without her

…she only drank beer she announced, and you only drink it quickly he said, she was his, the flirting was boisterous and her friends left her with him and her beer and the bar and it was wonderful as they drank and joked…”

by j.j. deceglie

He’d left her upstairs. Made his way out to the street in the morning. There was no real colour this early. Only the shades of unbright outline. She didn’t stir as he dressed, neither when he looked her over in the dim blue sunup light of the small room she’d taken him back to. Her creamy Irish skin violet in the sunless hue of the unrisen star sneaking through window splits. Her red hair spilling about her like spurting blood diffusing through water in a bathtub. Her hair looked brown in the faint light though, he wished it didn’t for memories sake, but it did. Before he’d left he grabbed the bottle they’d not finished and stowed it in his pack. He walked down the street now with it slung over his shoulder listening to the bourbon swish against the glass settled inside the clothes and canvas he’d tucked it into. He hadn’t slept, he couldn’t, not anymore, his eyes were raw, deliberate and full, he made his way down the street walking on road, tucking his elbows into his sides, pausing at an alley, took steps into it, leant down, the water from the tap was cold and stung him awake wonderfully, stark and brilliant, he plunged his face into his cupped hands, wet his entire head, felt his eyes sigh and skin moan, drank some up into his mouth, spat most of it back out, it dripped down his back as he walked on, the wind cooling his head further as it rushed along the buildings, the sun trying to shine through trees to his right now, white flashes through clear green dancing with the wind, the street and sidewalk gaining new vision with the added light to everything. He stopped and wrung out his hair with his hands. The smell of morning was about him, honey and soil, damp road drying in early shine, he breathed it in, tried for it to mean something to him, for the freshness to invade his lungs and sprout inside his chest multiplying in his heart and being pumped all over his body. It didn’t. He was tired though not drowsy. He had the perfume from her neck on his hands. He didn’t know where he was walking to. He stopped at a monument of some sort. A composer. He didn’t care who. Decided on coffee, some food. Rubbed his eyes with his knuckles. Strained them wide open and then blinked repeatedly. He lit a cigarette. He couldn’t believe that Irish bitch had refused to sleep with him. Couldn’t believe it.

Her room smelt like perfume and pot. But there was before that.

He was drunk at the bar already and her stare wasn’t a stare because the word was too static and he’d told her that when he eventually went over. He was alone without her. Just him. Her eyes were green like fire and her lips like wonderful welts. Not to mention the long crimson wild strands and little girl gleeful laugh. After two pints of beer, she only drank beer she announced, and you only drink it quickly he said, she was his, the flirting was boisterous and her friends left her with him and her beer and the bar and it was wonderful as they drank and joked and her accent was lovely he thought and she touched him on the hand when she laughed and pushed her pretty backside into him when she ordered drinks, he forgot his troubles for the whole while. They smoked cigarettes together in the boulevard outside St. Stephen’s Church, in the blush radiance of gentle drooping streetlights, the smoke rising upward dreamy through the halo, he smoked cigarettes now too, in the morning, by himself with coffee and the British paper down by the Opera House which she lived near. The underground was right there. Just hop it he thought. Take it to the other station and jam off out of here. Your book will last you through to Paris. He finished his cigarette and coffee, ordered a beer, got a look, just get it please he said, people were at the start of drumming down the escalator to die some death at work all day and he was glad he was here, the sun was affectionate now, just nice, soothing his bruised hands and the most likely busted bones beneath their skin, he thought thoroughly about going back to Paris, reflected that it was probably too soon after what had happened, he took to drinking his beer. She drank beer. Last night. He could taste it sweetly in her mouth as they kissed against some expensive shop window, could smell the loveliness of her scarlet long hair, her hand running up his bare back with her nails, her skinny thigh kneading his groin, on a park bench she straddled him and said let’s go to my place. She led him with her hand in his. Halting to kiss intensely frequently. Saying how beautiful Dublin was, was Australia nice too? and he openly wanted her, her limbs and insides, her voice and breath, her stranger told secrets, her having a few of his, in the vivid lights of Vienna, against the darkness of the night, upstairs near the subway, you were drinking bourbon weren’t you she quizzes and yeah he answers, some smoking and kissing, just him drinking, he thinks suddenly and repeatedly of Paris and the train here, the rush of it, the pain in his right hand, how he can’t write due to it, how she’d left him, gone home to Cambridge, just a note, not anymore love she wrote, not left in me for you, his hand straight through the door more than once, you need to be alone to write your words she wrote, even you told me that she wrote, he’d never loved anyone like he did her, not ever, so he got extraordinarily drunk, beat the hell out of another writer after drinking alone and then upstairs at the bookstore, slept with a whore before boarding a train to Berlin for a few days then to here, to now, with the redheaded Irish girl, whom he just wanted to make love to the way he did that whore in Paris, and the one in Berlin, and they were well on their way with her top off and her little nipples in his mouth and she faltered a few times and he noticed but continued then he heard it, can you stop please, he did, really didn’t want to, but did, I can’t she said, why not? he asked sincerely, he had something that way, I love someone else she said, her eyes weren’t on him the first time but she said it twice, I love someone else, I understand he said, which he did, wished he didn’t, she slept naked under the covers and let him sleep beside her, though he hadn’t slept for days, and lay a while with an erection pointed at her rear as she slept on her flank, bed sheet half way down her side, he got up and drank most of the bourbon she had offered and given him earlier, he read by the candlelight drinking, kept checking on her with page averted gazes, his erection never really ceasing, remaining partly, in the early morning with the depressed light peeking through between cheap curtains and old windowsills, the candle nearly burnt out, the smell of burning wax, he lifted the cover off her turned hip and stroked himself instinctively whilst fixated on her lower half shoved out at him, amid her backside, in the dark flurry of her finishing thighs he could see the auburn scatter of sex thick and course, it was handsome he thought, full and divine as he imagined himself actually with it, with her, more than once, finding her red hair amongst his dark ones when they had finished, staying here a while, seeing it ripe right before his face later on in the next day, worshiping at that broad expansive site, he finished beside her silently, his hand aching badly, biting at his lip, he put the covers back where he was, where they were on her, dressed and left with the bourbon, ended up here in the morning, drinking coffee and beer at this café, reading now, not the paper but a novel, eating his pastry, thinking Italy for a week or two, Venice and Rome, writing her letters in his head, explain yourself in complete, impossible with his hand the way it was, just read til your head is full instead.

Avoid drinks and girls. Get some sleep on the train maybe. And let your damn hand heal.

Originally published:
Issue Forty-Seven
February 2007
(illustrations: dee sunshine)

JJ DeCeglie is from Fremantle, West Australia. Published in Paris, the US, UK and Australia, he is the author of the underground novel the sea is not yet full.

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