He used to have a life. Wife. But it wasn’t good enough. He’d lay in bed next to her wondering about other possibilities. Looking over the fence.
She’s gone now, and so has he. Gone off the rails. Gone to pot. Smoking every day. Getting wasted and rolling round the city on countless little sorties. His diversions. His prison exercise.
Out he goes. Free. Going about his business, looking and sounding normal, letting people think he’s got it all together.
Mostly, he does. That’s the problem. The edifice sure looks good, but it’s cracked. Fine lines everywhere, like the creases in his brow or the wrinkles in his shirts. If only he’d learnt to iron.
Often, he wakes to emptiness. Comes to in a void. The desert of self.
The arid numbness of such days are punctuated by random spikes of revelation, like the jags of a Richter Scale reading. He is alone, miles from anything resembling her love, and the alarm bells of distance ring jarringly. On trains, in cafes, during songs. Whenever he sees a girl he can’t have. Which is always.
In this city of beautiful women he suffers through thoughts that shame him. A young Asian girl on the platform with petite hips and painted lips ushers a torrent of pornographic vocabulary.
How I’d like to fuck you, little lady. Get you dripping. Come in your unbearably tight…
Then he notices she’s twenty, the age of the daughter he never got round to having. It is obvious to him that she does not notice anything about him. He does not exist for her, not even as a half interesting face in the corner of her vision.
So he moves to the next one. A woman with long Latina hair and a deep cleavage. Same thing. And so it goes.
Sometimes, he exclaims aloud when they pass him in the street. He knows it’s a bad look, but there’s this stabbing that seems to force little whimpers of longing out into the dirty air. They are the radar blips of loneliness.
He realises it’s a form of acting out. He’s the one with the hole that needs filling, the gash that wants what it used to take for granted. All those fuckable fillies – what are they but flecks of brightness on a disordered, post-marriage Catherine wheel of self-drama?
He’s getting down on himself, until two teen sisters walk sulkily by, and his mind starts going down on them. Two wet vulvas to drown in. The fantasy ruins his coffee break. There’s a moment when he considers jacking off in the nearest available toilet. Grindingly pathetic.
Fuck! What if the wife got wind of his thoughts? His parody of forty something desperation. She’d say, why didn’t you think those things about me? Why didn’t you get down on your knees for me? How come I had to do the begging?
That’s right, he had a wife who loved him. Who other men thought was gorgeous. Who he has since learned to miss.
Perhaps, after all, he just wants what he cannot have.
What would he do with a real woman anyway? Quite possibly he wouldn’t function. Worse, he’d start a fire and get bored. Start eyeing off her friends. The ones with firmer breasts.
Come to think of it, he doesn’t really know what he wants. A blaze of sex maybe? A smile on the doorstep? His wife?
All he can say for certain is that he’s starving. Famished. Gorging himself on a pinball game of random girls. Emptier every time. No high score for him.
It’s a spiral, alright, and he knows it. And sometimes it shows. Tears at inopportune moments. Bongs for breakfast. Days off work for no reason other than to go to the beach and torment himself with bikinis, so that he has to get home quickly and consume the porn stash he hopes no one ever finds.
Out of control, that’s how he feels. The kind of man he used to ridicule when he was younger and better looking. Back then, he never imagined that desire would one day nail him to the cross of thinning hair and fattening midriff. There is, he thinks, something fundamentally unjust about this.
And yet, he has the overwhelming sense that – somehow – he deserves it.
You bet he wants to put a stop to it. Stop the cycle. Prevent the inevitable. Not be like those other sad bastards. Not be…
Just fucking not!
He’s talking to a girl now, in fact. Talking, not listening. She is smiling, nodding, but his monologue is shutting her out. He can see it as it’s happening, her body language shifting, closing him down. All he has to do is let her get a word in edgeways. Show some interest. He can have it if he wants it.
Wants it. Allows it.
In a while, he’ll get it. Get why she lost patience. Not just her but his wife. It will confirm his theories about himself. He’ll get moody, smoke cones and do something stupid. Reckless.
He knows where the knife is. The one his chef friend sharpened last week.
Jesus fucking Christ! So much hot appetite piling up…yet he was a such cold fish with his wife. She persevered for years, until his silence froze her out.
He’ll remember this in a few minutes and think once again how much safer it is to want the unattainable. Indeed, there is something strangely satisfying about it. The beautiful drug of sorrow.
The shocks of anguish he feels when the unknown girls float by are nothing compared his resident heartbreak. Desire passes in a blink on quick city streets. The losing of love takes forever.
Tomorrow, it will hit him, and he will know without self-pity where the real danger lies.
Which way will it break, this loop-ending epiphany? When he crashes back out into the city, cashed up and wised up, how will he redefine that word?
Something allowable, acceptable, easily acquired? Or perhaps simply that which can be taken.
He will cruise with intent, passive desire transformed, believing he has turned a corner. His wife will be in his thoughts as always, and he’ll be as hungry as he’s ever been.
Dangerous. Deluded. Empowered. Pathetic. Out there somewhere, hidden in the traffic like you and me.
Like you and me. Unnoticed.