Excerpt from “Freedom From Arms”

Freedom from Arms


There are sixteen perfect utensils in the brushed stainless steel cylindrical utensil holder on the counter of the faded green kitchen. Two are in the dishwasher, covered with the messiest, holiest breakfast Alex has ever eaten. Egg yolks grace the spatula, and on the salad tongs rests thick bacon grease. He had made it all by hand, gently, watching her face across the peeling Formica countertop as she didn’t help him do anything. He had fed her from his fingers, marveling as her small white teeth gently avoided biting him, as her pink tongue wrapped around his index finger, as she decadently sucked the food from his skin. And he marveled that that was enough for him, that her touch lit him from the inside like a prurient Christmas tree, that his whole body responded to her slightest every move. She was not of his world. She was of the better world. The real world that he had, until now, barely glimpsed in other peoples’ lives.


Alex had had other women. A lot of women, really, for a slightly geeky Asian guy with soft biceps and his only deep love a hard-on for comic books. His friends were jealous, glaring at him from behind thick plate-glass goggles forced upon their feeble bodies by hours of World of Warcraft, from a place where they had never had a woman aside from the beautifully-crafted avatars of the other hidden, sluggish people blinking at their computer screens from some unknown physical distance. They were jealous, but it didn’t bother him because the women he had had meant nothing to him in the overall picture of what passed for his life. His life was a long block of text, running on to the next page, black and white, simple and nondescript. All the facts were there with no embellishments. He did not feel accomplishment for his sexual conquests, so in his mind there was nothing to be jealous of. Until Emily. Suddenly Emily. One moment he was a well-balanced single man, enjoying his life and his freedom, and in another instant he was a goner. Completely, totally given over to this little elvin queen with her dark, cropped hair that made her look as if she were wearing a crown of feathers.


He had picked her up mid-stride, his heart pounding as he heard the footsteps fading behind them down the alley. He knew he should be frightened, but even the thought of fear was somewhere else. Fear hid behind the realization–as his arms wrapped completely around her to meet on the nether side of her–that she felt if she were not there, or simply a part of him. Those two disparate things felt the same, and he was not surprised. He hugged her close under his chin, surreptitiously sliding his arms up and down her sides as he ran, and feeling the completeness of her, the space without her arms in it clean and whole in its absence. There was no wasted space with her. She wrapped her childlike legs around him and he watched the freedom light her face as she smiled in his arms. She panted with him as he ran, the fierce joy blazing from her in a beacon and lighting their path ahead.