She was going to say something to him about it, had
started to. But stopped herself. Instead, she watched it all closely—the
crust of sleep in his eyes, the smear of some kind of sauce under his lower
lip, a dislodged pair of seeds disrupting his wide smile. It was as if he
had eaten something with his whole face and then fallen asleep for an unexpected
She often felt overwhelmed by him. But this time there was a new feeling.
She felt equal to him. She was starting to feel like she had power over him,
as long as he didn't touch his face, brush the food away.
They sat in her car. In the far reaches of a shopping center parking lot.
His right hand sat there, between them, waiting. She was more afraid of the
hand than of him. The hand seemed like a separate creature. She investigated
it as they sat, hoping it too would be less than clean. She found an
imperfection in his pinky finger. It was bent, as if broken once. She had
finally started to notice things like this.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Something in my eyes," she said.
His hand came alive, jumped through the air, bent pinky ready to scrape.
"I didn't mean to," he said.
"But you did," she said, pulling away.
Instinctively, he touched his own face. "Let's listen to the radio," he
said. He pushed the buttons, scanning for something to fit the mood, but the
music seemed too loud. The static between stations was most comforting to
her. He found a song with a slow, jangly hollow-body guitar that sounded
like it was coming from a high school gym. A band playing a
"Let's compromise," she said. She reached over and turned the dial slightly,
so the song turned into a fuzzy version of itself.
Someone drove by them at that moment, a lonely-looking woman who smiled
weakly at them and half-circled them before frowning and driving away.
"Should we go somewhere else?" he asked.
"No," she said. It was the first time she had said no to him. But she felt
unsure about it. "I mean... I mean, no."
"Okay," he said. He rolled his window down and leaned into that open space,
sticking his elbow outside. He could hear how her breathing changed, turned
rapid, as if to recycle all the air around them. He stuck his arm back
inside and rolled the window up. "Sorry," he said.
"For what?" she shot back.
"I don't know," he said.
"Kiss me without touching me with your hands," she said.
He held up his hands. "These old things?" he said. He put them behind his
They kissed, peckishly at first. More with the corners of their mouth than
with their lips. There was still a smear or a crumb of something on his. She
was not repelled, but she was distracted. She began blowing softly on his
skin. Finally, she bit his cheek as she felt his hands suddenly tugging at
her waist, her thin dress. She imagined his mouth disintegrating right then.
It floated down onto her lap in a tumble of snow-like flakes. They made her
legs feel covered, but cold. The light shifted and changed over them. She
forgot what time it was, what day it was. When she thought of her heart, she
saw it as something with short arms and legs, strapped into a hospital bed,
tubes and wires and hanging bottles of fluid surrounding it. She saw it
being pushed around the wide halls of a hospital. An intern pushing it into
an elevator, but then forgetting to push any buttons to go up or down.
Kevin Sampsell is the author of several books, including the novel, THIS
IS BETWEEN US. He
lives in Portland.
Read his postcard.
Detail of collage on main page courtesy
W i g l e a f