequent that it was easy to mistake it for the ringing of church bells; its very existence driven by novelty rather than any practical use.
They sat in silence, as he mindlessly toyed with the dregs of leftover coffee.
Conversations which had transgressed volumes of verbosity were now carefully doled out; measured, to avoid crossing an invisible line which threw them both into uncertain territory.
“I need to leave,” he said, avoiding her eyes. “I’ll see you later.”
The kiss was perfunctory; almost an afterthought, and he slipped away without further commotion confirming what she already knew.
She was just another woman to him.