Other people’s lives are brighter than my own.
Smart people tell me I shouldn’t think that way, but at least it explains why I scavenge in secondhand bookstores. Finger with care what someone has once read. Foxed pages, awkward inscriptions, a journey bookmarked by a bus ticket. In vintage clothes shops, I sparkle in cast-off dresses; their sheen of summer evenings in restaurants opened to a garden.
Maybe explains why I visit cinemas too.
In fitful, clattering dark, I skoosh along the second-to-back row until a seated man blocks the way. Indefinite silhouette and abrupt knees. I sit by him, annexe personal space. Brush arms, let him know our lives are intersecting.
But I don’t rush. I like to wait for the trailers.
The male anatomy isn’t complicated. I can find a dick without taking my eyes off the screen. My fingertips dart about, curious. Will it be squat and need to be nursed, or long and rigid as a spar, ready to snap if I pressed hard?
And I’m cautious. Lower my hand, with the lightest pressure, to his crotch. He’s still as roadkill as my hand contracts to a clench. He swells into my grip: a fat, reassuring sausage.
The night you broke up with me eleven months ago you stroked my hand in an absent, pacifying way. I pet this man’s erection like that. Sort of distant. Don't even let our eyes meet. Better not to know. In any case, I can picture him exactly, down to the anxious, wide-eyed expression, the looks he’ll be shooting either side. He shouldn’t worry. No-one will see my hand down here, massaging. He’ll relax when he realises that.
And just so. His knees part, gracefully as a ship leaves dock.
The strength of his erection has half-lowered his zip. I finish the job, peel apart the flaps of his unbuttoned jeans with a coroner’s efficiency. With the pads of my fingers, I stroke him over the ridge of his pants – all warm – then pull down the waistband to tuck it under his balls. Raise his cock as if I am removing a heart. All with my left hand.
Every cock smells. Of sour earth, of something spoiled, of animal musk. Deodorant. Tonight the sweetness of sweat, formed since this man realised what might happen.
His penis is totemic, sheet-white in the guttering light, and leaking. My hand circles it and rises, my fingers thin and dark against its ridged bulk. It makes a noise as his foreskin lifts. Slip.
Eyes closed. Sounds like a man running barefoot through thick mud.
Slip, slip, slip.
Eyes open. At each stroke, my thumb skirts the froth on his cock-head and his breathing sharpens. He scrabbles for something to hold; first the arms of the seat, then my knee. I swing away, and he is clawing air. I should leave him like this. Think this every time. Abandon him in an unfinished story. But I can’t. I want to suck the life out of him.
I lean over, dip my head and paste my tongue in crazy surges over his cock, making it loll around his lap, exploring every escape until I anchor it with my teeth. I tease, violently, with my tongue-tip. He sighs, and from that sound I can extrapolate, imagining us as lovers and how he’d hold me and say my name intimately. He doesn’t know me, of course. None of them do. In the moment of release, I’ve only heard them call on ghosts: Anna or Laura. Chloe. When I hear those names they flower into a handful of love stories, cast out on his ragged breath into my shelter. I am Chloe or Laura, for the shortest time. I am wanted and it feels good.
Another sigh. He squeezes his hand around his dick, tight between his balls and my lips: A swollen vein, slick and gas-blue, is worming into my mouth. And on one finger of that grasping hand, a ring. Married, wife at home, kids bouncing on the bed. Already I know his house and its comforts. His children so clearly defined I could read their bedtime stories.
He’s louder and closer. He should be, because I’m good at sucking dick. It was the one thing you admired about me. A talent, you said, to make my tongue swirl and float so you couldn’t tell where the next sensation would come from. At one time I had the idea you liked more: my wildness, the way we fucked, unreservedly, with me on my knees, back arched, beckoning. I thought I read something loving in your expression. But you never said, so maybe those things were fancies of mine. Instead, you told me my lower lip stuck out. Not a complaint, just an observation. Also: did I need to hold my cutlery like a child, or be so needy? Maybe it was down to my difficult upbringing. That is what you thought.
My mouth plunges again. He lifts up, readying himself, but more than readying: already coming, his spunk tapping the back of my throat as he whinnies, his whole body stiff. Someone shifts in the row two in front. I hold my mouth steady, breath hissing through my nose, but do not swallow. When my lips slacken his come escapes through the gap between my front teeth and down his cock and over his fingers.
Outside, after, my hair is flurried by the warm evening air. Atmosphere salted by the smell of takeaways. Hint of a storm.
I lick my lips, lean back against the wall. Pull out my phone. Everything stops; traffic is silent. No message. It does not stop me behaving as if there had been, composing in my head the stump of the reply I'd write. Every time.
I’m seeing others too.
Drops of rain find their way to the back of my neck. I let them run down my spine, like tears. A button has come off my shirt.
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