An Afternoon's Delight

On weekdays I wake up to the sound of piss cascading upon porcelain as my morning melody. Regular as clockwork a sniff, a grunt and a long, spurting, dribbling, stream of water torture from above makes me grab at my face. I listen and it stops. For a moment I squint my eyes shut. The tighter I close them the quicker I’ll fall back asleep I tell myself. In the second after I squeeze and press them tight and roll myself into a warm, tight ball under the covers, though, I hear it again. Another gush of water-hitting-water from somewhere up above my bed, my head. Acutely aware of the sound that breaks the still of the night my senses stir. Suddenly roused, I’m rubbing the back of my hand across my warm forehead that’s wrinkled from slumber, gently persuading sensation to return to my still and unconscious body. I’ve been dreaming – of sleeping in the bath, I think, with the dripping tap plonk, plonk, plonking at my feet, and I’m cold, so cold as I lay enveloped within a tangle of sheets falling half way to the floor. With months of carefully practiced synchronisation I know its time to heave myself upright when he moves to the kitchen. A sound like a slow “whip, whip, whip” becomes a more frantic “whisk, whisk, whisk,” by the time I’ve peered hopefully into the mirror to assess the night’s repair to my tired complexion. Pancakes? No, eggs – scrambled, of course – I gather is his morning fare today. I mentally warn him to go easy on the milk as I lounge languidly to the fridge myself. He’ll be late for work if he makes them sloppy and has to start again – a breakfast blunder he could probably do without just after dawn on a manic Monday morning.

We’ve met once, awkwardly, as he peered over his tiny balcony into my back courtyard below. In common we have our bikes, both stored upright and side-by-side in the stairwell outside. There’s not much else we share beyond an adjoining wall – a precariously slight floor separating him in his bed from me tucked up tight in mine. His subtle presence hovers more distinctively than a stranger’s really should. I lie awake at night sometimes – I never can wind down for sleep – mentally measuring the space, the air, the distance between him and I. I raise my arms and measure in imaginary hand-spans at first. I count centimetres instead of sheep when I close my eyes. If I could reach up and press the ceiling would he feel it? I’m like a monomaniac mole, secretly, silently, stealthily invisible under his bed. It’s an almost perverted proximity that sees him suspended in the air above me like an ageing acrobat. I’m his soft landing if the wires give way. Don’t fall, don’t fall, my bed is warm enough without a stranger between the sheets –

– unless there’s a knock at the door and its my blue-eyed caller, whose soft skin and intoxicating caress transport me so far away from consciousness that I hardly even recognise myself. In the dappled afternoon light I breathe in cinnamon-scented notes of delight from his warm neck, his bare chest. Amber kisses envelope me as I stretch out long, and lithe, flexing then straightening each muscle into delicious repose. Cat-like I arch my back away, and with a deep exhale collapse into the crook of his arm, where I trace with the tip of my finger the outline of some strange hieroglyphic on the delicate skin of his forearm. I knew his smell, his warmth, his taste, before I knew his name, didn’t I, my lover, my day-time bedfellow? His tongue wraps around mine, warm, thick, sweet like toffee. I try to catch every drop, twisting, twirling, searching for more as my fingers follow in kind to surround his waist, pull him closer, touch him further, make him harder. “No, no…”, I whisper, modesty setting in as he reaches for my top, poised to expose me in all my bare-skinned glory. “Close the curtains first”, I whisper, the drapes hang still, straight and stand far apart. They’re as neat and orderly as palace guards standing tall in their bearskins caps and grenadier plumes as they sit, decorative, like a border framing a portrait of the world outside.

There’s a vast front concrete expanse outside I can see from every angle. The same expanse he crossed, whistling, to get to my door. I traverse the same oil-stained, cracked, uneven surface every morning as I scurry to my car, head down to avoid eye contact, a grunted word of greeting as a forced afterthought if I glimpse a neighbour out there too. I’m like a sullen teenager, cringing and embarrassed at the possibility of being confronted, visible, in a painfully communal space. But he looks about obliviously with a spring in his step as he climbs out of the car and into my arms on the doorstep. Why should he care? It’s not his strange squad of divorced daddies, and nosey spinsters at the letterbox, on the porch, in the laundry room, under the carport watching his every move, it’s mine. Inside my four-walled box, standing in the kitchenette or soaking in the bath, I know they’re watching, that when they’re not watching they’re wondering what I’m doing, who I’m seeing, when I’m eating, how I’m sleeping. That afternoon I slide the drapes closed until they meet in the middle. I’m shivering with anticipation, with nervousness. My skin prickles, hair standing on end from electrified thoughts of eyes wide open and legs splayed that have left me dreamy-eyed and like I’m drugged deliriously.

But there’s a crack, a slit, an opening in between, always, where the sky intrudes at the window. I pull and re-arrange, I scrunch together the fabric and fold it around but still it stays apart an inch enough to aggravate and make me scream. He’s behind me now, an eager embrace, a soft, breathy, musky whisper in my ear to leave it alone, but I can’t let the outside in – not here, not now, I want seclusion, shelter, space from the sound of the red car starting, the next door slamming, the chit chat humming, the cats cavorting, in my most private moments. I don’t want to see that the skinny bald man’s got two pairs of underpants and a shirt pegged upside down on the line over my lover’s shoulder as me lifts me like I’m as light as air, wrapping my legs around his back and holding me close, tight. Six pairs of eyes have already peeped and scrutinised first me, then him, from recliner chairs, dining tables, the kitchen sink, from down on the floor, as we paraded past six identical windows all in a row, six wire-mesh doors standing tall. My snooping mother, my tattling sister never watched so steadily, relentlessly, so candidly at the stranger knocking on the neighbour’s door or when my Saturday night date came back Monday for more.

There’s a cat in one window – sultry, surveying, and as still as a picture. “I see you,” his concentrated stare reveals. “I see him too,” – implied nonchalantly with a flick of that long, elegant tail. But that vision’s stored away, silently and safe like a jewel in a box – I know he won’t tell. This one moment of privacy on a sunlit day is every bit as precious as a pearl. Discretion feels like a dirty word in this urban family of lone crusaders pacing back and forth on identical speckled floors, staring day after day at the same bland cream walls. The night-owl, with her door still wide open at three in the morning, likes that I can’t escape her, or move without her. I listen to her music whether I like it or not. Strains of soft rock and love songs ring out through the night. “I’m here” she portends by sending tunes through the air. “I’m real, I’m alive, I’m awake, see? I’m living life like you – now notice me”. I rehearse her routine, hear her opening, closing, opening, closing her wardrobe door a dozen times as she prepares for the day ahead like my mother always did, as I lay snug in my bed in pigtails, waiting for my wake-up call. The sound of the beads running smoothly along their well-practiced track at the bottom of the closet (as mine do too) make me want to grind my teeth. I don’t know why. I wonder if her shoes sit smart and orderly like mine in a row and wish I didn’t. I want to be alone.

I don’t want to know you, neighbour. If you’re mother, father, sister, lover to someone, I don’t care. Don’t talk to me this early in the morning. When I’m in a hurry. When I’m taking out the garbage. When my car won’t start. When the post-man comes. I don’t want to know if my car brakes squeak, you freak. I have two ears, I can hear just as well as you inside my four walls as you can in yours. Get back behind your guitar, I miss your haunting daytime tune – the one bar you play has a sedative effect, it’s white noise amongst the soundtrack of my life in this place where six strangers live side by side like skirmishing siblings jostling to be noticed, attention seeking. I’ve shared in your most intimate moments and it makes me cringe. You, stout man to my right, you like to watch sport on Sundays, the television droning, commentators humming like sound waves through water, subtle yet relentless. I imagine you sprawled out on the lounge, slouched down low, legs apart, filthy white runners lying dormant on the floor. Jaw heavy set but receding slightly – your jowl droops as if any moment it will munch down with desperation upon your chubby chin, your short, thick neck and devour them away.

You, sweet, blonde woman with your click-clack high heels – I know things about you I don’t need to know, that spin around my head and waste my thoughts. You hit ‘sleep’ three times then run late every morning. Stressed and puffing up the street to the station you’re like a steam train yourself before you even get there. You go to sleep with the window open but wake to close it – slide, bang – after midnight. I know some things about you I wish I didn’t know. You climax dramatically with a cacophony of squeals and screams when you have company. “Ooh!” you giggle, like you’ve never felt it before. “Ahhhhh,” you sigh, painfully overcompensating aural gauges of ecstasy for the pleasure of your lover’s ears. You fake. I know that wasn’t real, does he? Skin slapping skin you lay there and make me sick, make me cringe, make me clench my fists and plug my ears.

I open my eyes, unscrew my face, melt beneath his addictive embrace. There’s a breeze I feel against my flushing cheeks that stings. Rhythmic puffs of cool sea air wriggle through the gap under the front door, drawing delicious attention to how responsive his skin is to the slightest sensation as it shivers and tingles with goose bumps. In one swift action he grabs my arm, moves my hand, wraps my fingers around the round wooden knob until I’ve flung the entry open for inspection. I look up at him with wide-eyed surprise, horror even, as he exposes his ass to a glint of sunshine, to the world outside through the door flung open. He grins daringly at his own boldness, nuzzles into my neck. First I shiver from the draught, then I’m giggling at the way it tickles under my arms and triggers my nipples to rise as he makes my shirt dissolve to the floor. There’s a thump from above – the sound of glasses tinkling, plates crashing, plastic tumbling from one shelf to the next as the stranger above prepares an afternoon snack. He eats at 3 o’clock in the afternoons, hungry and home from work after an early morning start. I jump, self consciously at the guilty awareness he might sense my designs for an afternoon romp with my impatient visitor whose car he must have already noticed sitting conspicuously in plain sight of both his window and mine. I feel him watch over me from up there, upstairs, like the over-protective father I never had, poised ready to pounce on the prey that might think of devouring his girl. A firm hand over my eyes, pushed three steps forward, and my hand’s being lifted to pull one drape open quick and fast, and then the other, like a band-aid he thinks, as he draws me close – just a second until a little prickling rip, a slight burning itch sees you uncovered, exposed, and open to view, yes – but feeling better, too, he reminds me. I can hear the kettling boiling above me as I let go, succumbing to my lover’s persuasive plans. I imagine him standing by his sink measuring out instant coffee on a teaspoon and watching as it vanishes in a frothy sea of milk. I sink too, submerged in the din and clamour of domestic disharmony swimming all around me until its faint as an echo in my ear. Like the unceasing sound of waves washing onto the beach inside a sea-shell I let it, for once, lull me into delightful nothingness as our arms and legs entwine, there, on the floor.

An Afternoon's Delight


Joined May 2008

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  • whirrakee
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